I had hopes at the outset that Rand Paul would be more sensible than his father, and for a while it looked like this might be the case. He has been about the only prominent Republican trying to broaden the base of the Republican Party by speaking on college campuses and to minority groups, and he made measured attempts to set out a “non-interventionist” foreign policy vision that was not simply warmed over isolationism.
His father, Ron, used to say that his chief complaint about our overseas wars is that they were being conducted without Congress having officially declared war. Paul the Elder represented this position as merely upholding the Constitution, and his argument that open-ended “use-of-force” resolutions such as passed in the wake of 9/11 are not the real thing is worthy, though perhaps not legally correct at the end of the day. We can have that argument some other time. But does anyone think that Ron Paul would have supported the Iraq War if Congress had passed a formal declaration of war? All of Ron Paul’s other statements make clear this it is U.S. military intervention itself that he opposes. His “declaration of war” talk is just so much constitutional punctilio to cover his real opinions. Why not just say directly that he thinks the U.S. should bug out of the Middle East? He’s come close many times.
Likewise, Rand Paul is now opposing extension of aspects of the Patriot Act involving the government collecting metadata on phone records, demanding that the faithfulness to the 4th Amendment requires that the government get a warrant the old fashioned way, never mind the practicality of old-fashioned warrants in the age of high technology and overseas terror connections. His argument isn’t without merit—I don’t much trust the government these days either, and who knows how many Lois Lerners might be working for the NSA? The story out yesterday from the Free Beacon that the Justice Department is studying how conservative groups use social media is Exhibit A of what Rand Paul is rightly worried about.
But Paul has also called the FISA courts that issue warrants “rubber stamp” courts. One begins to suspect that Rand Paul’s real objection is to the government having any power to look into the phone patterns of American at all. Does anyone think he will be content if we enact an even more elaborate system (which would have to be very labor intensive) to procure warrants? I doubt it. Why doesn’t he just say directly that he doesn’t trust the government to exercise this kind of investigatory power—warrant or not? What—is he afraid someone might call him a libertarian or something?