Rand Paul is considering running for President and Quin Hillyer of the National Review is not very happy.
But just about every fortnight or so, a new Rand Paul speech or a newly resurfaced old video or news report shows not only that the senator is dangerously neo-isolationist and militarily penurious, but that he is also bizarrely spiteful toward those who disagree. Worse, just as in some of his father’s rants, the Kentuckian’s pronouncements bend toward wacky conspiracy theories of the “blame America first” variety. It recently emerged, for example, that just two years ago, he still was trafficking in the Buchananite fantasy that United States trade policy made it somehow culpable for Japan’s and Germany’s “anger,” which led to World War II.A lot of right wing thought is of the my way or the highway variety. The fact that Rand Paul adopts this attitude and the fact that many other right-wingers adopt the same attitude means that the Republican Party is seriously divided leading up to the 2016 election.
Specifically, David Corn of Mother Jones unearthed a speech by Rand Paul from 2009 in which he unleashed a vicious attack on former Vice President Dick Cheney. Hillyer then seeks to turn Cheney into a martyr, no small feat for the least popular Vice President in US history.
“We need to be fearful of companies that get so big that they can actually be directing policy,” the senator said. He went on to blame Halliburton also for doing such “shoddy” work that “our soldiers are over there dying in the shower from electrocution.” Noting that Cheney in 1995 had defended the decision not to press the 1991 Desert Storm engagement any further, Paul said: “Dick Cheney then goes to work for Halliburton. Makes hundreds of millions of dollars, their CEO. Next thing you know, he’s back in government, and it’s a good idea to go into Iraq. . . . [And] 9/11 became an excuse for a war they already wanted in Iraq.”Hillyer calls this "slanderous," but the problem is that the revolving door that Rand Paul refers to is factual. The problem is that Cheney made his millions from Halliburton after he left Congress, something which a lot of other politicians do after they retire. From Corn, more excerpts from Rand Paul's speech:
There are plenty of arguments to be made both for and against the 2003 decision to go to war, but to say that Cheney willingly put the lives of his countrymen at risk in order to make money — from a company he no longer worked for — is simply beyond the pale. And Cheney wasn’t the only one guilty of war profiteering, according to the Book of Paul. At a GOP event in Montana during the 2008 presidential campaign, he said: “Most of the people on these [congressional] committees have a million dollars in their bank account all from different military-industrial contractors. We don’t want our defense to be defined by people who make money off of the weapons.”
On April 7, 2009, as Paul was on the cusp of announcing his senatorial bid, he spoke to student Republicans at Western Kentucky University. Recalling President Dwight Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex, he noted, "We need to be fearful of companies that get so big that they can actually be directing policy." And the company he had in mind was Cheney's former home: "When the Iraq War started, Halliburton got a billion-dollar no-bid contract. Some of the stuff has been so shoddy and so sloppy that our soldiers are over there dying in the shower from electrocution. I mean, it shouldn't be sloppy work; it shouldn't be bad procurement process. But it really shouldn't be that these people are so powerful that they direct even policy."
Paul then indicated to the students that he believed that Cheney had used 9/11 as an excuse to launch the Iraq War to serve Halliburton's interests.And as Corn notes, this was not just a one time thing. From a 2008 speech, while politicking for his father:
There's a great YouTube of Dick Cheney in 1995 defending [President] Bush No. 1 [and the decision not to invade Baghdad in the first Gulf War], and he goes on for about five minutes. He's being interviewed, I think, by the American Enterprise Institute, and he says it would be a disaster, it would be vastly expensive, it'd be civil war, we would have no exit strategy. He goes on and on for five minutes. Dick Cheney saying it would be a bad idea. And that's why the first Bush didn't go into Baghdad. Dick Cheney then goes to work for Halliburton. Makes hundreds of millions of dollars, their CEO. Next thing you know, he's back in government and it's a good idea to go into Iraq.Paul continued:
The day after 9/11, [CIA chief] George Tenet is going in the [White] House and [Pentagon adviser] Richard Perle is coming out of the White House. And George Tenet should know more about intelligence than anybody in the world, and the first thing Richard Perle says to him on the way out is, "We've got it, now we can go into Iraq." And George Tenet, who supposedly knows as much intelligence as anybody in the White House says, "Well, don't we need to know that they have some connection to 9/11?" And, he [Perle] says, "It doesn't matter." It became an excuse. 9/11 became an excuse for a war they already wanted in Iraq.
