Before and against

The U.S. Senate’s Constitutional role when it comes to the President’s cabinet is to “advise and consent”. In the case of Sen Rand Paul of Kentucky, “advise and consent” became the art of being for something before against ala another former senator, John Kerry.

I agree with Ross Douthat that  Rand Paul  trying to meet the “base” halfway with calls for realism and non-interventionism in U.S. foreign policy and for the Republican Party. But here’s the problem: Other people who are just as ambitious as he is and represent powerful intra-party factions will do anything in their power to try and halt those ambitions, and his John Kerry-like conduct over the Hagel nomination simply gives them the ammunition they need to shoot at him. Being “middle-of-the-road” only caused him to be hit by traffic on both sides of the street.

What Rand never understood was the symbolic struggle for power behind the Hagel nomination and what it said about the Bush II foreign policy legacy within the Republican Party. Hagel is certainly no Bob Taft, everyone knows this. But the fact the neocons were willing to make this their Waterloo made the nomination battle the perfect forum to criticize their ideology and take advantage of their defeat. Instead of that, Rand joined filibustering of a Presidential cabinet choice for the most demagogic reasons and in failing to stop him (which he was doing by being a part of the filibuster), basically said “Okay Mr. President you can have your Secretary of Defense who I voted twice to make sure he never would become Secretary of Defense. Here’s my stamp of approval.”

This was the time to take a stand against the neocons and instead Rand acted silly. Hopefully the episode will be long forgotten by 2015/16 but I’m sure Rand’s ideological opponents will make sure it won’t be. That would have been true either way but at least had Rand acted more intelligently, they’re attacks would be no more devastating than pin-pricks. Now they may have a little more weight behind them. Douthat may be right in that the “base” doesn’t really have foreign policy positions compared to sympathies but they’re a lot less likely to understand why a person was opposed to something before he decided to support it.

 The bottom line is the America of “smaller government” is not going to be the colossus striding over the world of one’s youth. This is the fundamental truth that Rand Paul or somebody has to convince “the base” of otherwise they should be Obama supporters because at least by supporting the Democrats you still get to blow people to smithereens by orders of the President, it’s just only done by computer technology instead of aircraft carrier battle groups. Conservatives will never solve their internal debates until they realize this, even if it’s in sad conclusion. Otherwise, stop acting like libertarians when you clearly aren’t.


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16 thoughts on “Before and against

  1. Savrola

    The lack of insight in this piece is amazing.

    I used to read policy-magazines gain a better understanding of the inside parliamentary procedure occurring in these senatorial wranglings.

    It used to be that there were a least a few writers who delved into the situation at hand and sought to comprehend it before reporting their opinion on the matter.

    Nowadays, we can’t be bothered to come up with anything original or actually understand how things work.

    So, I’m shocked…shocked to find that you share Ross Douthat’s opinion, share it with every other conservative pundit (scribe, re-writing the works and opinions of others).

    I don’t know what’s going on and admit as much.

    But it’s foolish to assume that Rand isn’t aware that he’s antagonizing the Republican Party (a good thing) by these actions.

    Someone got played in the Hagel deal and it wasn’t Rand.

  2. Hawthorne

    “What Rand never understood was the symbolic struggle for power behind the Hagel nomination”

    His actions would seem to indicate he did– the subject being power not hosannas from the Remnant. Lets see how Rand preforms on Brennan before getting too far ahead of ourselves.

    And BTW, wasn’t Taft, the Bonesman fellow, a big supporter of Israel, willing to set aside the troubles at the King David Hotel? No need to overdo that part.

  3. RedPhillips

    “But it’s foolish to assume that Rand isn’t aware that he’s antagonizing the Republican Party (a good thing) by these actions.”

    Why should we assume that Rand is a political mastermind? He is an ophthalmologist and a relative political novice. It is safe to assume Rand knows how to write glasses prescriptions. It is not safe to assume he has good instincts re. splitting the difference between his competing bases.

    As I said before, the smartest move I think he could have made would have been to oppose Hagel on the grounds that Hagel is too much of a globalist.

  4. Savrola

    Red, not all medical people are like yourself when it comes to higher politics.

    Rand has made a lot of obviously bright decisions in his brief career, like Obama did. Nothing brilliant, just bright and common sense stuff.
    Of course Rand is a surgeon, not a mere pill-pushing M.D.

    That’s completely inconsequential, however.

    You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to know that Rand knew what he was doing on the Hagel nomination.

    He didn’t simply lose his head and flip-flop.

    Hagel’s confirmation was always a done deal. I’m guessing Rand got something from both sides for his efforts and that he knew it was a done deal.

    Does this endear him to the Party/Base?

    Who cares? Quite a few 2012 Republican Voters will be dead in 2016.

    It would be a waste of Rand’s time to appeal to anyone who thinks Hagel is anti-semite.

    Most Americans don’t care. Mostly because they’re dumb, but they still don’t care.

    So it makes not even the slightest bit of difference to his prospective constituency.

    Does this endear him to me? Just a bit, because it hurts the Republican Party. Anything that hurts the Party is good.

    Who do I represent? The young-guard who went through the last two campaigns and know how the system works.

