The debate pitted the Republican Party’s ascendant isolationist wing [bold mine-DL], represented by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, against its old-line interventionists, led by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who is pressing his vision of a muscular military even as he battles brain cancer.
Mr. Paul pressed for the repeal vote, in a strange bedfellows alliance with Senator Tim Kaine [bold mine-DL], the Virginia Democrat who was his party’s vice-presidential nominee last year.
This summary does a disservice to the readers in a few ways. It misrepresents the division inside the GOP as being between “isolationists” (none of the three Republicans in question fits that description) and “old-line interventionists.” Those are fairly lazy definitions that don’t get to the core of why the two sides voted different ways on this amendment. As far as I know, Lee and Heller have not been reliably opposed to foreign wars, and even if they were that wouldn’t make them “isolationists.” Regardless, their foreign policy preferences weren’t what led them to take Paul’s side on this vote. The article further distorts things by pretending that the small number of Republican senators that lost the vote is part of an “ascendant wing” inside the party. One might think that a “wing” represented by three senators out of a total of fifty-four could not be in the “ascendant” in any meaningful sense.
The issue before the Senate was primarily a constitutional one about the role of Congress and its role in authorizing foreign wars. Invoking “isolationism” in this context is even worse than the usual error of applying the label to people that reject it. The repeated use of what is little better than a slur to describe Paul’s position misinforms the audience and reinforces the warped terms of our foreign policy debates.
Finally, Kaine’s support for Paul’s amendment isn’t really strange at all. Kaine has been one of the leading proponents of debating and voting on an AUMF for the war on ISIS, and his work on this dates back several years. It would have been much more surprising if Kaine had not voted with Paul on this, but readers of this article would never know that.