March 1, 2016, will go down in history as the day the incubus of neoconservatism was banished from the Republican party – and, in effect, destroyed as a viable political force. It’s the day Donald Trump swept the GOP’s Super Tuesday primary, taking – as of this writing – Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Vermont, and Tennessee.
Three realities are clear from the results:
1. Marco Rubio is finished.
The great white hope of the neocons, Marco Rubio, only managed to eke out a minor win in Minnesota, which is a caucus state, and inconsequential insofar as delegates are concerned. He failed to mine the rich delegate cache in Texas, where he failed to make the 20 percent minimum, and received not a single delegate.
The much-vaunted “Marco-mentum” exists only in the minds of a few neocon pundits: insofar as the voters are concerned, that conceit is a joke. But then again, the neocons have always existed in their own world: these are the same people who, to this day, insist that the Iraq war wasn’t a disaster, it was actually a great victory. Rubio’s vicious – and often ridiculous – attacks on Trump are the result of his neocon advisors telling him he has to get down in the mud with The Donald. But the fact of the matter is that this style doesn’t suit him – and it had no effect on the Super Tuesday primaries.
The bottom line is that Rubio won very few delegates. Trump won a minimum of 258. Rubio and his neocon supporters are generals without an army. And he is now 20 points behind in his home state, Florida: in two weeks, when that primary is held, his goose is going to be thoroughly cooked.
2. The anti-Trump vote will continue to be divided.
In any case, Rubio – with millions in neocon money pouring in — will stay in until March 15, and perhaps even beyond, further dividing the anti-Trump vote.
Cruz, on the other hand, won two states: Texas and Oklahoma, and is clearly the “movement conservative” alternative to Trump. Cruz is going to come in second as far as he delegate count is concerned. Yet the GOP Establishment (i.e. the neocons and their enablers) find Cruz almost as unacceptable as Trump: after all, the Texas Senator has openly attacked the neocons by name, and those folks hold a grudge.
So Cruz is going stay in, too. Adding to this confusion, John Kasich, who is picking up a few delegates here and there – and further dividing the anti-Trump vote – is on a personal crusade. He’s staying in no matter what.
3. The neocons are determined to split the GOP.
The neocons have started a campaign, “Never Trump,” which even has its own Twitter hashtag. Senator Ben Saase (R- Nebraska), has declared that he will never vote for Trump, and he posits – along with Bill Kristol, the little Lenin of the neocons – a “conservative” third party. Others, like neocon foreign policy mavens Robert Kagan and Max Boot, have openly declared for Hillary Clinton, whose interventionist impulses can easily be accommodated to the neoconservative vision of “benevolent global hegemony.”
Boot, the author of a screed calling for the creation of an “American Empire,” surely knows who his enemies are. In an interview with Vox.com, a liberal web site in the bag for Hillary, he says Hillary is far preferable to Trump because:
“I think he is a descendant, basically, of Charles Lindbergh, Joe McCarthy, George Wallace – who was a Democrat, not a Republican – and Pat Buchanan. He is a direct descendant of that intellectual lineage … His impulses are derived from the same well that people like the America First Committee and Joe McCarthy tapped into, which is essentially a form of isolationism, xenophobia, and racism.”
Of course the America First Committee is the biggest bogeyman in the neoconservative imagination: it represents everything they hate – a foreign policy that puts this country first. That’s because an empire is a slave to its clients and protectorates: the wealth of the country goes out to protect and defend them, and never comes back. Our young men and women die on their shores – and for what?
Trump “saves his venom for democratic allies like South Korea, Japan, and Germany because he thinks they’re freeloaders,” says Boot. Yet how else can one describe them? Japan is a pacifist country, with no military to speak of: they are still occupied by US troops. The same is true of Germany – more than half a century after the end of World War II. As for South Korea, the United States intervened when it looked like the North and the South were about to effect a rapprochement. So the 30,000 US soldiers currently stationed there are sitting ducks, who would be sacrificed in the event of a North Korean invasion – effectively hostages to the conceit of people like Boot, who want US troops stationed all over the world.
