Whether Republicans like it or not, they must contend with the libertarian wing of their party if they are to be functional in the near future. Events have converged in Washington D.C. that could provide an opportunity for Republicans to show some semblance of unity and functionality by working together.
Yes, through the dreaded dirty word that couldn’t be uttered during the heated 2015-2016 Republican Presidential primaries: compromise.
President Trump sought to break with the foreign policy mistakes of the last two administrations. Yet now he picks for Secretary of State and CIA Director people who embody them, defend them, and, I’m afraid, will repeat them. I will not support their nominations.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 14, 2018
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, the most vocal and savvy member of the libertarian wing, announced in a press conference (and obviously, Twitter) that he would oppose the appointment of Gina Haspel as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Not a surprise – expected, even – for those who are familiar with Rand Paul’s brand; he is at best an anti-interventionist and at worst an isolationist. He is also a fierce civil libertarian which is arguably a larger part of his brand than his views on foreign policy and, as such, gives him reason to compromise.
If a certain level of media pressure were applied to asset forfeiture, it would nudge Paul to pivot back to a bill he introduced almost one year ago to the day.
Paul takes a lot of flack for voting to confirm Sessions, who rescinded what is possibly one of Barack Obama’s most popular executive orders, which rolled back asset forfeiture for local law enforcement. That tarnish on Paul’s record doesn’t hurt him with his base but it does leave him in an ideological bind when debating “liberties”.
Haspel and Pompeo will be confirmed, and while it may seem tempting for Paul to pivot to the likes of Glenn Greenwald to oppose this basic move by an executive, it does not help the Republican Party in the long run.
Yes, thundering away at the CIA will raise campaign dollars for Paul, but using Greenwald who is actively defending Max Blumenthal suppressing the Southern Poverty Law Center, of all places, while playing footsie with “Moon Of Alabama”, a shady alt-right blog, will not pay off. Paul’s new social media ally, Greenwald is bizarrely aligned by messaging with both the far left and right which is baggage Senator Paul absolutely does not need.
Except the SPLC has proven on many occasions that they won't retract stories or claims simply because someone threatens to sue, or even if someone does sue. So while it's nice to claim this, they clearly need more than legal threats to retract & apologize https://t.co/dAicndHZOP
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 14, 2018
The proposal is pretty simple: come work within your own party to bring about sensible asset forfeiture and cannabis reforms or look like you are indirectly buying time for America’s enemies by prolonging the confirmation of someone who truly terrifies terrorists. It’s all pretty basic from a give-and-take perspective: Paul reintroduces his bill and puts cannabis legalization, or at the very least removal from schedule 1 status, on the table while asking for continued oversight with a new CIA director that makes him so nervous.
It doesn’t take a political science guru to understand that asset forfeiture and cannabis reform are popular with a lot of voters and particularly those who comprise Rand Paul’s base. The libertarian base, such as it is.
It also doesn’t take a genius to understand that Americans broadly like to feel safe and don’t actually care about the minutiae of clandestine affairs, just so long as you aren’t rotating their sons and daughters out in long boring deployments of occupation. Torture and using “quiet power” as opposed to “soft power” isn’t a comfortable topic, but having someone like Paul pressing the intelligence community in private is a good thing, and so is compromise.
Turning to a group of self-styled intellectuals like Greenwald and his ilk may generate some campaign dollars but it does nothing to conserve liberties at home and it doesn’t help stabilize anything abroad. If you aren’t actually preserving liberty, what good are you to libertarians? If you aren’t protecting our interests and providing for our defense, what good are you to everyone else? Effectiveness, and the effect of policy, matters.
America, the US Senate, and the Republican Party would be better served if Rand Paul would pivot away from hyperbolic hucksters like Greenwald and work seriously within his own party and across the aisle.