Does Eric Cantor Have the Slightest Clue on National Security?
Posted by Patrick Barry
In a speech that was about as divorced from reality as you might expect, today at the Heritage Foundation, Eric Cantor assailed the Obama administration’s record on national security. The speech should serve a strong reminder that the GOP has little qualms about politicizing our security in this 2010 cycle. Fortunately for progressives, the rebuttal is based not on wild allegations or campaign rhetoric, but clear evidence.
Cantor went wild over the White House’s nonproliferation agenda, vowing to “turn back harmful treaties like START.” What I'm sure Cantor doesn't realize is that eliminating a pillar of the nonproliferation regime would be tantamount to turning over what has historically been a major conservative rallying cry, led by none other than President Reagan himself (whom Cantor reverently invokes in the preamble of this speech). As Reagan’s own Secretary of State, George Schultz recently said, “[President Obama] is doing an excellent job. He has put the vision out there and keeps it out there. The nuclear posture review shows he is being careful about American national security at every step. The conference of world leaders on securing fissile material is the right thing to do. Who is going to disagree with that?” Eric Cantor, apparently.
Not content to confine his attacks to nonproliferation in general, Cantor honed in on the Administration’s policies toward Iran. Unsurprisingly, the Congressman displayed an erratic grasp of the thrust of the administration’s Iran policy or the facts behind it. Engagement was never about cozying up to Iran, it was about clarifying the regime's intentions, which previously, were hard to isolate from the Bush administration's counterproductive saber-rattling. “What has engagement with Iran brought us?” Cantor sarcastically queried. Oh I don’t know, why don’t we ask the Bush administration’s Former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns, who observed that “observed that Iran's international isolation has increased because of Obama's engagement: “He [Obama] had to build up political capital...The reality is that Iran is more isolated today because of this strategy, and because of their own behavior, than they were a year ago.” Even Iran hawk John McCain gets it. “I never thought a policy of engagement with Iran's rulers would succeed, but I understand why the president pursued it,” Senator McCain said last month.
Cantor also put on his Romney-hat to condemn the Administration’s efforts to remake relations with the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims. “What does America have to be sorry for?” asked Cantor. Not America, Congressman Cantor. Actually the Bush Administration. For years, the Bush White House, and its conservative allies, pursued policies that sunk already-sensitive public opinion of America within the Muslim and Arab worlds to abysmal lows, with attending consequences for our national security. America has a clear interest in seeing that dynamic reversed, even if Cantor may not.
And of course, in keeping with the playbook urging conservatives to politicize terrorism, Cantor pivoted from the botched Times Square car bombing to attacking the administration’s larger counterterrorism record. Not only has the White House doubled efforts to go after terrorist havens overseas, scoring critical successes against the leadership of al-Qaeda and other extremist groups, they have also thwarted domestic attacks , including the most significant plot since 9-11.
Which takes us to the real reason behind Congressman Cantor’s attacks. Despite GOP allegations that the President is failing to keep the country safe, the American people believe the opposite. Accross a wide range of issues, the public strongly supports the Administration's handling of national security. Going into the 2010 election cycle, that’s got to make someone like Cantor pretty nervous.