It once was thought that “politics stopped at the water’s edge,” meaning that Democrats and Republicans locked arms when facing the rest of the world, setting aside their partisan differences.
A couple of events this week have demonstrated that the late Republican U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg’s words of wisdom no longer apply.
Event No. 1: Mike Pompeo received a partisan vote of confirmation by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee to become the next secretary of state. The full Senate now figures to confirm Pompeo, with only a couple of Democrats crossing over to cast affirmative votes.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who had been thought to be a “no” vote on Pompeo, changed his mind after receiving assurances from Donald Trump about Pompeo’s view regarding the Iraq War, which Paul opposed.
Event No. 2: The president is going to play host this week to a state dinner honoring French President Emmanuel Macron. But here’s the catch: Trump didn’t invite a single Democrat to the White House gala, which is starkly against presidential tradition.
Presidents of both parties traditionally reach across the aisle for these state dinners, which feature sumptuous menus, lots of fine music, toasts and expressions of good wishes.
Not this time, which happens to be the president’s first such state dinner since taking office. What’s more, Macron is head of state of our nation’s oldest international ally. After all, France fought side by side with us while our forebears revolted against Britain’s King George III.
As for the upcoming secretary of state vote, I feel compelled to remind everyone that the office of nation’s top diplomat needs to come in with a semblance of a mandate from the legislative branch of government. It sends the world a message that we remain united in the cause of furthering our nation’s interests.
Former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry, for instance, all received unanimous or near-unanimous votes of confirmation by the Senate.
Politics must end at the our water’s edge. It’s not just a quaint notion. It’s real and it’s vital in the conduct of foreign policy.