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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

An AEI President? Plus: The President’s Reading List

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An AEI President?

When George W. Bush took office in 2001, many commentators noted the high degree of influence in the administration of one particular rightist faction—the neoconservatives. A sign of the group’s clout was the large number of "scholars" from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) who were tapped to serve in the administration, a point highlighted by President Bush during a January 2003 speech at AEI celebrating the life and work of neocon progenitor Irving Kristol. After commending the institute for having "some of the finest minds in our nation," the president added: "You do such good work that my administration has borrowed 20 such minds."

The folks at AEI, however, don’t seem content with merely having their "minds" fill mid-level posts, as the early campaign for the 2008 presidency reveals. Three potential Republican candidates closely tied to the institute have been heavily promoted by neoconservatives, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who championed, along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), an AEI-supported "surge" strategy during a speech at the institute in early 2007. McCain has been closely affiliated with many neoconservative leading lights like William Kristol and supported a number of neocon-led advocacy campaigns, including the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. In a late 2006 article for Foreign Policy, AEI fellow Joshua Muravchik promoted McCain’s candidacy, arguing that he was the sort of leader "who could prosecute the war on terror vigorously." He added: "As for vice presidential candidates, how about Condoleezza Rice or even Joe Lieberman? Lieberman says he’s still a Democrat. But there is no place for him in that party. Like every one of us, he is a refugee."

Then there is Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House who is currently a fellow at AEI. His hints that he might run have many neocons salivating, including writers at the Weekly Standard. In a glowing review of a speech Gingrich gave last September in which he argued that the United States was fighting World War III, the Standard opined: "His rivals should take note. The first speech of the 2008 presidential campaign was delivered on the fifth anniversary of September 11, 2001."

More recently, Fred Thompson—former senator from Tennessee, TV actor known for his role in Law and Order, and visiting fellow at AEI specializing in national security issues—has hinted that he too might run. As Tom Barry points out in a recent Right Web analysis, "The Conservative Credibility Test," many AEI-types have long been excited about Thompson’s political potential, with outlets like the Standard pushing him as a replacement for John Bolton at the United Nations and discussing at length what a Thompson presidency would look like.

The Conservative Credibility Test
By Tom Barry | April 3, 2007

The Republicans may have found a leading man for the presidential run in lawyer/thespian/senator Fred Thompson, but his ties to Corporate America and the neoconservatives may dissuade many grassroots conservatives from giving him their vote. Read full story.

SEE ALSO

Right Web Profile: Sen. John McCain
During a recent trip to Baghdad, Senator McCain saw a serene open market that he argued proved the "surge" was working; merchants there saw something different—one abnormal day of heavy security in the form of hovering attack choppers, U.S. sharpshooters on rooftops, armored Humvees, and an entire company of U.S. soldiers.

Right Web Profile: Newt Gingrich
The former Speaker of the House and current senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Gingrich has been threatening for months to officially enter the presidential race. Few but the neocons seem excited about such a possibility.

Reading on the Right
By Jim Lobe | April 5, 2007

A slew of right-wing books have turned up on the nightstands of Bush administration officials. What is remarkable about these books is—much like the cherry-picked and manipulated intelligence stove-piped to Bush in the run-up to the Iraq War—both their extraordinary ideological narrowness and their utility in the pursuit of a neoconservative agenda, especially in the Middle East. Read full story.

Right Web Profile: Bernard Lewis
Princeton University professor Bernard Lewis’ book What Went Wrong?, which details the "decline" of Muslim civilization, is regarded by some as a kind of handbook to the war against Islamic terrorism. And his "Lewis Doctrine," the idea of imposing a secular society on Islamic countries, became a key idée fixe of the Bush administration and its neocon allies, helping spur the disastrous Iraq War and dreams of remaking the Middle East.

Right Web Profile: Eliot Cohen
In his 2002 book Supreme Command, Eliot Cohen, counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a high-profile neoconservative academic based at Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, argued that civilian leaders make better strategic decisions than military leaders. The book, which was paraded about publicly by the likes of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney during the lead up to the Iraq War, seemed intended to preempt efforts by military brass to intervene in administration war plans.

ALSO NEW ON RIGHT WEB

The Bluster Offensive
By Gareth Porter | April 10, 2007

Bush’s tough talk on Iran now looks much more like a cover for a decision to reverse his earlier policy of disdaining the need to reach an understanding with Tehran. Read full story.

Right Web Profile: Tom Tancredo
It’s official—Tancredo, the rabidly anti-immigration representative from Colorado, is running for president. His chances of success might be slim, but his culture-war rhetoric could push the presidential race to the right.

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Featured Profiles

Former Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO), a stalwart advocate of Pentagon spending now based at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, says he would have voted for the Iraq War even if he had known the Bush administration’s claims about WMDs were false.


Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is a conservative Republican congressman who was voted into office as part of the “tea party” surge in 2011 and nominated by Donald Trump to be director of the CIA.


Although better known for his domestic platform promoting “limited” government, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has expressed strong sympathies for projecting U.S. military power abroad.


James “Mad Dog” Mattis is a retired U.S Marine Corps general and combat veteran who served as commander of U.S. Central Command during 2010-2013 before being removed by the Obama administration reportedly because of differences over Iran policy.


Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) was one of Congress’s staunchest foreign policy hawks and a “pro-Israel” hardliner.


A self-styled terrorism “expert” who claims that the killing of Osama bin Laden strengthened Al Qaeda, former right-wing Lebanese militia member Walid Phares wildly claims that the Obama administration gave the Muslim Brotherhood “the green light” to sideline secular Egyptians.


Weekly Standard editor and PNAC cofounder Bill Kristol is a longtime neoconservative activist and Washington political operative.


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