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April 07, 2015

Rand Paul Announces He's Running For President

First Cruz, now Paul, next week Rubio. Oy it's early.

As someone who is inclined to support Paul this is terrible news. He is by far the best candidate if your primary interest is shrinking government. The problem is….the baggage. There’s a lot of it. There will be more of it. Supporting him is like running around with a live grenade after the pin has been pulled….you could do a lot of damage to the bad guys with it or it could go off in your hand and kill you.

They’ll be plenty of time to deal with the many challenges of being a Paul supporter but the one I want to deal with a bit today is foreign policy/national security. In short, he drives the hawks nuts. In fact, a group of them are spending a million dollars to go after him today on his supposed “isolationism.”

I’m not a big fan of the traditional libertarian “let’s just trade with people and it will be ok” school of thought. There are bad guys in the world and some of them need killing. It’s not simply enough to say “we should simply defend our borders from invasion because that’s what defense means.” That’s just a childish view of the world. It’s also not one I’m positive Rand Paul holds. He can, to the chagrin of his more ardent big L Libertarian critics, be someone hard to pin down on this subject.

That said, I’ve not been impressed with the results of the hawks worldview either.

We can argue about how much Iraq was a failure of Bush in launching the war vs. Obama for walking away but I’d hope we did learn one very important lesson from that adventure….Muslim Arab nations are not fertile ground for planting the flag of liberty. They have ancient cultures, beliefs and traditions which are simply not amenable to modernization nor are they compatible with western values. This will not change through the liberal application of American military force.

We also learned in Libya that simply bouncing around some ruble and walking away won’t get us very far either.

Paul is never going to be a Rubio-like hawk (thankfully) but I think conservatives who might otherwise be open to supporting him but have questions on these issues should consider a few things.

Presidents generally operate in much narrower bands of policy options than their rhetoric suggests. Obama owes his presidency in large measure to his anti-war stance yet even he expanded the war in Afghanistan (and recently walked away from his plan to totally end our involvement there), expanded the drone war far beyond anything even George W. Bush would have dreamt of, bombed Libya just because and defended massive government intelligence gathering programs.

Rand Paul will talk a big game about a lot of this stuff but if he’s elected (a really long shot) he will find, like Obama, reality requires a certain accommodation. Obama’s shift to the right on national security came while he was leading a very liberal party. Paul will not only find that the realities of the office demand and adjustment to his instincts but he’ll know he leads a party far to the right of him on these issues. If nothing else, Paul has shown himself to be…adaptable and not simply a hardcore ideologue (at least when it comes to packaging his message). The one thing all first term Presidents want is a second term. That alone will constrain any of his wilder impulses. The reality of a Republican Congress will also serve as another check on a President Paul’s options.

This is not to say that Paul would be totally helpless or ineffective in creating his own foreign and defense policies. I just think he’d be more Eisenhower like than a Republican version of Jimmy Carter. Personally, I can live with that.

Just as Paul must answer questions about his views, the hawks should answer for their failures and explain how they would go about doing things differently in the future.

People are always saying you’ll never get the perfect candidate and you have to take the good with the bad. I agree. With a Rubio type candidate I get a foreign policy I don’t like and probably don’t get much I like domestically either. At least with Paul, I get someone really interesting in shrinking government. I’ll just have to take my chances with his foreign policy.

No matter what, it’s going to be a long year. I look forward to all the exercise I’m going to get from jumping on and off the Paul bandwagon.

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posted by DrewM. at 11:39 AM

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