Rand Paul’s Unlikely Enthusiasts Now Include Nat Hentoff and Ana Marie Cox

|||One of the big questions about the presidential aspirations of the libertarian-leaning Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) is whether, when faced with the chance of electing the first female president, non-Republicans would really pull the lever for the author of the Life Begins at Conception Act.

The jury's still out on that, and may well always be, but it's at least interesting that the senator is getting positive notices from unusual quarters. Most recently there's Ana Marie Cox, in a Guardian piece titled "Ted Cruz's Tea Party allegiance only makes the case for Rand Paul stronger: There are two Republicans who can take down Hillary Clinton, and Rand Paul isn't much of a Republican. If the GOP wants to survive, it might be to time to ride the libertarian wave." Sample:

The key indicator for the Cruz-Paul matchup, at this ultra-early stage, is found in state head-to-head polls against Clinton: in the most recent polls from Iowa and North Carolina, Paul is the GOP nominee who comes the closest to besting Clinton – beating not just Cruz but Christie and Jeb Bush, too. In New Hampshire and Colorado, he's the only Republican that can beat her. [...]

Cruz's considerable ego flourishes in the spotlight, while Paul has a cagier – and more wonkily sedate – approach to grandstanding. Search the internet for wacky Rand Paul quotes. He puts his most right-wing proposals in deceptively simple language: framing the elimination of Social Security, for instance, as "I think the average American is smart enough to make their own investments." His other gaffes are in support of libertarian ideas that sound weird only in the context of being a Republican in 2014: "I think torture is always wrong," for instance, or saying he would have voted against invading Iraq. [...]

Paul's libertarianism is unapologetic; where he's strayed from GOP orthodoxy, it's largely in the direction that the American public is going – and not just his call for National Security Administration oversight (supported by 59% of Americans). On marriage equality (also supported by 59% of Americans), Paul told his party that they need to "agree to disagree". In contrast, Cruz has introduced a bill that would invalidate the federal benefits of same-sex marriages if the couple moves to a marriage-restricted state – and he asked listeners to "pray" that marriage equality rulings be reversed.

But it's not just about bending with the popular will. Paul has staked out positions outside the GOP orthodoxy that are also on the periphery of the average voter's radar. He at least admits that the Republican mania for voter ID laws is counter-productive: "Republicans need to be aware that there is a group of voters that I’m trying to court and that we should be trying to court who do see it as something directed towards them." Both Paul and Cruz advocate drug sentencing reform, but Paul backs up that gesture with the belief that felons' voting rights should be reinstated. 

There are to-be-sures to be sure; read the whole thing here (hat tip: David Boaz).

Less surprising but more explicitly enthusiastic is a two-part (so far) endorsement last month from the venerable civil-libertarian journalist Nat Hentoff. From "My Pro-Constitution Choice for President":

For me, Paul made real a fantasy I'd long held: that someone running for the presidency, as he clearly is, would focus insistently on what it means under our Constitution to be an American – with basic individual rights and liberties no government has the authority to suspend or erase.

In "The Distinctive Core of Sen. Rand Paul," Hentoff works through his hesitations about Paul's approach toward foreign policy and The Civil Rights Act, then concludes:

As of now, from what I know of all the candidates for the presidency across the political spectrum, that advice for regenerating the Constitution defines Rand Paul.

Hentoff’s archive (which includes more recent Paul-related material) here. Reason on "The Most Interesting Man in the Senatehere.

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  • albo||

    Ana Marie Cox: the Molly Ivins of her time. I picture her typing this with an afghan and a cat on her lap.

  • John||

    Cox is a complete nitwit, but wow that is cruel. Cox is at least not burn victim ugly like Ivins was.

  • I can't trust my fans||

    Rand Paul has the good will of Ana Marie Cox? Great! His campaign was in desperate need of support from the "journalist" who spent the entirety of the 2004 presidential campaign speculating about the size of John Kerry's member.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "One of the big questions about the presidential aspirations of the libertarian-leaning Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) is whether, when faced with the chance of electing the first female president, non-Republicans would really pull the lever for the author of the Life Begins at Conception Act."

