McCain Vs. Paul

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Not everyone was enamored with Rand Paul after his filibuster this past Wednesday in the Senate. Senator John McCain railed against Rand Paul on the Senate floor on Thursday. If you missed it, here’s a shot of the Senator’s performance:

Grandpa Simpson

 

McCain was joined by his Sith apprentice fellow Senator Lindsey Graham in denouncing Paul’s filibuster. I wish the camera had panned to see if McCain’s mouth was moving as Graham spoke.

McCain wasn’t done criticizing Paul, offering some choice pull quotes to various media outlets, summarized at Hot Air. This one in particular is my favorite:

“They were elected, nobody believes that there was a corrupt election, anything else,” McCain said. “But I also think that when, you know, it’s always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone.”

John McCain just said that it’s always the “whacko birds”” who get the media megaphone. Let that sink in for a moment. The same guy who hasn’t turned down a Sunday talk show appearance in thirteen years is implying that only kooks get the media spotlight. If you say so John.

Rand Paul couldn’t have asked for a better angry old man to scowl after him, as Jay Anderson explains.

John McCain railing against Rand Paul’s appeal to “impressionable” kids in dorm rooms is so politically tone deaf and out of touch that it makes Clint Eastwood look like a breath of fresh air by comparison. Yesterday, in a textbook example of EVERYTHING that is wrong about John McCain, just after scolding Paul on the Senate floor, McCain lamented the retirement announcement of 78-year-old Democrat Sen. Carl. Levin who has been in the Senate FOR 35 YEARS since the Carter Administration.

McCain’s world: young upstarts inspiring people to take our liberties seriously and challenging the perpetual war establishment … bad; crusty old farts clinging to power and enriching themselves on the public teet until they’re octogenarians … good.

There’s more to this dust-up than just an old guard versus new guard standoff. McCain and Paul represent two wildly divergent wings foreign policy wings of the Republican Party. Whether you want to call McCain a neocon, a hawk, an interventionist, or some other term that will be invented over the next few years, he certainly has a more expansive view of America’s role in the world. Rand Paul is a bit more of a mystery. While he clearly wishes to narrow the scope of America’s role as global policeman, for lack of a better term, he doesn’t seem to quite share his father’s even narrower vision. Some have speculated that he’s merely toning down his rhetoric in the hopes of being a more palatable alternative in the Republican presidential primaries than his father ever was, though I suspect that’s an overstatement.

Whatever the case may be, Paul and McCain are at opposite poles at least in the Senate’s GOP caucus. Ace of Spades does a good job of explaining why McCain should dial it back if he wants the more interventionist wing to have any credibility. First he explains that he’s not as hawkish as he was after 9/11, yet McCain (and his mini-me, Graham) are still pushing a “super-hawk” line that the public has widely rejected.

McCain wanted total commitment to Iraq– whatever it took. Literally, whatever it took. If it took 100 years, well than that’s what it would take.

Fine. But then he also demanded that the US intervene in Libya and now calls for the US to intervene in Syria.

Perhaps it would be shorter to compose a list of places John McCain does not want the US military involved.

Ace continues to outline McCain’s incredibly hawkish views through the years. Indeed McCain has pushed for greater US intervention in nearly every conflict that America has been involved with to one degree or another, and others where we haven’t sent any troops in as well. Not only has he pushed for greater American intervention, but he has advocated maximum American intervention at every turn.

As such, I think Ace has correctly diagnosed why McCain reacted so viscerally to Rand Paul.

1, Because his mind simply rejects any possible limit to military action reflexively. So when Rand Paul suggests that the President can’t just kill a non-combatant American citizen on American soil, McCain revolts against it without even thinking. Because this is war, and in war there must not be any limits. Limits are for cowards and for losers.

Actually, limits are for anyone in the real world. “No limits” is a slogan fit for a steroid case’s workout sweatshirt, but not for American military policy. Adults have to recognize that we do in fact have limits, and that there are some burdens that we’re notwilling to bear, so there’s no point in constantly lying to ourselves about this.

2, Because he thinks Rand Paul is actually shifting the Republican position to Ron Paul’s empty-headed hippie baby-talk “Love” bull[redacted], whereby, as a matter of doctrine, we must never engage anywhere because only consensual agreements are permitted in foreign policy.

