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The Ballad of Rand Paul, International Man of Principle and Seriousity

[ 77 ] February 11, 2017 |

Photo via Christian Post.
Above: Not a nickel’s worth of difference

The nomination of Jeff Sessions would presumably be intolerable to any actual libertarian. Then there are Republican hacks who sporadically cosplay as libertarians:

“In some ways, the Democrats made it much more certain that I would vote for him by trying to destroy his character,” Paul said Thursday in an interview with The Washington Post and Roll Call for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” series. “I think it’s very upsetting that they didn’t choose to go after him on particular issues, like civil asset forfeiture, where they might have been able to persuade someone. They chose to go after a man’s character.”

“The Democrats could have gotten my vote [sic]. But they chose instead to point out that a Republican Senate refused to confirm Jeff Sessions as a District Court judge because he was too racist, as evidenced by his extensive history of racism.  I am a man of serious principle who will totally stand up to the Trump administration next time, just you watch.” Ah, yes, one of the central themes of the Republican Party: “racism is no longer a thing, but being accused of racism is the most horrible thing imaginable.”

But in Thursday’s conversation, Paul repeatedly emphasized that any discussion of Sessions’s views got lost in the Democratic attacks. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s viral, short-circuited speech against Sessions, in which the Democrat from Massachusetts quoted Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter of opposition to Sessions as a judicial nominee, struck Paul as “personal” and not based on “principle.”

Right, there’s no “principle” in involved on the part of people who oppose vote suppression or support the Civil Rights Act, it’s just “personal.” Conversely, voting for someone because you know him as a Senate colleague is principled, not personal. This is all obvious.

In fairness, his evidence is pretty compelling:

“The thing is, I’ve seen pictures of him marching for voting rights with [congressman] John Lewis,” Paul said of Sessions.

“Jeff Sessions did not personally attack John Lewis in Selma, so there can be no principled opposition to his record on civil rights suck it libtards.”

And, now, the punchline:

And Paul hadn’t given up hope of influencing the president, as a senator from a state that he won handily.

Sure, he’s bound to settle down and start treating you right anytime now.

Remember when there were people on the left who took Rand Paul seriously? That was really pathetic.

  • “I was totally ready to vote against Sessions until Democrats started pointing out that he was an unreconstructed white Southern Senator who opposes civil rights legislation and I said wait a minute, Trump nominated ME?”

    • He didn’t want his constituency to think he was some kind of (ni-clang) lover.

  • i8kraft

    If you knew about his terrible record on civil asset forfeiture and voted for him anyway, then you don’t actually care about it, at least not as much as making people who actually care about it mad.

    • Mike G

      Will Repuke libertarians actually take a meaningful stand against the big-government authoritarianism of the Republican Party?

      Will Lucy hold the football so Charlie Brown can kick a field goal?

    • Manny Kant

      No, you see, Rand Paul would have voted against him because of his terrible record on civil forfeiture, but the Democrats talked about the wrong things and it was somehow their responsibility to persuade Rand Paul that he should vote against Sessions, rather than his responsibility to vote against someone if he thinks their positions are wrong. It’s Elizabeth Warren’s fault.

  • Boots Day

    Hey, here’s an idea, Rand Paul: Vote for the guy based on whether he’s suited to be attorney general, rather than on whether other people were too mean to him.

  • J—

    Oh, what could have been if the left had not been so intolerant.

  • J—

    And Paul hadn’t given up hope of influencing the president, as a senator from a state that he won handily.

    See also Sen. Grassley tweeting into the wind.

    • Manny Kant

      To be fair, Senator Grassley’s, er, unique tweeting style makes it almost impossible to understand what he’s even trying to say.

  • DamnYankees

    The last 2 years – and I suppose the next 4 – have been a very, very useful lesson in helping clarify what Republicans actually think is important. I have become more and more convinced now that the party lacks almost any positive beliefs at all, and that the entirety of its substance is a reactionary “let’s do the opposite of what liberals think we should do.”

    This also explains, quite easily, why Trump managed to take over their party.

    The last GOP government was a complete failure and it ended in humiliation. The party resurrected itself by going into complete opposition mode. They turned on their opposition like never before, hating liberals with an Emmanuel Goldstein like fervor.

