Senator Rand Paul, fresh off an impressive re-election triumph, said in an interview that he was leaning toward opposing former UN.ambassador John Bolton or former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani if either is nominated for secretary of state.
Both men are at the top of Donald Trump’s list to fill the slot at State, while Giuliani is also on the short list for Defense secretary.
Paul believes that both Giuliani and Bolton are adherents to failed policies in Iraq and the Middle East — policies that Donald Trump has repeatedly said are failed as well.
“It’s important that someone who was an unrepentant advocate for the Iraq War, who didn’t learn the lessons of the Iraq War, shouldn’t be the secretary of state for a president who says Iraq was a big lesson,” Paul said in an interview Tuesday morning. “Trump said that a thousand times. It would be a huge mistake for him to give over his foreign policy to someone who [supported the war]. I mean, you could not find more unrepentant advocates of regime change.”
Paul argued that Giuliani and Bolton, the people whose names have circulated most widely, “have made it clear that they favor bombing Iran.” Choosing either for a key administration job, he said, would go back on the “America First” foreign policy that helped Trump win the Republican primaries, to the surprise of the Republican Party foreign-policy establishment.
“I’m hoping that if there’s a public discussion of this before it happens, people in the incoming administration realize that regime change made us less safe and the Iraq War made us less safe,” Paul said. “We don’t need, as our chief diplomat, someone whose idea of diplomacy is dropping bombs.”
Paul, one of many 2016 presidential candidates who was swept aside by Trump, largely avoided the national spotlight as he won reelection to the Senate. But he was the most prominent of many libertarian-minded Republicans who made peace with Trump because of his ex post facto criticism of the Iraq War and his criticism of intervention in Libya and Syria. Even Alex Jones, the conspiracy-minded radio host who turned his show into a months-long Trump telethon, told viewers this week that electing Trump had prevented a new world war.
But the discussion of plum roles for Bolton or Giuliani have given some libertarians and “paleoconservatives” pause. Tuesday morning, at a post-election D.C. conference hosted by the American Conservative magazine, a series of “realist” foreign-policy writers criticized the names floated for Trump’s State Department. Daniel Larison suggested that former senator Jim Webb of Virginia — a Republican-turned-Democrat who weighed a presidential run as an independent after dropping out of the Democratic primaries — would be a fairer choice and that Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) would be “the less aggressive choice” for the Defense Department.
Both Giuliani and Bolton are outside of the Republican foreign policy establishment, although both hold fairly conventional establishment views on most issues. Are they more interventionist than most? Most certainly yes on Iran, while both men have been more cautious about intervention in Syria. Both agree with Trump about getting more aggressive in fighting ISIS and terrorism in general.
But Paul is right. Appointing either man to such an important post would send the wrong signal to many Trump supporters who are tired of foreign interventions and favor a less aggressive American foreign policy. Giuliani may be a better fit in some domestic department like Justice or HUD, while Bolton might fill an undersecretary’s role at state or defense.
Both men have talents and Trump should utilize them.