It was just last week that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) raised a few eyebrows by describing himself as "genuinely" conflicted about Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. I made the case that no one should take the Kentucky Republican's rhetoric too seriously. Paul has done this sort of thing before -- threatening to break party ranks, only to back down soon after -- and he was likely to do it again.
Guess who announced his support for Donald Trump's high court nominee today. From a tweet thread the GOP senator published this morning:
"After meeting Judge Kavanaugh and reviewing his record, I have decided to support his nomination. No one will ever completely agree with a nominee (unless of course, you are the nominee). Each nominee however, must be judged on the totality of their views character and opinions."
Funny, I don't remember Senate Republicans considering Merrick Garland on the totality of his views, character, and opinions. Perhaps they forgot.
Nevertheless, Rand Paul is cultivating the wrong kind of reputation by engaging in these kinds of tactics so frequently.
A few months ago, for example, Paul vowed to do “whatever it takes” to defeat Mike Pompeo’s Secretary of State nomination. After being labeled a “hard no,” he voted for Pompeo anyway, following some vague rhetorical assurances that amounted to very little.
As we discussed at the time, his reversal followed a debate in which Paul voiced all kinds of concerns about the GOP’s health care repeal plans, before eventually voting for the final Republican plan anyway. Paul was even briefly critical of his party’s regressive tax plan, before he endorsed it.
It’s not that Rand Paul never follows through – he did shut down the government for a few hours in February for no apparent reason – but he is developing a reputation as a guy who's routinely ready to raise "concerns," but more reluctant to take big risks.
The result is lingering damage to the senator's credibility.
Donald Trump said in April, “I will say this about Rand Paul: he's never let me down. Rand Paul is a very special guy, as far as I'm concerned. He's never let me down. And I don't think he'll let us down again."
The president's opinion of the senator can now remain intact.