The Constitutional Conservatives: Is This the Right Direction for the Republican Party? by Gregory Hilton


This has been a great year for self described “Constitutional conservatives.” They defeated establishment GOP Senate candidates in Kentucky, Nevada and Utah, and now have their sights set on Washington state, Colorado and Alaska. The Republicans they defeated were also conservative, and there was no major issue dividing them.
The most significant difference is that the Constitutional conservatives had a more vocal anti-big government message. The Constitutional conservatives also benefited from endorsements by the Tea Party Express, the Club for Growth or former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK). Many of them also had primary backing from Congressman Ron Paul’s (R-TX) Campaign for Liberty. All of them, except Colorado’s Ken Buck, want the United States to withdraw from the United Nations and to give up its veto power in the Security Council.
They are advocating an isolationist foreign policy which is sharply different from Ronald Reagan’s freedom agenda. Democrats are nominating liberals in all of these Senate races, and so far there is no polling data indicating a division with the GOP.
While Republicans will be united this year, a serious debate will be taking place regarding the future direction of the party. Utah is considered a safe Republican seat, but while the GOP now has the lead in several of the other states, victories in November are not guaranteed. National Republicans are worried about the impact of the Constitutional conservatives. They could lose some of the seats the GOP is hoping to gain this year, and they could also significantly change the traditional GOP platform.
This year’s most prominent insurgent is political novice Rand Paul, the son of the 1988 Libertarian Party presidential candidate. Rand Paul and his father did not support the 2008 Republican Party nominee.
National Security and the Constitution
Practically all the claims made by isolationists and libertarians about the Constitution are wrong. They justify their positions by claiming they are Constitutional conservatives, and are following policies of the founding fathers. Many of the things they claim are not Constitutionally allowed have been permitted by the Supreme Court. For example, the court has emphasized that participating in international organizations is a legitimate function of government and it is not prohibited by the Constitution.
The libertarians falsely believe that if something is not listed in the Constitution it is not allowed. Several Constitutional law cases have said that which is not forbidden is allowed. The Constitution contains no references to political parties, an Air Force, the Border Patrol, Executive Orders, Executive Privilege or Judicial Review. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) noted the absence of the word Border Patrol in the Constitution and then said it was unconstitutional.
The word bank is also not in the Constitution and this was the basis of the 1819 Supreme Court decision McCulloch v. Maryland where the state wanted to impede the actions of the Second Bank of the United States. The Court determined that Congress had the power to charter the bank. It invoked the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution, which allowed the Federal government to pass laws not provided for in the Constitution’s list of express powers. The Court ruled that the Constitution granted to Congress implied powers for implementing the Constitution’s express powers, in order to create a functional national government.
Similar to the libertarians, Maryland presented the court with a narrow interpretation of the Constitution. They said the word “necessary” in the necessary and proper clause meant Congress could only pass those laws which were absolutely essential in the execution of its enumerated powers. The Court rejected this argument. They said the word “necessary” in the Necessary and Proper Clause does not refer to the only way of doing something. The opinion stated that Congress has implied powers that need not be enumerated within the text.
The so-called Constitutional conservatives frequently cite the tenth amendment which says: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The tenth amendment does not prohibit activities cited by the isolationists. Supreme Court rulings have said the Tenth refers to duties, not the methods by which those duties are carried out.
They also claim the founders wanted “no entangling alliances” and that is why they are against U.S. participation in the UN, WTO and NATO, as well as the U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. America’s first overseas war was fought when Thomas Jefferson was in the White House, and the founders saw nothing wrong in projecting American power to the Mediterranean. The Barbary Pirates of the present day Libya were not in any way threatening the American homeland. They were attacking our ships in the Mediterranean and that was enough for Jefferson and his Secretary of State, James Monroe. The Preamble of the Constitution says the government should “provide for the common defense,” and our overseas role is preventing attacks.
What Does Rand Paul Believe?
The younger Paul no longer describes himself as a libertarian, and now says he is a “Constitutional conservative.” Some of his controversial positions are described below:

  • Rand Paul says President George W. Bush’s faith based initiatives were “a horrible mistake.”
