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Rand Paul and Liz Cheney’s clash gets personal as the Republican lawmakers fight over who Trump likes better

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) clashed Wednesday on Twitter over a key dividing line in modern Republican politics: the struggle between foreign policy hawks and doves.

But because this is 2019, the clash didn’t play out as a discussion about our moral obligations to foreigners or the strategic use of force abroad — instead, it came down to who President Donald Trump loves the most.

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The spat started when Paul shared a link to a Washington Examiner opinion piece penned by two Wyoming state legislators on Twitter. The lawmakers took aim at Cheney, saying she should “stop carping at Trump for rejecting endless war.” They blasted her for criticizing the president over his declination to attack Iran in June and for his consideration of a peace deal with the Taliban.

The Kentucky senator was a fan of the piece:

Naturally, that rubbed Cheney the wrong way, and she fired back:

Things then got really personal when Doug Stafford, Paul’s chief strategist, chimed in:

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Now, on one hand, this may just seem like pure pettiness. But the clash actually reveals some important features of the Republican Party and conservatism that are worth paying attention to.

First, consider that the grounds Cheney and Paul are playing on is that they both want Trump on their side. Though Cheney has criticized Trump’s anti-interventionist streak, and Paul has challenged the president’s use of executive power, both see it as in their interests to frame themselves as on Trump’s side. Though much is made of the so-called “Never Trump” Republicans, having the president on your side is usually still the goal of most intra-party fighting.

This only works, though, because Trump actually has given both Cheney and Paul reason to think he’s on each of their sides. Paul has the upper hand right now, as the departure of former National Security Adviser John Bolton is surely a blow to foreign policy hawk’s view of the world. But under certain circumstances, Trump could certainly come around to issuing airstrikes again, jump into another fight against a group like ISIS, or start another round of escalating military spending, all of which would bring a smile to Cheney’s face.

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Trump is fundamentally malleable on many policy positions. He likes the notion of avoiding foreign conflicts and concentrating on domestic policy, but he also imagines himself as a tough world-historical figure who can shape global affairs — and that stance always has the potential to lead to war. And while Bolton clearly pushed his luck too far by quarreling with the president’s conciliatory instincts, the fact that Trump hired the former national security adviser in the first place shows that aggressive foreign policy still has its allure.

So figures like Cheney and Paul are likely to continue battling for Trump’s soul — while the president will be more than happy to see them vying for his affections.


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Beto O’Rourke looks to reactivate suburban strength in Texas to help Democrats win

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The photo line for Beto O’Rourke here Saturday afternoon quickly turned into something of a reunion.

“Hey, I know who you are!" a characteristically sweat-drenched O'Rourke told one supporter. After talking to another, O'Rourke yelled out to an aide: "Hey, someone who worked on the campaign wants to be plugged in again!"

The vibe was similar a day later in Plano, where O'Rourke rallied in front of signs reading, "Welcome to Beto Country," serving up nostalgia from his near-miss loss to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz last year. He said the Senate race was the "only reason" he got to run for president, touting the support he built in Collin, Denton, Tarrant and Dallas counties before getting drowned out by cheers.

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2020 Election

Corey Lewandowski may use Judiciary Committee hearing to launch New Hampshire Senate run

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Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski will appear before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday to answer questions about incidents outlined in special counsel Robert Mueller's report. But he may use the appearance as a way to launch his New Hampshire Senate run.

Axios reported Sunday that the former top aide to President Donald Trump is eager for a fiery exchange between him and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and other Democrats.

“Corey will use [the hearing] as part of the campaign. He will be confrontational to the Democrats. He will be totally loyal to Trump. And he will be playing to the right-wing of the party who need to unite behind him in a primary," said former New Hampshire Attorney General Thomas Rath.

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Trump flip-flops on meeting with Iran with ‘no preconditions’– then blames it on the media

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President Donald Trump went off on the "fake news media" yet again, after his own appointees announced he was willing to meet with Iran.

"The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, 'No Conditions.' That is an incorrect statement (as usual!)," Trump tweeted.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1173371482812162048

In an odd twist, Trump announced just three months ago he'd be willing to meet with no preconditions.

“Not as far as I’m concerned – no preconditions,” the president said in a Meet the Press interview. At another point in the interview, he also said: “I think they want to make a deal. And my deal is nuclear.”

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