    In doing this, Republicans essentially forgot how to do much of anything except oppose. They forgot how to govern, assuming they ever knew how in the first place. They learned what to hate, but not what to cherish. And its carrying over into their control of the government. They know what they oppose, but they don’t know what they are for. And so, well, Trump opposes the same stuff they do. Might as well go along. You convince yourself after a while that its normal. Go along, get along. There’s nothing else these people really care about, after all. It’s hatred of the opposition all the way down. It’s winning. Dominance. There’s no bedrock anymore.

    That is why Trump won – he was best, among the GOPers who ran, at embodying pure opposition, pure derision. GOP voters voted for the person who hated the people they hate.

    • LosGatosCA

      Of course, it’s a cult. Cleek’s law, hate based, with every pillar of their belief based on a false premise (the laugher curve, creationism, no climate change, etc.)

      The only true thing that Republicans believe is ‘if I cut tax rates my tax bill will go down.’

      They are selfish, hateful, unconscionable POS.

      And that’s on a good day.

      • Davis X. Machina

        It’s hatred of the opposition all the way down. It’s winning. Dominance.

        The state is a mechanism for getting.

        Get the Muslims. Get the liberals. Get the Mexicans. Get the uppity blahs. Get the uppity wimmin. Get. Get. Get.

        It’s a political philosophy uniquely suited to the world view of a nine-year old boy who can’t do exactly what he wants to do.

        Or a 12th c. king, and not a good one.

        • efgoldman

          The state is a mechanism for getting.

          Let’s get the white racists, and the grifters, and the phony holies, and the frauds….
          Works for me.

        • guthrie

          Don’t forget the getting by the rich, who don’t get enough money and need more.

        • Ahuitzotl

          13thc King I think. Specifically, John.

    • nemdam

      This is so true. If you are ever able to stomach consuming conservative media, you notice that even with unified control of government, they are lost in the wilderness if they ever talk about what they actually want to do. Instead almost every segment/article reflexively reverts to attacking the left. There is no other play. It’s why they are obsessed with going after protestors. They are currently the most powerful voice on the left, so they just blame all of their problems on them.

      My favorite was when Trump blamed the Democrats for not staffing his cabinet quickly. Not only is he not near the record for how long it takes to fully staff his cabinet, they have all the votes they need to do it! I’m convinced the Republicans could have super majorities in both chambers of Congress, and they would still blame the left for why they can’t pass bills.

    • efgoldman

      I have become more and more convinced now that the party lacks almost any positive beliefs at all, and that the entirety of its substance is a reactionary “let’s do the opposite of what liberals think we should do.”

      I edited out a couple of words for you.

    • CrunchyFrog

      This is true, and it’s a continuation of a trend. Reagan had a very clear set of policy objectives (well, Heritage did for him) and that drove his Presidency. Bush 2, OTOH, was limited to 1) Domestically, have Rove find a way to funnel the largest amount of tax revenue possible to Bush friends, and 2) Internationally, enact PNAC’s vision, which was basically the same (occupy all oil-rich hands and reap the spoils while ignoring everything else).

      During Bush’s first term there were quite a few articles from higher ups – but non-political appointees – in the administration commenting on the complete absence of the usual policy apparatus. Usually there are some political goals but then a process is undertaken in which those goals are turned into policies designed to achieve them, taking into account everything that is known about each policy domain. In the Rove white house it was Rove and team writing up the policy built around tax cuts and outsourcing to GOP firms and no one talked to the departments who had to implement them.

      So that became the standard. In the early Heritage years in the 1970s and 1980s they invested heavily in policy research. The infamous Heritage health insurance plan was one example of this. And some of what Gingrich did early on was an outgrowth of such policy research. But the GOP think tanks lost interest in this in favor of propaganda, mud-slinging, and trying to find the most popular right wing media figures in order to generate the most clicks/views.

      It’s the only way you can explain that in 2017 not a single GOP think tank has yet to come up with a workable heath insurance policy proposal. You’ll find some single-author opinion pieces, but not the kind of comprehensive policy manifestos that are usually the basis for the agenda of a new government coming into power.

