Rand Paul

GOP Hawks Prepare for War—Against Rand Paul

Wary of the noninterventionist's potential 2016 presidential bid

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According to several donors at the Republican Jewish Coalition conference held in Las Vegas last weekend, the billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is prepared to fund a campaign against Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) if he picks up increased support during his widely anticipated presidential run in 2016.

Several prominent GOP donors at the conference suggested that Adelson, who spent more than $100 million backing Newt Gingrich and Romney in 2012, is likely to spend vast sums against Paul if he appears to be well positioned in the Republican primaries. Adelson's spending is largely motivated by his strong concern for Israel, and Paul's positions may well put a target on his back. 

According to TIME, one unnamed former Mitt Romney bundler said it was "scary" that Paul could win the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary.

More from TIME:

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is hard at work laying the groundwork for an almost certain presidential campaign in 2016, but as he broadens his support among libertarian and younger voters, there's a budding counter-campaign to take him down if he becomes a threat to actually win the nomination.

At the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) meeting in Las Vegas this weekend, Paul was nowhere to be found, but his presence was felt in the form of a straw man — and frequent worry. Speaker after speaker, from former Florida governor Jeb Bush to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, laid into Paul's more isolationist views on foreign policy. They never mentioned the lawmaker by name, but the message came across loud and clear.

The conference brings together some of the biggest names — and wallets — in Republican politics, most notably billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. At a private dinner for VIP donors in an Adelson-owned aircraft hangar holding one of his pair of Boeing 747s, Bush was asked about the growing isolationist wing of the Republican Party and replied there was no such thing — effectively casting Paul out of the fold, according to attendees.

Background on Paul's Foreign Policy

Like his father, former Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas), Rand Paul, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, advocates for a less involved American foreign policy. However, Rand Paul's brand of non-intervention is not a rigid as his father's.

In February last year, Paul went to the conservative Heritage Foundation and gave a speech in which he argued for a foreign policy that is neither isolationist nor neoconservative and is open to using containment as a way to address the threat of Islamic terrorism. Watch the speech below:

During his time in the Senate Paul has come out against American intervention abroad, perhaps most notably relating to the conflict in Syria and urging the U.S. not to rub Russian President Vladimir Putin the wrong way amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Analysis and Commentary

Unsurprisingly, some conservatives aren't happy about Paul's foreign policy proposals.

The neoconservative columnist Jennifer Rubin has mentioned Paul 143 times between March 1 and March 21 in her blog at The Washington Post. Some of the recent headlines of Rubin's posts include "Rand Paul's fake foreign policy" and "Rand Paul is the odd man out of the GOP on foreign policy." Yesterday one of Rubin's posts was headlined "Rand Paul trashed military option for Iran and blamed the U.S. for WWII."

Writing about Paul's speech at the most recent Conservative Political Action Conference, Rubin outlined in characteristically blunt language her feelings about Paul's opinions on foreign policy:

…Paul's spiel is certainly indifferent to if not at odds with what is going on in the world. Should we be alarmed that Iran is getting the bomb, Russia is invading a neighbor and there is a war of genocidal proportions in Syria? No, the greatest danger is the government's (nonexistent) eavesdropping on your phone calls. Not only is his shtick divorced from world events, but it also is entirely alien to the experience and concerns of most Americans who are worried about health care, the economy, the middle-class squeeze, etc. Other than people exactly like those in the ballroom, who is going to find this the most compelling message out of all the Republican contenders' agendas? He keeps saying he will reach out to African Americans and Hispanics, but the crowd that love him was overwhelmingly white and male. And if he is serious about immigration reform (he told Silicon Valley he was), he kept it to himself.

Rubin continued:

He is after all a libertarian, not a mainstream conservative, and his disinclination to speak about anything but his paranoid vision of the government leaves little room for reform or problem-solving. This one-note fear of government has limited selling power in the Republican Party, most especially during times of rising international threats.

Writing in Forbes, David Adesnik, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, criticized Paul for flip-flopping on the Ukraine crisis:

My best guess is that Paul is desperately searching for some framework or ideology that can justify the dovish, perhaps even isolationist instincts he inherited from his father. Yet he doesn't know enough about foreign policy to think even one or two steps ahead, so he jumps into the breach with a loudly unorthodox position, only to find himself embarrassed when events demonstrate his ignorance. Then he starts firing in every direction, not knowing what to make of a world that doesn't conform to his preferences. I don't get the sense Paul is learning from his mistakes, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see the same pattern play out again before long.

