In the unlikely case that anyone needs to be told, President Trump is an unusual sort of political figure who picks what he wants from an a la carte menu and likes to cross and confuse party lines. He has come around to the social conservatives' views on abortion, but they are less pleased with his views on gay issues. Economically, he wants to cut taxes and/or regulations but otherwise seems to be a big spender who wants entitlements left as they are.
Nowhere is Trump's ad hoc approach more marked than in foreign relations, where his vows to be ultra tough against the Islamic State and other forms of Islamic-based terror don't mix all that well with his appeasement of our more traditional enemies. As for American exceptionalism, moral or otherwise, he agrees with Obama that it doesn't exist, that we don't have a right to get on moral high horses, as opposed to the concepts of Reagan and Kennedy, who went on about cities on hills. But in regard to the last, a resistance is forming that gives us some hope in a different direction: Is there a chance that anti-Trump fever in Democrats can revive the old liberal hawks?
Before Vietnam, liberal hawks were a populous species, and foreign policy splits took part inside parties, with each having an internationalist and isolationist wing. Norman Thomas and Robert A. Taft were both isolationists, Sargent Shriver and Gerald Ford were in America First when they were students, and the pre-World War II interventionist movements were wholly bipartisan.
After the war, prominent liberals broke with the very far left over its lack of resistance to Russia's aggressions, and in the 1960 election all of the Democrats running were on the Cold Warrior side. Hubert Humphrey and Henry Jackson remained lifelong Cold Warriors, in 1972 labor kept unions from endorsing McGovern. But after Vietnam something had broken inside of the Democrats: In 1980 they called Reagan a warmonger when he said much the same things Kennedy had said 20 years earlier, and in 1984 Kennedy's pacifist brother asked the Soviet Union to intervene on behalf of his party in the presidential election that year.
Only 18 percent of Democratic senators and 32 percent of those in the House voted for the resolution for the first Gulf War in 1991, which addressed an act of aggression against an American ally that threatened Middle Eastern and global stability. One was Joe Lieberman, who was hounded out of his party fifteen years later, making the liberal war hawk extinct.
But this was before the Trump bromance with Vladimir Putin knocked all assumptions askew. For the first time, a Republican president was to the left of some of the Democrats when it came to appeasing a foreign aggressor, who had been an American enemy since the late 1940's, or for most of most people's lives.
In the past, liberals had preached moral equivalence because they despised Ronald Reagan and both the Bush presidents, and their enemies' enemy could not be their opponent. But if their new and worse enemy — Trump — appeases the Russians, could they be their old enemies' friend? Thus one starts to see some of the Democrats becoming more bellicose toward the heirs of the old Soviet Union, and joining some of the "warmongering neocons" in becoming more like Jack than Ted Kennedy, and reviving the old Harry S. Truman freedom agenda that was part of their party back when.
Will the McCain-Lieberman axis make its reappearance? Can the liberal hawk in this strangest of eras be making a comeback, by becoming his enemy's friend?
Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."