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Rand Paul and Chuck Hagel

Jennifer Rubin tells Rand Paul to vote against Hagel:

Moreover, the senator’s obvious desire to convey pro-Israel credentials will make it difficult for him to vote to confirm. With near-unanimity among Republicans so far against Hagel, Paul may find that his efforts to reposition himself within the GOP on Israel would crumble if he were to support the president’s pick.

Put more bluntly, Rubin wants to make it clear that Paul’s efforts will be in vain if he chooses to vote for Hagel’s confirmation. That should tell Sen. Paul just how fruitless it is to try to satisfy “pro-Israel” hawks. It isn’t enough for these hawks that a politician supports the current U.S.-Israel relationship. If it were, Hagel would be encountering much less hostility right now. Republican politicians are expected to agree with these hawks on everything, and if they don’t they are viewed with suspicion and distrust. The assault on Hagel is similar to what Paul can expect in the future, and voting against Hagel now will just encourage the hard-liners in his party to think that he will follow their lead. Presumably, Paul isn’t always going to vote for what the hard-liners want, and now would be a good time to show everyone that he isn’t going to be intimidated by them.

On matters of policy, Paul is still much closer to Hagel than he is to Hagel’s Republican opponents. Like Hagel, he is skeptical of military action against Iran, and he is also much more willing to consider reductions in military spending than most of his colleagues. Paul has been trying to broaden the meaning of being “pro-Israel” even more than Hagel did. How likely would he be to succeed in that if he votes against Hagel’s confirmation because hard-liners have declared that Hagel’s modest dissents are intolerable? Paul has expressed interest in moving the GOP towards a less aggressive foreign policy, and that begins by not falling in line behind the supporters of the Republican foreign policy status quo.

When it comes time to vote on Hagel’s nomination, there is something else that Sen. Paul might bear in mind. The campaign to vilify Hagel includes many of the same people who loathe Sen. Paul’s father and everything that his father’s movement represents. If they are willing to trash the reputation of someone like Hagel, they will be more than willing to do the same to Paul in the years to come.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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