In an oped for Breitbart News, Paul implicitly criticized fellow potential 2016 contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for trying to claim Reagan's mantle after making a distinction between Paul's foreign policy and Reagan's. The Daily Caller senior editor Jamie Weinstein wrote that Paul and Reagan have little in common when it comes to foreign policy:

Paul may be right when he says that none of the Republicans considering a White House run in 2016 have a foreign policy outlook exactly like Reagan's. But what's undeniable is that Paul's foreign policy is far and away the least Reaganeque of any of the possible 2016 Republican presidential contenders.

What Paul is trying to do is muddy the waters on Reagan's foreign policy legacy in order to hide the reality that his foreign policy outlook bears no resemblance to that of the Gipper's — and, more broadly, is wildly out of touch with the Republican mainstream. Sure, Reagan engaged in diplomacy, even occasionally when some in his own party believed it inadvisable. But that hardly makes Reagan a Rand Paul-style non-interventionist. Far from it.

Paul says he, like Reagan, supports "peace through strength." Except Reagan's notion of "peace through strength" focused on increasing military spending. Paul has not yet discovered a military cut he didn't like.

Paul's foreign policy has been criticized by liberals as well as conservatives. Writing in Politico earlier this month, Will Marshall, the president of the Progressive Policy Institute, argued that Paul's thoughts on foreign policy put him in a politically awkward situation:

Politically speaking, Paul faces an intractable dilemma: If he embraces his inner libertarian, he'll stir excitement among liberty-loving younger Republicans—GOP strategist Bill Kristol cuttingly calls them "Snowden Republicans"—as well as many on the left who take a dim view of U.S. power and motives. But he will alienate many social conservatives and Tea Party "patriots" who still believe in American exceptionalism, as well as mainstream Republicans who see military strength as a more reliable basis for U.S. security than withdrawing from a fractious world.

So maybe Paul has no choice but to keep trying to reconcile incompatible conceptions of America's role in the world. So far, he's produced only a muddle.

Like Adesnik, Marshall also argued that Paul's comments on Ukraine are confused:

Consider Paul's ideas for punishing Russia, which are so inconsistent they sometimes cancel each other out: Paul the geopolitical hardliner calls for restarting work on American missile defense systems in Eastern Europe that were suspended as part of Obama's unsuccessful "reset" of U.S.-Russian relations. But Paul the skinflint insists that "the Europeans pay for it"—which means the missile shields probably won't go up. In one breath, Paul calls for more vigorous U.S. action to punish Russia for its rogue behavior; in the next he bemoans the fact that America is "broke" and can't be the world's ATM or policeman. This puzzling logic sometimes sound like a Zen koan: "Like Dwight Eisenhower, I believe the U.S. can actually be stronger by doing less," he wrote in Time.

While insisting that he stands with Ukraine against Moscow's attempts to dismember the country, Paul also ruled out U.S. economic aid to Ukraine because it might go to Russia to pay Kyiv's enormous gas bills. In Paul's view, energy isn't just a cudgel Putin uses to intimidate neighboring countries—it's also the main weapon America has to wean Europeans from dependence on Russian gas and oil. In contrast to Obama's supposed dithering on energy, Paul calls for aggressively exporting U.S. natural gas to Europe and demands, weirdly, "immediate construction of the Keystone Pipeline."

Reason on Rand Paul

Reason has extensive coverage of Rand Paul and his foreign policy, which can be read here. Some highlights:

Matt Welch wrote on the fight between Paul and Cruz over the Gipper's mantle.

I wrote about how despite what neoconservatives might say, Paul is not an isolationist. I also considered whether the American public will pay attention to Paul's foreign policy.

Brian Doherty wrote about the "rhetorical judo" Paul has used on those who criticize his positions on foreign policy.

NEXT: A. Barton Hinkle on How Zero Tolerance Hurts Kids and Ruins Schools

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  1. I don’t know why supporters of a non-interventionism are always painted as taking an ideological rather than pragmatic position. I view pure libertarianism as slightly less utopian as Chomsky-style socialism and I see a RON Paul-style foreign policy as being the most practical and cost-effective.

