Senator Rand Paul Points Out ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ of Those Who Championed ‘Originalist’ Neil Gorsuch

Conservatives championed soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch because of his ‘originalist’ mindset when it comes to interpreting the Constitution. That means that he won’t be a conservative or a liberal when he considers cases. He’ll only look at the Constitution, and to the best of his ability understand the original intent of the law before applying it. There will be cases where he will render an opinion based on the law, in contrast to his personal preferences. It’s not about what he personally believes should be the law. It’s about what the law says and honestly applying it.

Rand Paul wrote an op-ed in Breitbart News championing Gorsuch for the same reason – his promise to be an originalist. But he pointed out what he described as cognitive dissonance.

On the same day the Senate confirmed Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Trump ordered a missile strike on the Shayrat Airbase.

While many Republicans fawned over [Gorsuch’s originalist] quality, they displayed remarkable cognitive dissonance when it came to applying it to a very public event the very day they approved the Gorsuch nomination.

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You see, too many of my colleagues have forgotten what it means to be an “Originalist” on the matter of going to war.

Our Founding Fathers found this to be one of the most important discussions at the time, and they were quite concerned about giving the power to declare war to the President. They were concerned an executive with that kind of power could choose to rule like a King.

Before sending our young men and women into battle, we should have a thoughtful and honest discussion about the ramifications, authorization, and motivations for war. 

That could be done if we were all Originalists; not just for the court, but for our legislative duties as well.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution grants the Congress and Congress alone the power to declare war. The President is given the power to direct the military only after the Congressional declaration has been passed.

Senator Paul said that he ‘salutes’ the nomination and confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, and he salutes the efforts of Republicans to confirm him and the fact that they supported him because of his views on the Constitution. “But,” Paul added, “I can’t say I don’t find it ironic that on the very day they did these things, they also turned a mostly blind eye to an illegal and unconstitutional military strike.”

Some conservatives are arguing that a declaration of war would be necessary, if this was an actual war. But since blowing up an airbase and killing a dozen or so people isn’t an “actual” act of war, there’s no need for Congressional approval.

It’s been described as a ‘one-off shot,’ a ‘limited air strike.’ It was the one option given the President that caused the least amount of damage and carnage. So, it could have been a lot worse. Therefore, it wasn’t an act of war.

Conservatives rightly got on to then-President Obama when he ordered a military strike in Libya without Congressional approval.  Here’s the New York Times from 2011:

On Monday, Mr. Obama sent Congress a two-page letter saying that as commander in chief, he had constitutional authority to authorize the strikes, which were undertaken with French, British and other allies. He wrote that the strikes would be limited in scope and duration, and that preventing a humanitarian disaster in Libya was in the best interest of American foreign policy and national security goals.


Some Democratic lawmakers — including Representatives Jerrold Nadler of New York, Barbara Lee of California and Michael E. Capuano of Massachusetts — complained in a House Democratic Caucus conference call as the bombing began that Mr. Obama had exceeded his constitutional authority by authorizing the attack without Congressional permission.

That sentiment was echoed by several Republican lawmakers — including Senators Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Rand Paul of Kentucky and Representative Roscoe G. Bartlett of Maryland — as well as in editorials and columns published over the weekend and on Monday in conservative opinion outlets like the Washington Times editorial page and National Review.


Critics say the merits of the operation and its legality under international law are matters separate from the domestic legal question of who — the president or Congress — has the authority to decide whether the United States will take part in combat.

“When there is no imminent threat to our country, he cannot launch strikes without authorization from the American people, through our elected representatives in Congress,” wrote Representative Justin Amash, a freshman Republican of Michigan, on his Facebook page. “No United Nations resolution or Congressional act permits the president to circumvent the Constitution.”

How exactly is it ‘different’ this time? Because it’s a different country? Because it’s a different president? Why is it that many conservatives – as well as numerous liberals – agreed that Obama had no Constitutional authority to do what he did in Libya, but now those same people are applauding what Trump has done in Syria?

Some, like Rand Paul, have been a lot more consistent on the issue.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

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