“Politics stops at the water’s edge” is a famous quote attributed to Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a Republican senator from Michigan. Vandenberg’s history is interesting. He came to Washington as a strict isolationist and ended up supporting many Truman era foreign policy initiatives to include NATO and the Marshall Plan.
By all measures, Vandenberg was what we used to call a “Rock ribbed republican”. Solidly conservative in fiscal policy, and a firm believer in Washington’s (as in the first president) warning to stay away from foreign entanglements.
Vandenberg started to change, however, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was eventually instrumental in helping President Truman get through Congress many of the foreign policy initiatives we still see today.
The reason I am thinking about Vandenberg is due to an article I read today (11/12/2017) from the New York Times. “A Shadow Delegation Stalks the Official U.S. Team at Climate Talks” is written by Lisa Freidman and I’m pretty sure it’s an opinion piece, although I can’t confirm that from the web site. Here’s the opening:
BONN, Germany — The office of the official American delegation at the international climate talks here is almost always closed. A sign taped to the door informs the curious that entry is for authorized staff members only.
But there’s another group of Americans who are happy to be found. They are gathered in a nearly 27,000-square-foot inflatable tent adorned with American flags and red, white and blue signs proclaiming that states, cities and businesses are “still in” the Paris agreement, despite President Trump’s vow to leave it.
The alternate American pavilion, with its free espresso truck, tins of themed M&M’s and wireless internet that tells new users “the U.S. has not gone dark on climate action,” has rapidly become a hub of activity at the United Nations global warming negotiations taking place this week. On Saturday, a line of people waited in the rain to hear Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, Gov. Jerry Brown of California and a handful of United States senators, all Democrats, declare that much of America remains committed to reducing planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions.
Note the first two words – “BONN, Germany”.
The gist of the article quotes from various Democratic politicians who support the Paris Accords. This one quote, I think, accurately summarizes the gist of the article:
“We’re in,” said Mr. Bloomberg, who put more than $1 million toward funding the pavilion, according to his office. “Just because the federal government has chosen not to participate,” he added in an interview, “the American public represented by its elected officials at other levels, by corporations, by universities, we understand that there’s a problem and we have to help solve that problem if we’re going to have a future in this world.”
Let me just state that I think all of the American politicians in Bonn, Germany have the right to be there, and say whatever they want. No one can stop them. But it is a valid question to ask those very same politicians “Should you be there, saying these things and effectively acting as a shadow government”? It’s one thing when the Dixie Chicks go to England and bad mouth a president. It might be rude, it might be in bad form, but no one is going to mistake the Dixie Chicks for a shadow government. Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg? That’s a different story.
For those who are supportive of Brown et al position on climate change I have two questions for you:
- Are you prepared to accept the same behavior from the other side? Would it have been OK for Republican politicians to travel to foreign countries and bad mouth President Obama’s drone policy? Would it be even more OK if they acted as a shadow government?
- How often do you see politicians from another country come to America and act like a shadow government against their government? It happens, but not often.
Vandenberg’s quote is often interpreted to mean that foreign policy is an area where we have to minimize or eliminate partisanship. That’s an unrealistic bar to set, but is it too much to ask our own politicians, on both the left and the right, that if you have a problem with the current administration’s policy on something, that you express that opposition when home, and not when past the water’s edge?