Today’s Politico identifies Mark Kirk as a member of a trio of freshman senators who are building reputations as foreign policy hawks — putting them at odds with isolationist Tea Partiers.
The article, titled “A new breed of Senate hawk,” notes that Kirk co-sponsored a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran “to promote human rights and democracy,” went on Face the Nation to urge Obama to level more sanctions against Syria, and visited Bahrain, Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia to investigate piracy in the Indian Ocean. This is in contrast to Tea Party-allied senators who want to cut foreign aid, and accused Obama of overreaching in his presidential powers by attacking Libya without first consulting Congress.
Three Republican freshmen — Marco Rubio, Mark Kirk and Kelly Ayotte — share the tea party’s goal of slashing domestic spending but have rejected the movement’s isolationist inclinations and called for greater military action and tougher sanctions overseas in places such as Libya and Syria.
The senators have appeared on cable news programs, written op-eds and introduced bills pushing for more U.S. involvement abroad, and they’re building their national security credentials by taking every chance to travel to conflict zones.
It’s a route that has helped build the careers of prominent senators like Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who have long driven the foreign policy debate in Washington. For the freshmen, taking the establishment path on foreign policy could help raise their profiles and even lay the groundwork for a presidential bid, which many observers expect of Rubio in 2016.
Kirk’s hawkishness should be no surprise to Illinoians. He made his military credentials the centerpiece of his credentials — even to the point of falsely claiming he’d been named “Intelligence Officer of the Year,” and had been fired on while flying an intelligence mission over Iraq.
It’s good to hear that Kirk is standing up for national defense, but Politico should make sure he really paid a call on Djibouti.