Rand Paul Votes to Confirm Chuck Hagel

Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine asks the question that first came to my mind when I learned that Rand Paul was one of four GOP senators who voted to confirm Hagel as SecDef:

Did Rand Paul vote for Hagel because he’s at the extreme end of his party on the question of how much deference a president’s nominees should receiv…

  1. Richard Fulmer

    I’m inclined to cut Senator Paul some slack on this one.  It seems clear that President Obama chose Hagel because Hagel shares his beliefs (i.e., the military is bad and needs to be smaller, Israel is bad and needs to go).  Given that the Secretary of Defense (whoever he or she is) will have to implement the President’s policies, Hagel might be the best choice.  I guess the question comes down to: Do we want someone who is competent working to destroy both the military and Israel or someone who is incompetent?  Tough choice. 

  2. Darn. He’s dead to me.

  3. Lee
    Richard Fulmer: … It seems clear that President Obama chose Hagel because Hagel shares his beliefs (i.e., the military is bad and needs to be smaller, Israel is bad and needs to go). …  I guess the question comes down to: Do we want someone who is competent working to destroy both the military and Israel or someone who is incompetent?  Tough choice.  · 2 minutes ago

    Agreed–Hagel mirrors Obama’s beliefs and anyone Obama put up would be roughly the same. However, I think this was an area where standing firm on principle would have been warranted. With Paul’s other questionable foreign policy leanings, I would have liked to see more fortitude on his part here. I think he has more to prove than the average GOP senator. If he doesn’t see that, I question his judgment and if he does see it and doesn’t care, it tells me a lot about his priorities. Both scenarios makes me question his ability to be CIC. 

    For all Hagel’s incompetence, I think he will be surprisingly able when it comes to mucking up our military capabilities and handicapping allies.

  4. Mollie Hemingway
    C

    I don’t mind Hagel that much.

    I also don’t mind that Rand voted to delay his confirmation, though I know many who share my foreign policy views did.

    I think, in fact, that Rand is the opposite of extreme on all this.

  5. BrentB67

    From a political standpoint it is hard to understand. No matter how deferential a Senator feels he/she should be to the President I don’t see any upside to the vote. Hagel would’ve been confirmed if Senator Paul had voted no. All the vote really did was start picking a foreign policy issue that will raise questions and tend to align Rand with some of the more controversial foreign policy decisions of his Father.

    From a practical standpoint – who cares? Lee is correct that Obama is a hardened idealogue and will nominate like minded people. Additionally, does it really matter who the SecDef is? They can’t declare war, they don’t direct troops or deployments. It is an admin and oversight position. They have much say in budget and procurement matters, but that is it.

    Senator Paul’s stand for limited government is what is going ot matter in 2016, not the SecDef nomination in 2013. Although I am sure he will hear about it in the primaries.

  6. Lee
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: I don’t mind Hagel that much.

    I also don’t mind that Rand voted to delay his confirmation, though I know many who share my foreign policy views did.

    I think, in fact, that Rand is the opposite of extreme on all this. · 1 minute ago

    Could you elaborate a bit? I’ve been trying to clarify my thoughts on where my (presumed) libertarianism deviates from that of others and foreign policy seems to be the sticking point.

    I’d be curious to know how you, and other libertarians here if applicable, understand Hagel and his views (which seem to have more in common with libertarian concerns about use of force and diplomacy than traditional GOP ideas), and in what way Rand Paul is the “opposite of extreme” (on the Hagel vote?, on fitting into the traditional GOP foreign policy/military use framework?).

    I don’t want a president who puts American lives and treasure at risk in the quixotic hope that everyone around the world wants our freedoms, but I fear that the prevailing libertarian idea of what constitutes a viable foreign policy is far too idealistic and as dangerous as what the Dems offer.

  7. Mollie Hemingway
    C
    Lee

    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: I don’t mind Hagel that much.

    I also don’t mind that Rand voted to delay his confirmation, though I know many who share my foreign policy views did.

    I think, in fact, that Rand is the opposite of extreme on all this. · 1 minute ago

    Could you elaborate a bit? I’ve been trying to clarify my thoughts on where my (presumed) libertarianism deviates from that of others and foreign policy seems to be the sticking point.

    It’s actually something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, too. I wrote about it here.

    I do believe that defense is one of the few legitimate functions of government and I’m all for a strong one. I think our current approach is inefficient, misguided and goes far beyond defense into offense.

    Having said that, I have serious trouble with how libertarians suggest threats aren’t threats (e.g. Islamist terrorism) and they make me want to side with the most hawkish.

    Hagel did come off as unbelievably stupid in his hearing. Bizarrely so. But in a world where Kerry is our Sec of State, I can imagine much worse for Defense.

  8. Lee
    BrentB67: From a political standpoint it is hard to understand. … All the vote really did was start picking a foreign policy issue that will raise questions and tend to align Rand with some of the more controversial foreign policy decisions of his Father….