I will discuss how that’s idiotic another time.

I think McCain is right on this point, and yet wrong. Rand Paul is not moving public opinion on this point or even Republican opinion on this point. Rather, public and Republican opinion on this point has already moved, but is currently being falsified because no one ever wants to admit they’re wrong, and Rand Paul is offering people an opportunity to express their real opinion.

I think Rand Paul is closer to public opinion on foreign policy than the American public, and more conservatives and Republicans are shifting that way as well.

Neither extreme is quite right. While neoconservatives seem to have a reflexive desire to intervene at the merest hint of conflict, the paleoconservative reflex to non-intervention is just as wrongheaded. Ultimately I am basically with Ace:

I actually don’t believe in Paulian pacifism and do believe in the need and justification for American intervention on a limited basis and in pursuit of a limited number of objectives.

If McCain also believes that — and of course he does — he would be wise to stop making the choice between the Ron Paul doctrinal peacenikism and the McCain Interventions Incorporated model.

Because McCain will lose, and so will the concept of interventionism itself.

There’s a term for that: it’s called realism, and it used to be the basis of the conservative foreign policy framework. Sounds good to me.

More to explorer

Eating Their Own

  News that I missed, courtesy of The Babylon Bee:   WASHINGTON, D.C.—Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is busy celebrating her victory over the

43 Comments

  1. History will remember McCain for two things: heroically surviving seven years in a Hanoi POW hell and losing the 2008 election to the worst president in US history.

    I would have said worst president in World history, but Obama is fifth (behind Pol Pot, Lenin, Mao, and Stalin). Hugo Chavez is sixth.

  2. Mr. McCain has his virtues, but he has long been known as somewhat choleric and impetuous in his inter-personal dealings (“wacko birds” does not rhyme with “brother trucker”, but some of McCain’s Senate colleagues have been called something that does, to their face, rather loudly). Some of us might hope that Rand Paul will formulate a reconstituted isolationism – one free of the often grotesque silliness ambient in palaeoworld (including his father’s utterances).

  3. I am far closer to McCain’s views on foreign policy than I am as to what I suspect are Rand Paul’s views on foreign policy although he has cagily left those views unclear. That having been said, McCain’s reaction to the Paul filibuster was absurd. First, because it was the first clear win for the Republicans over Obama since the election. Second, because Paul’s reason for the filibuster was very reasonable: use of drones against American citizens on American soil should be bound by the same restrictions imposed whenever the military is used in police activity domestically.

    In regard to McCain, other than foreign policy he is far from a favorite of mine. In 2008 my wife and I voted for McCain only in order to vote for Palin. Any Republican would have lost in 2008 after the economic melt down, but McCain with his eagerness to suspend his campaign and his desire apparently to win the title of Miss Congeniality, threw any chance he had away. McCain has always been tough on his fellow Republicans and soft on Democrats. In 2010 he won a tough primary race by running as a born again conservative and promptly went back to his old ways after he was safely back in for another six years. I honor the courage McCain showed in the Hanoi Hilton, but that is the only honorable thing about the man.

    In regard to the term “neo-con” I find that hilarious. I was a conservative long before many of the self-described paleocons. My views are by and large the views of Ronald Reagan and if he is called a “neo-con” then the term is devoid of meaning.

  4. am far closer to McCain’s views on forein policy than I am on what I suspect are Rand Paul’s views on foreign policy

    In the balance I’m probably a bit closer to McCain, though I think both sides represent flawed thinking in some way. That was my single point of departure from Santorum last year.

    As for the term neo-con, it has been widely misused. I think my favorite use of the term was when it was applied to William Buckley. That said, it does represent an actual strain of right-wing thinking, but it’s just not nearly as prevalent as some paleocons would have you believe. Then again, they seemingly apply it to every right-leaning person who strays even a hint from their way of thinking, particularly on foreign policy. They seem to be more forgiving on economic and social issues.

  5. They seem to be more forgiving on economic and social issues.

    Actually, the mask is slipping over at The American Conservative on those subjects.

  6. John McCain is IMHO everything wrong with politics. He is a career politician and he is a complete meely mouth in dealing with the opposition. When dealing with his own party he is meaner than a wolfpack hunting down prey.

