Thursday, April 26, 2018

Paul's Pompeo flipflop shows weakness of GOP "political libertarianism"

Rand Paul's Mike Pompeo Flip Flop: Don't Blame Him | National Review - Michael Brendan Dougherty:

April 25, 2018 - "Rand Paul’s vote was needed to confirm Mike Pompeo as secretary of state, and his refusal to give it was making some Republicans and conservatives upset.... For Paul and his most fervent supporters, ... Pompeo was far too hawkish. But on Monday, the junior senator from Kentucky relented. 'Rand Paul Caves' read one headline. 'Rand Paul’s Pompeo switch pleases Trump, angers libertarian base' said another.

"The focus, in other words, was squarely on Paul’s repeated failure to shift the Republican party’s foreign-policy orientation.... I agree with Paul’s project of calling the party to a less interventionist foreign policy. But doing so requires a very hard-headed acceptance of the limits of one senator’s power and of the political landscape.

"The Republican party and the conservative movement have shown a capacity to tolerate .... attention-getting 'stands' on principle ... only so long as such stands are not seen as aiding the Democrats in their drive to obstruct the Trump administration.... Trump seems to have the same qualified tolerance..... He lets others maintain their brands, so long as they don’t do so at the expense of his own. 'Rand Paul is a very special guy as far as I’m concerned,' he said when asked about the Pompeo fight. 'He’s never let me down.'

"The promises given to Paul don’t amount to much, but they do allow him to reconcile himself to Pompeo’s nomination while saving face. Paul can say he called the public’s and the White House’s attention back to Trump’s campaign promises and to the small but influential non-interventionist part of the president’s political base.

"It’s about as much as you can ask of a senator who constitutes a one-man faction. And it’s as much as you can expect of a senator on foreign policy, when Congress has ceded so much foreign- and military-policy authority to the executive branch.

"Ultimately, Paul is a 'political libertarian' in a way that we haven’t seen before.... But a 'political libertarian' is inevitably going to disappoint those of his supporters who want a politician to embody their beliefs in a way calculated not to change government policy and our political culture, but to perpetually and clearly condemn it.

"Realists, libertarians, and non-interventionists can continue to question whether the compromises Paul is making are worth it. But that he has to make them should be beyond dispute by now."

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