Ryan Lizza has an excellent article sketching out the lines of debate over the future of the Republican Party, and where John McCain fits into the whole thing — apparently, he sees himself as leading a struggle against resurgent forces of isolationism. Ross Douthat’s not too happy:
But, um, Senator McCain, you did notice that Ron Paul topped out at about 5-10 percent of the vote, didn’t you? And that every other candidate in the race (allowing for certain variations) took roughly the same foreign-policy line as you? Doesn’t that at the very least suggest that there might be more pressing battles awaiting a politician looking to reinvent the Republican Party than a crusade against the isolationist menace? Please?
Ross seems a bit confused. As anyone familiar with George W. Bush’s 2006 State of the Union Address knows, “isolationist” means “anyone who doesn’t favor repeating the enormous blunders of the past six years.” In that sense, the forces of isolationism really are growing, and one could even have imagined a President Romney or a President Huckabee turning out to be a closet “isolationist” once in office. But John McCain wanted a pointless and counterproductive policy of rogue state rollback before it was cool.