    McCain will likely be done after the 2016 election. I hope so. Arizona has foistered him on the rest of us for too long.

  7. It is a matter of principle. It is an anti-Constitutional act and an immoral act to kill an American citizen not actually engaged in combat against the United States. By the way, ask Obama and Holder if they favor the death penalty.

  8. I agree with Don’s comment pretty much word for word. If we had “likes” or “+1s” here, I’d use one.

    John McCain has been posturing in the Senate for so long that the moment he saw someone taking a stand, he assumed it was posturing. His DC guidebook said that Rand Paul is a Republican, so he immediately started shouting him down, never bothering to notice that Paul was objecting to something objectionable. The thing is, this is exactly the kind of issue that McCain would normally be out-front on. McCain’s not a blithering hawk; he’s more than happy to leverage his military experience in exchange for something like closing Guantanamo Bay.

    Everyone else in Washington has to check himself to keep from putting party over principle. McCain puts bashing his own party over principle.

  9. As already established, I definitely tilt towards the “realist” school of IR, and find the idea of artificially manufacturing a “world safe for democracy” to be unpalatable, let alone impossible.

    I think the filibuster was important, not only for what was said but for what it showed. The majority of what Rand Paul had to say is common sense, barebone fact, that any reasonable person could accept with only minor disagreement. The fact that McCain, Graham, and Co. feel the need to so forcefully and vehemently attack Paul makes it perfectly evident how far out of touch with reality the “war wing” of the GOP is. The GOP’s foreign policy may not look like Paul’s, but after this eye opening event, it will hopefully begin to look less and less like McCain’s.

  10. my main issue with Paul, which isn’t relevant to the narrower point he was making, is that he seems to share his father’s “blowback” theory of U.S. foreign policy. i got this impression from comments he made during the Kerry confirmation hearings.

    understanding why certain people hate you is of course different from sympathizing with their reasons, and worthwhile just as far as general knowledge. but when it comes to drones abroad, the blowback talk makes the potential secondary effect (it will enflame Muslim populations against us) the main point of concern, when to be blunt, if there’s a terrorist we’re unable to apprehend normally, i wouldn’t want someone dwelling much on unintended consequences.

  11. There’s a reason they call him McLame.

    In all seriousness, Rand Paul is all over the map when it comes to foreign policy. He isn’t his father, that’s for certain. Most of you appreciate that. I find it unfortunate.

    I’m willing to accept that the US has to remain engaged in world affairs, but I certainly reject the whole project of remaking the Middle East in a Wilsonian democratic fantasy as well as the encirclement of Russia. I can’t even call this a neo-con policy, since our social democrats seem to be even more enthusiastic about it at times. It was Obama, Hillary and Susan Rice who pushed for regime change in Libya, one of the more irrational foreign policy adventures of the 21st century.

    No, there is the establishment/political class consensus on foreign policy, with perhaps minor strategic and tactical differences between the neo-cons and social democrats, and a growing consensus on the margins that is slowly becoming a force at higher levels through men such as Rand Paul. The “marginal” consensus is unclear, beyond a vague desire to dial it back.

    I say let Japan pay for its own army, stop thumbing Russia in the eye, and forget about democracy in the Middle East, forever. Let Europe reap the jihad it deserves for its apostasy and decadence, and put our troops on the Southern border.

    As for the term “neo-con”, well, its convenient at this point. Its out there. If it is offensive I can go with “interventionist.” But when will I ever be paid the courtesy of being called a non-interventionist as opposed to an “isolationist” (i.e. someone who rejects free trade and virtually all diplomacy, like, say, Kim Jong Un)?

  12. ” if there’s a terrorist we’re unable to apprehend normally, i wouldn’t want someone dwelling much on unintended consequences.”

    Yes, why think about consequences? Just act, and let everyone else pick up the pieces. Even if those pieces are body parts strewn about a city street.

  13. “understanding why certain people hate you is of course different from sympathizing with their reasons, and worthwhile just as far as general knowledge.”

    No, it’s worthwhile for more than just general knowledge purposes–it’s certainly relevant to how policy is crafted and implemented.

    “when to be blunt, if there’s a terrorist we’re unable to apprehend normally, i wouldn’t want someone dwelling much on unintended consequences.”

