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GOP Hawks and Doves

This week brings another entry in my ongoing look at where the GOP presidential candidates – and potential candidates – stand on the issues. My latest column for National Review Online looks at the candidates on foreign policy, defense, and homeland security. Rand Paul, of course, is the most dovish of the candidates, though nowhere near as noninterventionist as his father (or as he’s often portrayed in the media). After Paul, its various shades of hawk, but there are surprising nuances among the candidates. Marco Rubio, for instance, seems to take the pure neocon line, intervention everywhere, while Ted Cruz falls somewhere between Paul and Rubio.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/416609/early-look-gop-candidates-positions-foreign-policy-michael-tanner

The GOP Candidates on Crime

As part of my ongoing look at where potential 2016 presidential candidates stand on the issue, my latest column for National Review Online examines Republican hopefuls and criminal justice reform. Surprisingly, most of the leading candidates are in favor of sentencing reform, ending-mandatory minimums, and making it easier for non-violent felons to expunge their records. While Rand Paul has been the candidate most identified with the issue, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, and even Jeb Bush have all bought in to the need for reform to some degree. The conspicuous exceptions are Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, who are sticking with the old “tough on crime” message.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/415557/republican-2016ers-are-rethinking-tough-crime-michael-tanner

The Pandering Begins

Saying that politicians pander is like saying that water is wet. But some pandering is more egregious than other. This is especially true when candidates who ostensibly believe in smaller government genuflect at the altar of a big-government program simply because it is supported by an important voting block. A classic example is Republicans who want to cut spending on public broadcasting or planned parenthood but shrink from reforming Social Security or Medicare. After all, seniors vote. I shouldn’t be disappointed, but I am.

The latest example of fair-weather principles, is the renewable fuel standard, a government mandate that benefits corn farmers in the Mid-West, while driving up the cost of gas and food, and actually harming the environment. But the first step on the road to president is the Iowa Caucus next January. Therefore, we are treated to the spectacle of supposedly free-market GOP candidates trekking to the Iowa Agricultural Summit and pledging their eternal fidelity to ethanol (with the notable exceptions of Ted Cruz and RandPaul).

I write about it in this week’s column for National Review Online:

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/415211/iowa-agricultural-panderfest-michael-tanner

One note: After the column was published, I was contacted by Marco Rubio’s office. He does indeed have a position on the RFS. He thinks it should be phased out someday, but not now. So add Sen. Rubio to the list of panderers.

The GOP candidates on Debt, Spending, and Entitlement Reform

Throughout the coming months, I will be looking at where the various would-be presidential candidates stand on the vital issues of the day. Today, in my weekly column for National Review Online, I look at how they would cut spending, reduce the debt, and reform entitlements. As I point out, it is very early in the campaign, and most candidates have now yet laid out detailed proposals. So, mostly this is an exercise in tea leaf reading, based on congressional votes or state budget performance, plus a statement here or there. Still, at this point, it seems reasonable to say that it looks like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are the biggest fiscal hawks, trailed to some degree by Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, and Scott Walker, with other candidates bringing up the rear.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/398361/debt-and-gop-michael-tanner

Presenting the Huckster (Sigh)

As if there are not enough reasons to believe that the Republican Party is beyond saving, I present to you Mike Huckabee.

The former Arkansas governor, television talk show host, and wannabe preacher has now returned to the presidential campaign trail. With all the problems facing this country, Huckabee has managed to find a new one. Fresh from his critique of Beyoncé’s dance moves – he wondered if her husband, Jay-Z, was a “pimp” for allowing her to perform in public and criticized President Obama for allowing Malia and Natasha to watch her – Huckabee is now deeply concerned about women cussing in public. Such women are “trashy,” Huckabee avers. Now, I can think of many things that I look for in a presidential candidate, but the guardian of women’s virtue is not among them.

Perhaps Huckabee is just trying to fill the Rick Santorum slot in the GOP field. After all, four years ago Santorum told us that, if elected, he would use the presidential bully pulpit to warn Americans about the evils of contraception. The only problem with that is that Santorum himself is back, running once more to protect America from illicit sex.

Meanwhile, Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon who has also caught the presidential bug, has been reviving the bigoted canard that gay marriage is akin to bestiality or pedophilia. That too has long been a Santorum position.

Now it is true that Huckabee, Santorum, and Carson are not going to win the Republican presidential nomination. But the fact that the party continues to treat them as serious people suggests that too many Republicans have not yet learned their lesson.