Responding to Washington Stakeout, Senator-Elect Rand Paul said today that there needs to be a national debate on Afghanistan, that Congress has abdicated its role and that U.S. actions today should not be based on the debate ten years ago or the resolution of ten years ago. During his interview with ABC, just before being questioned by Stakeout, Paul call for cutting the military budget as well as other federal programs.
Paul calls himself a “conservative constitutionalist” and said he wants a war declaration vote rather than a use of force resolution generally. Still he seemed to stop short of calling the current situation unconstitutional, or saying exactly how he thinks it should be rectified. Article 1, Section 8  of course says that Congress has the power “to declare war”.
Question: Senator-Elect, are there examples where Bush exceeded proper limits of executive power in the “War on Terror,” and is Obama doing the same now?
Paul: Well, I think that I would like to see when we go to war that we declare war formally, and I think we should go to war reluctantly, and I think we do as Americans believe in a certain reluctance towards going to war, but I think when we had a use of force resolution instead of a declaration of war resolution, that lessened the debate somehow, and I think it needs to be elevated to an incredibly important plateau in order to discuss it. So I will argue that when we go into hostilities, we declare war formally and we don’t do it with a use of force resolution.
Question: So do you think that that precludes doing something about Afghanistan to rectify that, I guess what you would say, unconstitutional status?
Paul: No, I think — well no, I think what we need to figure out is where to go forward in Afghanistan. We need to have a national debate and say, is our national security still threatened? I don’t think it’s enough to have had the debate ten years ago, and just accept that that’s the same ongoing — the situation hasn’t changed. We’ve been there for ten years, and I think Congress has abdicated its role. Congress needs to have more of a role in talking about foreign policy. So there needs to be a debate within the Senate and the House, over what is in our national security interest and has it changed in Afghanistan? Can we do nation-building? Do we have the money to do nation-building? Is it effective? Those are things that should be discussed and should not be all based on a resolution from over ten years ago.
Question: Beyond the discussion that needs to happen, what’s your position, in terms of, are we in violation of the Constitution? How do you rectify that? And also in terms of Yemen and Pakistan now?
Paul: I think we need to have a debate over it, at the very least, is we need to begin to debate. I don’t think we’re even having the debate. So I think it’s a step forward to have the debate.
(Paul also addressed the military budget. While on with Christiane Amanpour, he said: “Republicans never say they’ll cut anything out of military. What I say is, national defense is the most important thing we do in Washington, but there’s still waste in the military budget. You have to make it smaller, but you also then need to address, how many wars are we going to be involved in? Are we going to be involved in every war all the time?” Transcript )
Special thanks to Glenn Greenwald (who suggested the opening question), Robert Naiman and Jonathan Schwarz.