War-Weary Republicans Rebuke Romney on Afghanistan

On Wednesday night, the Senate adopted by voice vote an amendment introduced by Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley calling on President Obama to speed up U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. This was a watershed event towards ending the war. The previous high water mark of Senators calling for expedited withdrawal was 27; the previous high water mark on a vote was 18. The vote is a green light from the Senate to the White House for a faster military withdrawal that would save many American and Afghan lives and (at least) many tens of billions of taxpayer dollars.

Because it was a voice vote, there was no roll call. But, if you want to know who especially to thank, 21 Senators sponsored Merkley's amendment:

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR); Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT); Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM); Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY); Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT); Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK); Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM); Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD); Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND); Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL); Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA); Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT); Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV); Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) ; Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV); Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY); Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

The Senate vote - which saw John McCain standing alone in vocal opposition - is more evidence that on key issues of war and military spending, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Buck McKeon haven't been speaking for Republicans generally. Big media should take note, and make more room on their playlists for Republicans like Rand Paul, Walter Jones, Justin Amash, Tim Johnson and Grover Norquist who want to turn a corner on a decade of endless war and unchecked military spending.

In the Republican Presidential debates, on Iraq, Afghanistan, and military spending, Romney, Gingrich and most of the other Republicans - not Ron Paul, of course - have mostly sung from the old-time Republican hymnal. On the Sunday talk shows, on Iraq, Afghanistan, and military spending, McCain and Graham and McKeon - the go-to Republicans for big media on military issues - have sung from the old-time Republican hymnal.

But meanwhile, on Iraq, Afghanistan, and military spending, the great sea of Republicans has been doing Vatican II.

On Iraq, Romney, Gingrich (Gingrich was for it before he was against it) and the other Republican candidates - not Ron Paul - slammed President Obama for withdrawing US troops in compliance with President Bush's Status of Forces Agreement. But 63% of Republicans told CBS that they agreed with President Obama's decision.

On military spending, Romney has demanded that President Obama block cuts to projected military spending. (Gingrich, to his credit, has dodged the neocon loyalty oath on opposition to cuts in military spending.) But when Congress passed the Budget Control Act, and when the "Super Committee" failed to reach agreement on a deficit-reduction deal that would block half a trillion dollars in automatic cuts to projected military spending over ten years from taking effect, that reflected the majority of Republicans in Congress saying: we prefer military cuts to increased taxes.

(For a recent taste of how overripe the military budget is for cuts, read Ben Freeman's account for the Project on Government Oversight on how Defense Secretary Gates' efforts to stop the wasteful and expensive over-promotion of generals have been reversed under former "budget hawk" Defense Secretary Panetta.)

On Afghanistan, Romney and McCain have slammed President Obama for pulling US troops out faster than the Pentagon wants. But Wednesday night, the Senate said: "We think you aren't pulling out the troops fast enough." (Note that a new Rasmussen poll says that 3 in 5 Americans want US troops out of Afghanistan immediately or within a year.)

It's time for big media to recognize that on Iraq, Afghanistan, and military spending, Romney, Gingrich, McCain, Graham and McKeon are generals who have lost their Republican army. They rage like King Lear. But they have lost their kingdom.

And it's time for President Obama to bring our boys and girls home from Afghanistan.

Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy.

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