Well, not literally literally. You’ll see what I mean.
A little pre-debate hors d’oeuvre here for you that turns LBJ’s “Daisy” ad on its head. The target in this case isn’t a candidate whose hawkishness would instigate a nuclear war but one whose dovishness, specifically towards Iran, supposedly will. It’s a groin-punch for Rand too insofar as he came out against Obama’s Iran nuclear deal last month to the anguish of his libertarian base. Why he did that makes no sense to me; hawks won’t trust him on foreign policy no matter how tough he tries to be so he might as well cultivate his dad’s fans by being the isolationist they crave. He could have called on Obama publicly to nuke Tehran and Bolton still would have hit him with something like this, in which case why not make doves happy by endorsing the deal? He’s got nothing to lose from it right now given his slide in the polls, and it’d make for a more interesting campaign than the “hawk lite” one he seems to be sticking with. If tea partiers want a guy who’ll shrink government and be reliably hawkish, they’ve got Ted Cruz. Rand needs to reclaim his brand.
That’s one reason this ad feels dated — it’s treating Rand as though he’s running as Ron, which he isn’t, and as though his vision is as formidable as Ron’s, which it isn’t (so far). The other reason, of course, is that the party’s been in the grip of Trumpmania for more than a month, leaving the great foreign policy argument everyone assumed the GOP would be having tonight as an afterthought. Believe it or not, as recently as this past spring, it seemed like the highlight of the first Republican primary debate would be a colloquy between Rand Paul and Marco Rubio or possibly Chris Christie on interventionism and the surveillance state. Now it seems like the highlight will be Donald Trump demanding to know from Jeb Bush whether he really thinks he’s an A-hole. Ramesh Ponnuru’s right. The party deserves this.
Update: My mistake. Initially I said in the headline that it was John Bolton’s PAC that produced the ad. Actually, it was a Foundation he heads; he also has a PAC, but that had nothing to do with this spot. Sorry for the mistake.