With 2016 just around the corner, Rand Paul is starting to take some heat for his foreign policy views. His response to these criticisms, better yet his responses, is causing more confusion that clarity.
In his defense, Rand Paul probably has the toughest case to make in the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. That’s because he’s the only candidate running that is attempting to introduce an entirely new paradigm into the process. Everyone else either wants to keep doing what has lost the last two elections (the establishment), or return to what has proven to work (the Reagan playbook).
On the other hand, Rand is attempting to combine his father and Barry Goldwater’s legacies into a cohesive message. While both men rightfully have their admirers, it should also be noted the American people nationally rejected both men’s messages in the past when given the chance. Rand wants to combine Goldwater’s fiery domestic anti-big government rhetoric with his father’s non-interventionist foreign policy. That’s a tough sell for some people, because they think you’re being harder on the home team than you are Iran.
Still, Rand does have one major advantage over his father. The knock on Rand’s father wasn’t just ideological. Many of Ron Paul’s intra-party critics also thought he was a bit crazy. In that respect Rand is nothing like his dad. He’s always lucid and rarely gets rattled. As a result, more people are going to take Rand’s statements and beliefs more seriously than they ever took his father’s, whom they might have just immediately dismissed given his quirkiness. So for Rand his claim on the nomination will rise and fall solely on the strength of his worldview, and his ability to articulate it.
And right now Rand’s worldview is being tested on foreign policy, perhaps the first and most pressing issue a president must deal with on a daily basis.
After being a much-needed voice of moral clarity last fall in rightfully helping to steer the country away from another Middle East mistake in Syria, Russia’s incursion into Ukraine the past couple of weeks is straining the limits of Rand’s non-interventionism. Look no further than Rand’s conflicted messaging on the issue for evidence.
On February 25th, National Review’s Robert Costa wrote an article for The Washington Post titled “Rand Paul: GOP shouldn’t ‘tweak’ Russia over Ukraine.” The article quotes Rand as saying, “Some on our side are so stuck in the Cold War era that they want to tweak Russia all the time and I don’t think that is a good idea.”
But then in an op-ed for Time on March 9th, Rand said he would take a much tougher stance against Putin than what the president has taken. Rand calls Russia’s movement into Crimea “an invasion of Ukraine” and “an affront to the International Community.” I can’t recall a single time Ron Paul ever cared about “an affront to the International Community.” That is the language of the neo-cons the Paul movement spitefully parodies every time they get the chance.