    Senator Paul’s stand for limited government is what is going ot matter in 2016, not the SecDef nomination in 2013. Although I am sure he will hear about it in the primaries. · 17 minutes ago

    Yes, this is what I question—what is the upside for Rand Paul in voting to confirm Hagel? I would have expected McCain to cave first, in all his bipartisan, media courting smarminess. My first thought was, Paul must approve pretty strongly of some of Hagel’s stances.

    I don’t know that a limited government-centered 2016 campaign will be enough. A lot of Paul’s likely voters are just as concerned about foreign policy and military readiness and he seems to be a questionable mix of Leftish idealism and PaleoCon isolationism. It may sound good in theory but as CIC, I think a more realistic plan is required. 

  9. Lee
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.

    I do believe that defense is one of the few legitimate functions of government and I’m all for a strong one. I think our current approach is inefficient, misguided and goes far beyond defense into offense.

    Having said that, I have serious trouble with how libertarians suggest threats aren’t threats (e.g. Islamist terrorism) and they make me want to side with the most hawkish.

    I remember that post, I enjoyed it. I guess my concern is that your views (and mine) aren’t in the libertarian majority, at least in practice. It’s easy for a person to say that he supports a strong defense, but saying and doing are two different things. 

    I agree that there is a tremendous amount of wasted lives, money, and effort in our military adventures, which should be addressed, but the default so often seems to be cut to the bone and disregard the consequences. 

    I view military readiness as an insurance policy–I pay premiums (wasted money?) hoping that I never need to file a claim. Part of that strategy requires a credible threat to use the means at our disposal, hoping to stave off attack.

  10. BrentB67
    Lee

    BrentB67:

    I don’t know that a limited government-centered 2016 campaign will be enough. A lot of Paul’s likely voters are just as concerned about foreign policy and military readiness and he seems to be a questionable mix of Leftish idealism and PaleoCon isolationism. It may sound good in theory but as CIC, I think a more realistic plan is required.  · 25 minutes ago

    Lee, you highlight  key issue for the libertarian wing of the GOP, Tea Party et al.

    Limited domestic government correlates to limited international intervention. I don’t have a good answer or solution, but it is good that we are asking these questions and raising the issue.

  11. Fred Cole
    Lee: 

    Does anyone have an opinion on Paul’s vote and what it might mean for a 2016 presidential run? 

    It won’t.  Nobody will remember in 2016.

    Paul was taking a lot of heat in libertarian circles for holding up the nomination.  A lot of libertarians think Hagel will be good from a libertarian (less interventionist) point of view.  (He won’t.  Hagel’s a gutless moron.)

    But Paul was holding up Hagel to put pressure on the CIA nomination to get questions answered about drones, etc.  I don’t know the details about how or why Paul changed on this, but I know he was under a lot of pressure from libertarians.

    As for me, this isn’t a deal breaker for me.  Hagel was gonna get confirmed in the end anyway.  And Paul said a president is entitled to his nominees.   You gotta pick which hills to fight on.

    I’m not sure what it says about Paul other than one thing: He ain’t his father.  Ron Paul probably would have voted against anyone any president would nominate.  

    But they’re playing different games.  Ron Paul was on a long_term educational mission.  Rand Paul_is_a practical  politician_trying_to_get_things_done.

  12. Lee
    BrentB67

    Lee, you highlight  key issue for the libertarian wing of the GOP, Tea Party et al.

    Limited domestic government correlates to limited international intervention. I don’t have a good answer or solution, but it is good that we are asking these questions and raising the issue. · 7 minutes ago

    Despite my concerns about an idealistic libertarian foreign policy indistinguishable from a hippie Left foreign policy, I’m happy that there are principled advocates of limited intervention and responsible military action out there highlighting the perils of overextending ourselves. It’s important to always bear it in mind, even when I object to the scope of its application and the worldview from which it sometimes springs.

  13. Crow

    His vote is perfectly coherent with what he’s been saying for some time. See his comments in Cincinnati (SoCons should probably also take note of that speech, too).

    However, even still, I do share Brent’s befuddlement. Perhaps he figures the issue will blow over and be long forgotten by 2016, but he does seem to have intentionally picked a fight here, and whether that’s really a fight worth having (as opposed to his outstanding performance during the Benghazi hearing) is dubious.

    He could merely have voted to end cloture, as many R’s did, but he chose to vote for Hagel. He’s going to have to give me more than “deference” to the Executive, especially since his father was a tireless critic of Congress’s assumption of a supine posture toward the Executive (one of the very few areas where Paul The Elder and I agreed).

  14. Lee
    Fred Cole

    As for me, this isn’t a deal breaker for me.  Hagel was gonna get confirmed in the end anyway.  And Paul said a president is entitled to his nominees.   You gotta pick which hills to fight on.

