Republican Lawmakers Use Memorial Day Weekend Sunday Shows To Push For More War


Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring the men and women who died while fighting for the United States Armed Services. But for many members of the Republican Party, Memorial Day weekend was about fighting for more U.S. war.

A few days after President Obama delivered his hour-long speech on counterterrorism and national security, conservatives took to the Sunday morning political talk shows to express their profound disappointment with what he had to say. This in itself should not be surprising. It’s hard to imagine what Obama could have said that would have prompted supportive words from former and current Republican lawmakers like Newt Gingrich, Lindsey Graham and Peter King. As it is, the president offered a rather strong defense of his administration’s record on drone strikes, while acknowledging the need to curtail their use in some instances. Obama also addressed his long-held desire to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, while acknowledging the various obstacles that have prevented him from making any progress.

Overall, the president’s speech was hardly a radically liberal vision for the future of U.S. foreign policy. So why did it draw such ire from his Republican opposition? The simple answer is because the words came out of the mouth of Barack Obama. The sad reality for liberals is that you can imagine Mitt Romney (especially the benevolent centrist who showed up for the 2012 Denver debate) giving a very similar speech and moderate Republicans praising it for its sensible outlook.

But there was Newt Gingrich on CNN calling Obama’s speech “stunningly, breathtakingly naive” for his suggestion that at some point the “global war on terror” could come to an end. Unless Gingrich is gearing up for another presidential run, what does he gain from hyping the threat of “radical Islamism” and declaring that the U.S. will never return to the “pre-1941 sense” of peace.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) at least has some political incentive to attack Obama, living in constant fear of getting “primaried” by a more conservative Republican in next year’s midterms. On Fox News Sunday, Graham called Obama “the most tone deaf president I could ever imagine” before unleashing a tirade against the president for suggesting we should be concerned about civilian casualties resulting from our drone strikes overseas.

And, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who has recently turned against his fellow Republicans when it comes to some domestic issues, took a reliably hard line on the Guantanamo issue on This Week. King accused Obama of “moralizing” and “apologizing for America” by expressing his desire to close the prison there.

During his Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery today, President Obama noted that in our modern era, “most Americans are not directly touched by war.” As a consequence, he added, “not all Americans may always see or fully grasp the depths of sacrifice, the profound costs, that are made in our name.”

The drone warfare that President George W. Bush began, and Obama has increased, has only exacerbated this problem. Now, it’s not only civilians who are removed from war, but also those who engage in it. While this will mean fewer U.S. casualties, and therefore fewer soldiers to mourn on Memorial Day, it could also mean the expansive, endless war that many Republicans appear to be promoting.

President Obama is not advocating an immediate end to all wars, much to the disappointment of many progressives. But listening to Republicans this Memorial Day weekend, you would think that’s exactly what he is doing. If they really wanted to honor the memory of those who died fighting for this country, they would listen to the exceedingly moderate, reasonable path the president is laying out and stop mindlessly advocating more war.

>> Follow Matt Wilstein (@TheMattWilstein) on Twitter

Have a tip we should know?

Filed Under: