Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Republican Party wasn't always dominated by foreign policy buffoons

It wasn't that long ago the the Republican Party was widely understood to be the home of the smartest foreign policy thinkers in the country.  No more.

Sophie Quinton writing in the Atlantic paints a vivid picture of how far off course the Republican party veered by doing nothing more than looking back to 1980, and a different international crises.

In 1980, while Jimmy Carter was running for re-election, 53 Americans were being held hostage in Tehran.  It was a very dark time for Americans that is hard to describe today, to those who didn't live through it.

Carter was being challenged by George Bush, the Elder, and a right-wing conservative and former governor of California, Ronald Reagan.  Carter was also facing a primary challenge by Ted Kennedy.  Many people believed in 1980, as they did in 1976, that Ronald Reagan was just too conservative to win the White House.

Overview of the wreckage in the Iranian desert
In April, 1980, Carter signed off on Operation Eagle Claw which was an attempt by the U.S. military to rescue the hostages held in Iran.  The plan was incredibly complicated and ended in disaster in the Iranian desert when one of the helicopters colided with one of the support aircraft.  It was humiliating to Americans in a way that those younger than me cannot understand.  I will never forget waking up that morning with my mother siting at the kitchen table telling me the president was about to speak because a secret rescue mission had failed.  8 military personal were killed in the crash, and 5 helicopters were abandoned in the desert and captured by the Iranian government.  Jimmy Carter's presidency ended that day.

Candidate Ronald Reagan, when asked to respond, told reporters, "This is the time for us as a nation and a people to stand united." Reagan would not criticize Carter.

Candidate George H.W. Bush went further: "I unequivocally support the president of the United States -- no ifs, ands or buts -- and it certainly is not a time to try to go one-up politically. He made a difficult, courageous decision."

Now try and think of Mitt Romney without laughing. 

To paraphrase Andrew Sullivan, don't tell me the Republican Party hasn't changed.   It really is astounding to see a political party go from foreign dominance to being internationally mocked buffoons in just one generation.

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