Rand Paul on anti-Russia resolution: "Trump Derangement Syndrome has officially come to the Senate"

Lotta headlines this week to the effect that not even Republicans are defending the president’s performance in Helsinki. But that’s not quite true. There is one guy.


Rand Paul’s spent the past 72 hours doggedly defending Trump’s outreach to Putin to anyone who asks, going so far as to block a resolution by Bernie Sanders(!) aimed at Russia. Let me rephrase: Paul is more nervous about alienating Moscow than a guy who honeymooned in the Soviet Union. You can read Sanders’s summary of his resolution for yourself right here. There’s nothing bizarrely anti-Trump in it to the effect that he’s a secret Russian agent, as you might expect from Paul’s invocation of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” at the start of the clip below. All it says is that the Senate accepts the IC’s verdict that Russia interfered, that Mueller should be allowed to finish his investigation and Trump should cooperate with it, and that the sanctions passed by Congress should be fully implemented. That’s what has Paul on the brink of an aneurysm. Why?

Normally you’d shrug and say, “He’s a libertarian, libertarians are isolationists, therefore they disdain NATO and welcome outreach to Moscow.” True, but even some libertarians are itchy over Trump’s performance in Helsinki. Imagine how soft on Putin you’d have to be to get Justin Amash questioning your motives. Yet somehow Trump cleared the bar on Monday.

He went on. This was posted hours before Paul’s floor remarks this morning but might as well have been tweeted as a direct reply to him:

“Diplomacy is good, Trump wants diplomacy, therefore any criticism of Trump is warmongering because it risks undermining diplomacy.” The stronger form of that argument, which has been common on social media this week, is that anything that heightens tensions with Russia invites nuclear war:

By that logic, all of the nationalists cheering on Trump’s trade war with China are inviting nuclear war by heightening tensions with Beijing. It pains me to say it but Sanders has Paul dead to rights in his reply during the clip below: Rand’s entire argument is a straw man, treating weak diplomacy of the sort Trump practiced in Helsinki as the only possible diplomacy. In Rand’s mind, opposing the former means opposing the latter, and that way lies war. It’s transparent nonsense. And as Sanchez suggests in his tweet, it’s bananas to think that servile weakness towards one’s enemy is always and necessarily the path least likely to lead to conflict. Weakness invites provocation. Trump, who normally can’t stop talking about “strength,” would normally be the first person to agree with that. Put him onstage with Putin, though, and he falls apart.

My hot-take theory on why Paul has been so dogged in defending Trump this week is that he really, really wants to vote against Brett Kavanaugh to make a statement about civil liberties but he knows that Trump will melt down in anger if the nominee is borked because of it — unless he goes out of his way to kiss some presidential ass now and build up a reservoir of goodwill. Trump will be irritated but won’t blow up Paul for opposing Kavanaugh if he’s just spent several months as his most loyal water-carrier on Russia in the Senate. But maybe I’m giving Rand too much credit. Maybe he is, ultimately, every inch his father’s son, the sort of guy who thinks bowing and scraping to Russia in front of the world with Putin five feet away is patriotic given how it owns the neocons. Libertarians should be glad that they have Amash in Congress standing for something more meaningful than that.