In a field that contains Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, and (until last night) Bobby Jindal, this is not the guy I would have expected to push a new Department of Values. If anything, given his Huntsman-esque image and John Weaver pedigree, this is the guy I would have expected to denounce the idea of a Department of Values.
But when you look at what he’s actually calling for, this becomes much ado about — well, not nothing, but not much.
As part of a broad national security plan to defeat ISIS, Republican Presidential candidate John Kasich proposed creating a new government agency to push Judeo-Christian values around the world.
The new agency, which he hasn’t yet named, would promote a Jewish- and Christian-based belief system to four regions of the world: China, Iran, Russia and the Middle East.
“We need to beam messages around the world” about the freedoms Americans enjoy, Kasich said in an interview with NBC News Tuesday. “It means freedom, it means opportunity, it means respect for women, it means freedom to gather, it means so many things.”
The idea of a government department pushing Judeo-Christian values makes it sound like he wants federal agents going door-to-door with Bibles in New York City to try to convert the unbelievers. You can rephrase his proposal in more neutral terms: What he wants is more aggressive U.S. propaganda abroad to promote liberal values (in the classic sense of that term) in authoritarian states. Why we need a new agency for that instead of letting the Pentagon and State handle it, I don’t know, but this is the same guy who’s attacked critics of his Medicaid expansion in Ohio as bad Christians. If Kasich thinks some good can be done by expanding government, expand it he shall. Why he’s chosen to frame this in terms of promoting Judeo-Christian values instead of liberal ones is also unclear (Russia, one of his targets, is mostly orthodox Christian), but it’s probably a simple matter of primary politics. Which message would you rather take to Iowa and New Hampshire? That you’re promoting “liberalism” or that you’re promoting Judeo-Christianity?
Grahamnesty’s got a point here too:
“I don’t think we should be promoting Judeo-Christian values in the Arab world,” Graham said. “I think that was the Crusades.”
“John Kasich is trying to do a good thing, but you’ve got to watch your words in this business,” Graham added. “Our enemies can take our words and use them against us.”
I don’t think he’s comparing Kasich’s plan to the Crusades on the merits, just saying that it makes it easier for jihadi propagandists to counter messages about liberal American values to a Muslim audience if the president’s out there explicitly framing them as Judeo-Christian. If you’re pitching to a famously tribalist crowd, invoking your own tribe’s superiority probably won’t help to move the product.
Say this for Kasich, though: Clearly he’s still a follower of the Bushian vision that liberalism and democracy are universal values, capable of flowering in any culture so long as they’re given a fair chance. I think a lot of conservatives stepped off that particular ideological trolley years ago.