    Rand describing his foreign policy as “neither noninterventionist or neoconservative” reminds me of progs claiming to be “neither capitalist or socialist”.

    1. *supporters of non-interventionist foreign policy

    2. Rand describing his foreign policy as “neither noninterventionist or neoconservative” reminds me of progs claiming to be “neither capitalist or socialist”.

      I really have no idea what that means?

      There is obviously a large middle ground between isolationist and hawkish. But non-interventionist and neoconservative are just vague words that don’t particularly have a well defined meaning.

      It’s pretty clear that Rand Paul is somewhere between an isolationist and a hawkish foreign policy, leaning towards the isolationist side. I don’t think there really is any good analogy between that and what a prog thinks is “neither capitalist or socialist”.

      1. Non-interventionism =/=isolationism

        Isolationists not only oppose military interventionism but also oppose open borders and free trade.

        Non-interventionists on the other hand support open borders and free trade, in fact I consider myself an economic globalist.

        With that out of the way, I see it as a perfect analogy. His hawkishness is still hawkishness, even if it’s drastically toned down. He still spews alot of neocon dribble, from “containment” to conspiracy theories about Muslims and playing the “wahhh they’re oppressing Christians over there” card like it’s America’s problem, and people complained about Gary Johnson’s view of the Kony situation in Africa.

        1. Non-interventionism is a word giving us a semantics problem, and I am open to suggested solutions.
          It starts to define a policy by saying what it is not, and thereby invites the label isolationist. So how can we apply a label that emphasizes what we are for, instead?

          1. If isolationism is protectionism coupled with little-to-no freedom of movement across national borders (which it is) then non-interventionism is simply not intervening in the affairs of other nations while having laxed laws regarding trade, immigration and otherwise moving across national borders. Now one can be against either free-trade or free-immigration/emigration and also NOT be an isolationist but if they oppose both then they are. I accidentally implied that all non-interventionists are non-governmental globalists like me. I meant that simple non-interventionism by itself is a far cry from isolationism.

            1. I think non-interventionist is a fine word, but too many dullards don’t know the difference between non-intervention and isolation.

              Like how proggies conflate healthcare, health insurance, and medical welfare. They aren’t smart enough to understand the distinctions.

  2. Republicans will gain seats in the House and Senate in 2014 and in 2016 will once again nominate someone who does not give them a clear choice to the Democrat nominee. “Hey Adelson, how did that strategy work the last time?”

    1. Gaining seats in 2014 is highly likely. Gaining seats in 2016 is highly questionable.

      2016 depends on how well they do in the Presidential election and also how many seats they stand to lose. IE, how well they do in 2016 may well be inversely proportional to how well they do in 2014.

      1. Forgive my poor sentence structure. I believe the R’s will pick up seats in 2014. What I meant to say about 2016 was that they will not gain the White House.

    2. The Republicans nominated Romney only after the voters all but handed him the nomination during the primaries.

      Ron Paul, Gingrich, Santorum. Those were Romney’s major opposition. Romney had no chance of not winning the nomination, even though he was the godfather of ACA.

      It’s fun to blame the GOP establishment for anything, but they’ll ultimately nominate someone favored by their base. There are still lots of moderates who values electability.

      1. There are still lots of moderates who values electability.

        So how do you explain Romney and McCain?

        Neither were electable.

      2. The Republicans nominated Romney only after the voters all but handed him the nomination during the primaries.

        You mean only after the RNC did everything they could to make it seem Romney was the choice of the voters.

  3. It’s almost as if they cannot even comprehend how non-intervention could work as a foreign policy…

    Apparently they don’t read too many history books. The US mostly minded its own business until the last 120 years.

    “especially during times of rising international threats…”

    I wonder if the author could find ANY point of time in which she didn’t think there were rising international threats? Of course, we know the answer to that question.

    1. The Left always considers History to have started yesterday.

    2. Apparently they don’t read too many history books. The US mostly minded its own business until the last 120 years.

      Under the umbrella of the British Empire.

      1. Luckily the British Empire didn’t lead to any problems in the Middle East, Africa, and India/Pakistan that the world is still dealing with today.

