The Corner

National Security & Defense

Rand Is Right; Lindsey’s Wrong: Limiting the President’s War Powers Is Patriotic

Sen. Rand Paul (Chris Keane/Reuters)

On Wednesday, Republican senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee announced that they would support a Democratic resolution to limit the president’s war powers — and unsurprisingly, they’re taking some heat for it.

Equally unsurprising is that they’ve particularly pissed off Lindsey Graham, who wasted no time in scolding his colleagues for playing a “game with the war powers act” — calling the act “unconstitutional,” and claiming that their support amounts to “empowering the enemy.”

Paul fought back in an interview with CNN Wednesday night, saying: “I think it’s sad when people have this fake sort of drape of patriotism and anybody that disagrees with them is not a patriot.”

He continued:

I love my country as much as the next guy. For him to insult and say that somehow we’re not as patriotic as he is, he hasn’t even read the history of the Constitution,” he continued. “The Constitution specifically says the warmaking power resides in Congress… He insults the Constitution, our Founding Fathers and what we do stand for in this republic by making light of it and accusing people of lacking patriotism. I think that’s a low gutter type of response.

Paul is correct.

First of all, he was absolutely right to characterize Graham’s response as “low gutter.” After all, it’s not like Graham had offered an original thought. No, he just regurgitated the exact same talking point that hawks like him always use to try and shut down anyone who dares to question the war machine. It’s not shocking; it’s not new; it’s been happening for decades. In fact, the only thing that’s changed is that now, it’s also become a catch-all, knee-jerk antiphon to use any time someone criticizes President Trump.

The problem, of course, is that this intellectual laziness discourages independent thought. I mean, why bother to consider anything for yourself when you already know what you’re “supposed” to think? If you’re a Republican, you must support whatever Trump supports, or else you’re a disloyal, socialist-sympathizing traitor. If you’re a “patriot,” you must not question military action, because then you’re choosing the terrorists over the troops.

It really is a shame, because Paul was also right about something else: There is a patriotic case for limiting the president’s war powers. In fact, to me, it’s quite clearly the patriotic case. There is, after all, a reason why the Founders gave Congress the sole power to declare war in the first place. They were explicitly rejecting the English model, the one that they fought to be freed from, where the entire country could find itself at war based on than the whims of the king. They took war seriously; they wanted it debated and carefully considered. The truth is, it’s Paul and Lee’s position, and not Graham’s, that reflects the position of the Founders — and that seems pretty damn patriotic to me.

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