Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Kelly Ayotte working with McCain and Graham to show younger face on GOP foreign policy

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When you needed conservative, war-hawkish, hungry for any sense of TV exposure senators, you could always rely on the 3 musketeers, Supremes, Nirvana, the power trio of old and scared of the world around them: John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman.

McCain is the leader of the group, the lead singer who wrote the lyrics. Graham adds background vocals and writes a few songs. Lieberman was the quiet one at least when they are assembled after whatever big meeting they had about nothing. Lieberman would sing the occasional song, a la Ringo Starr, but added “Democratic” cred to the argument.

But the 3 nirvana musketeers ran into a problem. Lieberman was going to leave the group. Oh, Lieberman wanted to stay but knew he was going to get kicked out of the overall group (McCain and Graham still love him). So Lieberman quit the band.

McCain and Graham needed a third member. Oh sure they had enough propensity and hot air to keep the group going for a long time. But they needed symbolically that third body to hold down the fort.

The two hawkish senators held auditions. Plenty of old crotchety white men to pick from, each angrier and more scared than the rest. Saxby Chambliss, Bob Corker, Roger Wicker — the list is literally too long to mention.

As the auditions were going nowhere, McCain and Graham wondered if maybe, just maybe they should try something different. After all, they needed a third person on the stage to do the things that Lieberman did. But what about someone younger and maybe someone from one of those minority groups they kept reading about in the liberal media.

They looked around for someone of color. Marco Rubio was a possibility. Actually, Marco Rubio would have been the only possibility. The GOP has only had one elected African-American senator, and he was liberal enough to have an affair with Barbara Walters.

“Well,” they may have wondered, “What about a woman?” Because nothing looks more odd than a woman standing next to two cranky older men. McCain and Graham ignored that image and went to see if they could find a woman to join the group.

Kay Bailey Hutchison was a good prospect, but she hadn’t really cared about foreign policy and besides, she was retiring. Olympia Snowe was retiring and she was too liberal.

If they were going to pick a female, they didn’t have many choices left. They were literally down to Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and the newcomer Kelly Ayotte.

Collins was seen as too liberal (from Maine, after all). Murkowski had the third-party cred that Lieberman sort of brought.

Ayotte came to the Senate from being New Hampshire’s attorney general, not a bastion of foreign policy concern. But Ayotte had one advantage: she had similarly good looks in the vein of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann without the desire to say something extremely stupid.

That met the low standards set by McCain and Graham.

McCain is the person who introduced the world to Sarah Palin and still thinks she would have done a good job as vice president. When Ayotte speaks, she doesn’t make a whole lot of significant points but hasn’t upset the apple cart. Right now, that makes her a potential GOP leader down the road.

The GOP will be down to 19 women, including Bachmann, in the House come January. The GOP women in the Senate in January will be 4: Collins, Murkowski, Ayotte, and the new kid on the block, Deb Fischer (R-NE). Ted Cruz (R-TX) will join Marco Rubio (R-FL) as being the only GOP men of color in the Senate.

With the defeat of Allen West, Tim Scott (R-SC) of the 1st District will be the only African-American in the GOP caucus.

These statistics would get a slight bump if South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley appoints herself or Scott or a woman to the Senate to replace Jim DeMint, who is resigning to run the Heritage Foundation. (South Carolina native Stephen Colbert would have been an awesome pick.) Scott’s 2 years in the House isn’t a whole lot of experience, but if Haley does appoint Scott, he will be the only current African-American senator, regardless of party.

No wonder that Ayotte and Rubio are being groomed by some as part of the GOP future, even if they are extremely symbolic.

The Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan campaign was a contrast to previous GOP campaigns in that foreign policy wasn’t a big deal. Romney’s key message in the foreign policy debate was “I agree with President Obama.”

At some point, foreign policy will matter and when that time comes, the GOP wants Kelly Ayotte to be ready to say something. We’ll have to wait and say whether that will be something of significance.


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