Why Rand Paul (Of All People) Voted to Confirm Chuck Hagel As Secretary Of Defense

After grueling confirmation hearings and a 10-day delay imposed by the Republicans, the Senate finally voted and confirmed, 58-41, Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense.

Republican senators including Hagel’s former military buddy John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have been outspoken during Hagel’s confirmation process, declaring him unfit for the job. In a surprising turn of events on Tuesday, though, Senator Paul voted to pass Hagel’s confirmation. His reasoning to the press: Obama won in November and “the president gets to choose political appointees.”

Paul must have forgotten his status as poster child for the Tea Party movement. It is ludicrous for him to suggest that his respect for Obama and the presidency as an office led him to confirm Hagel after he so vociferously opposed the decorated Vietnam veteran and former senator. Furthermore, his voting record makes his conservatism painfully clear in that he voted “no” on both the bill for Hurricane Sandy relief and the Violence Against Women Act.

His record and his rhetoric reveal him as the Tea Party conservative that he is, not one prone to compromise. So what’s going on with this change in pace? Like Andrew Cuomo in New York and Chris Christie in New Jersey, Paul is gearing up for a presidential run in 2016. No presidential contender can be too far right or left. If he starts now, by 2015 when the campaign starts, the public will have forgotten his Tea Party antics much like the GOP chose to forget Mitt Romney’s liberalism of yore. 

Paul, the son of the outspoken libertarian Ron Paul, is a darling of the Tea Party. After all, he rode into the Senate on the wave of Tea Party support in the 2010 midterm elections. That wave proved to be tsunami-worthy in terms of the damage it did to the Republican party. The party is so broken they couldn’t even agree on one response to Obama’s State of the Union. Mr. Paul gave one rebuttal, and Senator Marco Rubio gave another —more watered down — version. Now that the Tea Party isn’t all it was cracked up to be, where does Rand Paul go now? Onto 2016, of course. 

We shouldn’t let future campaign propaganda allow us to forget the fact that Paul, along with Rubio, was designated a “Defender of Liberty” by the American Conservative Union. The ACU sponsors the Conservative Political Action Conference and awards Republican politicians for being faithful to the party line. Paul and Rubio were both given 100%, meaning their scores were most favorable to conservatives and surely not wrought with the cooperative tone Paul is trying to fob off on the vote for Hagel’s confirmation. Chris Christie took flack from his own party after praising Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy. That cost him the invite to CPAC, a meeting of the radically conservative minds. Paul, on the other hand, will speak at the conference to be held March 14-16 in Washington, D.C.

I’ll be the first to admit it when I see any politician embracing civility over politics, and this isn’t it. Rand Paul’s vote to confirm Hagel as Secretary of Defense is a strategic political move, which is fine, but we ought not make it out to be more than it is. His record shows where his beliefs lie. A die-hard libertarian Tea Partier sure doesn’t confirm a presidential appointment to appease a president with whom he disagrees on nearly everything. We’ll see if Paul has the same respect for the president when it comes time to confirm John Brennan as director of the CIA.

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Stephanie Northwood

Pursuing BA in Political Science at Allegheny College, to graduate in May 2013, most interested in health and foreign policy, Progressive.

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