    I'm more plugged in to what people are saying about Rand Paul than the average voter, I've never heard anyone ask that question, Matt.

    How big a question can it really be?

    The big question is whether Rand Paul can get nominated by the Republicans--anyone the Republicans nominate is going to be nominally against abortion.

    Granny Clinton has a ton of her own baggage, all of it much worse than Rand Paul--essentially--being a Republican.

  • John Thacker||

    The nomination question is a bigger deal, I agree.

    He's capable of winning the Presidency by shaking up the coalition of voters (some nat'l security pro-war Rs would vote Clinton over him), but reforming a coalition is a tricky way to win a primary.

    The R party has a number of factions. The libertarian faction candidate tends to get knocked out before the field gets narrowed to two, and tends to swing towards the establishment as preferable to the so-con candidate, which is why the establishment candidate always gets nominated, by being minimally acceptable and a second choice of all the factions.

  • John||

    Paul is not your typical libertarian candidate. He appeals to a lot of people outside of Libertarians, unlike his father and Johnson. Moreover, people are much more willing to listen to what he has to say than they were four or eight years ago.

    I would argue that the GOP was desperate for an acceptable Libertarian candidate in 2012. Ron Paul just said too much about the WOT that pissed people off. Perry and Cain both basically sold themselves as something similar to what Paul is selling now but just self destructed.

    The biggest problem Paul has is that he is a Senator who has never been an executive. Obama has been so profoundly incompetent that people are going to be wary of ever electing another one term Senator to be President. The threat to Paul will come from Walker or some other successful governor.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Christie is going to attack Paul in much the same way as Giuliani attacked his father, as being 'too soft' on terrorism. Cruz is likely to take a somewhat similar, though less harsh approach, he's already signaled his disagreements with Paul on military spending and foreign policy (look for pro-Israel groups to question Paul for having the temerity to suggest we don't need to hold Israel's hand all the time).

    If he wins the nomination I would wager a hefty amount that the Dems will focus on the CRA comments and, of course, a parade of horribles about orphans dying in the streets under a Libertopia.

  • John||

    The terrorism dog won't hunt anymore. And Gulliani, despite being much more popular than Fatso, went nowhere because of his views on guns. You can't win the GOP nomination with a bad record on guns. Too many single issue gun voters for that to happen.

    And yes, Cruz has a real shot. But he has the same problem Paul has, he has only been a Senator.

  • I can't trust my fans||

    If I had my way, some dude from the private sector would sweep in to primary and shake things up. (Someone with too much money to care what anyone says-- like a conservatarian bloomberg or perot.)

    I guess that my more realistic dream is that Mitch Daniels tells his dumb wife that she fucking owes him one.

  • Virginian||

    Ron Paul just said too much about the WOT that pissed people off.

    Yeah he was an idiot trying to make the leftwing case for non interventionism to the Republican Party.

    There's a perfectly valid Republican non interventionist philosophy which plays a lot better in GOP primaries.

  • John||

    YES. All he had to do was say "ruble doesn't make trouble and let them figure it out for themselves" and he would have been fine. Instead, he went "America caused all of this" and 70% of the GOP voters tuned him out.

  • ||

    That's pretty much it. If you look at any gun forum or some other really right-wing place, they all despise Ron Paul and idolize Rand. I suspect that Rand shares his dad's opinion about maintaining an empire, but he's smart enough not to say it in a way that will make all the Miller Lite-swilling slobs in the country think he's a fag.

  • John||

    Ron Paul's problem was that he came across as not liking the country. And that never flies in the GOP.

  • I can't trust my fans||

    Why did he never raise the fact that he was a veteran and everyone else on the stage was an oozing cunt?

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    That was a brilliantly succinct summary, Warty.

  • antisocial-ist||

    He could have pointed out the money spent on propping up socialist/ Islamic regimes all over the world. Or risking American lives in regional fights which are far away from us. Or the general inefficiency of government applied to a world stage. Any of those points would've been better than what he did.

  • John Thacker||

    Oh, I agree that Paul is going to do a better job. But he needs to do a better job not just than his father, but than libertarian faction candidates like PhD economist and senator Phil Gramm, Steve Forbes, or others, none of whom could be accused of the particular flaws of Ron Paul.

