Rand Paul 2009: How come Cheney changed his mind on invading Iraq after working for Halliburton?

Via WaPo, the key bit comes at 6:45. I wonder how many clips like this of Paul from his, shall we say, “rawer” days have already ended up on hard drives owned by Team Rubio and Team Cruz. I remember another clip of him on the trail in early 2009 fielding a question about Gitmo detainees and spitballing that they should either be sent back to their countries of origin or dropped back off in Afghanistan(!) because at least then it’d take them a long time to get back to the U.S. Think you’ll see that in any ads next year?

This bit below about Cheney is actually a nice illustration of the difference between Rand then and now. Today I think he’d be just as eager to cite Cheney’s mid-90s skepticism about invading Iraq but would leave the last little bit, suggesting brainwashing or collusion involving Halliburton, off. Whether you think that’s because he’s sincerely changed his mind since then about the priorities that drove the last Republican administration or because he’s simply trying to hide his Ron-nier impulses from mainstream righties depends on how well disposed to him you are generally. If you like him, probably nothing short of him saying that “Dad and I agree on everything” will scare you away. (Speaking of 2009, he apparently told the one and only Alex Jones in May of that year that he and his father are “very, very similar” on policy but disagree sometimes on how to present their message. That was in reply to Jones asking him if he’s a “chip off the old block.”) I confess, though, I have zero sense of how all of this play with the “somewhat conservative” voters who tend to swing GOP primaries. Do they care that Paul dumped on Dick Cheney five years ago? Even if they dislike the conspiratorial imputations involving Halliburton, I bet in hindsight most would have preferred Paul’s dovish approach to Iraq than Cheney’s. Maybe they’ll cut him some slack for that.

Never mind them, though; there are two threats clips like this pose to Paul’s candidacy and neither involves swing voters. One is that they create more of an opening for Cruz with tea partiers. If you like both Paul and Cruz and are intent on supporting a conservative in the primaries, this sort of thing may be the tiebreaker. That’s not necessarily fatal to Rand’s chances but it makes life harder. The second threat is if he shocks the world and ends up winning the nomination. Democrats aren’t going to hammer him for dumping on Dick Cheney, but I wonder if Republican hawks, having gorged on a diet of anti-Paul oppo in this vein in the primaries, will decide that they can’t in good conscience support the GOP this time. There may even be prominent Republican defections to help further move the Overton window towards staying home or voting Democrat.

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