Rogers in NY Times: Foreign Policy Ascends as Issue for Republican Presidential Contenders

February 24, 2015

Mike Rogers, the former Michigan representative and the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is not considering a presidential bid, but he is trying to influence the 2016 race by creating an organization called Americans for Peace Prosperity and Security, which he said would support candidates “who understand the importance of American engagement.” His group is scheduled to host its first forum in Iowa in May and is also considering holding a large candidates’ forum in the fall.

NEW YORK TIMES: Foreign Policy Ascends as Issue for Republican Presidential Contenders

JONATHAN MARTIN and JEREMY W. PETERS – FEB. 24, 2015

WASHINGTON — Gruesome killings by the Islamic State, terrorist attacks in Europe and tensions with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia are reshaping the early Republican presidential race, creating anxiety among party voters and sending potential candidates scrambling to outmuscle one another on foreign policy.

Doubts that crept into the minds of conservatives about engagement abroad after George W. Bush’s presidency and the protracted war in Iraq are dissipating, and they are increasingly pressing for more action against the Islamic State.

Nearly three-quarters of Republicans now favor sending ground troops into combat against the Islamic State, according to a CBS News poll last week. And in Iowa and South Carolina, two early-voting states, Republicans said military action against the group was, alongside economic matters, the most important issue in the 2016 election, according to an NBC survey released last week.

A measles vaccination in Miami. Parents and prospective Republican candidates have been drawn into debates over the vaccine.

“There’s a lot of fear out there,” said Katon Dawson, a former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, noting that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, had become a regular topic of discussion at his regular breakfast spot in Columbia, the Lizard’s Thicket. “The waitresses and managers and everybody there has a notion about ISIL. People understand who this group is now.”

The emphasis on foreign policy is also a tacit acknowledgment by Republicans that, with the economy improving, they need another issue to distinguish themselves from Democrats. And it offers them a way to link former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to President Obama on an issue where the president’s approval ratings are weakening.

More immediately, the hawkishness now defining the early campaign could imperil the presidential hopes of Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, the libertarian-leaning Republican who embraces a more restrained approach to American engagement with the world.

“The guy who’s now got the biggest challenge because of this is Rand Paul,” said Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker. “The Rand Paul worldview, which I suspect will change, is just incompatible with reality.”

Though Mr. Paul will not formally announce his campaign until April, prominent Republican officials and groups are already organizing to undercut his approach. One of the party’s biggest donors, the Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, has told associates he is open to underwriting an effort to stopping Mr. Paul, should he gain traction in the primary.

At least two Republicans, John R. Bolton, the former United Nations ambassador, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are considering their own White House bids largely to draw attention to the need for a more muscular foreign policy.

One international affairs expert who has advised Mr. Paul and hails from a similar, more restrained school of foreign policy said the revival of terrorism as an issue would force the senator to more thoroughly explain his views.

“He’s got, to some extent, to be an educator in this process,” said the expert, Richard R. Burt, a former ambassador and State Department official under President Reagan. “He needs to talk through with primary voters the kinds of questions that need to be asked before we commit U.S. forces abroad: How we can’t just have a visceral reaction. How does this impact American interests and security?”

But Mr. Paul’s detractors are not going to make that easy.

“I think most of the Republican candidates or prospective candidates are headed in the right direction; there’s one who’s headed in the wrong direction,” said Mr. Bolton, suggesting most Republicans would be “horrified” by Mr. Paul’s views on international affairs.

Mr. Bolton has formed three separate political groups to promote pro-interventionist Republican candidates. His newest effort, called the Foundation for American Security and Freedom, will be a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt group, meaning that it can accept donations from contributors who wish to remain anonymous.

Mr. Graham has formed a similar group, Security Through Strength, and has begun traveling to early-nominating states to discuss what he calls “the threat of radical Islam” as he ponders a presidential run.

Mike Rogers, the former Michigan representative and the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is not considering a presidential bid, but he is trying to influence the 2016 race by creating an organization called Americans for Peace Prosperity and Security, which he said would support candidates “who understand the importance of American engagement.” His group is scheduled to host its first forum in Iowa in May and is also considering holding a large candidates’ forum in the fall.

Read the full story HERE.