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NRO: Rand Paul’s War

He works the phones and the media to make the case for not intervening in Syria.

By Robert Costa | NRO | September 5, 2013

It’s 9:15 on Tuesday night and Capitol Hill is quiet as Senator Rand Paul emerges from Fox News’s studio near Union Station. His face is slightly smeared with powder from his appearance minutes earlier on Hannity, and Sergio Gor, a political aide, is trailing him. Paul walks quickly to the street, heading toward his nearby apartment. It’s been a long day for him, starting with a flight from Kentucky and followed by a packed afternoon at the Foreign Relations Committee. He’s eager to get to his place, rest up, and get ready for a busy week of debate.

But then Paul spots a group of his Senate staffers in the shadows, relaxing in the outdoor lounge at Johnny’s Half Shell, a seafood restaurant housed on the first floor of Fox News’s building. They signal him to come over. Paul glances at Gor, smiles, and hops smoothly over the small fence. The bartender looks on disapprovingly. His advisers chuckle; they’re impressed with their boss’s athleticism, and one raises a glass to toast him.

For the next 30 minutes, Paul sits with them, nursing a beer and sharing the latest stories about his opposition to military action in Syria. At first, there’s talk of his testy exchange with Secretary of State John Kerry at a hearing, then whispered updates about Republicans’ growing unease. Paul never says it explicitly, but it’s clear from his upbeat manner how much he relishes this fight. Of course he’s troubled by the prospect of war and he’s realistic about his chances of stopping one, but he’s enthused by how the GOP is shifting away from the foreign policy of the George W. Bush era.

And now, after more than three years of making an often lonely case for less U.S. intervention abroad, this likely 2016 presidential contender finds himself coordinating a brewing conservative rebellion — not only against the Obama administration, but also against his own party’s hawks. He’s huddling daily with conservatives in both the House and Senate and guiding them on how to battle the leadership. He also hasn’t ruled out a filibuster, though he has publicly played down the idea. One Paul confidant tells me the senator is already looking into buying comfier sneakers.


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