The Return of Robert Taft Republicanism
There’s a middle way between George W. Bush Wilsonianism and the ultra libertarian Ron Paul…the guy who wants us to scrub the CIA, repeal the Patriot Act and take the cover off future secret Wiki-Leak as we relax by sucking in the smoke from legalized pot. There’s a middle way, I tell you that I’ve relearned from restudying the views of the first presidential candidate I volunteered for—Sen. Robert A. Taft [1889-1953].
Taft lost for many reasons. 1. He was fat (a problem I hope we can readjust to in the future…not right now…with a President Chris Christie, bridging the gap from his 6`2” 332 lb. father and before him tubby Teddy Roosevelt (215 lbs. at 5`8”) and before him Grover Cleveland 5`11” and 250 lbs).
2. He was full of brains but looked and acted like an auditor come to examine the books.
3. He looked askance at frivolous p. r. as when he opened his Blackstone hotel door during the convention in 1953 and was greeted by a delegation of Young Republicans who had toted a 700 lb. baby elephant up the freight elevator for a publicity photo, thundering “Get that God damned thing out of here!” as the early TV cameras whirred.
4. He wasn’t a 5-star general who won World War II in the European theatre.
5. He had unrivaled political courage—citing the Nuremburg trials as ex-post-facto justice when the country’s mood was for vengeance and opposing Truman’s seizure of the steel mills and making its workers akin to the military which gained him no votes at all from organized labor.
Bob Taft the president’s son was not an isolationist or Fortress America guy. As a young lawyer he went to Versailles with a delegation that accompanied Wilson; Taft’s presidential father sent Marines to Nicaragua in 1912 to protect American lives and interests there. Before that old man Taft was governor-general of the Philippines which we took over under a protectorate after we won the war with Spain and ensured that the islands adopted a Constitution with a bill of rights identical to ours. He was secretary of war under T.R., deterring Teddy’s high flown emperor-of-the-world ambitions. He was acting secretary of state where he continued to counterbalance the aggressive TR.
The philosophy of Bob Taft on foreign affairs is ably presented in a book he wrote by himself, A Foreign Policy for Americans. He opposed our entry into World War II which was maneuvered by FDR in secret correspondence with that “former Naval person” Winston Churchill. To his dying day Taft suspected the machinations that led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—a suspicion that has been justified by Thomas Fleming (the historian-novelist, not the brilliant Rockford Institute president of the same name) in his brilliant, unforgettable and never challenged The New Dealers’ War: FDR and the War Within World War II, published in 2001. It says a whole lot about the world in which we live that the true story which Fleming documents that led to the Japanese attack has been redacted from U.S. consciousness.
Bob Taft was a fervent anti-communist; he could hardly be anything else—but he steadfastly opposed the North American treaty that created NATO, arguing that international agreements like it presupposed U. S. intervention in war—arguing it bypassed the role of Congress to declare war. He was 100% correct. Not long before he died, Henry Hyde who had been chairman of House Judiciary told me that the reason we entered the Vietnam and Iraq wars without a formal declaration was because the multiplicity of our negotiations have presupposed our entry without the necessity of a vote up or down.
I would hope this folly would be halted by the next Republican president who will pledge to return to the Constitutional principle of declaration of war. The pretext that the times are too rushed for this action is arrant nonsense.
Moreover I would hope that by whatever means…either by campaigning presidential candidates themselves…or patriotic groups such as the Tea Parties would advocate the cutting-back of needless, expensive and provocative expansion of the military which has grown to 156 separate countries, with 116,000 military personnel in Germany alone. The rationale here has been since the Cold War that these troops are urgently needed to protect the peace and liberty of the United States. To which Taft would respond: Nonsense! They constitute a real danger that this country will be further drawn into wars.
Does this mean a needless relaxation and unilateral disarmament in the War on Terror which Ron Paul, joining with the virulent Left in this country, has declared ala Barack Obama’s once favorite minister, that 9/11 and subsequent attempted attacks on our shores are “chickens coming home to roost!”
But to criticize unilateral disarmament and disbandment of the CIA as he recommends is not to give needless approval of Wilsonianism.
In reiteration, (1) America should resolve via your Republican election to return to the democratic policy of declaration of war with the step fully examined by the Congress. (2) There should be reasonable withdrawal of military personnel which have been stationed in certain countries out of force of habit and nothing else. (3). Tyrants and not-nice rulers the world has had for millennia. The blood of not one American should be expended on regime change and dissolution of tyrannies if the peace and liberty of Americans are not threatened– no matter how the siren song of pleas come from the media and nicey-nice idealists.
(4) Let this former Peace Corps exec and foreign service officer say this to you:
Regarding taxpayer philanthropy, just as we should cease thinking of ourselves as either the world’s taxpayer-paid angel of mercy and/or retributive arm of justice, the implementer of God’s wrath to bring democracy to the entire world and warm toast and cookies to the Hottentots via this government, charitable expenditures designed to convey by taxpayer means the corporeal works of mercy should be repudiated by the Republican campaign…the missions of mercy transferred to privately-run charitable causes. When I was in the Peace Corps (its public affairs director), 3rd world nations suspected our volunteers were hirelings of the CIA; not true but the suspicion has never gone away. The Peace Corps work should be spun off to private groups and churches where bona fide help should not be confused with empire-building selfish interests.
5. It can’t be stated too often: This country was founded as a republic not an empire. Cliché it may be now but still undeniably true.
6. The highest expenditures overseas comes not from wars but the gooey decisions to “nation-build.” The Iraq War’s costs have been estimated at possibly $3 trillion. Nation-building amounts to 80% of that cost with the actual combat cost 20%. 6. Ever since the demise of the Taftian view this country has pursued the policy of “whatever it takes” to support the Pentagon under the impression that we can’t spend too much for defense.
I remind you that this lack of budget oversight has resulted in the Navy having more flag admirals than ships—315 admirals, 264 ships. Moreover while the military has fewer than 3 million personnel in active and reserve status, the command structure equals what it was in World War II with almost 15 million personnel.
7. The United Nations was a nice feel-good experiment but it has too often not only failed to safeguard peace but has been commandeered by 3rd World demagogues to openly sabotage the American effort to protect ourselves. A central plank of the campaign should be to withdraw from it, sell its New York building to private interests and get its grotesque spider-web flag the hell out of our shores.
8. Finally, any attempt to return foreign-military policies to Taftian designs will be assailed as “Fortress America” and isolationism. It is not. But if there ever comes a move to this extreme…ala Ron Paul’s craziness…it will be spurred by the continuance of Wilsonianism that has all too often characterized American foreign policy under the two parties.
Tom Roeser is the Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Chicago Daily Observer
image Sen. Robert A. Taft