President Trump continues to shake up his White House team. As early as tomorrow he plans to name Larry Kudlow, a senior contributor to CNBC, to replace Gary Cohn as his National Economic Council chief. Kudlow is an old chum of Trump’s and an inveterate supply-sider whose gospel is that the more you lower tax rates, the more money the government will receive in overall revenues. At the same time, former United Nations ambassador John Bolton remains in play to replace national security adviser H.R. McMaster, though a stumbling block could prove to be whether or not he is willing to shave off the moustache that Trump apparently finds so offensive. But the real hugger-mugger that may be brewing is over Trump’s nominations of CIA director Mike Pompeo to become Secretary of State and Gina Haspel to lead the CIA.
Today, in a scorching press conference, Senator Rand Paul, a staunch libertarian, announced his opposition to both Pompeo and Haspel. He dinged Pompeo for being a supporter of the Iraq War and wondered why you would want to appoint a war hawk to run a State Department that is supposed to practice diplomacy. Pompeo’s record is as hardline as they come about Iran and North Korea. Paul asked a very pertinent question: `I’m perplexed by the nomination of people who love the Iraq War so much that they would advocate for a war with Iran next. I think it goes against most of the things President Trump campaigned on.’
Paul went on to allude to Trump’s apparent infatuation with Bolton, noting that neocons make up a good part of his foreign policy team even though he ran against intervention in the Middle East during the primary. `Most of the people being appointed are still in favor of Iraq War,’ Paul said. `These are the crazy neoconservatives.’ Crazy or not, they are definitely on the upswing in the Trump administration as their innate truculence appeals to Trump’s desire for a bit of swagger in foreign policy.
Paul also pointed to Haspel’s involvement with a black ops site in Thailand, where `enhanced interrogation,’ or, to use a less polite word, torture was practice during the George W. Bush administration. If anyone embodies the deep state, it is Haspel. She had no apparent qualms about approving torture, even exhorting her subordinates to greater zealousness in inflicting harm upon their detainees. `It’s galling to read of her glee during the waterboarding,’ Paul said. `It’s absolutely appalling.’ Her appointment, he said, is a `terrible, terrible message to send to the world.’
Will Pompeo and Haspel be confirmed? Senator John McCain, a staunch opponent of the torture policies sanctioned by the Bush administration, has issued a tweet indicating his misgivings about Haspel. So things could get dicey for Trump if he needs to rely upon Senate Democrats for the approval of his candidates. Of the duo, Haspel is the more likely one to end up withdrawing. Whatever the outcome, Paul has broken with his fellow Republicans and defied Trump to take a moral stand that more should emulate.