Senator Rand Paul is widening the difference between his father, the long-time former Congressman from Texas whose “no” votes on principle, whether you agree or not, have shaped his place in history. See his lengthy farewell address upon retiring from the House of Representatives Ron Paul has just established the non-profit Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
The differences between father and son are ones of personality, policy and opportunism. Since Rand Paul is intent on running for president in 2016, his drift toward the corporatist Republicans is noteworthy.
Senator Rand Paul appears sterner. He is also far less likely to return calls than his father. When he was running for the Kentucky Senate Seat in 2010, I made several calls to ask whether he intended to support the bills his father was proposing in the House, including the legalization of growing industrial hemp in the U.S. for food, energy, clothing, paper lubricants and many other uses. He never responded, even though he was called by the Louisville Courier Journal on this subject. (Senator Paul has now sponsored legalization of industrial hemp cultivation.)
Soon I realized that others had difficulty in reaching him both during his campaign and since then. In 2010, his campaign director did tell me that when Rand Paul becomes Senator, he would go after the overblown military budget.
Remembering that assurance, I was more than surprised to learn how far Rand Paul has moved from his libertarian/conservative base. Here are two recent statements of his that received little coverage.
Last month, the Associated Press reported Senator Paul saying:
“They’re precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending and their “Gimme, gimme, gimme—give me all the Sandy [Hurricane Sandy] money now,’ those are the people who are bankrupting the government and not letting enough money be left over for national defense.”
A few days later on August 6, Senator Paul was at Fort Campbell in Kentucky where he said: “If we were to cut somewhere else in the budget, I would try to restore some money to the military.”
Well, well, the corporatists and crony capitalists may have a new recruit—Rand Paul—who is not heeding President Dwight Eisenhower’s famous caveat about the military industrial complex in his 1961 farewell address to the American people.
Kentucky has numerous military installations and military contractors who must be quite pleased with how Rand Paul has dropped his fathers’ notable opposition to the bloated military budget and the imperial consequences of empire building. Meanwhile, Senator Paul has little trouble on another spending front—namely that Kentucky gets $1.51 back for every tax dollar it sends to Washington D.C.
Newt Gingrich—a military empire builder if there ever was one—is now praising Rand Paul in the Washington Times.
Libertarians do not like sovereignty-shredding authoritarian trade agreements such as NAFTA and the GATT. Rand Paul not only declines to challenge the autocratic systems of transnational governance created by these agreements that drive ‘corporate managed trade,’ but he votes for more drastic bilateral extensions with South Korea and Colombia.
Senator Paul received much deserved publicity in March when he spoke for 13 hours on the Senate floor against drone warfare and the extent of the President’s right to commit homicide. That led some commentators to say he positioned himself ahead of the pack for 2016. The Senator has discovered showhorsing—get all the publicity but hold back from continuing to seriously workhorse the issue.
Mr. Paul did the same last year when he voted against the National Defense Authorization Act which contained a provision that many argue authorizes the president to arrest anyone suspected of terrorist support or activity and jail them without charges. Rand Paul turned down pleas from some of his outside political advisors to put “a hold” on the bill that would have intensified his opposition and aroused the public. That signaled Senator Paul had complied with the demand of the Senate Republican leadership club.
Senator Paul refers often to the Constitution and its preamble that starts with “we the people.” But his votes seem to reflect that he supports big business, including big oil, gaining more power over the people or at the expense of the people. Surely he knows that nowhere in the U.S Constitution do the words “corporation” or “company” appear.
Perhaps political ambition also has deterred physician (ophthalmologist) Rand Paul from applying the Hippocratic Oath (never do harm) in the Senate. He voted with 46 Senators who wished to rollback violent toxic emissions (including mercury) from electric power plants.
There was a time when the corporate state in Washington, D.C. was anxious about candidate Rand Paul. They thought he would defiantly oppose their many corporate welfare benefits, instead of just pitching words. They sensed that he would be the hairshirt and watchdog over the lucrative, wasteful military budget and militarism abroad. The anxiety is gone. The word around the world of corporate lobbying inside the Beltway is that Rand Paul is becoming “bankable.”
So much for his fellow Kentuckians back home who don’t have Inc. after their names. For these people, Rand Paul will continue to voice unlimited free market rhetoric. None of that will help hardworking folks earn a decent livelihood with life-saving full Medicare and free choice of doctors and hospitals—or safer environments. Those are visions that Ophthalmologist Rand Paul did not learn much about in medical school.
On the matters of corporatism, Empire, militarism, the big Wall Street banks, crony capitalism and the unlawful, repressive national security bureaucracy, Rand Paul is being pulled from his father’s positions by the pressure of Republicans who thrive off the corporate state. His libertarian base will have to weigh in before the tipping point of political ambition confronts his first supporters.
Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.