      The only exception to this is ALEC, and while they actually have written detailed laws at the state level for the GOP to enact there isn’t a lot of policy thought behind them, just dogma. Kill unions, defund public schools, open hunting season on blacks, no taxes on the rich.

      After 20 years the GOP has no one left who knows how to research and enact successful, workable, government policies. All they know how to do now is spread propaganda and enact grift.

      • Chetsky

        After 20 years the GOP has no one left who knows how to …

        Surely this is part of the plan, isn’t it? I’m not trying to be tendentious here. Seriously, isn’t this *the* plan? If govt is the problem …. etc.

        Also, reading this thread, I’m struck that they -aren’t- “always opposing liberals”. ISTR back when ACA came about, FPers on this blog were pointing out that it wasn’t merely the Heritage Plan (and that that was a good thing). At the time, I recall people pointing out that the Rs would enacted the Heritage plan around the time Hell got a downhill slalom run, etc. Putting this together, one might say that reasonable proposals by Rs are always just feints. Always feints. The plan is always to take the gold and go home.

        Put these two together, and it all makes sense, right? The party of rape and pillage. No idea of what governing is, but then, they don’t need to know, do they? Bandits, all. Which makes sense. I’m not a historian or any sort of “scholar”, but I recall the debates about stationary vs. roving bandits, and Mancur Olson. The Rs used to be stationary bandits — they expected to remain in power. But now they know that their time is limited. So they’ve switched to being roving bandits — blow it all up on the way out, strip the place bare, b/c we’re not gonna be back.

  • DrDick

    Then there are Republican hacks who sporadically cosplay as libertarians:

    AKA: all actual libertarians. As the old saying goes, a libertarian is just a Republican who smokes pot (and likes to screw around).

    • osceola

      Also, libertarians are the political equivalent of 16-year old boys who think they know it all. (Remember what you were like at 16?)

      • jamesepowell

        All I cared about was cars, girls, drugs, and beer.

      • CrunchyFrog

        (Remember what you were like at 16?)

        Growing up in a conservative enclave with a gunsmith step-father who was an extreme racist, at 16 my idea was to find some way to make capitalism fair and equitable since I was convinced that Republicans had to be right. The more I saw the harder the logical contortion required became. After my first Intro to Policy Analysis course I too – like so many conservatives from dumbshit towns who went to liberal colleges before me – fully converted to the dark side – socialism/social democracy.

      • DrDick

        You give them too much credit. The ones I have met are no better than 13-14 and they are thick on the ground up here in Montana.

    • ΧΤΠΔ

      There are still Weigel and Balko.

      • A.k.a. the only two tolerable libertarians of any stature still out there. (Barro finally joined the Democratic Party, didn’t he?)

        • leftwingfox

          I would have put Ed Brayton in that list as well once upon a time. He’s always been more of a civil libertarian than an economic one, and I don’t honestly know how he identifies politically anymore. He’s very much in favour of the ACA though.

  • brad

    Well, at least now all the DRONES are in safe hands….

    Funny how St. Glenn and the boys have forgotten about them.

    • Hogan

      Haven’t you heard? Now we’re using botched Special Forces raids. Totally different.

      • Did you notice when Yemen banned US ground missions after the raid cockup they made an explicit exception for drone attacks? There’s a reason for that, which St. Glenn can’t understand (but Obama and poor old Brennan understood very well): drones do a better job of not killing civilians.

        • TVTray

          Yup. Drones are an imperfect tool, but they’re the best damn one we’ve got right now.

    • TVTray

      What are you talking about Brad?

    • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

      The Reason article is actually mostly about how Sessions and Trump agreed on the objectionable policies, so blocking his nomination wasn’t likely to lead to someone better. A more understandable position.

  • sibusisodan

    I would be fascinated to hear more about those pictures of Sessions and Lewis marching together.

    It’s probably futile to work out whether he really believes the words he uses, or whether they are a rhetorical ink cloud…but I’d love to know how you hold a position that character is unimportant when assessing whether someone should be given power.

  • The nomination of Jeff Sessions would presumably be intolerable to any actual libertarian.

