Sen. Rand Paul yesterday took to two different radio programs minded by core Ron Paul fans to defend his controversial Mitt Romney endorsement.
One was via the Daily Paul website, with host Kurt Wallace. You can listen to it here.
My summation of the highlights for them that would rather read than listen: Rand Paul thinks that those fans who were disillusioned–or even got threatening–about his endorsement misunderstand politics and underestimate his own continued value to the liberty movement. They also misunderstand where the movement is right now.
The liberty movement's fight had shifted, Paul said, "from winning the nomination to fighting over the platform and the future of the Republican Party and the future of our country." He points out that the endorsement "doesn't mean anything in terms of my political philosophy and the things I support." To be able to be a player in the Republican Party–and expect any support from his fellow Republicans and many Republican voters–being a member in good standing and supporting the nominee was essential; he points out he made a similar vow in his 2010 Senate race, and has been saying for a year he would support the party's nominee whoever it turns out to be.
More important to the liberty movement, he thinks, should be what he's doing as senator. He talked up four bills he's introduced or supported just this week: to require search warrants for domestic drone use, legalize industrial hemp, end federal mandatory minimum sentences for all non-violent crimes, and end the TSA. He would ask his detractors to focus more on those things, and less on "politics, a messy business that is not what everyone would want it to be." His dad, Rand points out, also supported or endorsed Speaker candidates and congressional candidates within his party who clearly don't agree with him on much. Such collegial games are the price of electoral politics and don't mark one as traitor to the liberty movement where it counts.
The Romney endorsement "doesn't change me at all or any of the issues I'm fighting for, but it changes the ability of the liberty movement to have a voice" and he hopes he can get explicit Romney endorsement of the current Federal Reserve audit bill.
He says he has no idea if his father will or would endorse Romney, but that he, Rand, did discuss his own endorsement with Ron and waited til the campaign admitted that Ron Paul winning was not going to happen.
Rand admits the hardcore Paulites are not likely to be swayed by his endorsement, and assures Wallace that he will continue to fight both a President Romney and the rest of his Party if they try to do things he cannot support. He will also, he says, fight hard to end indefinite detention and will refuse to vote for any budget that does not have a five year glide path to balanced, no matter what the rest of his Party does.
He wishes his detractors would look more at things like his role in stopping an amendment that would have allowed the Guantanamo detention of people tried and found innocent in American courts. He can have such successes, he says, because he doesn't go around being pointlessly bellicose to his colleagues, even the ones terrible on most liberty issues. He hopes that he can win the continued trust of the liberty movement because of his actual voting record, not these issues of internal party politics, and alludes to being angry at implied death threats among the more high-strung anonymous folk on the Internet.
He also appeared on former Senate candidate and investment guru Peter Schiff's show to talk about this, saying many of the same things. Video of that interview:
Some highlights from that: Rand says he knew he'd get some Paulite backlash, but largely from the types who still believed there was some chance of turning Romney delegates to Paul in Tampa, something he saw as grossly unrealistic. He again says they still have a chance to be the most effective and loud liberty-minded contingent within the Republican Party there, and possibly move the party on issues such as auditing the Fed, eliminating the Department of Education, Internet freedom, and ending the war in Afghanistan. (He continues to think that platform changes are important, though in this day and age I'm not sure what real influence such things have–what defines the GOP are what GOP candidates say and do, not the "platform" per se, which no one looks at.)
While Rand has denied the straight-up libertarian label in the past, here he almost calls himself a libertarian ideologue–then scrambles to say more properly, "libertarian conservative." (My favorite small detail: when talking about the good sides of even such bad politicians as John McCain, he refers to McCain's imprisonment as a result of "fighting for what he thought was fighting for his country"–respectful while still not buying into the nobility of the Vietnam mission.)
I don't expect, nor I think did Rand Paul expect, either of these interviews to mollify those who consider him a traitor to the Ron Paul cause. But in the end–and four years from now–what will matter far more is his continuing to be an introducer of and voter for the sort of good bills he references above, and being a public spokesman for the ideas of responsible, limited, constitutional government.
For more on Rand Paul and Ron Paul revolution, see my new book Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.
Sen. Paul and I discussed that book at a Cato Institute book forum last month: