Since joining the Foreign Relations Committee in 2007, Sen. Bob Corker has set about steeping himself in key international policy matters and trying to work with and learn from Members on both sides of the aisle who share his particular interests. That studiousness has earned him kudos from a number of his Senate colleagues.
It is significant that lawmakers such as Kyl and McCain are such Corker boosters, given that they represent the neoconservative — or as Abrams calls it, “activist” — wing of the GOP. Despite often being at odds with them on policy, Corker needs their support in his Foreign Relations bid to help fend off charges from some conservatives that he’s been too moderate. Besides his vote for START, Corker’s record includes working with Democrats such as Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) on war powers issues and Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (Mass.) on U.S. efforts to rebuild Haiti.
Of course, Lugar has made similar bipartisan efforts on foreign policy, without inviting the ire of hawks, although it diminished his influence in the caucus over time.
While McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have been shouting from the rooftops for airstrikes in first Libya and now Syria, Corker has been one of the biggest naysayers on Arab Spring interventions. He also has questioned the worth of staying in Afghanistan and of continuing to provide assistance to Pakistan.
At the same time, he joined with McCain, Graham and others on the Senate floor this year to speak in defense of foreign aid funds against deep cuts that were proposed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and supported by other tea party Republicans.
That leads policy analysts such as Abrams to conclude he does not fit any of the traditional categories of international relations theory — realist, internationalist, isolationist or neocon. “He’s not an ideologue,” Abrams said simply.
His skepticism of military adventurism after more than a decade of war also happens to reflect where many in the GOP — and the country at large — are at right now, somewhere between the poles of McCain and Paul.
In that sense, Abrams said, “he’s right in the center of the Republican Party.”