    Yah, when this type of thinking underlies the entire rationale of the drone program, it’s a big problem. You more or less just said that the attempt to eliminate a terrorist can justify any unintended consequences. I’m sure drone handlers feel the same way, thus the disturbing number of unconfirmed combatants killed, though they fudge the books in order to claim close to 0% civilian causalities. Easy to do when you “count all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”

    Excuse me, but BARF.

    I’ll side with Robert George on this one: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2012/06/18/catholics-should-criticize-indiscriminate-drone-use/

  14. “Yah, when this type of thinking underlies the entire rationale of the drone program, it’s a big problem. You more or less just said that the attempt to eliminate a terrorist can justify any unintended consequences. I’m sure drone handlers feel the same way, thus the disturbing number of unconfirmed combatants killed, though they fudge the books in order to claim close to 0% civilian causalities.”

    How does the use of a drone attack differ from the use of an air strike? Would you feel better if we sent troops in to risk their lives to attempt to capture those waging war against this country in areas they control? Our adversaries routinely conduct their opertations in civilian areas. Should that give them immunity?

    When Rand Paul worries about the use of drones in the United States against civilian targets I share his concern. If he wishes us not to use drones to attack those waging war against us, I part company from him.

  15. “How does the use of a drone attack differ from the use of an air strike?”

    In theory it doesn’t. But in practice, the advantages of drones (unmanned, lessened fuel restraints, more discreet) allow them to be used in a way that planes never have been. Drones lack many of the restrictions and costs associated with planes; as a result, they are used more indiscriminately.

    “Would you feel better if we sent troops in to risk their lives to attempt to capture those waging war against this country in areas they control?”

    Yes, I would rather put our trained military in harm’s way than innocent goat herders and children. I’m sure this will be a “controversial” claim on these forums, but as a Catholic, I really don’t think there’s any other way to look at it.

    “Our adversaries routinely conduct their operations in civilian areas. Should that give them immunity?”

    George:
    The use of drones is not, in my opinion, inherently immoral in otherwise justifiable military operations; but the risk of death and other grave harms to noncombatants are substantial and certainly complicate the picture for any policy maker who is serious about the moral requirements for the justified use of military force. Having a valid military target is in itself not a sufficient justification for the use of weapons such as predator drones. Sometimes considerations of justice to noncombatants forbid their use, even if that means that grave risks must be endured by our own forces in the prosecution of a war.

    The wholesale and indiscriminate use of drones cannot be justified, and should be criticized. This is something that Catholic intellectuals across the spectrum ought, it seems to me, to agree about. If we don’t speak, who will?

  16. “But in practice, the advantages of drones (unmanned, lessened fuel restraints, more discreet) allow them to be used in a way that planes never have been.”

    The barn door has been open in regard to that for some time. We have had cruise missle technology since the eighties and cruise missle strikes tended to be used in operations that we now use drones for. The difference with drones is that we have greater control over them and can target them more precisely than we ever could with cruise missles.

    “Yes, I would rather put our trained military in harm’s way than innocent goat herders and children.”

    Your tender concern for those who go in harm’s way for us is duly noted, along with your falacious assumption that a fire fight with our troops and those shooting at them would not involve civilian casualties. If your main concern is minimizing civilian casualties than the advance of drone technology should be cheered by you.

    “The wholesale and indiscriminate use of drones cannot be justified,”

    That formulation has no intellectual content since terms like “wholesale” and “indiscriminate” are very much in the eye of the beholder. In the type of war we are currently engaged in I view the use of drones as an unmixed blessing as it deprives those who operate terrorist networks of their main defenses which are intermingling with civilians and operation in areas sympathetic to them. They do lessen enemy civilian casualties which I view as a good. Like all military technology it is not a panacea and countermeasures will eventually lessen their utility, but for now they give us an edge. I suspect that those complaining about drones are normally not in sympathy with the war against Middle Eastern extremist groups and that is where the real debate lies and not over a piece of military technology that will inevitably be used in any conflict that arises until the technology is no longer useful.

  17. “The barn door has been open in regard to that for some time. We have had cruise missle technology since the eighties and cruise missle strikes tended to be used in operations that we now use drones for. The difference with drones is that we have greater control over them and can target them more precisely than we ever could with cruise missles.”

    Certainly. And that greater control has led to more widespread use, probably in situations and with regards to targets that we previously wouldn’t have considered important enough to vaporize.

    “Your tender concern for those who go in harm’s way for us is duly noted, along with your falacious assumption that a fire fight with our troops and those shooting at them would not involve civilian casualties.”

    I contend that if putting troops in harms way were necessary, a majority of the threats we eliminate would be considered far less “imminent.” Sure, some drone strikes have yielded high profile targets, I’m not going to for a second deny that. Drones are legitimate military technology, and I’m not advocating a ban on them, wholesale. But the ease with which a drone strike can be carried out has decreased our threshold for what constitutes a “positive ID,” while also expanding who we consider to be “enemy combatants” worthy of extermination.

    “They do lessen enemy civilian casualties…”
    While greatly increasing the incidences in which citizens are at risk. Better than the odd cruise missile that kills 30 bystanders, but hardly an “unmixed blessing.”

    Also, you say, “enemy civilian casualties.” I’m not sure how terrorist groups can have “civilians.” Seems you’re either a terrorist or you’re not, and deserve no association with such groups. Perhaps this difference in perspective is the source of our disagreement.

    “I suspect that those complaining about drones are normally not in sympathy with the war against Middle Eastern extremist groups and that is where the real debate lies and not over a piece of military technology that will inevitably be used in any conflict that arises until the technology is no longer useful.”

    Both/and. I have very little sympathy for our campaigns in Yemen, Pakistan, etc, but even if I condoned our involvement therein, as it seems Mr. George does, I’d have grievances with how drones are being used.

  18. I suspect that those complaining about drones are normally not in sympathy with the war against Middle Eastern extremist groups and that is where the real debate lies and not over a piece of military technology that will inevitably be used in any conflict that arises until the technology is no longer useful.

    Agreed. Political arguments of this sort tend to be shot-through with humbug.

  19. “Yes, why think about consequences? Just act, and let everyone else pick up the pieces. Even if those pieces are body parts strewn about a city street.”

    it must be very easy to take the moral high ground when you don’t accept any level of threat exists/if it does, it’s ultimately the U.S.’s fault for provoking it.

  20. JDP, enough with the false dichotomies. There are a vast array of nuanced stances between your position of “I don’t care about unintended consequences” and the straw-man you’ve constructed.

  21. “Also, you say, “enemy civilian casualties.” I’m not sure how terrorist groups can have “civilians.” ”

    Considering the support that the terrorists enjoy throughout the Middle East I think it is a fair conclusion to consider those civilians supporting the terrorists to be enemies, just as much as if they were citizens of a state the terrorists controlled.

  22. They told me if I voted (holding my nose) for McCain, America would assassinate people all over the globe. And, they were correct.

    He’s a media darling.

    McCain no longer needs to open his mouth, i.e., provide additional evidence. We all know he is a superannuated imbecile.

    Obama’s praetorian media love McCain. He makes the GOP look stupid.

  23. but I certainly reject the whole project of remaking the Middle East in a Wilsonian democratic fantasy

    Just to point out it has been attempted in two (2) countries that we were occupying for reasons of state. The alternative suggested to erecting an elected government in Iraq was to appoint Ayad Alawi dictator and leave. That was suggested by Daniel Pipes, whose personal associates are remarkably similar to those of Norman Podhoretz. It is hard to see how that plan was supposed to work. The alternative to attempting that in Afghanistan – laissez-faire – was the policy from 1989 to 2001. The results were deficient in some respects….

  24. And that greater control has led to more widespread use, probably in situations and with regards to targets that we previously wouldn’t have considered important enough to vaporize.

    “Important enough” or “enough of a priority”? Do you have any numbers or a list of criteria employed before or after the introduction of this technology?

  25. As already established, I definitely tilt towards the “realist” school of IR, and find the idea of artificially manufacturing a “world safe for democracy” to be unpalatable, let alone impossible.

    IR theorists have long had a common problem, which was distinguishing between the descriptive and the prescriptive in their writings. Realism purporting to be a descriptive account of the dynamics of international politics does not incorporate within it evaluative criteria which tolerably instruct the actor which costs are worth paying and which are not.

