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Itís 11 weeks until the deadline for the supercommittee to reduce federal budget deficits by at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years or else trigger across-the-board spending cuts, including big cuts in defense.
As Americans shift their focus away from terrorism and toward the nationís economic future, itís fair to ask: On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, has the nationís concern over spending forced the two parties into a new period of agreement on defense and foreign policy?
Since the end of World War II, the parties have at various times been in general agreement and complete disagreement on matters involving national security and defense.
The 1950s and early 1960s were a simple time for the parties. Both agreed that the Soviets enslaved Eastern Europe and fomented revolution in the Third World, as well as that the U.S. must defend freedom and stop communismís spread.
Things got more complicated during the 1960s and 1970s, as the nation and the parties took different paths.
While Republicans continued to view international conflicts through the same anti-communist lens they always had and supported virtually any new proposed military expenditure, many on the political left (including some Democrats) began to identify with the underdogs, expressing feelings of guilt about American affluence, the military establishment and U.S. ďimperialism.Ē
The fall of communism and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism changed that.
After the attacks of 9/11, Republicans and Democrats started reading from the same playbook, praising American heroism and tolerance, warning about Islamic extremism and demanding that al-Qaida pay a steep price for the attacks.
For a brief time, politics again ended at the waterís edge, with the parties disagreeing on domestic issues but unified about the threat of terrorism.
Democrats finally tired of the longtime GOP practice of caricaturing them as less than patriotic, eventually leading 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) to surround himself on the stage at the Democratic National Convention with American flags and former generals.
Democratic strategists figured that the symbols of patriotism and a presidential nominee with a sterling war record in Vietnam would nullify the usual Republican demonizing. It didnít.
During the past half-dozen years, things have become still more complicated.
Voices in both parties ó from Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) on the libertarian right to Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) on the left ó express concern about civil liberties, complaining that a government that peers too deeply into peopleís lives with the intention of stopping terrorism also threatens the privacy of loyal Americans.
The long, costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have also taken their toll on both parties.