Palin, the former Republican vice presidential nominee, invokes the importance of a strong and robust military in speech after speech, while Paul, the libertarian Republican who rocketed to the national scene during the 2008 presidential race, has long argued for drastic cuts in defense spending.
It’s a schism that has long existed within the GOP’s fold – between hawkish conservatives and spend-weary Republicans – but one which the Tea Party movement’s diverse coalition and varied figure heads have specifically laid bare over the past year.
The division is especially apparent this week as Paul, whom many in the Tea Party movement hope mounts another bid for president, is teaming up with Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, a Democrat, to call for substantial cuts in U.S. military spending.
Paul and Frank are calling for the removal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as former war zones in Germany, Japan, and South Korea. The two congressmen say if that is done, $1 trillion in U.S. tax-payer money will be saved over the next 10 years.
“I think it is a great idea, because that is what I have been arguing for a long time,” Paul told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room Wednesday. “And I’m always looking for an opportunity to bring progressive Democrats together with some conservative libertarian types, because there are places where we can agree. And I think this is a very important place to start.”
In the same interview, Paul specifically targeted the war in Afghanistan – widely supported in the Republican Party – saying it “makes no sense whatsoever” and is “not in the interest of our national security.”
“Even our CIA now says there are very few if any al Qaeda in Afghanistan,” said Paul. “They’ve chased them all over to Pakistan. Where are you going to chase them to? Take over Pakistan? Then Yemen and then Somalia? We just don’t need to be the world’s policeman. I think we are digging a hole for ourselves.”
But at the same time Paul reiterates his across-the-board fiscal conservatism, Palin is making moves to ensure the Tea Party does not articulate an agenda that includes advocating for military spending cuts, even as the movement’s larger agenda is focused on reigning in government spending.
In a speech before a conservative gathering in Virginia late last month, Palin stressed that while the “Obama-Reid-Pelosi spending machine” must be tempered, spending on the military should remain strong.
“We must make sure that we do nothing to undermine the effectiveness of our military. If we lose wars, if we lose the ability to deter adversaries, if we lose the ability to provide security for ourselves and for our allies, we risk losing all that makes America great. That is a price we cannot afford to pay,” she said at the event, according to the Washington Post.
In the same speech, Palin took aim at Defense Secretary Robert Gates who has suggested spending cuts.
“Secretary Gates recently spoke about the future of the U.S. Navy. He said we have to ask whether the nation can really afford a Navy that relies on $3 [billion] to $6 billion destroyers, $7 billion submarines and $11 billion carrier…well, my answer is pretty simple: Yes, we can and yes, we do, because we must,” she said.
Perhaps the ultimate question is whether Paul and Palin can remain amongst the Tea Party movement’s most prominent leaders while articulating such opposite philosophies.