Thad Mercer, director of trading at a securities firm, came away a believer in Mr. Paul’s presidential prospects. “He was right on point,” Mr. Mercer said. “So many people dance around the question, never give you an answer. He’s a serious candidate in my eyes.”
And yet some Republicans say Mr. Paul needs to start acting more like one. They note that he does not have a political or fund-raising infrastructure to match his emerging national profile.
Mr. Paul has been working to change that, keeping a frenetic schedule more befitting a presidential candidate than a first-term senator. While his speeches before conservative audiences and on liberal campuses draw headlines, he also is trying to cultivate relationships with wealthy Republican contributors — vital in this pre-primary season.
He is slowly fusing the small-dollar donor base that contributed $41 million to the 2012 presidential campaign of his father, Ron, with the more traditional donors who raised millions for more mainstream candidates.
Here’s what I find interesting. The bad things that Johnson’s brother and daughter went through happened while drugs were illegal. In other words, they were endogenous to the drug war. So Rand Paul questions a policy that prevailed while those bad things happened and yet he is, presumably, regarded as insensitive for talking about them. What if Rand Paul had been a strong believer in the drug war and what if he had known about Johnson’s family tragedies? Would it then have been appropriate for him to have talked about his belief in the drug war? Maybe the idea is that you just shouldn’t talk about anything that could trigger any negative feelings in your host. If so, I get that. That’s a judgment call, but at least I get it.
But what so few people seem to understand is that virtually all their horror stories about drugs occurred during a time when drugs were illegal. That is not in itself a slam-dunk argument for legalization. Much more is needed to make the case against the drug war. But if all these horror stories occurred during the drug war, it is hard to see how people can so easily think that these horror stories are an argument for the drug war.
Is Rand Paul really “the most intriguing man in today’s Republican Party?”
That’s the assertion Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus made the other day, going beyond that to declare the US Senator from Kentucky “for Democrats, perhaps the most frightening” potential presidential candidate in 2016.
That election is light years away in political time, of course. Sen. Paul could trip over something, like the evidence of sloppy plagiarism in his past speeches and writings he was forced to acknowledge last year.
But really, compared with the other Republicans mentioned these days – Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, etc. (plus such 2012 also-rans as Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, both sniffing the presidential winds again) – he’s positively sparkly.
“Here’s a guy who’s got Neera Tanden and Newt Gingrich in agreement that he’s interesting and provocative — and so I definitely think Rand Paul gets the ‘most interesting Republican on the scene’ prize for the past year,” said Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today.
Page said Paul is “clearly a factor” going into the 2016 elections.
“And if anyone thought he was just Ron Paul Two — that’s clearly not the case,” she said, referring to his father, who ran for the GOP nomination in 2008 and also ran for president in 1988 as a libertarian candidate. “He’s carving out his own identity, it’s distinctive. Sometimes he takes on Republicans, sometimes he takes on Democrats,” she said.
The libertarian-leaning senator is fresh off a speech at the historically liberal-leaning University of California at Berkeley, where he talked about the National Security Agency’s surveillance program and the Republican Party’s need for change.
In the case of political emotions—at least the kind set off by Marcus’s column—there’s not a whole lot of harm that will be done. Rand Paul’s backers will surely be circulating the clipping to raise funds and enthusiasm for their man; Democrats will, just as surely, circulate it in alarm to push their own agenda. The impact on Paul’s fortunes will likely be a wash.
There’s nothing wrong with giving transitory feelings a role in in-the-moment decision-making. It’s what pushes us to do brave and creative and scary things when simple prudence would dictate otherwise, and it does motivate us to get politically involved. But sometimes, standing still and doing nothing is just as smart. Right-now feelings belong in the brain’s front seat; they just don’t belong behind the wheel.
“Rand Paul recently made a comment that he thinks the Republican Party, in order to get bigger and not alienate young people, would have to agree to disagree on social issues,” the reporter asked Cruz. “Do you agree with Senator Paul on that?”
“Look. I am a conservative,” he asserted. “I am a fiscal conservative, I am a social conservative. I think we’ve seen that in order for the Republican Party to succeed we need to be a big tent. We need to embrace American values, American values that have been present in our country . . . for centuries.”
“There are some who say the Republican Party should no longer stand for life,” he continued. “I don’t agree with that. There are some who say the Republican Party should no longer stand for traditional marriage. I don’t agree with them either. I think we should continue to defend our shared values.”