Magazine article Insight on the News

GOP Pragmatists Blur Lines with Democrats

Magazine article Insight on the News

GOP Pragmatists Blur Lines with Democrats

Article excerpt

It is an open secret in Washington. Campaign 2000 is under way and everything that is being done -- or not being done -- on Capitol Hill and within the executive branch must be scrutinized through the prism of how the Republicans and Democrats wish to be perceived at the polls 15 months from now.

That being the case, it is puzzling that some leading GOP legislators appear to be positioning themselves and their party in ways that will, at best, blur the differences between their own record and that of their opponents in the foreign- and defense-policy portfolios. This is, after all, one arena in which they traditionally have been able to secure strong support from not only their core constituency but also from "swing voters," notably those known as Reagan Democrats.

Worse yet, in a number of areas, Republicans actually are providing political top cover for Clinton positions, initiatives and personnel -- actions that likely will redound to the detriment of the party and, far more importantly, to the national interest.

Such a course constitutes a serious trap for a party that hopes to regain the White House and retain control of Congress. For example, a number of G0P senators have spoken in favor of the nomination of Richard Holbrooke to become the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. In so doing, they are excusing, if not legitimating, the Clintonian practice of suspending -- in Holbrooke's words -- "moral judgment" so as to permit negotiations with ruthless despots, ethnic cleansers and war criminals.

Several Republicans in the Senate also have expressed support for President Clinton's Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, or CTBT, providing a patina of bipartisanship to a fatally flawed treaty. Here, too, the effect is not only to lend credence to otherwise absurd claims that this wholly unverifiable accord can be confidently monitored and that it will constrain proliferation when, in fact, it will do no such thing.

In addition, these senators are conveying the message that Republicans are no more responsible about arms control or the need to maintain an effective, safe and reliable nuclear deterrent -- something the CTBT will not permit -- than the doctrinaire left wing of the Democratic Party.

In some ways, there is an even more troubling phenomenon: the Republican Party's response to the emergence -- and growing assertiveness -- of a business community that is, at the very least, as ready as Holbrooke to suspend "moral judgment" in the pursuit of short-term profits. In some cases, moreover, captains of industry are demanding policy changes that suggest an exclusive concern for parochial stockholder interests even where they are likely to prove inimical to longer-term U.S. national security.

Consider a few examples:

* The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas Donohue, recently led a business delegation on a highly publicized visit to Communist Cuba.

This trip was orchestrated by, and enjoyed the strong support of, the Clinton administration as part of its determined effort to normalize relations with Fidel Castro's government before the president leaves office.

It now is clear, however, that the effect of improving trade relations with unreconstructed communist regimes -- be they in China, Vietnam or North Korea -- amounts to life support for those regimes. To be sure, individual U. …

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