Over at The American Conservative, editor Dan McCarthy — who opposes the Hagel filibuster — explains (without necessarily defending) the thinking behind Senator Paul’s decision to support that filibuster.
Rand, he says, has positioned himself from the start as the opposite of the RINO, the guy who will take the core rhetorical message of limited government farther than any competitor. When Marco Rubio calls for cuts, Rand calls for deeper cuts.
At the same time, Rand has deviated from the plumb-line Republican line on civil liberties, the drug war, and foreign policy — not nearly to the extent that his father did, but he has done these things.
This, however, is what McCarthy calls Rand’s secondary identity. His primary identity involves positioning himself as a Republican’s Republican. With the Hagel vote, his primary identity came into conflict with his secondary identity. The primary identity won out.
Why would a man who has said and done the things Senator Paul has said and done since 2010 break with his party on such a high-profile, virtually party-line vote? He can call himself a realist without jeopardizing what he’s worked to achieve. But a vote for Hagel would bring him serious grief in the 2016 primaries; he’d be handing his opponents something they could use to shred his identity as the Republican’s Republican. So he voted against cloture.
There’s a very important lesson here that opponents of neoconservatism have studiously refused to learn: in politics, the only things you can rely on—underscore “rely”—are money and votes. If you have either of those—if you have Sheldon Adelson or John Hagee–you can modify a Republican politician’s behavior, whatever his personal ideological orientation. There are no votes and no billionaires on the side of noninterventionism, not in a GOP primary. When Ron Paul voters announce that they won’t support his son in 2016, they’re not making a credible threat, because Ron Paul never had enough votes in 2008 or 2012 to get close to the GOP nomination, and there’s plenty of campaign cash to be had elsewhere than from Ron Paul’s small donors. Rand Paul doesn’t need you. He wants you—just as he wants every vote he can get—but he’s not going to choose your single vote over the votes of 200 ill-informed GOP primary voters who believe what Fox News tells them about Chuck Hagel.
Meanwhile, also at The American Conservative, Scott McConnell, after giving reasons for cautious optimism about Rand, concludes as follows:
In the next day or two, Rand will have a chance to vote for or against Chuck Hagel as defense secretary, and just as importantly will have opportunity to vote for or against the GOP filibuster to keep Hagel from coming to a floor vote. Yesterday Paul told CNN that he would back a filibuster of Hagel, relying on the most spurious of pretexts: the charge, raised by Ted Cruz, that Hagel is in the pay of foreign powers. In a few short months in office, Cruz has already established a reputation as one of the most McCarthyite members of the GOP, someone happy to use lies and innuendo to destroy opponents. In the generally decorous Senate, he has already been called out for being “over the line.” It may well prove to be Ron Paul’s single greatest lapse of judgment (and of course, there have been many) to have endorsed Cruz in the Texas Republican primary, and to have encouraged his backers to contribute to him.
But now Rand is doubling down in support of Cruz, in favor of a filibuster of Hagel on grounds that are both bogus and demagogic. (Hagel of course has answered the financial disclosure questions required for any nominee for Secretary of Defense, and in today’s Washington these are by no means perfunctory.)
So let’s be clear. If Rand Paul persists on going demagogic on Hagel, he will have established beyond any serious doubt that regardless of who his father is, he is Bill Kristol and Jennifer Rubin’s boy. It saddens me to conclude that because I like to be optimistic. But it’s a truth that must be faced.