  • He would have voted against going to war in Iraq, opposes the surge in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and opposes “a long-term occupation of Iraq.” Paul says “I live near Fort Campbell, and there are 50,000 soldiers there. I tell people you have to truly imagine what your feelings would be if those soldiers were Chinese soldiers and they were occupying the United States. We wouldn’t have it. Republican and Democrat, we’d be blowing up the Chinese with roadside bombs as they were coming off the base. No country wants foreign soldiers on their land.”
  • He says the government should not tell citizens what to do, and denounces seat-belt and anti-smoking laws as “Nanny-state” paternalism.
  • During the primary he advocated abolishing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because it is mandatory. He has since reversed himself. The claims he continues to make about the ADA are wrong. There has been no case in which an employer has been forced to install an elevator.
  • He has now changed his position and says he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It was his father who told the House on the 40th anniversary of the legislation in 2004, that the Civil Rights Act was “a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society.”
  • He criticized the Obama administration for treating BP unfairly over the Gulf Oil spill. He told Good Morning America: “What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.’ I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame-game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen.”
  • He opposes the Fair Housing Act. Most housing discrimination is by private citizens, but Paul does not want any restrictions on what a property owner can do. Under his recommendations, it would be fine for a property owner to refuse to sell his home to a black or Jewish person. He says “Decisions concerning private property and associations should in a free society be unhindered.”
  • He is correct to attack excessive government regulations, but many of his examples are wrong. He opposes “the 1994 Clean Water Act” because of its requirement to set the flush volume of toilets at 1.6 gallons per flush. The Clean Water Act was in 1972 and it has nothing to do with toilets. He is thinking of George H.W. Bush’s Energy Policy Act of 1992.
    The standard had previously been 3.4 gallons, and there has never been any attempt to repeal this requirement. Paul says “What happens in Congress is that when you call something the Clean Water Act, everybody is afraid to vote against it because everyone is for clean water. So they fall over themselves to vote for things and they don’t read the legislation.”
  • He vehemently opposes the Bush administration’s policy of enhanced interrogation, and says “I think torture is always wrong” and “our country should have a higher ideal than that.” Adm. Dennis Blair, who was Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, points out that most of what we know about al-Qaeda came from using those techniques on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah.
    Blair said, “High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country. As late as 2006 fully half of the government’s knowledge about the structure and activities of Al Qaeda came from those interrogations.” Former CIA Director George Tenet says this was definitely not torture and never came close to the definition of torture, “I know this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots.”
  • Paul is a regular guest on the radio program antiwar.com, and wants to see significant reductions in the Pentagon budget, as well as the closure of overseas military bases. Echoing a line often used by liberal Democrats, Paul says we must stop “giving a blank check to the military-industrial complex. . . As conservatives, we say throwing more money at a problem doesn’t always fix it. But then all the sudden, we lose our brains and say, a billion dollars here, a trillion dollars there to Halliburton. We keep spending with no restraint. . . . We need to recognize as Republicans that we can’t give a blank check to the military.”
    Paul says, “We have such sophisticated weapons that nobody can challenge us militarily in the world. We don’t need to be provoking these crazy people by being in their countries.” That is just what the isolationists of the 1930s believed — right up until Pearl Harbor.
    The terrorists have attacked us:1993 (WTC I), 1996 (Khobar Towers), 1998 (African Embassies), 2000 (USS Cole), and 2001 (WTC/Pentagon). His logic would have caused the US to lift not a finger to help Europe against Hitler (remember: “non-intervention”), nor help the West Berliners (1948), nor help the South Koreans (1950), nor help the Grenadians (1984), nor help the Kuwaitis (1990).
  • Paul has been an eye surgeon in Kentucky since 1993, and says the way to reduce health care costs is to get rid of insurance. That way patients can negotiate directly with their doctors without going through insurance companies. Very few people are willing to give up their insurance because it spares you from bankruptcy when you are hit with catastrophic costs. It also allows you to get preventive care that reduces future expenses.
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