A California Republican lashed out at the media on Tuesday for treating two of his fellow GOP-members in the Senate as spokesmen for the entire party, citing their preferred policy choice of large-scale military involvement as out of touch with the rest of their colleagues.
Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) recently claimed that Secretary of State John Kerry admitted behind closed doors earlier this week that the Obama administration’s Syria policy is not going as well as hoped (a claim Kerry’s aides have denied). It was the use of Graham and McCain — both of whom have advocated a more militaristic policy towards the civil war-wracked country over the years — as the primary sources for yet another foreign policy news story that raised the hackles of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).
“Well, first of all, let me note that I’d like to uh, say that — I mean I like Lindsey Graham and John McCain as someone who is — has, was our party’s nominee,” Rohrabacher began. “But I wish people in the media would quit focusing on … Lindsey and John McCain as spokesmens [sic] for the party, because they’re not. There’s a lot of resentment in the party that these two guys are presenting themselves as spokesmen for the Republicans and they are not spokesmen for the Republicans, they’re spokesmen for themselves — as we all have that right.”
Rohrabacher was on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal Tuesday morning to discuss U.S. relations with Russia ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics start this week. As head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Europe, and a noted antagonist of Russia, Rorhabacher was more than happy to discuss his concerns about the security at the Olympics. When the discussion pivoted towards Syria, another topic on the Russo-American agenda, the congressman issued his complaint about the focus on Graham and McCain before going further.
On a wide range of issues, Rohrabacher said, “their views are not reflective of a large number of Republicans.” On Syria, he continued, Americans are tired of war after Iraq, a conflict that he first supported, but later acknowledged was a mistake. “Lindsey Graham and John McCain don’t seem to understand how war-weary the American people are,” he continued. “Whether they’re talking about Syria or elsewhere, the American people don’t want to have large deployments of troops overseas anymore. And when Lindsey and McCain talk, I don’t think it represents that fundamental shift in the way Republicans feel about foreign engagement with large numbers of American troops.”
McCain and Graham have become at times a Washington cliche for the sheer number of media appearances they make; seldom a weekend goes by without one or both appearing on the Sunday morning news shows talking national security. While there, they frequently advocate for either stronger policies from the Obama administration against detainees, threaten military action against Iran despite ongoing diplomatic efforts, or lament supposed weakness from the White House on terrorism even as global counter-terrorism operations continue unabated.
And while Rohrabacher is not the platonic ideal of a foreign policy-maker, his statements do reflect a growing schism within the Republican Party between the wing that gained prominence during the last decade and pressed for the invasion of Iraq and a newer, more subdued group that stress civil liberties limited American military engagement throughout the world. Sen. Rand Paul (R-TN) has been seen as a leader of the latter camp, drawing the ire of McCain during his filibuster last year over the potential use of armed drones against American citizens. The hawkish strategies that McCain and Graham have long pushed are also losing favor with more establishment Republicans, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.