When Kentucky Senator Rand Paul joined his Republican colleague to filibuster Chuck Hagel’s nomination two weeks ago, I quoted on Twitter my colleague Phil Klein quipping, “Rand Paul, neo-con hero.” The tweet was reposted by Justin Raimondo, creator of the web-site Anti-war.com and a Hagel supporter. He tweeted out: “It’s time for libertarians to treat Rand Paul like the turncoat he is: boycott. No $$, no support, & start calling him Paul the Lesser.”
Paul did it again today, voting against cloture for Hagel even as other Republicans allowed the nomination to reach the floor. This caused consternation among certain quarters of the more hard-core libertarian world like Raimondo. Reason magazine’s Brian Doherty has a run-down here.
Paul is of course the son of former Texas congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. Prior to these votes it was generally assumed that he shared his father’s non-interventionist views. The elder Paul was one of the most vocal critics of the Iraq war in either party. he regularly argued the influence of neo-conservative (that is interventionist and pro-Israel) Republicans needs to be limited. The younger Paul’s stance on Hagel suggests he may be a more conventional Republican on foreign policy after all than his dad.
Doherty sums up these libertarians’ arguments:
Roughly, since Hagel is opposed by those who seem to want a more interventionist U.S. presence in the Middle East (for his supposedly being insufficiently passionate about fighting for Israel, and for later on having doubts about the Iraq War he at first supported), Paul needs to support him to prove his bonafides.
Paul said that he is not sure whether he will vote to confirm Hagel. He added that he is more concerned about Obama’s nominee for CIA director, John Brennan, given Brennan’s involvement with the White House’s drone program.
“I know people are hot and heavy on the Hagel thing — I’m more hot and heavy on the Brennan thing,” Paul said.
UPDATE: On final passage, Paul did vote in favor of Hagel, explaining:
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said his support for a filibuster against Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel never meant that he would vote against Hagel’s confirmation.
“I voted no because I wanted more information and I think that part of what the Senate does is try to get information about the nominees,” Paul told reporters in the basement of the Capitol after Hagel’s confirmation Tuesday. “I’ve said all along that I give the president some prerogative in choosing his political appointees.”
“There are many things I disagree with Chuck Hagel on, there are many things I disagree with John Kerry on, there are very few things I agree with the president on, but the president gets to choose political appointees,” Paul said.