We already knew that Donald Trump isn’t going to get a free ride on Capitol Hill, even though the GOP has complete control of the federal government for only the second time in nine decades. Last week, Congressman Trey Gowdy and Senator Tom Cotton, two of the most prominent tea-swillers in Washington, said that they wanted to exercise heavy-duty oversight over the Trump White House. Well, apparently another tea party Senator seems to have taken up the cry. He thinks the worldview of a prospective member of Trump’s foreign policy team is unnerving enough that he cannot possibly vote for him.
When Rand Paul dropped by ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday morning, the conversation turned to the expected appointments of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Paul fils told host George Stephanopolos that while he hadn’t decided whether he would back Tillerson, he has already decided that he can’t support Tillerson’s prospective deputy, former UN ambassador John Bolton. Watch here.
Paul fils said that he was going to “reserve judgment” on Tillerson, and his vote would depend greatly on whether Tillerson agreed the 2003 invasion of Iraq was “a failure, a strategic mistake.” However, he already knew the notoriously hawkish Bolton’s answer to that question, based on his history as “a big cheerleader” for the Iraq snafu. To Paul fils’ mind, that alone proves that “John Bolton doesn’t get it.”
However, the Kentucky Republican was also unnerved by Bolton’s vocal support for an Israeli nuclear attack on Iran, as well as regime change in Iran. All things considered, Paul fils believes that Bolton is “so far out of it” and has such “a naive understanding of the world” that “I’m an automatic no” if he gets nominated. Indeed, he thinks Bolton is so unqualified that he doesn’t think he has any place in a State Department headed by “anybody with a sane worldview.”
Simply put, this is a yuuuuge nyet for Trump. It’s hard to see any of the Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee supporting Bolton; no one on ranking member Ben Cardin’s team has a worldview anywhere near as hawkish as Bolton’s. If Paul fils’ vote is added to this all-but-certain Democratic opposition, it would be enough to cripple the nomination in committee.
If Trump were to stand behind Bolton even in the face of committee opposition, his nomination would face a very uncertain future before the full Senate. If two more Republicans defect and Chuck Schumer keeps his caucus in line, Trump could face a humiliating defeat on the Senate floor. So far, there’s been no reaction from Trump on Twitter or Facebook. Hmmm–perhaps he knows that Paul fils has him checkmated.
Granted, Paul fils is a stopped clock. But he at least had the guts to stand up to Trump, and do so publicly, even though his state broke heavily for the Donald. Let’s give credit where credit is due.
(featured image courtesy Gage Skidmore, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)