    Gramm and Forbes indeed could be said to "appeal to people outside libertarians," and were crushed. If you argue that they weren't libertarian enough, well, that's the opposite of the complaint about Ron Paul. They were the preferred top tier candidate of the libertarian faction, and didn't get the nomination.

  • John Thacker||

    Rand's biggest weapon is that there's isn't a clear establishment front runner at the moment.

  • John Thacker||

    Kemp (1988), Gramm (most money fundraised in 1996), Forbes (1996 and 2000), the list of libertarian wing challengers who failed is long.

  • John||

    It is a different time and different election. People are more willing to hear his message and less persuaded by the "we just need to nominate a reasonable establishment guy" appeal.

    Also, neither Forbes nor Gramm had very much charisma. Paul seems to have that.

  • John Thacker||

    And Kemp. I mean, I'm not saying he can't win at all, just that he has to overcome some history because usually the libertarian faction is the weakest of three or four factions in the nomination, inevitably throwing their support to the establishment guy to block the so-con.

    I should say another Rand advantage is that Christie weakened himself with the bridge story, and decided to be full on anti-terrorist, keeping him from being as easy a fallback for many soft libertarians after Rand doesn't win. (Christie was already a challenge on guns.)

  • I can't trust my fans||

    I believe that Randy floor-managed his dad's 1988 LP convention campaign for POTUS nomination. Sayonara, homie.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    "never been an executive"

    Didn't he run his own practice?

    They should be running ads with his former eye-surgery patients saying "Rand Paul improved my vision!"

  • John||

    Running a practice is not like running the federal government. Sorry, but it is just not the same thing. It is on the level of Obama saying "hey I ran my campaign didn't I?"

  • Virginian||

    Running a practice is not like running the federal government.

    Yes, true. Rand had to keep his practice solvent.

  • John||

    And he could spend his money as he pleased without getting a committee of 535, a good number of whom hated him, to approve. Government is not the private sector. If it were, it would function better.

  • John Thacker||

    They should be running ads with his current pro-bono eye-surgery patients.

  • trutherator||

    "Gets knocked out"? It's important to note that Ron Paul got "knocked out" by the Country Club cliques, not by grassroots.

  • Matt Welch||

    I was using that sponsorship as a stand-in for a general "not being a liberal Democrat," not as the specific thing people care about it. Though they will care about it, when the time is right.

  • Michael Hihn||

    How big a question can it really be?

    Likely big enough to destroy the libertarian movement. Barry Goldwater believed Moral Majority would destroy his party, which has happened or is very close. Rand Paul's EXTREME social conservatism could be far more damaging to the much weaker libertarian movement.

    I'm more plugged in to what people are saying about Rand Paul than the average voter

    Matt's POINT was to be plugged in to what people are saying and believing about extreme social conservatives.

    What would those people say about Rand's Senate Home Page ... which says abortion should be a state issue, then BRAGS that he sponsored a total federal ban on abortion, both in the same paragraph! Like his father, he's for states rights (not federalism), except when he's not. And like Obama. And Romney.

  • John Thacker||

    Nat Hentoff is pro-life, so I suppose that's reason why it's unsurprising for him. He's a pro-life civil libertarian who has traditionally affiliated with the left, but has felt a bit pushed out by the left.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Yes, he's not what I'd call representative of the kind of left-wingers Matt Welch is thinking about Rand winning over.

  • Michael Hihn||

    An extreme social conservative will ever win many votes on the left. Thank God.

  • db||

    I think I.might advise Rand Paul to wait.until 2020.

    1. Hillary Clinton is a woman, and she.is old.

    2. She has a massive demographic: older women of her generation seem to love her.

    3. The husband's of those older women have been dying off, and represent less of a counter force than they otherwise.would in the aged demographic.

    4. Older people tend to.turn.out.more reliably, and due to the female skew in the older demographic, she will handily win.it.

  • db||

    Ducking auto correct and apostrophes.

  • Michael Hihn||

    I think I.might advise Rand Paul to wait.until 2020.

    That would delay his destruction of the libertarian movement!

