WASHINGTON — US Senator John McCain on Sunday expressed concern about growing isolationism in the Republican party, particularly among those vying for the 2012 presidential nomination.
McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee, said he was alarmed to hear various candidates at a campaign forum last Monday express opposition to US military involvement in the NATO military assault on Libya's Moamer Kadhafi.
"There's always been an isolation strain in the Republican party, that Pat Buchanan (a former Republican presidential contender) wing of our party. But now it seems to have moved more center stage, so to speak," he said.
There is no question that President Barack Obama, a Democrat, made the right choice in lending US military support to the NATO mission in Libya, McCain told ABC's "This Week" program.
"If we had not intervened, Kadhafi was at the gates of Benghazi. He said he was going to go house to house to kill everybody. That's a city of 700,000 people. What would be saying now if we had allowed for that to happen?
"That's not the Republican party of the 20th century and now the 21st century," McCain said.
Among Republican contenders voicing opposition on Libya at last week's debate in New Hampshire were tea party darling Michele Bachmann and Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney.
"It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can consistent with the word that comes from our generals that we can hand the country over," Romney said.
"I think we've learned some important lessons in our experience in Afghanistan. Our troops shouldn't go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation. Only the Afghanis can win Afghanistan's independence from the Taliban."
McCain said such views were inconsistent with bedrock Republican values.
"That is not the Republican party that has been willing to stand up for freedom for people for all over the world," the Arizona senator said.
Critics in Congress have said that in launching military operations against Kadhafi, Obama violated the War Powers Act, a law intended to check a president's ability to go to war without seeking congressional approval.
Lawmakers who feel Obama is not in compliance -- the War Powers Act allows 90 days for a president to notify Congress and 90 days were up Sunday -- are threatening to cut off funding for US military operations in Libya.
The White House said in a letter to Congress last week that the War Powers Act -- which has been largely ignored by past presidents -- does not apply to what's going on in Libya because there are no US troops on the ground there.
"US military operations are distinct from the kind of hostilities contemplated by the War Powers Act," the White House letter read.
McCain said he and John Kerry, a leading Democratic lawmaker who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, were crafting a bill that would take the question of the venture's legality off the table.
"Senator John Kerry and I have the resolution that's ready to go that would comply with the War Powers Act," he told ABC television.
Outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, another Republican, also defended Obama's decision to lend US military support to the NATO operation in Libya.
"I believe that President Obama has complied with the law, consistent in a manner with virtually all of his predecessors. I don't think he's breaking any new ground here," Gates told the Fox News Sunday television program.
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