"Reserving judgment": Rand Paul ducks question of whether Snowden should be prosecuted

An obligatory follow-up to my post yesterday predicting that Rand will, eventually, call for jail time for Snowden. Charlie Rose tries to pin him down on that no fewer than three times (the third comes at the very end of the clip) and Rand ducks each and every one — which, in fairness, is the prudent play at the moment for his position. If he’s too quick to call for Snowden to be locked up, he’ll annoy libertarians who’ll see it (correctly) as pandering to conservative hawks. Also, think how that would play if the Chinese ended up grabbing Snowden and interrogating him against his will. “Rand wanted Snowden in a cell before the ChiComs did!” Not a good way to shore up support among your dad’s supporters, especially since he was out of the gate early yesterday in praising Snowden.

On the other hand, there’s no way realistically that he can argue against punishing Snowden somehow. Glenn Greenwald is promising more revelations to come, remember; if something ends up being published that gets Americans in the field killed, a Rand who’s already on the record as pro-Snowden will have a five-alarm fire on his hands. Likewise, what if Snowden ends up seeking asylum in China or Russia and Americans start to suspect he was aiming to spill U.S. secrets to the local authoritarians all along? Righty hawks will bludgeon Paul with that. And Rand knows it, which explains today’s no comment: Once we have a better sense of exactly what Snowden’s done and what he’s planning to do, Rand will start to inch publicly towards the inevitable “sadly, he must be prosecuted” position. That’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it.

His pop’s not making this easier for him, though:

[Ron Paul is] concerned about the fate of Snowden, who was last seen in Hong Kong after fleeing the country several weeks ago, and worries that the 29-year-old whistleblower might come to be viewed as a “traitor” for his actions. “If you have a large government, or an empire, a dictatorial government, if you tell the truth, it’s treason, and that has to be reversed,” he says. “I’m concerned about whether the publicity is so strong that the people who are sympathetic will have to be silenced because they find out people are starting to believe, ‘Oh, he’s a communist defector and that’s why he’s in China.’”…

However, Snowden has his fair share of defenders. An online petition asking President Obama to pardon Snowden has accumulated more than 26,000 signatures since Sunday. Paul is supportive. “I mean, it’s early, but from everything I’ve heard, I’d say it’s a great idea,” he says. “The question is really, who are the criminals? The people who destroy our Constitution, or the people who tell us the truth about the individuals who are destroying our Constitution?”

Does Rand agree that Snowden should be pardoned? That would be an … interesting precedent to have on the record against President Paul in 2017.

Here’s the clip via Mediaite. I’m giving myself partial credit for predicting that Rand would frame this as a matter of “civil disobedience,” which splits the difference by suggesting that jail time is warranted but that the underlying crime was noble.