Commentary Magazine


Is Silence Enough?

Rand Paul is learning what it means to have the bright, hot light of national media on him. After an obnoxious outing on ABC during which Paul whined and railed at the mainstream media for outing his views on federal anti-discrimination legislation, he changed his tune and told Wolf Blitzer on CNN point blank that he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. With little explanation of the quick evolution in his views, he said he’s a definite yes on whether he’d have voted for the Act in 1964. On the Americans with Disabilities Act, he flailed around for a bit and then came down on the side of maybe.

Should we be surprised, then, that Paul abruptly cancelled on short notice his appearance on Meet the Press? I suppose he could try to hide from every unsympathetic reporter in the country, but such a decision will simply underscore the fact that he can’t be trusted to go out in public.

And one other disturbing note about the Blitzer interview: he didn’t firmly disassociate himself from his father’s foreign-policy views:

BLITZER: I want you to have a chance to differentiate, if you want to differentiate, with your dad. I’ve interviewed Congressman Ron Paul on many occasions and we’ve gone through all of these issues. He’s a principled libertarian, as you well know. First of all, are you as principled a libertarian in — from your perspective, as your dad?

PAUL:  Some will say not. I call myself a constitutional conservative, which I’m — means that I believe that the constitution does restrict and restrain the federal government and we should be doing a lot less than we’re doing. And if we did so, I think we would balance the budget and we would have more local and state control…

BLITZER: All right.

PAUL: So we’ll agree on a lot of issues and we’ll disagree on some and there may be some nuance. But I would say I —  you know, he will probably still be the — the number one libertarian in the country. I’m probably not going to supplant him there.

BLITZER: You’re not going to be able to compete, because there are four votes — and I’ve discussed this with him himself — in with the vote was 425-1 or 421-1, 424-1, for example, a war — asking Arab states to acknowledge genocide in Darfur, asking Vietnam to release a political prisoner, condemning the Zimbabwe government, awarding a gold medal to Rosa Parks.

Your dad was the only member on the Democratic and Republican side to vote against that because he’s a principled libertarian and he doesn’t want the U.S. government involved in any of these issues.

Are you the same as him?

PAUL:  Probably not. And the thing is, is that he is incredibly principled. And I admire him for the stands he’s taken. Interestingly, some of those things, it sounds like how could anybody be against that? The reason he votes against it a lot of times is not that he disagrees with the position. Often, he’ll disa — he’ll agree with the position of the resolution, but just think that the government really shouldn’t be making a statement on some of these things.

I think it’s yet to be seen how I’ll vote on resolutions — non-binding resolutions. But I’m probably not going to be the great path breaker that he is. But I think he stands on principle and I think he’s well respected because he doesn’t compromise his principles.

Does this include resolutions on Israel? Is he on board with the war in Afghanistan or not? Does he think we should be promoting human rights abroad? He recently did put out a position paper on Israel — presumably drafted for him — which was a step in the right direction. So one doesn’t sense that he’s exactly in lockstep with his father on foreign policy, but neither is he interested in conducting a robust war on Islamic jihadists or promoting American values around the world. If elected, will he have more in common with Obama on foreign policy than with any other Republican senator? I would think so.

If Paul is going to survive — and it’s an open question whether he should — he can’t hide from the media or the voters. He’s going to have to articulate a non-wacky view of foreign and domestic policy that is in line with average Kentucky voters. And if he can’t do that, or if he doesn’t really feel comfortable with non-wacky views, then Kentucky Republicans made a big mistake in nominating him. Other Republicans, conservative activists, and bloggers should consider their nominees this year and in 2012 very carefully; otherwise they will lose a golden opportunity afforded by Obama to unify conservatives and attract independent voters. They might want to consider the Republicans who won high-profile races: Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown. Yes, they ran against big government and Obamaism, but they were all well-versed in policy and ideologically well within mainstream conservatism.

And if Republicans want an example of political suicide, they can take a look at the Democrats both in and outside of Connecticut. They collectively have failed the political sobriety test. Connecticut Democrats on Friday formally nominated Richard Blumenthal. With the Democrats painting Ron Paul as the GOP’s poster boy and Republicans doing the same with Blumenthal for the Democratic Party, voters may decide that sometimes it’s better to have a candidate with a bit of experience, who’s been vetted before the primary, and who doesn’t spend his time denying that he is a liar or an extremist.

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