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July 02, 2014 4:49 PM Rand Paul’s Opportunism Knows No Bounds

By Ed Kilgore

As you probably know, a whole new round of dangerous tension is gripping the Middle East after the savage killing of three Israeli teenagers, reportedly by agents of Hamas, followed by an apparent “revenge killing” of a Palestinian teen. It’s not a real good time for irresponsible statements by U.S. politicians.

But in an act of increasingly typical opportunism, the junior senator from Kentucky took the occasion to cut loose with a blast at the President of the United States, per this report from Politico’s Katie Glueck:

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul blasted the White House’s response to a kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in a strongly worded column designed to highlight his pro-Israel credentials.
Paul, a potential GOP presidential contender who is often leery of interventionist foreign policy, has been highly critical of the more hawkish wing of the GOP, most recently in the debate over what to do in Iraq. But Paul also has been trying to show the Republican establishment that his overall approach to foreign affairs is not out of the mainstream, and his tough rhetoric in the National Review op-ed could be seen as another overture.
In the column, Paul reiterated his call to end U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority, which reached a unity agreement with Hamas. Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by America and Israel, controls the Gaza Strip.
The White House has expressed outrage over the Israeli teens’ deaths, but it also has called for judiciousness in response, and Paul skewered the administration for urging a show of “restraint.”
“Children are murdered — please show restraint. Caf├ęs and buses are bombed — please show restraint. Towns are victimized by hundreds of rockets — please show restraint while you bury your dead once again,” Paul wrote. “I think it is clear by now: Israel has shown remarkable restraint. It possesses a military with clear superiority over that of its Palestinian neighbors, yet it does not respond to threat after threat, provocation after provocation, with the type of force that would decisively end their conflict.

Paul, of course, has been engaged in a intensive process of overcoming his and his father’s reputation as “anti-Israeli” for favoring a cutoff of U.S. aid to Israel. So there is probably no act Israel could commit that won’t be aggressively praised by the peace-loving senator (in an impressive display of hypocrisy, he’s calling his bill for a termination of U.S. aid to the PA the “Stand With Israel Act.”) But blasting the administration for exercising actual diplomatic care over an explosive situation crosses the line from opportunism to cynical demagoguery. Progressives who have grudging respect for Paul as a paragon of principle should adjust accordingly. He’d likely be happy if the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict blew up into horrific war, subsuming his past hostility to U.S. aid to Israel in fire and blood.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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