  26. “the straw-man you’ve constructed.”

    i was responding to one person, and in this particular instance it’s not a strawman

    truthfully though i don’t see a ton of nuance. do we have the right to capture/kill terrorists operating internationally (AKA, themselves rendering the sovereignty arguments moot) if we’re unable to apprehend them normally, or do we hamstring ourselves cuz of “unintended consequences” handwringing, as though secondary effects are the main thing we should be worried about?

  27. “between your position of “I don’t care about unintended consequences””

    i said “dwell on”

  28. So you “care” about innocent people killed in such attacks, but you don’t “dwell” on their deaths? How disproportional of a non-confirmed combatant to combatant ratio would have to exist before you “dwelled” on the deaths of innocent civilians?

  29. “Considering the support that the terrorists enjoy throughout the Middle East I think it is a fair conclusion to consider those civilians supporting the terrorists to be enemies, just as much as if they were citizens of a state the terrorists controlled.”

    Donald, what constitutes “support for terrorists?” Cheering for terrorist attacks? That seems like an absurdly low threshold.

  30. “Cheering for terrorist attacks? That seems like an absurdly low threshold.”
    What else would they have to do JL, apply for membership cards? Yeah I regard those ghouls cheering when the twin towers came down to be supporters of the terrorists, just as Germans who thought that the Jews had it coming in the extermination camps I would regard as supporters of the Nazis.

  31. ” “Important enough” or “enough of a priority”?

    Seem interchangeable to me. We wouldn’t be using cruise missiles to take out Al Qaeda peons, just like we wouldn’t have authorized the assassination of a Nazi page boy. The alleged “precision” and ease of usability of drones has increased the number of hit-listesque strikes, to the point where I think it’s pretty clear that we’re killing people that fall below “imminent threat” criteria. Makes sense and has precedent– you need some kind of metric to justify continued support for a program. “Suspected combatants killed” is to the drone programs in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia what the “neutralization quotas” were for the Phoenix Program in Vietnam.

  32. “How disproportional of a non-confirmed combatant to combatant ratio would have to exist before you “dwelled” on the deaths of innocent civilians?”

    well you could ask the people who decide to operate in these regions

  33. Seem interchangeable to me.

    They are not interchangeable. You are lost in the distinction between negligible utility and utility cancelled by costs.

    I think it’s pretty clear that we’re killing people that fall below “imminent threat” criteria.

    You really should not pretend to granular knowledge about that sort of thing.

    The burden of your argument is that the utility of the technology makes it a bad thing because you disapprove of its uses a priori. That is not the most compelling of arguments.

  34. JL, I think he is suggesting you pose the question to people who do this what criteria and metrics they are using, instead of just winging off the top of your head (betwixt and between suggesting that the military fire at targets because they have the ammunition).

  35. “Pass the moral decency buck to the Islamic extremist. Bravo, Mr. American Catholic.”

    lol. i didn’t say the fact that al Qaeda exists means we get to wantonly bomb places for kicks, but we aren’t doing that are we

    i just don’t really see what the argument is? either some people are a threat or they aren’t. if we can capture them regularly with cooperation from friendly governments in the region, OK, but it’s not always that simple, and in the case they evade authorities/are out of their reach what should we do

  36. also to clarify — i was saying terrorists operating in remote regions place people around them at risk of getting caught in one of these strikes. i wasn’t playing the “they’re worse” card.

  37. Interesting, Donald. I’ve been called a jack ass before, but I’m sure my interlocutors were treated accordingly.

  38. JL, I am certain that it will come as a shock to you, but I do not spend all my time minding this blog. I have a 60 hour plus a week legal practice, along with my family responsibilities. When I view anything that I regard as a breach of blog decorum I act upon it. I am more likely to see something if it happens in the comboxes of one of my posts or on a post by someone else that I have commented upon. (Not always even then, since days can go by during the work week when I have little time for the blog depending upon how busy I get at work.) I have placed on moderation and banned commenters of all stripes of political beliefs. T.Shaw, who I have on permanent moderation, tends to have similar views to me on most issues and I find him amusing. Nonetheless, because he does not obey the blog rules, he is a permanent guest of House Moderation on this blog.

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