President Donald Trump and Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) played another round of golf this Sunday in New Jersey before Paul was seen boarding Air Force One with the president for a flight back to Washington. It is another sign of a strengthening Trump-Paul alliance as the two meet to strategize over policy and politics.
The White House said in a statement:
"The President played a quick round of golf with Senator Rand Paul who the president really likes and enjoys spending time with. He also spent the weekend working on economic growth and making calls on the economy and national security."
Say what you want about Donald Trump, but though the New York real estate and reality television billionaire is commonly portrayed by his enemies as a thin-skinned, narcissist with a myopic, inflexible view of the world, he does not, in fact, prefer to only surround himself with sycophants and "yes men."
For proof of that, look no further than his close relationship with U.S. Senator Rand Paul, one of the most independent policymakers in the U.S. Senate. Paul has made a name for himself in Washington as the conscience of the Republican Party and a thorn in the side of the business-as-usual, establishmentarian status quo.
A Politico story earlier this month, "Trump connects with Rand 'at gut level,'" by Eliana Johnson summarizes the seemingly unlikely -- though perhaps inevitable -- alliance well:
"He infuriates West Wing aides who have had to scramble to win his support for key votes, but Rand Paul has the ear, and the affection, of the most important person in the White House: President Donald Trump.
Once bitter rivals on the Republican campaign trail, the Kentucky senator and the commander-in-chief have bonded over a shared delight in thumbing their noses at experts the president likes to deride as 'foreign policy eggheads,' including those who work in his own administration...
Both Paul and Trump routinely rail against foreign entanglements, foreign wars, and foreign aid — positions characterized as isolationist by critics and as 'America first' by the president and his supporters.
Even on points of where they disagree, Paul has extracted small victories."
"Small" seems hardly the word to use here, because the most remarkable part of this story is Johnson reports that "a GOP foreign policy expert in frequent contact with the White House" says Rand Paul may have averted another multi-decade, trillion-dollar, thousands-dead Iraq War-like quagmire by talking Donald Trump out of regime change in Iran. This was against the president's own instincts and the persistent prodding of his many neocon foreign policy advisors, like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.
NJ.com called Rand Paul an "unexpected guest" on Air Force One in its report on the golf outing this weekend. Yet, this is hardly the first time the two have spent time on the golf course together.
After hitting the links with Trump last October when the president signed an executive order – written by Paul – to end state health insurance monopolies by allowing the purchase of health insurance across state lines, Paul joked with reporters:
"The president never loses, didn't you know? The president and his partner beat me and my partner by three holes. He's a little better golfer than I am, admittedly, but we had a good time."
This weekend Paul reportedly asked Trump to revoke sanctions on members of the Russian legislature so they can travel to the United States to meet with government officials here, signaling a continued thaw of the old Cold War between the United States and Russia.