I generally think Rand Paul is a positive influence on the Republican Party. From drug policy, to sentencing reform, to same-sex marriage; Paul’s libertarian views inform his hands-off position on a number of contentious social issues. Or, in his words, “I think Republicans could only win in general if they become more live and let live — ‘leave me alone.’”
For a generation of young people who consider themselves fiscally conservative but socially liberal, Paul’s prominence robs center-left youth of the ability to dismiss the GOP outright as either bigoted or theocratic. Paul forces the young voters to internalize and counter conservative and libertarian arguments on social policy – a development Democratic strategists are not happy about.
The Kentucky Senator is also an important thorn in the “Republican establishment’s” side. Paul recently endorsed Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) for reelection over his Chamber of Commerce-backed primary opponent. Amash, another outspoken libertarian politician who often adopts positions matters foreign and domestic contrary to Republican orthodoxy, is another benefit to the party. You don’t have to agree with either of these GOP politicians to appreciate that internal dissent and debate makes for a vibrant and healthy political movement.
But that equation changes when one of these divergent libertarian voices seeks to become the leader of his party and the President of the United States. Paul, like his father before him, clearly has designs on the White House, and he has been calibrating his position on a variety of issues in order to appeal to a broader universe of Republican primary voters.
For example, since the start of the most recent conflict in Gaza, Paul has been actively attempting to get on the right side of the majority of GOP primary voters by expressing his support for Israel insofar as that support comports with his support for American retrenchment. Writing in National Review recently, Paul insisted that the appropriate American response to the conflict was to cut off U.S. foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority.
But Hamas, not the Palestinian Authority, is responsible for the latest round of violence. The P.A. has been a relatively responsible actor in this conflict. Furthermore, this was not Paul’s first attempt to seek the end of foreign aid to the P.A… or, for that matter, Israel. Or the rest of the world. In fact, Paul has long advocated for the cessation of all foreign aid and assistance – a miniscule fraction of the federal budget. The senator’s about face on this issue is nakedly, transparently political. For a politician with aspirations for higher office, there is nothing remarkable about this.
However, it is clear that Paul’s natural instincts on foreign affairs are closer to those of his father, even if he is savvier at articulating his preferred policy solutions. Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), however, is as outspoken as ever and continues to display none of his son’s savoir-faire. The former Texas congressman’s views on foreign affairs are well outside the Republican mainstream, conspiratorial, and extraordinarily damaging to his son’s presidential ambitions.
Take, for example, Ron Paul’s most recent tinfoil hat theorizing (and by “most recent,” I mean yesterday). In this clip, the good doctor asks “Why won’t Obama just leave Ukraine alone?” He proceeds to embrace virtually every conspiratorial notion the Kremlin has advanced in order to absolve themselves of the blame they deserve for arming and assisting pro-Russian rebels who shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 on July 17.
Along with claiming that the global intelligence agencies which blamed Russia for providing Russian separatist with the SA-11 anti-air missile that took down MH17 had not been “proven,” he proceeded to suggest that the American accusation that Russia was guilty of “creating the conditions” which led to violence in eastern Ukraine is problematic.
“That is a dangerous measure of culpability, considering U.S. support for separatist groups in Syria and elsewhere,” Paul said.
This is a gross conflation of terms. The Kremlin seeks to create the equivalence between America’s support for moderate anti-Assad resistance fighters (who do not seek separatism, but seek merely to overthrow a genocidal dictator who happens to enjoy Moscow’s backing) and their support for separatist rebels in Ukraine. Paul is buying directly into Russian propaganda, and his son will have to answer for it on the campaign trail.
Again, this is merely the latest in a string of episodes in which the elder Paul has kneecapped his son by repeating dangerous anti-Western propaganda disseminated by the enemies of the United States. Republican primary voters will not stand for that, and Paul may be faced with the tormenting prospect of having to denounce his own father. Neither Paul could wish for that outcome, so why can’t Rand convince his father to keep his thoughts on international affairs to himself?