  • GILMORE||

    Having read ms Cox piece, it seems her thesis is,

    "Ted Cruz drinks the blood of children he murders in his satanic sex-dungeon before harvesting their organs to be used by Monsanto to create new AIDS vegetables. Rand Paul, by contrast, is just a republican shit."

    i.e. the faintest of faint praise.

    She calls him a "another Benghazi alarmist"

    'Alarmist?' As though Benghazi is some looming potential threat...like climate change... that actually is completely lacking in substance?

    I've never seen the word used that way, and frankly can't make any sense of what the fuck she even means.

    'Beghazi' is mostly about the current admin being caught *lying through their teeth* (aside from speculations of gun-running gone bad) Why is that so confusing?

  • pmains||

    It's like when a kid doesn't want to get in the car, so he just plays dead and forces mom or dad to pick him up or drag him.

    The left doesn't even engage arguments anymore. They just shift the burden of proof to their interlocutors. Then, when said proof is provided, they shrug and demand more. To somebody who is arguing in good faith and has some emotional investment in seeking the truth, this tactic can be maddening.

    Worse, this tactic seems to be fairly effective in shaping public opinion. After all, if the mainstream media says it's not a big deal, I guess it's just those crazies on the right who didn't get the memo.

    I'm not really sure what non-lunatics should be doing at this point. Maybe we just have to accept that the intellectual apocalypse is nigh. Civilization can't be saved, so let's ride this one down like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove.

  • GILMORE||

    oh, also = guardian commenters consider faint praise UNACCEPTABLE

    "NOTaREALmerican
    03 June 2014 4:55pm

    Libertarianism only looks good until people realize the Big-Gov scam they've been happily living off their entire life is going to be eliminated.
    ...
    Let's have a show of hands of how many "libertarians" and "conservatives" are happily living off of: Big-Ag, Big-MIC, Big-Road, Big-Water, Big-Airport, Big-Energy, Big-Ed, Big-House, Big-Fin, Big-OldFart, Big-Healthcare, Big-AntiDrug, & Big-PoliceState?"

    Someone else pointed out that he hates gays and 'marriage equality' because he thinks the Fed govt has no role imposing national laws on these things.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Someone else pointed out that he hates gays and 'marriage equality' because he thinks the Fed govt has no role imposing national laws on these things.

    He may be an even bigger bullshitter than his Dad!

    it's the Constitution which denies any role to ANY level of government. Somebody needs to explain the Ninth Amendment to the phony Federalists

    Phony Federalists claim that "unenumerated powers," (powers not expressly delegated to the federal government) are reserved to the states. That's not Federalism, it's States Rights as practiced by the Klan, their excuse for denying equal rights to freed slaves -- that states had whatever power state governments chose to enforce.

    The LIBERTARIAN Amendment is the Ninth, where the Founders incorporated the founding principle of unalienable rights. Unenumerated RIGHTS, not listed in the Constitution, are reserved to the PEOPLE. Not the states.

    NO level of government may restrict or deny "fundamental" rights. Ron and Rand Paul are hustling a Constitution that never existed, like the Klan demanding an exemption from fundamental rights guaranteed to ALL Americans.

    Barry Goldwater predicted that extreme social conservatives would destroy his party. First they infiltrated the GOP, now the libertarian movement. Nominating Rand Pail would be the final nail in the coffin, for both the GOP and the libertarian movement.

  • Michael Hihn||

    One of the big questions about the presidential aspirations of the libertarian-leaning Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) is whether, when faced with the chance of electing the first female president, non-Republicans would really pull the lever for the author of the Life Begins at Conception Act.

    The bigger question is why should Republicans and libertarians pull the lever for Rand Paul? He'd be destroyed. Google his home page at the US Senate, for total wackiness.

    He says abortion should be a state issue, but brags about having sponsored a total FEDERAL ban an abortion ... and promises to do everything he can to ban abortion on a Federal website!

    His Dad plays the same con job. Gay Marriage should be a state issue, but he also supported DOMA! (OMG)

    So, states should control abortion and gay marriage, except when they don't, and only if the state follows the diktats of the Pauls. Better than a Ponzi scheme.

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