It's Dick Cheney in 1995* being interviewed on why they didn't go into Baghdad the first time under the first [President] George Bush. And his arguments are exactly mirroring my dad's arguments for why we shouldn't have gone in this time. It would be chaos. There'd be a civil war. There'd be no exit strategy. And cost a blue bloody fortune in both lives and treasure. And this is Dick Cheney saying this. But, you know, a couple hundred million dollars later Dick Cheney earns from Halliburton, he comes back into government. Now Halliburton's got a billion-dollar no-bid contract in Iraq. You know, you hate to be so cynical that you think some of these corporations are able to influence policy, but I think sometimes they are. Most of the people on these [congressional] committees have a million dollars in their bank account all from different military-industrial contractors. We don't want our defense to be defined by people who make money off of the weapons.And while Rand Paul has recently laid off of Dick Cheney, his hostility to the neocon wing of the GOP still remains. From an op-ed in January:
Last year, I was appointed the Foreign Affairs committee. I like foreign policy, especially the name-calling. It seems everybody's got a name for themselves and even nastier names for their opponents. So we've got neo-cons, realists, hawks, doves, isolationists, globalists, and idealists. Seems the only thing for certain is if you don't label yourself first, your enemies will.And Rand Paul, in a September interview with Buzzfeed, took delight in rubbing it in on John McCain and other hawks.
I do think that the world of foreign policy has been turned on its head in the past decade. Neoconservatives brag of their desire for engagement, but increasingly preach a doctrine that is hostile to diplomatic engagement. To this crowd, everyone who doesn't agree with them is the next Chamberlain. To this crowd, anyone who doesn't clamor first for the military option is somehow an isolationist. The irony is that the crowd that claims they want to engage often opposes diplomatic engagement. The irony is that this crowd wants to "project power," but from inside an echo chamber that isolates itself from negotiation because "foreigners" can't be trusted.
The school of thought that beats its chest and seeks to spread worldwide enlightenment now promotes not a neoconservatism but a neoisolationism in which diplomacy is distrusted and war is, if not the first option, the preferred option.
He was trying to do the polite, senatorial thing by not mentioning his “colleague” by name. But when his vague prompt was met with a blank look during an interview with BuzzFeed, he scrapped the pretense of diplomacy and charged forward.
“It ranked the different countries on how eager Sen. [John] McCain wanted to be involved [militarily],” he explained, not even attempting to contain his amusement. “So, like, for getting involved in Syria, there’s five Angry McCains. For getting involved in the Sudan, there’s two Angry McCains. And there’s a little picture of him. You know, he was for getting involved to support [former Libyan president Muammar] Gaddafi before he was for overthrowing Gaddafi. He was for supporting [former Egyptian president Hosni] Mubarak before he was for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood before he was for supporting the generals.”
“So many of the neocons in our party, they think they’re the great defenders of the military. They think, Oh, the soldiers must love me because I want to be involved in war,” Paul said, before criticizing the assumption that members of the military are eager to fight. “They will, they volunteered, and they’re the most patriotic of our young people. But they’re not excited about war. They want to go to war if it’s the thing they have to do to defend our country.”
“I think some within the Christian community are such great defenders of the promised land and the chosen people that they think war is always the answer, maybe even preemptive war. And I think it’s hard to square the idea of a preemptive war and, to me, that overeagerness [to go to] war, with Christianity.”This GOP brawl has just begun.