    If Rand doesn’t antagonize the Base some, we won’t support him in 2016.

    You and Sean were going to sit on your hands like in the last two campaigns so nobody is going to make much effort to appeal to you.

  5. C Bowen

    As the neoconservatives support aiding radical jihadists in Syria (as they did in Iraq, Egypt, Serbia/Kosovo, Chechnya, and Libya), you must wonder, RonL, what there real problem with him is, right?

    Hagel will be a tool of the regime to attack unabashed liberals like Grahmnesty and McAmnesty–but I don’t see him picking fights with Rand Paul’s phantom isolationism (a mythical journalistic meme being suggested here.)

    Do you seriously think Hagel will attack “conservatives”? Or did you mean other liberal competing Republican groups?

  6. RedPhillips

    Sav, if you were half as smart as you think you are, you would still be a genius.

    “I’m guessing Rand got something from both sides for his efforts and that he knew it was a done deal.”

    Or he is a political novice who made a stupid move/got bad advice/doesn’t have good instincts.

  7. C Bowen


    What stupid move did you think he made?

    Rand has to protect from threats to the Right and Left (real and imagined.) He has clearly chosen to reach to a strand of ‘realist’ and try to keep his ‘where else you gonna go’ bonafides.

    What Savrola suggests is that Rand may have gotten some concession on Kentucky coal (or whatever, but coal wins Republican votes) while he was playing aloof. That is his job of course, aid Kentuckians.

    Alternatively, one can play the always useful incompetence/naive card which is not without merit, but it is also the usual cover of the Establishment.

  8. Savrola

    Unlike you Red, I have to face the consequences of my political prognostications.

    Which makes my opinion worth a little more than some I could name.

  9. RonL

    “As the neoconservatives support aiding radical jihadists in Syria (as they did in Iraq, Egypt, Serbia/Kosovo, Chechnya, and Libya), you must wonder, RonL, what there real problem with him is, right?”
    They ideologically believe in revolution and democratism by the sword. They are Jacobins. Their actions are tantamount to treason in helping Al Qaeda and its allies.

    “Do you seriously think Hagel will attack “conservatives”? Or did you mean other liberal competing Republican groups?”
    He will be used to attack Republicans when they oppose crippling military R&D, replacement of aged weapons, and putting women on the front lines.
    And he will be trotted out to attack Republicans when they oppose any liberal foreign agenda.

  10. C Bowen


    Hagel’s chief critics, McCain and Grahmnesty, love women on the frontlines–not following you here. I think you are reaching and just making stuff up.

    “crippling military R&D”

    That is more about pork to districts as we both know and happens no matter who is in power.

  11. RonL

    C Bowen,
    Hanoin John McCain and Grahamnesty are the only critics of Hagel? Is that a joke? That is an insult to the strawman fallacy and you know it.
    Name one conservative in the Senate who supported Hagel.

    PS. Is anyone else worried that Paul’s excuse is anti-Constituional rubbish? What part of “advice and consent” does he not understand?

  12. RedPhillips

    I actually agree with Ron about the “advice and consent” issue and planned to say something about that separately. Nothing in the Constitution requires deference to the President’s cabinet selections. That is a tradition, and as such might be a good thing to follow, but it is not a Constitutional requirement. If I were a Senator I would vote to approve appointees that I thought would follow the Constitution, and I would not vote to approve appointees I didn’t think would follow the Constitution, which would mean I would likely default vote against everyone the same way I would default vote against every spending bill.

    This is another thing Rand could have played up in his effort to appease both sides. He could have expressed concerns that Hagel supports drones, favors executive perogative re. warmaking, etc. and voted against him on principled non-interventionist grounds. That way he makes non-interventionists happy and anti-Hagel folks who just want a nay vote happy. He would have ticked off the Justin Raimondos of the world who wanted to stick it to the neocons, but he would still have credibility with most non-interventionists.

    As it is, he got the worst of both worlds. He sided with the “extremists” in opposing cloture, but sided with the “thoughtful” crowd in voting to confirm. Now the thoughtful crowd doesn’t think he is thoughtful nor does the interventionist crowd think he is one of them. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

  13. RedPhillips

    Ron, the problem for you is that since you don’t (wisely) endorse crusades for democracy your hawkishness is based entirely on your assement of the threat. I know you think our mission in life is to screw the neocons, but we simply don’t buy the hawkish threat assessment.

    In my experience when arguing with hawks who renounce crusades for democracy (not you), they quickly revert to that rhetoric anyway when pressed because it is so hard to justify their threat assessment when challenged. It’s just taken for granted by many knee-jerk hawks who haven’t really thought about it that “if we don’t fight them over there” our wives and daughters will soon be “wearing burkas” over here. But this boilerplate collapses with the slightest examination so they are stuck falling back on America as global sustainer of democracy rhetoric.

  14. C Bowen

    “Hanoin John McCain and Grahamnesty are the only critics of Hagel?”

    Where did I write this? Chief, chief critics–as in the most public face critics for your average tee-vee/newspaper reading north of 60 type.

    Nice try, talkin’ about strawmen.

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