Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul appeared on Fox and Friends on Wednesday morning to add his two cents to the ongoing Twitter spats between Trump and everything in his sight.
Trump’s recent online feuds include a back and forth between himself and Tenessee Senator Bob Corker, and as always, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. Both have announced they will be retiring out of politics to escape the madness that the Republican party has become.
But Paul sees all of this as a sideshow that distracts from the main event; policy. Paul told the Fox and Friends hosts that these spats look more like a celebrity tabloid story than leadership.
“I’m not here to criticize any of them really for what they think is the best way but I think actually that it would be better if we concentrate on policy because I think people at home would like a tax cut,” Paul told Fox and Friends. “People at home would like to keep American jobs here and try to lower corporate taxes so those companies don’t go overseas.”
“I think to the American people, that’s more important than all the personalities,” added Paul. “This is more of like a People Magazine saga, and it really ought to be more about policy and what is the best way to lead the country.”
Paul is correct in his description. The unfolding drama is just like the stories you see in big yellow letters on the covers of gossip magazines in your grocery store’s checkout aisle. However, it should be noted that we are dealing with celebrity drama, seeing as how Trump is still a celebrity despite the fact that he sits behind a public official’s desk.
Paul himself has been on the receiving end of Trump’s online snipes before. During the Graham-Cassidy debate, Trump took aim at Paul in a tweet, calling him a “negative force” in healthcare. Paul fired back saying he “won’t be bullied” by anyone into supporting the bill.
But Paul may have learned something integral to getting things done in Washington’s current climate, and seems to have picked up a trick or two from Trump. The Kentucky senator is also known to tweet out a solid slug to the chin himself.
On Monday, Paul fired a tweet right into Lindsay Graham’s hull when he called the South Carolina senator a “warmonger” over Graham’s ignorance of 1,000 of our own troops being stationed in Niger.
You know you are in too many wars in too many places when even warmonger Lindsay Graham can’t keep track anymore
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) October 23, 2017
Perhaps this is the disrespectful tone Paul is saying isn’t conducive to policy making, but as he may have learned, starting a public fight over a subject may lead to that subject being tackled and dealt with. Paul wants fewer troops overseas in expensive wars that he views as not accomplishing much. If he has to start a public duel with a fellow senator, so be it.
Public attention brings steam. Steam makes pressure. Paul may have figured out that in the era of Trump, online feuds are steam power for a political engine.
Despite the occasional online flame wars between Trump and Paul, however, the two men seem to maintain a mutual respect for one another. At this time, Paul is the only Senator who has actually managed to pull off passing a plan for free-market healthcare by getting Trump to sign an executive order allowing group insurance plans.
So while Paul can give as good as he gets, he manages to play the game and achieve the policy changes he sets out for. This hasn’t pleased many. Anti-Trump figures think he’s too chummy with the tabloid-maker-in-chief, while Trump supporters think he gets in Trump’s way too often.
Either way, at a time when Republicans still hold the lion’s share of power in Washington, Paul’s policy concerns seem to motivate his moves away or toward Trump, and he likely sees nothing to be gained with these current fights.
It seems that for Paul, a policy fight — even a muddy one — is worth having, but not this current drama.