You might expect the Value Voters Summit, a convention of socially conservative activists hosted by the Family Research Council, to lead with talk of God, Jesus, family values or other code words like life and the unborn.
But you would be wrong. Everyone knows that economic and fiscal concerns have trumped social issues among Republicans in the current election cycle. But what was notable about the morning program at the event in Washington, DC, on Friday was the programming emphasis and crowd enthusiasm for aggressive militarism.
House majority leader Eric Cantor ran through all the Republican buzzwords of the moment: “Obamacare” and taxes are bad, small business and a “culture of entrepreneurialism and competition” are good. The audience barely stirred.
There was scattered hissing for the invocation of the perfidious possibility of “taxpayer money for abortion” and Planned Parenthood.
But what brought the crowd to its feet was foreign policy. Cantor received thundering applause for saying, “We always have and should stand behind Israel.”
Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Cantor warned, “threatens not only Israel but the United States as well.” So, Cantor went on, “This time we must lead from the front.” Big applause ensued, although what exactly Cantor proposes to do to Iran and how exactly it would be more effective than the Obama administration’s Iran policy was completely unstated.
Cantor went on to invoke Christians whose rights are threatened in the Middle East and concluded to thunderous applause that we must “stand up to militant Islam.” Defending the rights of Christian minorities and standing up to a fascist ideology are good things. But Cantor offered no explanation of how his policies would do so differently or more successfully than President Obama’s. (If what Cantor wants is to kill Al Qaeda’s leaders, then Obama has been doing it, although Cantor churlishly neglected to give Obama his due for that.)
But successfully fighting our enemies isn’t actually what the Republican or conservative foreign policy is about. Rather than, it consists of shoveling more taxpayer money to the Defense Department and military contractors.
Immediately following Cantor’s speech, FRC Action’s president, Tony Perkins, moderated a panel with Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, and Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon. All inveighed against the gays serving openly in the military and the specter of military chaplains voluntarily performing civil union or same-sex marriage ceremonies. But they devoted just as much time to asserting that our national defense is threatened by potential budget cuts.