Former GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney made his comeback today at CPAC, the big conservative annual conference.He used his somewhat curious appearance to make the case for U.S. engagement overseas, offering a neoconservative vision of American exceptionalism that contrasted sharply with the new libertarian groundswell in the Republican Party.
“Freedom depends on American leadership,” Romney said. “American leadership depends on a military so strong, so superior, that no one would think to engage it.”
What other nation would have enjoyed hegemonic military power for a quarter of a century, and never have used it to seek revenge against its former foes or to seize precious natural resources from the weak?
What nation is the most philanthropic in the world, the first to bind up the wounds of the injured from hurricanes, tsunamis, and war?
What nation is the largest contributor to the fight against AIDS in Africa?
Who came to the rescue of Europe when it faced its darkest hour and came to the rescue of others under the threat of tyranny, in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Bosnia, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq? Whatever you think of these interventions, the impulse behind them was liberation, not conquest. In all of human history, there has never been a great power that has so often used its power to liberate others from subjugation, to set the captives free. This we must teach our children, and never ourselves forget.
The message was unsurprising, echoing themes from Romney’s 2012 campaign stump speech. The former Massachusetts governor has always been a defence hawk, and his positions largely line up with those of other Establishment stalwarts, including fellow failed presidential candidate John McCain.
But the GOP has changed perceptibly since Romney lost the election. Republicans in Congress have embraced defence spending cuts as a means of cutting the deficit, and last week, a new generation of libertarian-minded, Tea Party-backed Senators rallied around Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster against drones.
Romney’s neoconservative message is out of step with this new direction of the party. And while the reception to his speech was warm, CPAC speeches from Republican up-and-comers like Paul and Sen. Marco Rubio suggested that the GOP has left its 2012 presidential nominee behind.
“The Republican Party has to change, by going forward to the classical and timeless ideas enshrined in our Constitution,” Paul said Thursday. “When we understand that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then we will become the dominant national party again.”
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