    I’m not sure what it says about Paul other than one thing: He ain’t his father.  Ron Paul probably would have voted against anyone any president would nominate.  

    But they’re playing different games.  Ron Paul was on a long_term educational mission.  Rand Paul_is_a practical  politician_trying_to_get_things_done. · 8 minutes ago

    All good points. Though I have to wonder, if a president is entitled to his nominees, what, if any, are the traits that would disqualify a nominee and require a senator to vote No? Not directing it at Hagel specifically, just a general question. And is there any significance attached to an affirmative vote, perhaps one that decides the outcome,  versus an abstention versus a negative vote? Does one signal more or less approval of the substance of the question rather than respect for the process? Rhetorical question, so don’t feel obligated to reply, just something rolling through my brain.

    “Hagel’s a gutless moron.” Heartily agree.

  15. Fred Cole
    Lee

    Fred Cole

    And Paul said a president is entitled to his nominees.   You gotta pick which hills to fight on.

    I have to wonder, if a president is entitled to his nominees, what, if any, are the traits that would disqualify a nominee and require a senator to vote No?

    I’d say yes, as a general rule.  And a rule tempered by the need for exemptions for specific circumstances.

    If we disqualified every gutless moron in Washington, not only would we not have a Congress, but almost nobody would be qualified for the cabinet.  

    Also, its an opinion of mine.  The president disagrees (hopefully) about the gutless moron thing.

    I’d DQ somebody if they had some kind of criminal history or obvious conflict of interests or the nomination or nominee was obviously corrupt in some specific way.  Like I said, a general rule tempered by the need for specific exemptions.

  16. BrentB67
    Crow’s Nest: His vote is perfectly coherent with what he’s been saying for some time. See his comments in Cincinnati (SoCons should probably also take note of that speech, too).

    However, even still, I do share Brent’s befuddlement. Perhaps he figures the issue will blow over and be long forgotten by 2016…

    I believe it will be long forgotten in the general election of 2016 assuming Senator Paul wins the nomination (perhaps I should wait for him to announce he is running).

    It will not be forgotten in the primaries. Karl Rove is going to beat this to death as will many of the old guard republicans all waiting their turn for 2016.

  17. Larry Koler

    Let’s face it: Rand Paul is very suspect. His father in is background is the main problem, of course, and I don’t trust him because of that. I like a lot of what he says but I don’t think he can be counted on to stand up to pressures — he’s kind of a special edition dilettante. He’s so exotic, isn’t he?

    Also, let’s not forget that the illness that ruins the Libertarian Party is still very contagious. This disease makes it important to set himself apart and be unpredictable. His main audience at this stage in his career is the center and he tries to cajole Republicans and Dems into supporting him. 

    Really now, how can we trust this man? This is a seriously odd thing to do and it’s very much an “in your face” thing to do. He knows we are watching and this is very calculated. 

    Here’s the main question: what did Hagel do to impress him between the time he held up the nomination to the time he voted to confirm? Answer: nothing. This is all show.

  18. Lee
    Crow’s Nest: His vote is perfectly coherent with what he’s been saying for some time. See his comments in Cincinnati (SoCons should probably also take note of that speech, too)….

    He could merely have voted to end cloture, as many R’s did, but he chose to vote for Hagel. He’s going to have to give me more than “deference” to the Executive, especially since his father was a tireless critic of Congress’s assumption of a supine posture toward the Executive.

    I may be reading too much into Paul’s comments, because while I agree with them as stated, I’ve still never gotten the idea that he has much better sense than his father, foreign-policy-wise. He seems to be better at saying what you’re supposed to say to win an election, but I don’t know that I trust him.

    His vote for Hagel and his explanation for it, as you mention, are insufficient. I appreciate the principled, alternate perspective he brings, I think it’s perfectly appropriate in a senator, but for devising a foreign policy I can support, I’m left with serious questions.

  19. Lee
    Fred Cole

    If we disqualified every gutless moron in Washington, not only would we not have a Congress, but almost nobody would be qualified for the cabinet.  

    You say that like it’s a bad thing.

  20. Lee
    Larry Koler: 

    Really now, how can we trust this man? This is a seriously odd thing to do and it’s very much an “in your face” thing to do. He knows we are watching and this is very calculated. 

    Yeah, that was my first, middle and last thought on his move. As others have pointed out, it’s the vote Ron Paul’s supporters wanted, so it makes sense in that light, but can’t likely do him much good with regular GOP voters, so it may or may not balance out in the end. I think it’s a weird political move that makes more sense if viewed from a position of philosophical compatibility with some of Hagel’s non-interventionist opinions (which I would argue are objectively anti-American interests, regardless of Paul’s intent).

    There’s responsible non-interventionism and then there’s knee-jerk blame America firstism that masquerades as non-interventionism. I’m for the former and against the latter and I don’t care to take the word of a politician that he supports the first when his background is suspect and so many of his actions contradict that.

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