One reason I was attracted to the politics of Barack Obama was his willingness to try and rise of above petty, partisan politics. I believed that his center-left coalition would attract thoughtful Republicans, perhaps others like me who had voted for George W. Bush but came to view the national Republican Party as profoundly wrong on the big questions that have emerged post 9-11 and post-financial crisis. Some of my best friends and favorite authors are political conservatives and deep down I still see myself as a Lincoln Republican (energetic, principled government devoted to expanded opportunity to all), but this blog started in response to the apocalyptic anti-health care rhetoric of the 2010 elections and the union-busting efforts in Wisconsin and most of the posts have taken a decidedly negative view of Republicans and conservatives. Today, I want to balance those hopefully just broadsides against the general course of conservative politics with a post about three Republican politicians who I have learned from and appreciate:
1. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ) Though most well-known for his anti-abortion work, Smith is also a leader on a number of international justice issues, including global autism, child abduction and human rights in China. He works tirelessly on these issues and builds bipartisan consensus around them.
Sen. Richard Lugar (IN) Lugar’s leadership on nuclear proliferation is morally, fiscally and strategically rooted in his Christian realism. He is the most respected Republican Senator on foreign policy issues and his partnership first with Sam Nunn and now with President Obama has been key to every major nuclear arms treaty seen over the last 20 years. And his pointed questions about the continued American presence in Afghanistan and Libya are, I hope, being heard in the White House.
Rep. Walter Jones (NC) Simply put, Jones is the leading Republican critic in the House on the issue of Afghanistan. His bipartisan, conscientious work was exemplified in a recent Washington Post editorial that he coauthored with Massachusetts Democrat James McGovern where they challenged both parties to explain their silence on Afghanistan:
The new Republican majority in the House came to power in large part by promising to control spending and reduce the deficit. This war has already cost us more than $450 billion; combined with the war in Iraq, it is estimated to account for 23 percent of our deficits since 2003. Where is the outcry from the Tea Partyers and the deficit hawks? Fiscal conservatives should be howling that this war is being financed with borrowed money. Those who support the war should be willing to pay for it. And where is the liberal outrage? Those of us who are tired of being told that we can't afford green jobs, unemployment or health care should be screaming over our Treasury being used as an ATM when it comes to supporting the Karzai government.
The two congressmen have put their words into action and cosponsored the bill that was recently voted on in Congress calling for accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan. As Jim Wallis is surely correct when he says “Rep. Walter Jones’ opposition to this war has made him a modern profile of courage. He turned against the war after visiting constituents who lost their children, fathers, and mothers, as well as soldiers in the hospital whose lives have been forever shattered. He doesn’t think this war is worth their sacrifice. He is right.”