        You can keep that umbrella…

  4. So, the Retardlicans think that by shooting down the guy who would bring the most new votes to their party then they can win? as if the dyed in the wool big R morons wouldn’t vote for any idiot with the R next to his name without questioning what the person stands for anyways (Bush, Dole, Bush 2 “with vengeance” , Mclame duck, fucking mittens romney like a single one of them could even claim to be conservative where it counts)
    Here’s a thought, what if the Libertarians back Paul as their candidate before the rethug primaries, the GOPhers wouldn’t be able to shoot him down even in the primaries because it would be political suicide to nominate anyone else unless they did it with the intent of getting the hildebeast elected

    1. It is never about winning alone. That can be done simply by speaking truthfully to the public, explaining what the policies mean and then carrying them out once elected.

      The party is a business, in business to make money for its biggest shareholders, the politicians and the big donors. They have to collect the money and still win enough elections to keep the money coming in. Those with the money do not want the policies the people do.

  5. Ron Paul is in good company, echoing the philosophy of Paine, Washington, Jefferson and more American luminaries when it comes to his policy of non-interventionism (NOT isolationism):

    Thomas Paine is generally credited with instilling the first non-interventionist ideas into the American body politic; his work Common Sense contains many arguments in favor of avoiding alliances. These ideas introduced by Paine took such a firm foothold that the Second Continental Congress struggled against forming an alliance with France.

    George Washington’s farewell address is often cited as laying the foundation for a tradition of American non-interventionism:
    The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Hence Europe must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

    President Thomas Jefferson extended Washington’s ideas in his March 4, 1801 inaugural address: “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”

    Bush, Adesnik, Rubin et al worship at the altar of government & have no business opining outside their natural, Leftist territory. THEY are the problem, not Paul.

    1. Rand Paul … Sorry.

    2. Common Sense is a brilliant text. It’s still strikingly applicable today.

  6. The neocons don’t like him, and the left doesn’t like him.

    Sounds like a good guy to me. That should be a requirement for elected office.

  7. my friend’s mom makes $62 hourly on the laptop . She has been laid off for nine months but last month her paycheck was $18955 just working on the laptop for a few hours. learn the facts here now………..
    http://www.Works23.us

    1. Define “few”, spambot…

  8. My friend’s mom doesn’t even bother to check her algorithm before claiming she works on her laptop for a “few” hours.

  9. I’m voting for Rand Paul for US President.

  10. Well, bear in mind, GWB actually ran for president on a semi-isolationist foreign policy.

    Then 9/11 happened.

    That really, really, really bothered Republicans.

    1. It converted some, and provided a convenient excuse for others.

      One of the saddest things about massive tragedies is that the lessons learned from them are so often 100% backwards.

  11. And, again, the GOP establishment proves utterly tone-deaf. The GOP has an actual chance to rebrand itself for the near future and draw in some non-traditional voters. But, instead, it’s going to try and nominate some statist hawk retread, and help the Dems put Hillary in the WH.

  12. All I will say is this.

    If the Republicans want to elect another Democrat to the White House all they need do is put up another one of their neo-conservatives. Of course this should not bother them too much since most of them were Big Stick Democrats at one time anyway.

    I will never vote for a Republican as the “lesser of the evils” again.

  13. 1. Jennifer Rubin could hit herself in the head with a ball-peen hammer for three hours without any noticeable decline in the quality of her writing or strength of her intellect. I think that WaPo pays her as a sort of massive trolling effort.

    2. A significant portion of the Republican establishment is every bit as statist as your average garden-variety progressive, they just prefer something a little more British Empire to the prog’s Swedish Utopia. That’s why most Repubs who are successful at the national level, especially presidents, look a lot like the Dems they run against.

    3. The Republicans–the same ones who want Libertarians to vote Team Red as the lesser of two evils–would rather nominate a Springer Spaniel than Rand Paul out of fear that the latter might cut defense spending by a nickel. They nominated John McCain, for chrissakes, and then friggin’ Mitt Romney. Mitt Muthafuckin’ Romney, the man who inspired the ACA. I have absolutely no doubt that Team Red will do the same in 2016 and we’ll wind up with another President Clinton.

  14. Sorry to divert slightly, but caught this article on Breitbart – http://dailycaller.com/2014/04…..rtation/2/

    Man oh man… enjoy the comments/bigotry.

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