Mike Pence led the charge for the foreign interventionist wing of the 2024 Republican primary against their isolationist rivals this weekend as new hostilities erupted between Israel and the Hamas militants of the occupied Gaza Strip.
It was a banner weekend for that wing of the GOP, whose members among the 2024 primary field spent their hours one-upping each other with rhetoric endorsing an unmitigated Israeli response against the Palestinian militant group that launched attacks across the country.
Mr Pence made his remarks in Iowa, where he is battling for a surprise victory (or at least a decent-enough showing) in the first-in-the-nation caucuses. Calling out Donald Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy and Ron DeSantis by name, he accused them of supporting America’s retreat from a global military, diplomatic and economic footprint he argued was previously responsible for tamping down on unrest around the world.
His rebuke, he said, was directed at “voices of appeasement like Donald Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy and Ron DeSantis that I believe have run contrary to the tradition in our party that America is the leader of the free world.”
“This is ... what happens when you have leaders in the Republican Party signaling retreat on the world stage,” charged the former vice president.
A response was issued by Donald Trump Jr, who tweeted: “You’re the embodiment of the kind of weakness that led to this. You should have paid attention when you were groveling at the feet of the master. Trump brought peace because the world knew — F around and find out! We’ll never return to the failed approach of you and your uniparty fools.”
Mr Pence also faulted President Joe Biden for supposedly continuing that “retreat”, as others in the hawkish wing have done, and blamed the incumbent president for not projecting the strength that would supposedly have warned Vladimir Putin off of ordering the invasion of Ukraine.
Those sentiments were repeated by other figures representing the “establishment politics” wing of the Republican Party, namely Tim Scott and Nikki Haley. The former accused Mr Biden of being “complicit” in the Hamas attacks on Israeli police, military and civilian targets over the weekend.
Such rhetoric used to be frowned upon in Washington. In the modern Republican Party, accusing one’s political rivals of being in bed with terrorists is no longer a rarity, but a feature of the typical GOP politician.
The Biden administration and its allies have taken notice. Chris Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, rebuked Republican senator Rick Scott after a similar posting, writing: “For too many Republicans, their hatred of Democrats is their only organizing prism. Even on a day like today all they can do is attack. Senator Scott’s social media is mostly attacks on Biden instead of support for Israel. There are times for politics. There are times for unity.”
Ms Haley drew her own accusations of bloodthirst from the left after she tweeted at Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, urging him to “finish them” — referring to Hamas militants. The Palestinian militant group is accused of deliberately killing hundreds of civilians over the weekend and taking others hostage; both actions are considered war crimes under international law. The scope and scale of Israel’s response has drawn similar accusations from supporters of the end of Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.
Donald Trump, meanwhile, focused his criticism on Joe Biden over the weekend — a sign that he continues to view the Republican primary as largely decided.
“THE HORRIBLE ATTACK ON ISRAEL, MUCH LIKE THE ATTACK ON UKRAINE, WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED IF I WERE PRESIDENT - ZERO CHANCE!” wrote Mr Trump in a Sunday-morning Truth Social post.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies