05/20/2010 11:40 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

John Boehner Still Struggling with National Security

This piece is cross-posted from

How's this for nerve? At a press conference on May 6, Republican Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner of Ohio accused the Obama administration of relying on "luck" to keep America safe. But Boehner's own recipe for national security is based on even less. Rather than engage the White House in a constructive dialogue on how best to protect the nation, Boehner chose to throw political rotten tomatoes. His gamesmanship is a disturbing reminder that the House minority leader cares more about winning elections than keeping the country safe.

Amazingly, Boehner chose to lob his rhetorical garbage in the wake of the successful manhunt for would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. Ignoring the incredibly efficient work of America's defense, security, and law enforcement agencies, Boehner charged the administration with operating "without a real, comprehensive plan to confront and defeat the terrorist threat."

But clearly Boehner doesn't have a clue of just how hard the administration has been working. Earlier this year, the Department of Defense issued its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). And in a few weeks, the White House will release its National Security Strategy. This may come as a shock to Boehner, but the QDR -- led by Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, a Republican himself -- and the National Security Strategy actually are the administration's "comprehensive plans".

Maybe Boehner missed it because he was too busy coming up with his own "plan." Boehner actually did convene something called the National Security Solutions Group, a caucus of 18 Republicans that was supposed "to develop solutions to the current and future threats." But to date, Boehner's clique looks more like political theater than substantive intellect -- it hasn't issued a single new idea. And the QDR makes Boehner's group look out-of-date, insufficient, and redundant anyway.

Perhaps Boehner failed to offer security ideas at his press conference because he lacked the confidence that any of his own might actually work. With a national security track record like Boehner's, he probably calculated that it would be best to insult and run, rather that defend the policies he has supported in the past.

Exhibit A of Boehner's policy stinkers? Invading Iraq.

Since that one didn't turn out to be the cakewalk that Boehner, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush originally planned, it's understandable why he might be gun shy about forwarding new ideas. Indeed, Boehner remains so obsessed by Iraq that his website -- as of this writing -- continues to insist that Iraq, not Osama Bin Laden's home in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, is "the central front of a global war [on terror]." Never mind that al Qaeda only came to Iraq after America did.

Then there's Boehner's odd belief that the administration's decision to reorient missile defense -- a policy supported by Secretary Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- comes at the expense of America's allies. So how do those allies actually feel? Just fine, it turns out. Take it from Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland's Foreign Minister, who said in the first week of May that "Polish-American relations are solid" and that Poland "rather like[s] the new version better than the previous one" of missile defense.

Boehner also sided with Dick Cheney in endorsing torture. General David Petraeus had a different view, saying torture was "neither useful nor necessary" and calling on America to "occupy the moral high ground."

The fact is that John Boehner has been consistently wrong about which policies keep America safe. He's reckless and out-of-touch with the national security landscape of the 21st century and more concerned with winning elections than stopping terrorism. His catcalls at the Obama administration only distract attention from the serious national security challenges America continues to face.

John Boehner is right that we need more than luck to defeat terrorism. We need national leaders to rise above empty rhetoric to protect the country in a bi-partisan manner. Unfortunately, Boehner is not acting like one of those leaders.