August 28, 2021

[Above, in the space of one month, March 2011, Newt Gingrich flip flops on Libya. h/t Think Progress. - eds]

Here's the headline of a New York Times story by Annie Karni:

The Latest G.O.P. Schism: How to Handle Afghan Evacuees

The resettlement of Afghan allies in the U.S. is revealing an internal divide between the party’s anti-immigrant wing and other conservatives who want to help the refugees.

A divide among Republicans? So they're fighting with one another?

No, not really.

The Republican Party is united in its criticism of President Biden’s chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan. But the crisis has also exposed a deep internal divide between party leaders over relocating Afghan refugees at home.

Many Republican lawmakers have accused Mr. Biden of abandoning the Afghan interpreters and guides who helped the United States during two decades of war....

But others — including former President Donald J. Trump and Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader — have sought to fold the issue of Afghan refugees into the anti-immigrant stance of the party’s far-right. They are criticizing Mr. Biden not simply for leaving the Afghans behind, but for opening the United States up to what they characterized as dangerous foreigners.

“We'll have terrorists coming across the border,” Mr. McCarthy said last week on a call with a group of bipartisan House members... He also brought up the issue of migrants entering the country along the U.S.-Mexico border in his discussion of Afghans being evacuated.

(Ah, yes -- the spectre of Muslim evildoers making their way to Latin America so they can sneak across the Mexican border, an alleged source of terrorism that the right has told scare stories about for years, even though there's never been a terrorist attack attributable to these mythical jihadist border crossers.)

But as we're told later in the story, McCarthy has also expressed pro-refugee sentiments.

On the issue of Afghan refugees, Mr. McCarthy has walked the same tightrope that he has on other issues, trying to appease the two sides of the party. He has stated publicly that “we owe it to these people, who are our friends and who worked with us, to get them out safely if we can.” But he has also leaned into the nativist, Trumpian side, giving voice to the generalized, inchoate fears about foreigners entering the country.

But that's not a "tightrope." McCarthy will be fine expressing both sentiments alternately, as long as both messages serve the ultimate goal of bashing Biden.

As Karni writes, Tom Cotton, Elise Stefanik, and some religious conservatives are demanding that that Biden aid the Afghans who worked with the U.S., while Trump, Stephen Miller, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham all want to turn Afghan refugees away. My guess is that, within the party, the nativists will win, even though polling shows that even a majority of Republicans want to admit fleeing Afghans to America. That majority won't object, however, if the nativists start saying, a few weeks or months from now, that the Afghans hate America and have extreme ideas and are likely to live on welfare or take jobs that could go to Americans (or both, I suppose, even though that's contradictory). All that will matter is that Biden is under attack.

Republicans never worry about the internal contradictions in their messaging. They bashed Bill Clinton as a white-trash president who profaned the Oval Office by wearing shirtsleeves and jeans. (Ronald Reagan would never enter the Oval without a suit!) Then they said Barack Obama and most subsequent Democrats were bad because they were "elitists," in contrast to Donald Trump, the crude, foul-mouthed "blue-collar billionaire." In 2011, Newt Gingrich demanded that Obama “exercise a no-fly zone" in Libya, then, when Obama did just that, Gingrich accused him of "opportunism" and said, "I would not have intervened." Did anyone in the GOP care about the contradiction, apart from the fact that Gingrich was way too obvious about it? There was no Libya "schism" -- and by late fall of that year, Gingrich was briefly the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

Attacking Democrats is all that matters. Republicans will order multiple items off the menu that they believe will serve that purpose, and sort it all out later.

Republished with permission from No More Mister Nice Blog.

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