Seems crazy at first blush, but when you think about it, it seems slightly less crazy. Then, when you think about it some more, it seems full-blown crazy again.
A new burning question for 2016: Can Peter King top Thad McCotter’s vote haul from 2012?
“I’m going to certainly give it thought. I’m going to see where it goes,” King said during an interview with ABC News today. “My concern right now is I don’t see anyone at the national level speaking enough on, to me, what’s important – national security, homeland security, counterterrorism.”…
“I would hope that our party is not defined by Rand Paul and Ted Cruz,” King said, taking aim at conservative Republican senators from Kentucky and Texas, respectively. “I’m not crazy about Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. But on the other hand, you know, guys like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, I have a lot of regard for.
“The big debate that Republicans seem to have in the Senate on foreign policy is whether or not, you know, the CIA was going to use a drone to kill an American in Starbucks,” he said. “To me, we should be going beyond that and we should go back to being a party – whether it’s Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush – of having a strong national defense, and that should be, to me, an essential part of the presidential debate. And so far, that’s missing.”…
“Obviously, the economy is important, but the first requirement in the Constitution is to defend the country against foreign attack and provide for national defense,” he said. “The only way that’s been brought up [so far by other contenders] is to how quickly we can withdraw troops and whether or not drones can be used to kill Americans. That, to me, is not a debate that a party of national defense should be leading with.”
First-blush crazy: He’s an obscure northeastern Republican who’ll be running against a vastly better field than the party had last year. Who’s passing over Rubio, Bush, Paul, Christie, Jindal, Ryan, and/or Walker to vote for Peter King? Take the under on the question I posed above.
Not-so-crazy rethink: He appears to be under no illusions that he’ll win. (“It does give me, at the very least, a forum to get my views out there on the direction I think the Republican Party should be following on foreign policy…”) This is a boutique candidacy aimed at ventilating an important issue, not a bona fide attempt at the nomination. If the GOP trends left on gay marriage before 2016, you may well see a social conservative candidate jump in with the same idea in mind, to keep that issue on or near center stage. Beyond that, King might be sensing that the GOP establishment is going to want a boutique foreign-policy hawk in the race to do damage to Rand Paul, just in case he’s more formidable than they expect. I made that same point about John Bolton’s nascent candidacy. There is space in this field for a hawkish stalking horse (stalking hawk?) who’s willing train his fire chiefly on Paul so that more electable establishment candidates like Rubio don’t have to. Just as it’s risky for Cheney fans and Paul fans to assume too much about which way Wyoming Republicans are leaning on foreign policy, it’s risky for a hawkish candidate who’ll need to unite the party as nominee in 2016 to brawl with Paul about interventionism in the primary. Even if you win that battle and defeat him, you risk alienating more of his libertarian supporters than you can afford to. Better to farm that task out to someone like Bolton or King who’ll enjoy jousting with an isolationist and has little to lose by doing so.
Pretty-darned-crazy re-re-think: How on earth is Peter King the best available person to play “stalking hawk”? The minimal requirement for someone who’s running a boutique campaign is that he not have liabilities that could be used to divert attention from his boutique issue. Just for starters, every time King pounds the table about enabling terrorists, Paul is going to throw his longtime exception-making for the IRA back in his face. You can fill that argument out yourself: “This is what always happens with interventionists — they end up in bed with the sort of people they claim are our enemies.” King is also the guy who dismissed conservative concerns about domestic surveillance after PRISM was revealed by comparing them to Michael Moore. And if you want to go way, way back, simply as a matter of cultural/ideological synchronicity with the base, he once told a New York newspaper that the House majority under Gingrich had “a Southern, anti-union attitude that appeals to the mentality of hillbillies at revival meetings.” How receptive will the base be to him as a salesman for hawkishness, do you think?
Speaking of unlikely 2016 candidates, Joe Biden also might be running. Exit quotation from his interview with GQ: “‘I never speak about anything I don’t know a great deal about,’ he says. ‘That I haven’t worked like hell for. But that’s not what you’d expect. You might expect Clinton to do that.'”