Jonah Goldberg: The GOP isolationist poltergeists are back
In July, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had a set-to over American foreign policy. Christie clumsily denounced "this strain of libertarianism that's going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought." It was clumsy in its garbled syntax but also in its ill-considered shot at "libertarianism." What he meant to say, I think, was "isolationist," and that is the term a host of commentators on the left and right are using to describe Paul and his ideas. Even the inestimable Charles Krauthammer sees in Paul the "return of the most venerable strain of conservative foreign policy — isolationism."
In fact, rumors that the GOP's roots were ever especially isolationist are exaggerated too.
Republicans first got tagged with the isolationist label when Massachusetts Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge led the opposition to the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. But his opposition to a stupid treaty in the wake of a misguided war wasn't necessarily grounded in isolationist sentiment. Lodge was an interventionist hawk on both WWI and the Spanish-American War. Lodge even agreed to ratify President Wilson's other treaty, which would have committed the U.S. to defend France if it were attacked by Germany.
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