Bunker Mentality

Former Scoop Jackson protege Elliot Abrams remembers how they kept a sane foreign policy on life support during détente:

To the best of our knowledge, Elliot Abrams is not pictured here.

To the best of our knowledge, Elliot Abrams is not pictured here.

Jackson had a small staff but a wide network on the Hill (at a time when his party controlled both the Senate and the House). Republicans up there today need to be sure their own staffs are tightly linked and able to resist the implementation of policies that harm U.S. interests. Jackson and his troops understood that an informal network of capable, dedicated Hill staffers is an invisible but powerful tool, effective across party lines.

Times change. Cable news and the Internet alone have transformed the way outreach to the American people can be accomplished. But at bottom, the Jackson model is a good one. Get set for a long fight, try to reach across party lines, have confidence in the American people, and be immune to the criticism of “the best and the brightest.” If Scoop were alive, he’d be shaking his head in chagrin over our current foreign policy–and telling his troops to saddle up.

Abrams also warns against “nasty personal attacks,” but given all the juicy targets in Washington these days, that’s like trying to keep a cougar out of a college bar at happy hour.