There is a difference between libertarian-conservatives and left-libertarians. While, on domestic issues, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is mostly a breath of fresh air, his take on foreign policy has always aligned with the Democrats, as both believe that all the misbehavior of the Russians, the Chinese, and the jihadists is provoked by America being so darned uncivil — as though any of those foreign actors care about the American persona as much as Washington politicians in their country’s limelight care about their own.
Now comes Trump’s nomination of Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, to replace Rex Tillerson, the corporatist/globalist who began to go rogue and pursue a foreign policy independent of that of his boss. Given that nearly all the opposition is still wearing Pussy Hats and tweeting to #Resist, Sen. Paul’s declaration that he was against Pompeo was significant, or at least headline-grabbing; Pompeo’s nomination could still prevail on the floor, but rejection in the Foreign Relations committee would be a big stain. The issue was Pompeo’s muscular concept of America’s projection of power (aligning with John Bolton as National Security Advisor); also Pompeo’s position on social issues. (How is this last relevant, unless Pompeo were to assert, as John Kerry did, that Global Warming is America’s primary foreign-policy concern?)
Happily, Sen. Paul relented. Politico reports that Paul said, “President Trump believes that Iraq was a mistake, that regime change has destabilized the region, and that we must end our involvement with Afghanistan.” Amazing! The self-revealing pressure of a Senate committee hearing led a seasoned professional to a change of heart?
No, sadly, as government studies are still not studies but sales pitches, Senate hearings are still not hearings but Kabuki dances. While conservatives reveled that their libertarian ally “extracted policy concessions” from the nominee, a more relevant fact is that Joe Manchin flipped. The centrist Democrat from West Virginia, facing re-election in 2018, whose state’s mining jobs Trump promised to preserve as adamantly as Her Nibs was promising to extinguish them, announced he would support Pompeo. (Manchin, along with McCaskill in Missouri and Heitkamp in, God help us, North Dakota, is in his party’s Terrified Caucus, Democrat Senators sitting in defiance of their states’ Presidential Electors.) Among other things, this immediately made Paul’s opposition irrelevant. Surprise, Paul’s opposition evaporated, provided there was a token “concession” for Paul’s trophy case.
CNN stated that:
Gaveling in the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee on Monday, Chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, apologized for the late start, but noted a few “entrepreneurial” things had occurred in the moments before the hearing, an apparent reference to the timing of Paul’s change of vote.
Entrepreneurial. That sounds so much more refined than “buying and selling,” and especially more than conducting a fire sale once you see that your merchandise is superfluous.
The author warmly received Sen. Paul at Town Hall in Exeter, New Hampshire in 2016, but left believing that if Paul’s signature proposal (a law compelling legislators to read the text of every bill) were going to work, then even gun control would work.