A former US senator and ambassador to the UN under President George W. Bush says the increasingly radical and uncompromising tone of the GOP is a sign the party is now “beyond redemption.”
John C. Danforth made the comment while discussing a possible tea party challenge to Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, a long-serving moderate whose stances against some major GOP positions have reportedly made him the target of Republican ideologues.
“If Dick Lugar, having served five terms in the US Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption,” Danforth said, as quoted in the New York Times.
Lugar has found himself at odds with many Republicans over his support for the START nuclear missile treaty with Russia, as well as his support for the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrant youth who complete an education program and stay out of legal trouble.
A day after the mid-term elections this month, Red State’s Erick Ericksson added Lugar to a list of Republican senators who are ripe for a tea party challenge in 2012.
In an effort to win Republican support, the Obama administration has cast the START treaty as a continuation of the work President Ronald Reagan carried out in the 1980s, with the signing of a number of arms treaties with the Soviet Union. But Republicans on the Hill have balked at supporting the treaty, a move some say is designed to prevent President Obama from scoring a foreign policy victory.
Last week, Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, attacked his fellow Republicans over the treaty, saying they were stalling on the issue because they didn’t want to commit to a position.
“Every senator has an obligation in the national security interest to take a stand, to do his or her duty. Maybe people would prefer not to do his or her duty right now,” he said, as quoted at Foreign Policy. “Sometimes when you prefer not to vote, you attempt to find reasons not to vote.”
Danforth’s remark to the Times is not the first time the former Missouri senator, who served from 1976 to 1995, has gone up against the Republican grassroots. In a 2005 New York Times commentary, he criticized the GOP for “transform[ing] our party into the political arm of conservative Christians.”
The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.
When government becomes the means of carrying out a religious program, it raises obvious questions under the First Amendment. But even in the absence of constitutional issues, a political party should resist identification with a religious movement. While religions are free to advocate for their own sectarian causes, the work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country.
Danforth served as President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations from 2004 to 2005. Reflecting on the potential tea party threat to Lugar, he told the Times, “I’m glad Lugar’s there and I’m not.”
His remarks to the Times were flagged by Alex Seitz-Wald at ThinkProgress.