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By: Elias Atienza
It’s hard to imagine a man who manages to stay true to his convictions on anything this day, especially in politics. Trump is the prime example today, just because he’s President and in the most high-profile office in the world. But Obama, Clinton, and others before them have also modified or completely changed their positions. Sometimes it’s based on a genuine reflection or change of heart, but most of the time it is political maneuvering or to take advantage of the current political situation.
Rand Paul, despite Trump’s election, has stayed true to most of his convictions. And on top of that, he has the ability to both support Trump when he does something good and to oppose him when he does something wrong. It’s a hard concept for most people to grasp, that you don’t have to oppose or support everything one person does because they have a D or R next to their name.
He’s currently battling the Trump administration on criminal justice, specifically Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions has reversed many of the Obama-era criminal justice reform decisions and instructing prosecutors to look for the maximum sentencing under federal law, including non-violent drug charges. Sessions has also been vague on police militarization, when he said that he wanted to help police in their effectiveness.
“We need, so far as we can, in my view, help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness,” he said in his first speech as attorney general.
Paul has lead the charge to put these reforms into law, working across the aisle with Democrats such such Cory Booker in order to rehaul the criminal justice system such as the REDEEM Act. In addition to this, he’s introduced legislation with Patrick Leahy to combat mandatory minimum sentencing. He’s been a man of his word on criminal justice reform and stuck up for former President Obama on the issue as well.
Section 1021 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act unconstitutionally declares that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force allows our Armed Forces to indefinitely detain citizens, legal residents, and foreign nationals who are alleged to have engaged in hostilities against the United States. This means U.S. citizens apprehended within the boundaries of the U.S. could be held indefinitely without trial.
The Sixth Amendment Preservation Act repeals section 1021 making it clear that no military force resolution can legalize indefinite detention without a trial and seeks to restore our constitutional commitment to individual liberty.
You never know who could be in the White House,” Paul said on Thursday in an interview with a handful of libertarian reporters from Rare and Reason. “Could someone be there that would actually take away all of our rights and begin arresting us for who we are, what we are, what we think, what we read? And so I consider this to be one of the most important pieces of legislation that we’ll put forward.”
So another hurrah for the Senator. Though his vote for Sessions left a sour taste in several civil libertarian mouths, was there really a chance Trump would choose someone that wasn’t Sessions? At least Paul has the ability to criticize Sessions and not tow the party line.
There’s very little that this Department of Justice is doing in favor of criminal justice or towards civil liberties,” Paul said.
On another note, he has been remarkably consistent on foreign policy. While Trump has rocked back and forth, such as bombing Syrian forces back in April and making an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, he’s at least been sort of consistent on NATO. While previous presidents have asked NATO countries raise their defense spending, Trump is the first to consistently make a theme. And Paul has also been in support of Trump on NATO except on one occasion, when it came to Montenegro.
Paul has also raised concerns about the Saudi arms deal and is planning to block it. He’s been consistent in his opposition to arming Saudi Arabia and other authoritarian states and extremist rebel groups. His primary resistance to arming Saudi Arabia is the fact that Saudi Arabia is currently undergoing a campaign against Yemen, where they have killed thousands of civilians. Arming Saudi Arabia gives them more weapons to wage war as Paul said in a statement.
“I think, if you were to ask the general public, should we be at war in Yemen or supporting war in Yemen, I think most people would say, ‘where?’” Paul said. “I think there should be a valid debate on it.”
In a world that is Washington D.C, Rand Paul has proved to be more flexible than his father. But in important issues such as criminal justice, the Constitution, and (most of the time) foreign policy, Paul has stuck to his guns. Let’s just hope that he continues to do so and doesn’t bend.
Principles must be made of steel. Flexible if needed, but unbreakable.