    “Libertarians” are actually contortionists who can fit into almost any Republican box, no matter how small, racist-shaped, or anti-choice-shaped.

    • CrunchyFrog

      I’ve never yet met a self-described libertarian who did not, in the end, opt to forgo his (or occasionally her) deeply held principles in favor of whatever the GOP wanted to do today. “4th amendment? Yeah, in the end I guess we can flush it down the toilet as long as its mostly darkies getting shafted.”

      Even the most principled among them – the ones you really think you might be able to rely upon when it really counts – ended up shitting on Hillary and pumping Trump in the end. Yes, Hillary and Obama shat on a lot of civil liberties. I can see saying from a civil liberty perspective that Romney wouldn’t be worse than Hillary (I think that’s wrong, because of who he’d appoint as judges, but as President he probably doesn’t do the Cheney/Rumsfeld excesses). But Trump? Sorry, anyone who thought Trump wouldn’t be as bad as Clinton on civil liberties is either 1) lying to himself because he deep down wants the daddy party in charge or 2) doesn’t’ count shitting on dark skinned people’s rights as a real violation of civil liberties.

      • Chetsky

        Sorry, anyone who thought Trump wouldn’t be as bad as Clinton on civil liberties is either 1) lying to himself because he deep down wants the daddy party in charge doesn’t count shitting on women’s rights as real violation of civil liberties or 2) doesn’t’ count shitting on dark skinned people’s rights as a real violation of civil liberties.


        ETA: OK, there’s probably more to being “the daddy party” than shitting on women’s rights, but it’s a big, big part. I guess I think it’s determinative, but I could be wrong.

        • CrunchyFrog

          Horrible oversight on my part. Yes, even the few women libertarians I know have little if any sympathy for women’s rights movements.

        • DAS

          There certainly is more to being “the daddy party” than being the he-man women-haters club. Daddy also lets you eat a lot of candy and stay up late watching cartoons on the TV. Mommy insists you eat healthy food and get to bed on time.

  • The Great God Pan

    I think it’s very upsetting that they didn’t choose to go after him on particular issues, like civil asset forfeiture,

    Did Ayn Jr. utter the words “civil asset forfeiture” once during the hearings?

    • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

      That felt more like a “they” job

    • Hogan

      To be perhaps excessively fair, he’s not a member of the Judiciary Committee.

      • The Great God Pan

        Fair enough. Let me rephrase:

        Did Ayn Jr. ever publicly utter the words “civil asset forfeiture” in relation to Jeff Sessions before Sessions was confirmed?

  • Bitter Scribe

    His integrity is a mile wide and a micron deep.

    • DrDick

      I think you rather grossly overestimate it here.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO


    • DrDick

      Can you besmirch something that does not exist?

  • nemdam

    Rand Paul used possibly the lamest argument in the art of rhetoric. “I know the obviously correct thing to do, but I don’t like the arguments its advocates are making, even though I know the arguments they could make that I would like, so I’m going to side against them!” It’s like if a judge rules against what he knows is the indisputably correct party because he thought the lawyer was bad.

    Of course, this whole breakdown assumes the Democrats are making bad arguments when they are actually making good ones.

    I’ve gotten used to Trump’s nonsense, but between Chaffetz and now Rand Paul, this day is tough to stomach.

    • I think we should have learned to expect Chaffetz to be an asshat 100% of the time and Rand Paul at least 90% of the time, though.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Well, at least the lefty dudes who took Rand Paul seriously didn’t spend the 2016 campaign chasing Chaffetz’s anti-Clinton snipe hunts. Wait, I’ll come in again.

  • Steve LaBonne

    Republicans have raised bad faith to an art form.

    • efgoldman

      Republicans have raised bad faith to an art form.

      Rembrandts, Picassos, Leonardos, Michaelangelos of bad faith.

      • TVTray

        Sorry, who are these people?

        • DocAmazing

          One’s a toothpaste, two are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

          • Hogan

            I’m pretty sure the other one is a medium-hot pepper.

          • I heard that at least one of them has never been called an asshole.

  • UncleEbeneezer

    Has even a single Principled Libertarian stood up for the protection of Voting Rights? Like, ever??