The neocons hate Trump because his foreign policy is the exact opposite of their imperialist delusions. He wants to withdraw US troops from Europe. He wants to do the same in the Pacific theater. He demands that these countries start paying for their own defense. This is treason as far as the neocons are concerned.
Both Rubio and Cruz are attacking Trump for his declaration that he would be “evenhanded” when it comes to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The neoconservative orthodoxy that insists on unconditional support for Israeli actions, no matter how vicious and cruel — and in spite of how inimical it is to American interests – is being successfully challenged by Trump. What has everyone surprised is that evangelical voters, who were supposed to be in Cruz’s camp, have been won over by Trump – and this in spite of his supposedly “anti-Israel” stance.
The neocons especially hate Trump’s declared intention to get along with Putin. They despise the Russian leader because he’s been critical of American hegemonism, driven the thieving oligarchs out of his country, and prevented the US-sponsored regime-change campaign in Syria from succeeding. Trump welcomes the Russian attacks on ISIS, disdains the Syrian rebels so dear to Rubio’s heart, and challenges the idea that overthrowing “bad guys” like Assad, Libya’s Gaddafi, and Saddam Hussein has led to anything other than the growth of terrorism. The “Emergency Committee for Israel” ran an ad attacking Trump over this issue, but the result was very odd: if you look at it, you’ll see that any ordinary American is going to agree with Trump and not the neocons. Indeed, the ad probably helped Trump – that’s how blind the neocons are to the unpopularity of their warmongering.
What really horrifies them, however, is Trump’s sharp critique of the Iraq war, which he calls “a complete disaster,” and his condemnation of George W. Bush’s legacy. He dared not only to question the dogma that “Bush kept us safe,” but he also targeted the neocons who surrounded him:
“They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction and there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”
This is why the neocons are determined to destroy Trump. After all, if The Donald says he’s ready to prosecute Hillary over her emails, why wouldn’t he go after the neocons for lying us into war – for causing the death of many thousands under false pretenses? Trump can be vindictive – and this is one area where one can only hope that he lives up to his reputation.
The President of the United States has strictly limited power when it comes to domestic affairs: he must get the consent of Congress – and, when challenged, the Supreme Court comes into the equation. However, when it comes to foreign policy he has virtually a free hand: Trump can really implement his foreign policy views. He can put America first, rid us of the burden of empire, and stop the new cold war with Russia dead in its tracks.
This is why they loathe and fear him. And he beat them badly. Their smear campaign failed. Their candidate, Rubio, was humiliated. As Trump moves to consolidate his victory, and moves in for the kill in Florida, their squeals of pain will get shriller. They are already abandoning any hope of winning at the polls, turning toward a strategy of denying Trump the nomination by fair means or foul — and given the character of these characters, you can bet it will be the latter.
Liam Donovan gives us the script in National Review. Never mind those who voted in the primaries. They don’t count. The nominee will be decided at a brokered convention:
“So we’re going to Cleveland. The only question is what happens after the first ballot. The race will be on to master arcane procedure, woo delegates, and mine the lessons of 1976 for whatever nuggets of precedent might be gleaned. Trump will beat his chest and demand the GOP crown him as the likely plurality leader. Cruz and Rubio will jostle for position in the interim and look to secure friendly delegates. Kasich will use the Ohio Republican Party apparatus to gain whatever edge he can as governor of the host state. Rules will be challenged and changed to great fanfare, the most notable being Rule 40, which now requires candidates to secure a majority of delegates in no less than eight states. Bedlam is pretty much assured. On the second ballot, more than half of convention delegates are unbound. By the third, nearly 80 percent are free agents.”
Translation: The rules? They’re made to be broken. The only unbreakable rule is that the neocons must get their way. It’s rule or ruin – that’s the neocon credo. Just ask the people of Iraq.
Will they get away with it? I don’t think so. It looks to me like Trump, if he continues to do as well as he’s doing, will be able to secure the 1,237 delegates necessary to win on the first ballot. This, of course, is the neocons’ worst nightmare.
No matter what happens, however, the power of the War Party in the GOP is broken. The obituary of neoconservatism is being written – and its author is Donald J. Trump.
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NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.