The Failures of Rand Paul

Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan

Rand Paul has been considered Constitutional conservative and a non-interventionist. Both are admirable labels to have. However, over the last year, Senator Paul has failed at being either of these things.
As a self-described Constitutional conservative Senator Paul should do his best to oppose those that would step on our nation’s most important charter. Unfortunately, he has begun tow the party line more than he has championed our rights and liberties. Last October, Paul endorsed the Roy Moore’s U.S Senate campaign. This was a betrayal of his supposed constitutionalist beliefs. One would be hard-pressed to find someone who respects the Constitution less than Roy Moore. In 2006, Moore wrote an op-ed on why he believes Muslims shouldn’t serve in Congress. Not only was Moore’s opinion at odds with the First Amendment but he ignores Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution. Also known as the No Religious Test Clause of the Constitution, Article VI, Section 3 states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”. Moore served as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama but was twice removed, once for violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and later for ignoring the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which found that gay marriage bans violated the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Roy Moore felt that his personal religious beliefs were more important than the rights protected by the Constitution. Moore seems to have an incredibly limited understanding of the Constitution, as he incorrectly claimed that kneeling during the national anthem is illegal. Not only is it legal, it’s protected by the First Amendment. Roy Moore refused to respect the Constitution and, in many instances, lacked a basic understanding of the document. How Senator Paul thought this man could protect and uphold the Constitution is baffling.
Senator Paul has had an admirable history of speaking out against military adventurism and arming foreign conflicts. Last June, he voted to block a $110 million arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, the effort was rejected, and the Saudis obtained more weapons for their inhumane attacks in Yemen. Senator Paul’s actions, in this case, were commendable and principled. Senator Paul was right to grill Mike Pompeo over the constitutionality of Syrian strikes during Pompeo’s confirmation hearing. Unfortunately, that’s where Paul’s principals ended.  On April 23, Senator Paul tweeted that he would support Mike Pompeo’s nomination as Secretary of State. This announcement was in direct contradiction to Paul’s previous statements that he would do everything he could to block Pompeo’s nomination. According to the senator, he was assured by both Mike Pompeo and President Trump that Pompeo is a newfound non-interventionist who believes regime change is a mistake and the United States should end its involvement in Afghanistan. This is a very spurious claim considering the president had recently appointed renowned hawk and regime change fanboy John Bolton as the new National Security Advisor. The fact that Paul took the word of the self-aggrandizing Pompeo and the truth-phobic Trump is extremely troubling. Although Pompeo would have been nominated even without Rand Paul’s vote, it showed that his principals are extremely flexible. Pompeo as Secretary of State and John Bolton as National Security Advisor place two foreign policy hawks in powerful positions.  This should be extremely worrisome for anybody that is opposed to new wars.  Senator Paul’s epic flip-flop set the board for more neoconservative style foreign policy.
Rand Paul’s vote for Mike Pompeo isn’t his only failure in recent memory. In February, Mike Lee, Bernie Sanders, and Chris Murphy introduced S.J.Res.54 to the Senate floor. This bill would end the United States’ unauthorized participation in the Yemen conflict. Congress had not declared war and therefore U.S. participation in the war is in violation of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution, which gives Congress the power to declare war. A bill that not only ends America’s involvement in an unjust war but also ends an unconstitutional action should be in Senator Paul’s wheelhouse. Yet, his name was absent from the list of 14 cosponsors of the bill. This bill is the exact thing Rand Paul should be championing. In March, the Senate voted 55 to 44 to table the bill. Paul at least showed up to vote nay against the motion, but had he added his name to the bill it could have had more weight and perhaps helped get it through the Senate. This was a missed opportunity to create a bipartisan motion that would do right by the Constitution and end America’s shameful actions in Yemen.
I used to admire Rand Paul for his outspokenness and the importance he placed on the American Constitution. He has spoken out against military adventurism and promoted peace through diplomacy and trade. Sadly, he has become all bark and no bite, and in some cases, he has gone from barking to sitting and obeying. If Rand Paul wants to back partisan agendas and throw his full support behind anything the White House does that’s his prerogative, but he should stop pretending to be a man of principals when he abandons them so willingly.

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Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan