Now we see the same enthusiasm for another U.S. intervention, this time in Syria. The Syria Transition Support Act approved last week by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which I am a member, has the potential to create more problems for the United States than it would solve. It is unclear what national security interests we have in the civil war in Syria. It is very clear that any attempt to aid the Syrian rebels would be complicated and dangerous, precisely because we don't know who these people are.
The situation in Syria is certainly dire. At least 70,000 people have died, and al Qaeda is making confirmed inroads into the country. No one wants to see Syria become a bastion of extremism. But like other American interventions in the past, U.S. involvement could actually help the extremists.
There is also the quandary of nearly 2 million Christians who are uncertain of what to do. The Christian community in Syria has traditionally sided with, and been protected by, Bashar al-Assad's regime. It is troubling to think that American arms may be given to Islamic fighters who may in turn be firing them at Christians.
This month, it was reported that the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front in Syria executed 11 men who were part of al-Assad's forces. Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is no friend to the U.S. -- but neither is al Qaeda. To aid members of al Qaeda in any way, directly or indirectly, is an insult to our brave men and women who've been fighting these terrorists since 9/11.
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of this "transition support act" is that it would commit the United States to a leadership position in the restoration of Syria, and is very vague about what that looks like.
The language of "capacity building" contained in this act is an open-ended term that if logically followed, could eventually mean U.S. troops on the ground in Syria.
We "capacity built" in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Those who insist this language could never mean U.S. boots on the ground in Syria belong to the same Washington clique eager to support Hussein, Ghadafi and later, the Libyan rebels. Washington is not exempt from the law of unintended consequences.
Empowering Islamic extremists to achieve questionable short-term goals does not serve America's long-term security or interests. Nor does it serve the interests of nearly 2 million Christians in Syria who fear they could suffer the same fate as Iraqi Christians who were abused and expelled from that country as radical Islamic forces gained influence and power.
These Christians are natural allies of the United States, and if we're going to seriously discuss any American interests in Syria, the welfare of these Christians is more important than arming Islamic extremists.
History's primary lesson is that we must learn from the past. Although there are some well-intentioned reasons for wanting to intervene in Syria, there are far more well-documented reasons not to.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
DR: You’re in the Valley to meet with Facebook and Google. Neither company is really known for its commitment to privacy, and each makes money off your personal information. So what’s your message to those companies?
RP: That’s not exactly true. I don’t entirely accept that premise. What I would say is you can track with Google, and share some information to get a service. It’s an exchange. As long as it’s part of an exchange and they uphold your contract, I’m all for that. What I worry about is where the government comes in, through the Patriot Act, and says you can’t be sued for giving [subscriber] information to the government. So my message to them will be to stand up and defend privacy. Ultimately, the people going after privacy are the government, and if people mistake Google for government, then we’re in for a big problem. If people begin to mistake Gmail for Government-Mail, they’re liable to get swept up in the same net of people supporting privacy. I see a distinction, and I think it’s in their interest as a company to fight hard for privacy, fight hard to protect the contractual arrangement their customers have with them.
DR: So you’ll try to get them to support your email privacy bill?
RP: Yeah, but I think most of them already support it, to tell you the truth. I don’t know if they have an official position, but I haven’t met anyone out here in California who doesn’t support the concept. It’s actually a very popular concept, and also an indication about how someone who’s a libertarian-leaning Republican can have an appeal in California, not only for Silicon Valley folks but voters in general. Libertarian-Republican issues on privacy are something that can resonate.
No comment on the suit though.
(h/t The Atlantic)
Friday, May 24, 2013
I am opposed to immigration reform that contains the photo tool that is contained in the Interior Enforcement and Employment Verification System title of the bill. In the name of preventing the "unlawful employment of aliens," the Senate legislation has a provision that "enables employers to match the photo on a covered identify document provided to the employer to a photo maintained by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services database." This, too, is troubling.
This sounds like a national picture database of all citizens, where the states house the picture and the Department of Homeland Security is the clearinghouse for worker verification. A national database of citizens raises the question: What activities will require someone to present their papers? A national ID allows more power to gravitate to Washington and a greater likelihood that power will be abused.
I will fight to remove the photo tool from this legislation because I think it will become a national ID. We already know the federal government is rife with false positives on the no-fly list and the National Instant Check system for gun buyers. Why would we be foolish enough to think that a massive database of all citizens would not have the same problems on a grander scale?
We have a Second Amendment that must be protected. We also have a Fourth Amendment that must be protected. Citizenship means that the government is supposed to protect our rights, not take them away. We must have stronger borders, but there's no reason we can't have better security while respecting constitutional limits and liberties.
In the past week, we have witnessed examples of the Obama administration spying on the media and Internal Revenue Service discrimination against Tea Party free speech. People around the world always have dreamed of emigrating to America, the Land of the Free. It is our job to make sure our country stays that way.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blasted members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, which voted overwhelmingly to arm elements of the Syrian opposition in a bill co-sponsored by Sen.Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). "This is an important moment," Paul said, addressing his Senate colleagues. "You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda. It's an irony you cannot overcome."
The dispute centers on the issue of whether the United States could properly vet Syrian rebels so that weapons and body armor would not fall into the hands of extremist groups, such as the al Qaeda-aligned al-Nusra Front. The Pentagon's top brass has vacillated about whether it's logistically possible to keep track of weapons as they enter a conflict involving a complex mix of opposition groups, as the new bill would require.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Thursday, May 16, 2013
The IRS is under the president's jurisdiction. He needs to fully recognize the gravity of these charges.
The IRS targeting citizens for political reasons is not simply another Washington scandal. At issue is something that strikes at the very heart of who we are as a people, what we believe as Americans and what this country has always stood for.
Amendment was written to protect many different types of expression. But the Founding Fathers' primary concern -- and a first principle for every generation of Americans that followed -- was the protection of political speech.
Apparently, the IRS was even targeting people who criticized how the country was being run.
Protecting citizens' right to speak out against their government has always been an integral part of what separates us from tyrannical regimes. What the IRS did is how the KGB used to target dissidents. It is how they deal with troublemakers in China.
It is not how we treat American citizens. Our Constitution guarantees it.
In my home state of Kentucky, a 9/12 group filed for 501(c)(4) status in December of 2010. It received its first correspondence almost immediately, saying there would be a determination within 90 days.
Fourteen months later, the IRS requested answers to 30 questions with sub-bullets -- 88 total separate inquiries -- and gave only a two-week period to comply.
Each congressman and senator, and even the president, took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. It is now upon us to determine if the IRS intentionally trampled the First Amendment rights of Americans who dared to dissent.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Today, Senate Democrats placed a hold on Sen. Rand Paul's recent resolution that condemns the targeting of Tea Party groups by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and calls for an investigation into this practice.
"This resolution is not about Republican vs. Democrat or conservative vs. liberal. It is about arrogant and unrestrained government vs. the rule of law. The First Amendment cannot and should not be renegotiated depending on which party holds power," Sen. Paul said. "Each senator took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, yet Senate Democrats chose to block my resolution and thus refused to condemn the IRS for trampling on our First Amendment rights. I am incredibly disappointed in Washington's party politics and I am determined to hold the IRS accountable for these unjust acts."
The gap between his remarks to evangelicals and those directed at the party faithful raise the question: Is Rand Paul simply the latest in a long line of Republicans who cultivate libertarian-leaning voters—broadly speaking, people who believe in fiscal conservatism and social liberalism—as they gear up for presidential bids? And then disappoint those same voters almost immediately?
In short, Americans seem more primed than ever to give a long look at a Rand Paul Republican Party that "embrace[s] liberty in both the economic and the personal sphere." It'll be a weird—and unfortunate—sort of irony if Rand Paul turns out to be one of the few people left in America not fully comfortable with his own message.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Rand Paul Introduces Senate Resolution Calling for Independent Investigation into IRS Abuse of Power
Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that—
(1) the Internal Revenue Service engaged in discriminatory behavior;
(2) an independent authority should be authorized
(A) to investigate and, if applicable, seek criminal charges against any individuals who authorized or were involved in targeting people of the United States based on their political views; and
(B) to determine if other entities in the administration of President Obama were involved in or were aware of the discrimination and did not take action to stop the actions of the Internal Revenue Service;
(3) President Obama should terminate the individuals responsible for targeting and willfully discriminating against Tea Party groups and other conservative groups; and
(4) the Senate condemns the actions of all individuals and entities involved in the infringement of the First Amendment rights of members of the Tea Party and other affected groups.
Monday, May 13, 2013
The first step for Paul is to make clear who he is and who he is not. For instance, he embraces support for Israel and does not, as Ron Paul did during a memorable moment in a 2011 debate, deliver impassioned defenses for letting people use heroin if they want.
At a lunch Friday with about a dozen evangelical pastors in a Cedar Rapids hotel, the younger Paul assured the group that he disagrees with libertarians who support legalizing drugs. When one pastor inquired about ideological ties between Paul and his father, the senator asked that he be judged as his own man.
Several pastors who attended the meeting said they came away impressed, though some remained unconvinced. "I don't know that my concern has gone away, but I appreciated how he responded to the question," said the Rev. Clegguart Mitchell, senior pastor of the Leon Bible Church in Leon, Iowa.
In an interview a day before his Iowa trip, Paul, 50, also tried to make clear just what kind of politician he is. "To some, 'libertarian' scares people," he said. "Some of them come up to me and they say, 'I kind of like you, but I don't like legalizing heroin.' And I say, 'Well, that's not my position.' "
Paul said he believes in freedom and wants a "virtuous society" where people practice "self-restraint." Yet he believes in laws and limits as well. Instead of advocating for legalized drugs, for example, he pushes for reduced penalties for many drug offenses.
"I'm not advocating everyone go out and run around with no clothes on and smoke pot," he said. "I'm not a libertarian. I'm a libertarian Republican. I'm a constitutional conservative."
The rollout of the new Paul brand continued Friday night in Iowa, home to the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, where he headlined a sold-out Republican Party dinner and drew repeated applause from GOP activists.
His approach was evident in the full access he and his family granted to Christian Broadcasting Network correspondent David Brody and a TV crew at their Bowling Green, Ky., home. The network is popular with evangelical voters, and the appearance offered Paul and his wife, who have three sons, a chance to present themselves as an all-American family.
Kelley talked about her reliance on her faith during difficult times. Rand said he composts "because I care about the environment."
On marriage, a matter in which many libertarians believe the government should have no role, Paul used the CBN interview to lay out a more careful position.
He said he's not ready to "give up on" the traditional family unit. But he added that it is a mistake for conservatives to support a federal ban on same-sex marriage, saying, "We're going to lose that battle because the country is going the other way right now."
"If we're to say each state can decide, I think a good 25 or 30 states still do believe in traditional marriage, and maybe we allow that debate to go on for another couple of decades and see if we can still win back the hearts and minds of people," he said.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Friday, May 10, 2013
So far, said Paul chief of staff Doug Stafford, the senator's skill as a mass messenger has meant that "a lot of the things that have to be pushed and manufactured happen organically with Rand."
"One of the things that's useful to do is, try to keep [the political operation] as lean as possible," Stafford said. "There's going to be a lot more to it – his political travel, his political conversations."
More than half a dozen operatives in and around Paul's inner circle said that a key priority for Paul in the year ahead will be building out his campaign apparatus. Should he decide to run for president, Paul will need more than a band of true believers who can amp up a message: he'll need lawyers and regional political directors and state-specific spokespeople. He'll need to recruit national-level campaign veterans who are convinced that this Paul can actually land in the White House.
Paul's advisers talk about a 2016 presidential run almost as a fait accompli, and his schedule in Iowa this weekend reflects the near-certainty of a national campaign. Indeed, it looks like a full-blown, pre-caucus campaign swing: coffee with the Iowa Federation of Republican women, the state GOP Lincoln Dinner, breakfast with Johnson County Republicans on Saturday.
Sources said Paul is also slated to participate in an off-the-books "Pastors and Pews" event with local Christian leaders on Friday – one of the deliberately low-profile meetings organized nationwide by media-shy evangelical activist David Lane.
Paul also intends to intensify his outreach to the Republican donor community. He has already made overtures to some of the big guns of the GOP financial world, sources said, meeting with figures such as former George W. Bush finance vice chairman Jack Oliver, the conservative billionaire Koch brothers and New York financier Paul Singer.
But that process will speed up later this month when Paul travels to California for a speech at the Reagan Library. He'll hold multiple meet-and-greet events with potential West Coast donors, according to a top adviser – a move aimed in part at courting high-tech and venture capital moguls who may not regularly engage in politics.
Cathy Bailey, the prominent GOP fundraiser and former ambassador to Latvia – and a staunch Rand ally – said she is raring to go for 2016 and encouraged by the early reception Paul has gotten from donors.
Another Rand adviser emphasized that Paul will have to "expand and augment that political side going into the 2014 campaign" if he is going to leverage his star power in a more concerted way.
"Rand wants to be aggressively campaigning for Republicans in 2014," the adviser said. "Obviously, there will be need for some people doing communications stuff, obviously fundraising. Rand really tries to practice what he preaches, when it comes to being a fiscal conservative. So he will want to have a tight ship."
Stafford, a longtime "right to work" activist and veteran of Paul's 2010 Senate campaign, was blunt about what he views as the senator's extraordinary political potential, describing him as a potential candidate with appeal across the whole GOP coalition.
"I honestly think that could be the story of this race," he said. "Can someone take the traditional, low-tax Reagan conservatives [and] speak also to the social conservative evangelicals?"
To the Paul crew, the answer to that question is self-evident.
When I took Hillary Rodham Clinton to task in January for the mishandling of security in Benghazi, Libya, I told her that if I had been president at the time, I would have relieved her of her post. Some politicians and pundits took offense at my line of questioning.
During those hearings, I reminded Mrs. Clinton that multiple requests were sent to the State Department asking for increased security measures. I asked if she had read the cables from Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens asking for increased security. She replied that she was busy and had not read them. I find that inexcusable.
Four months later, we are hearing that Mrs. Clinton allegedly withheld information from a counterterrorism bureau during the response. We are hearing new allegations that Special Forces wanting to respond during the attacks were told, "You can't go" by superiors. Ambassador Stevens' deputy, Gregory Hicks, testified this week that he spoke with Mrs. Clinton on the night of the attack, when these orders were given. We are hearing that Mr. Hicks was initially told by the State Department not to meet with congressional investigators.
My office is currently seeking out the witnesses and survivors of Benghazi to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. To date, the Obama administration has refused to let them testify.
Too many questions remain unanswered. Now, there are too many new questions. The evidence we had in January already suggested that Mrs. Clinton ignored repeated requests for more security in Benghazi. The new evidence we have today — and that continues to mount — suggests that at the very least, Mrs. Clinton should never hold high office again.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
A poll conducted by Illinois-based pollster McKeon & Associates for Freedom to Choose PAC, a pro-gun group, found Paul with an early lead over other possible presidential contenders.
The poll, provided to The Daily Caller, surveyed 804 registered Iowa voters using phone interviews. 328 usually participated in the Republican presidential caucuses, and 247 said they usually participated in the Democratic caucuses. The poll was conducted on April 18 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
Among voters who said they usually took part in the Republican presidential caucuses, 39 percent said they would vote for Paul if the caucuses were held today. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was in a distant second place with 20 percent. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was at 11 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was at 10 percent, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was tied with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at three percent.
Paul's lead was buoyed by his strong support among independent voters, who said they usually attend the Republican caucuses. Sixty-seven percent said they would support Paul. The other 33 percent said they would support Christie.
Among self-identified Republicans, Rubio and Paul ran close, with Rubio getting the support 24 percent and Paul getting the support of 30 percent. Christie's share of the vote fell to four percent among such voters.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
You have to have a plan to build a fence. But, you don’t have to build a fence. If you don’t have a plan to build a fence, then you get a commission. I don’t know what happens if the commission doesn’t do anything. That’s the story of Washington around here. To me, it’s a little bit like Obamacare. I hate to bring that up, but 1,800 references to ‘the secretary shall at a later date decide things.’ We don’t write bills around here. We should write the bill. We should write the plan. We should too these things to secure the border whether it be fence, entry, exit, we should write it–not delegate it.
This week, as Rand Paul takes his first steps toward a presidential campaign, all of that practice may begin to pay off. He is set to speak in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, where he'll headline the state party's Lincoln dinner. According to officials, the event is already sold out. But the interest in his visit, even at this early stage, is unsurprising. Iowans, who have long been obsessed with presidential politics, are already curious about how Paul is framing his message, years ahead of the 2016 caucuses. They want to see whether Paul can use that charisma, and his newfound celebrity, to bridge the Iowa GOP's factions in a way that his father did not.
Building a strong, viable Iowa network, with ties to the party apparatus, may be easier for Rand Paul than it was for his father. Instead of being an outside contender, he can cast himself, right from the start, as a man of both the grassroots and the establishment. In Iowa, the Ron Paul movement is now running the show. A. J. Spiker, the state GOP chairman, is a former Ron Paul volunteer, and was instrumental in extending the coveted Lincoln dinner invite to the senator. "I've known Rand for a few years," Spiker says. "He toured the state with his dad ahead of the caucuses. People really like him, they like his constitutional conservatism, and we're expecting more than 500 people, plus 40 media outlets, to show up."
Behind the scenes, Paul's team, led by strategist Doug Stafford, is taking advantage of this evolution of the Paul brand within Republican politics by connecting the senator with activists and donors. He's not actively campaigning, but he is keeping in touch. Before Friday's dinner, Paul will meet with the event's sponsors at a private reception. The state's GOP kingmakers — congressman Steve King and senator Chuck Grassley — will be there. His inner circle wants him to get Iowa's conservatives interested in his candidacy before other candidates swoop in. More Hawkeye State events are being planned, as are stops in other early-primary states.
Steve Scheffler, a member of the Republican National Committee, tells me that he'll be that the dinner on Friday, listening closely to what Paul has to say. He confides that he and other Republicans are familiar with the Kentucky senator, but they're still not entirely sure about where he stands on the issues. "The verdict is still out," Scheffler says. Ron Paul supporters, he adds, are "cautious" about rallying too quickly to Rand's side. "I think there will be some rollover from his father's campaign, but there's going to be a wait-and-see period," he says.
Scheffler says one specific issue he wants to hear more about is immigration, since he and others have heard that Paul is open to a pathway to legalization, which isn't a popular position, especially in conservative western Iowa. Other Iowa Republicans tell me that they want to hear more about his foreign policy positions. They want to hear about how close he hews to his father's worldview. Sources close to Senator Paul, though, say that Friday's speech isn't so much about giving a policy talk, but about sounding a bigger theme about leadership and liberty.
"It's never too early to start thinking about the next election," says David Fischer, an Iowa GOP co-chairman and former Ron Paul adviser. He too got to know Rand during last year's campaign. "We've sold every ticket in the room, and I think it's because the country is changing and people are looking for someone fresh, like Rand, who can get beyond the rhetoric and talk frankly about limited government," he says. "I'm not going to handicap the race this far in advance, but people here admire him. They like his father, but believe me, they know that he's not the same guy."
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Rand Paul is describing an episode from his trip to Israel in January: "I went to a Shabbat," he tells me, "it was the first time I've ever done that, and I had a wonderful time. I went to the yeshiva, and all the young men were singing and dancing, they had me dancing around the table. I hope I was singing something that was fine — it was all in Hebrew, so I had no idea what I was singing."
If there's any doubt that Rand Paul isn't his father's son on the issue of Israel, that trip and his posture afterwards should have ended it. He returned to the U.S. to tell Breitbart News, "Absolutely we stand with Israel. What I think we should do is announce to the world — and I think it is pretty well known — that any attack on Israel will be treated as an attack on the United States."
At the same time, Paul has courted influential conservative Jews, including Nate Segal, a Staten Island rabbi who serves as an intermediary between Republican activists and politicians and the Orthodox Jewish community. "Our paths seem to cross, so that's either fortune or planned," Paul says. "I tell Rabbi Segal that not only do I like him as a person, I consider myself safer when I'm around him because he's the biggest rabbi I've ever met."
A lumbering six foot four, Segal has the ability both to take center stage and to recede into the background. At last year's Republican national convention in Tampa, he arranged a meeting between Paul and several black-hatted Orthodox Jews. In a sweltering conference room off the main convention floor, according to a source in attendance, Paul reassured the group that he is a staunch supporter of the Jewish state.
The latest jaunt seems to have had its intended effect. Paul says the experience had an impact on him. "The spirituality of it, the historical relationship with Christianity and Judaism, just the linkage to all the stories of the Bible and just being there, being on the Sea of Galilee, those things are sort of beyond words." Being in Israel also developed in him "a sense of kinship" with the people. "The one thing I've said over and over again is that we should quit sending money to countries that are burning our flag, and that, you know, that's the one thing I think you'll never see in Israel is anyone burning our flag."
Republicans have long characterized their coalition as a "three-legged stool" of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and national security conservatives. Paul's vision of a "reluctant" foreign policy saws one of those legs clean off. We saw a preview of how deep the rift could be when McCain called Paul and his allies "wacko birds" for filibustering President Obama's CIA nominee to protest drone policy.
More important but less noticed was McCain's April 18 speech to the Center for New American Security that threw down the gauntlet against the Paul forces, lashing out against isolationism and calling for "a new Republican internationalism." He concluded by lamenting, "There are times these days when I feel that I have more in common on foreign policy with President Obama than I do with some in my own party."
Where might the "new Republican internationalists" go if Paul wins this intra-party battle? Considering that likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton helped engineer the U.N.-backed military coalition that ousted Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and reportedly pushed Obama to directly arm the Syrian resistance, it's not hard to envision a "Republicans for Hillary" campaign if the alternative is Rand Paul.
A Paul nomination would bring with it, at minimum, the risk of Republicans going the way of the Whigs. The dueling speeches between Paul and McCain represent an enormous divide over bedrock principles of foreign policy that may not be easily tolerated, especially if the 2016 campaign is fought against the backdrop of a pressing foreign policy crisis.
And if any contemporary politician might be willing to bet his political legacy on supplanting a wayward Republican Party with a new party, it would be John McCain. He has long branded himself a "Teddy Roosevelt Republican."