Senator Rand Paul opposed the nomination of outgoing Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo to serve as secretary of state for all the right reasons.
Then Rand Paul supported the Pompeo nomination for all the wrong reasons.
The Kentuckian’s rejection of his own arguments against putting a Koch-brothers errand boy in charge of American diplomacy confirmed that the senator is just another Republican who talks big about breaking with the Trump administration only to fall in line when it counts. Like Tennessee Senator Bob Corker and Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, Paul goes out of his way to present himself as his own man (and gladly accepts praise for his “independence”), but he refuses to deny Trump and the Republican leadership his vote on critical tests of conscience.
The tragedy in Paul’s betrayal of the system of checks and balances—as it is outlined in the Constitution he claims to regard so highly—is that the senator made the very best argument against voting for confirmation. As a member of Congress, Pompeo established himself as an unthinking militarist who showed scant regard for diplomacy or a constitutionally defined understanding of how wars can and should be initiated.
But it was Paul who formally confirmed that Pompeo was every bit as irredeemable as critics feared. When Paul, who holds a critical seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, questioned Pompeo on April 12, the exchange exposed the fundamental threat posed by Trump’s nominee to replace ousted secretary of state Rex Tillerson. Paul raised concerns regarding Trump’s authority to order an air assault on Syria. “Do you think it’s constitutional? Does the president have the constitutional authority to bomb Assad’s forces?” he asked. “Does he have the authority absent congressional action to bomb Assad’s forces or installations?”
Pompeo answered: “Those decisions are weighted. Every place we can, we should work alongside Congress to get that but yes I believe the president has the domestic authority to do that. I don’t think—I don’t think that has been disputed by Republicans or Democrats throughout an extended period of time.”