Projection of U.S. Power Abroad
When they’re not philandering and violating their own professed Christian morality, C Street members push for the projection of U.S. power abroad. As Obama went to Port of Spain, Trinidad for the Summit of the Americas in April it was Ensign who criticized the President for shaking Hugo Chávez’s hand. “I think it was irresponsible for the president to be seen kind of laughing and joking with Hugo Chávez," he said. Ensign, a big booster of corporate-style free trade, voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement or CAFTA in 2005. He also supports the coup government in Honduras and signed a letter to Secretary of State Clinton calling on the Obama administration to revoke its support for deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.
Coburn, who is an obstetrician, has advocated the death penalty for any of his peers who carry out abortions. In the foreign policy realm he has stuck to a moralistic credo. He criticized a USAID program for example which sought to teach commercial sex workers in Central America about condom use to prevent HIV AIDS. An irate Coburn wrote President Bush to demand that the United States cease financing the preventative program, run by the non-profit Population Services International (PSI). Apparently the note had the desired effect and shortly after Coburn made his appeal PSI received word that USAID was cutting off money for the program. When not working to defeat sexual education in Central America Coburn supports free markets in the region, voting like his colleague Ensign to support CAFTA. He also supports the coup regime in Tegucigalpa.
C Street’s real free trade messiah is South Carolina native son Jim DeMint who just chastised the White House for supporting Zelaya, thereby carrying out what he called “a slap in the face to the people” of Honduras. Hondurans “have struggled too long to have their hard-won democracy stolen from them by a Chávez-style dictator,” he remarked. The South Carolinian, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, went even further and attacked the Organization of American States for “trampling” over the hopes and dreams of a “free and democratic people.” It’s hardly surprising that Demint would come out for the military takeover in Honduras given that he’s been a long time booster of Central American free trade. In this sense, he shares the ideological views of newly installed Honduran President Roberto Micheletti, a former businessman and conservative politician who has supported CAFTA. Demint has long been on the other side of the fence from the likes of Zelaya and Chávez. First elected to the House in 1998, he has been an eager promoter of far right wing economic orthodoxy like privatizing social security and abolishing the federal minimum wage.
Zach Wamp is another free trade zealot at C Street. Like his fellow Christian members, he supported CAFTA. At the time Wamp conceded that America’s trade policies were unpopular but defended his vote remarking that the trade agreement was beneficial to his native Tennessee. In the never ending race to the bottom, Wamp said that “if we ever want to compete with China, we must build alliances in our region with countries - like these CAFTA partners - so we can preserve American jobs and not lose any more manufacturing jobs to China or the Pacific Rim.” The southerner then went on to explain his other reasons for supporting the trade agreement. “During this critical time in American history,” he declared, “we are facing multiple national security implications for U.S. leadership and the Western hemisphere. The influences of communism and dictatorships are on the rise to our South.”
Warming to his theme, Wamp continued “in Venezuela, Hugo Chávez rules with an 'iron fist' and stands ready to team up with his mentor, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, to expand their influence in these Central American countries. Countries such as Nicaragua and El Salvador impacted by CAFTA must see the United States as a partner - not the adversary - so this region can be stable and secure.” Raising the alarm bell, Wamp continued “instability in Central America might also jeopardize U.S. border security. Should the Communists succeed in spreading their philosophies and regimes throughout Central America, even more illegal aliens will want to flee their countries and cross our southern border.”
Wamp has also signed on as a co-sponsor to legislation which condemns former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya for carrying out unconstitutional moves. The resolution chastises Zelaya for forging close ties with Chávez and Cuban rulers Fidel and Raul Castro and for joining the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA), an anti-free trade initiative including Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua.
In their own personal lives, C Street members have made a mockery of the group’s Christian teachings. Yet when it comes to the far more important and consequential issue of foreign policy these Republicans have stuck to their guns. From Chávez to Zelaya to free trade in Central America they have been consistent in seeking to overturn progressive reform and working to maintain U.S. imperial hegemony.
Nikolas Kozloff is the author of Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008)