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A Defense of the Lonely Senator from Kentucky

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The Republican Party has been quick to turn against Senator Rand Paul, the only remaining principled conservative left in the Senate. Is this it for the Grand Old Party?

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) does not approve of Ms. Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee for CIA Director. Appearing on State of the Union with Jake Tapper, Sen. Paul gave a blistering testimony against nominee Ms. Haspel, remarking that the President “keeps appointing people who loved the Iraq War so much, they want a war with Iran next.” While Sen. Paul has been something of a wildcard in terms of his support for President Trump — voting on principle more often than party loyalty — this particular stand is drawing more of the Grand Old Party establishment’s ire than is typical for the junior Senator from Kentucky. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) referred to Sen. Paul as an “outlier” and said that the nomination of Ms. Haspel will pass without the Tea Party firebrand.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment in the American legal system, and Sen. Paul firmly believes — with evidence to back — that Ms. Haspel has carried out so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which constitute an atrocious violation of the nation’s founding values, not to mention its laws. With the party against him, he cannot even call on usual Senate allies such as Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) or Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for support. Only Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), himself a victim of torture, has voiced concerns over Ms. Haspel’s record. Why does Sen. Paul stand so very alone, and why is the party so against his call to principle?

Sen. Paul’s reasoning shows that he is anything but an obstructionist or a traitor. He is simply a man of principle.

First, it is important to understand why exactly Sen. Paul opposes Ms. Haspel’s nomination. He penned an op-ed for Politico on March 18, in which he explained why he will “do whatever it takes, [including] filibuster” to stop her from ascending to the nation’s highest spy position. He asserted, “There is no question that during her career, Haspel participated in and helped develop the program that our own government has labeled torture.” As a result of Sen. Paul’s anti-torture stance, Congressman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has jumped into the fray to imply that Sen. Paul is a traitor who defends terrorists. The social media reaction to Sen. Paul’s announcement labels him with terms like “liberal” and an “obstructionist.” Sen. Paul’s reasoning shows that he is anything but an obstructionist or a traitor. He is simply a man of principle.

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He wrote, “Glenn Carle, a former CIA interrogator, has described [Ms. Haspel] as ‘one of the architects, designers, implementers and one of the top two managers’ of the [Enhanced Interrogation Techniques program] and a true believer, by all accounts, in the ‘Global War in Terror’ paradigm.” For a Republican so invested in the sacred nature of our founding documents, allowing a woman who was the architect of a torture program to lead the nation’s clandestine intelligence operations is out of the question.

In essence, the Republican Party is eating its own because it is afraid of taking risks ahead of the midterm elections.

This begs the question: why are the other Republicans so keen on getting her nominated anyway? Are they not, after all, the party of limited government and adherence to constitutional principles? As far as their current position on Ms. Haspel shows, the answer is a resounding “no.” In the wake of President Trump’s election, the tides seemed to turn away from the neo-conservative powers that be, drawing in favor of anti-establishment Republicans and libertarians within the GOP. President Trump’s distaste for the Iraq War and his impassioned tirades against “the swamp” won him great support in the Republican primaries, and there can be little doubt that his blunt distrust of Washington helped him against the corrupt presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

President Trump’s poor nomination decisions aside, the GOP is doing something awfully strange. They are closing ranks around so-called Bush Era tactics, while the Democrats are pushing further and further to the Left every day. In essence, the Republican Party is eating its own because it is afraid of taking risks ahead of the midterm elections. Sen. Paul only represents a loose end to the likes of Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Sen. Graham, who the Democrats could use as a wildcard to portray the Republican Party as weak and fractious.

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Instead, they should get out and take risks now, while they can. Young Americans are clamoring for change, and not all of it good. In essence, the GOP cannot double down on ideas which the millennial generation has overwhelmingly rejected. The youngest voting block is no longer a loud but inexperienced minority, but has morphed into a political leviathan. Instead of labeling all young people — soon to be the largest voting bloc — as inexperienced softies, the GOP should take a lesson or two from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ playbook. Millennials are angry, willing to fight, and unafraid of drastic change. Instead of letting them channel this energy into votes for the Democrats, the GOP should lead them in the right direction — instead of the socialist path proposed by the Senator from Vermont and his kin.

In short, the GOP will lose ground if it supports neo-conservative principles which are so roundly rejected by millennials. Instead, they should look to Sen. Paul, and help educate young voters that in fact, the Constitution is their friend, not their foe.

As long as the Republican Party allows for people like Ms. Haspel to succeed while making a mockery of our Constitution, it will lose face. Ms. Haspel is a torturer with little-to-no respect for the laws of this nation. She is not who we deserve to lead our intelligence community.

Instead, we need principled Americans who have the consent of the people. We need leaders who place the virtues of this nation over the urge to use evil tactics to fight evil itself. We need leaders who do the right thing, even in the face of unbeatable odds. We need leaders like Sen. Rand Paul. If the Republican Party has any courage left, they would be wise to pay attention.