Sen. Rand Paul is laying down some fire lines.
The Kentucky Republican and son of former Texas congressman Ron Paul, said to be considering a presidential campaign of his own, has revealed a take-no-hostages approach to his questioning of departing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her likely successor, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, in hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week.
Rand bluntly told Clinton yesterday that, “I would have relieved you of your post” had he been her boss in the aftermath of the attacks on the American diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. And today, in questioning of Kerry for his confirmation as President Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of state, Paul pressed Kerry on how far presidents can go without congressional authority for war and why the U.S. should be providing aid to nations such as Egypt and Pakistan.
Sometimes, Kerry said, a president must act — noting that he supported President Ronald Reagan’s invasion of Grenada. He supports the War Powers Act, he said, yet presidents sometimes cannot wait for congressional approval in the midst of emergencies.
“You can be absolutist and apply it to every circumstance,,” Kerry told Rand. “It just doesn’t work in some circumstances…. You certainly can’t rely on a Congress that has proven itself unwilling to move sometimes.”
Rand reminded him that Kerry had opposed American intervention in Cambodia during the Vietnam War, which he also opposed, and ask if that was any different from what the U.S. did in Libya. “Yeah, it is,” Kerry said of Cambodia, “because it was an extension of a war that was being prosecuted without the involvement of Congress.”
Pressed about incendiary remarks that the president of Egypt has made about Jews, Rand asked Kerry how the U.S. can continue to provide aid to Cairo.
“This is always the complication in dealings in the international sector,” Kerry replied. “Not everything lends itself to a simple clarity, black-white every time… We have critical interests with Egypt… The fact that countries elect someone that you don’t always agree with doesn’t (mean) you walk away from them.”
Pressed in a similar vein about Pakistan, Kerry said: “We need to build our relationship with the Pakistanis, not diminish it.”
For Paul, the absolutism of black and white foreign policy serves as an instant connection with the Tea Party forces who supported him, with the supporters who lighted to his father’s opposition to U.S. intervention in virtually any foreign theater and who may well respond to any 2016 bid he makes. And his confrontation with Clinton has lighted up the Internet today, the Internet that made Ron Paul a brand name.
The brand has been renewed, and it’s a firebrand.