    • DrDick

      Has any Principled Libertarian ever stood up for the protection of anyone’s rights other than their own?

      • efgoldman

        Has any Principled Libertarian ever stood up….

        Hard to tell, because you’d have to find such a mythical creature, first.
        You’ll have better luck searching for El Dorado.

        • DrDick

          Oh, they have principles, or rather principle. It is Fuck you, I got mine! Not a very inspiring principle, but still.

          • Breadbaker

            It’s not just “I got mine.” It’s that “the state’s entire existence is for the purpose of ensuring (a) I keep mine; and (b) I get more. And no expense is too great to do that, and please make sure the state taxes someone else to fund it.”

  • Joe_JP

    Yes, it was sad when people like Glenn Greenwald deemed him a principled sort & the same thing when it was his father. Even sometimes when he seems principled — that long filibuster on drones, for instance — he turns out to look stupid if you look at the details.

    Now and then, he actually does something sensible, but it’s hard to be totally wrong. You take what little you can there. Republicans now and then do something sensible. Rand Paul is put forth as a special snowflake though.

    Anyway, this is what voting fraud hysteria gets you:

    • CrunchyFrog

      That case, more than any other, proves it’s just about punishing Mexicans. Ironically, the voter was a Republican. Yes, she’s that dumb – 6th grade education and all – and didn’t realize she couldn’t vote. Brought to the US as an infant her slightly younger brothers are citizens but she’s a long time green card holder. Gets 8 YEARS when the penalty for a white Republican caught doing this is just probation. Will be deported afterwards to a country she doesn’t remember. Has 4 young kids.

      The lawyer negotiated a probation deal on the grounds she testify about her mistake in the Texanazi state legislature, but the politically ambitious DA – who she ironically voted for – decided to make an example.

      It’s racism. It’s nothing else. Everything else is just a smokescreen.

      • Abbey Bartlet

        It’s racism. It’s nothing else. Everything else is just a smokescreen.

        We could save a lot of room on this blog by just putting that on every post.

        • efgoldman

          We could save a lot of room on this blog by just putting that on every post.

          Where’s the fun (and creative snark) in that?

        • CrunchyFrog

          Well, as pointed out above, sexism also is a huge factor.

      • Joe_JP

        I’m not sure if she is fully innocent here, looking over the details.

        The fact she has a sixth grade education doesn’t change that necessarily* — it’s unclear to me additional education clarifies the law for someone one way or another & people which much more education was confused about voting requirements. If there is a box that says “citizen,” you don’t really need to be a high school grad to know not to ‘x’ the box. Again, from this distance, I’m not going to assume one way or the other really. Selective prosecution / cruel and unusual punishment is clear though.

        * If something else was involved, would we call someone with a sixth grade education, which btw is a lot more than a majority received back in the day, “dumb” necessarily? Her voting Republican perhaps is more damning in that respect.

    • mikeSchilling

      Ron is principled. They’re just bad principles.

      • Joe_JP

        I’ll buy that.

  • dsidhe

    Rand Paul a few years back went on the Rachel Maddow show and suggested he didn’t approve of the civil rights act because he’s so libertarian. Am I really supposed to believe he voted for Sessions because of something that happened last week?

    • CrunchyFrog

      Right. The reason he was so upset with all of that criticism of WhiteSheet Sessions is that every thing said could be applied in equal measure to Rand Paul’s own beliefs. So he voted for a fellow white supremacist.

      And, by the way, Ron Paul’s ties to white supremacists were deep.

  • Nathan Goldwag

    The funny thing is, I believe he’s telling the truth here. If there’s anyone petty and narcissistic enough to think “Hmmm, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is terrible for America in every way, but Democrats said MEAN things about him and didn’t talk about my pet issue so meh, I guess he’s got my vote” it’s ‘ol Randy.

    • Breadbaker

      Moreover, “if the Democrats had only said the magic words, just like ‘radical Islamic terrorism’, the entire GOP would have immediately voted against a President of their own party.” But they didn’t, and of course Rand Paul’s purity cannot be besmirched by his own failure to bring up the same issue on which he allegedly voted against the prior nominee for Attorney General.