Election 2016

Meet the Anti-Rand-Paul Protest Candidates

The peculiar presidential campaigns of John Bolton, Peter King, and Lindsey Graham


You want alt-text TOO? You people are insatiable.

Why is John Bolton, the mustachioed uber-hawk who played the wacky neighbor on The Independents, thinking of running for president? What about Peter King, the New York congressman and lapsed IRA fan who thinks journalists should be prosecuted for reporting the Snowden leaks? Or Lindsey Graham, John McCain's understudy in the Senate? None of these people have a serious shot at the Republican nomination. So why run?

Benjy Sarlin of MSNBC suggests an explanation: They're there to block Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator and likely presidential candidate who doesn't share their passion for a muscular, handsome foreign policy. They might not be able to take the presidential prize themselves, but they hope they can keep it from Paul by keeping a spotlight on his views about global affairs.

When Sarlin called the candidates to confirm his suspicions, two out of three conceded that Paul was on their minds. King told Sarlin that it was Paul who "really generated my concern"—not a surprise, since King's been saying words to that effect since last July. (He's wary about Ted Cruz too.) And Bolton

said he planned to force Paul to account for his "neo-isolationism" (a label Paul rejects) should they meet on the primary trail.

Graham is less eager to put himself so explicitly in the anti-Paul camp. Asked by msnbc what impact Paul's ambitions had on his decision to explore a run he responded: "Zero."

"It's all about my vision for the country and national security and economic security," Graham said.

Still, as one of Paul's top antagonists in the Senate, it's easy to imagine Graham taking a similar tack. He's derided Paul as part of an "isolationist movement in the party" and called his positions "to the left of Obama"—the ultimate GOP insult.

While I have no illusions that Paul's foreign policy ideas have taken over the Republican Party, this marks a significant shift. In the last two Republican races, the relatively libertarian antiwar voices—Ron Paul in 2008, Paul and Gary Johnson in 2012—were widely seen as marginal figures running to protest the party's direction. Now it's the most hard-core hawks who are jumping in just to make sure their views get a hearing. It's not enough, apparently, that pretty much every frontrunner except Rand Paul thinks the U.S. military should be even more active around the world. They want to make sure the subject is aired.

As Sarlin puts it,

The anti-Paul contingent all say they aren't worried his views on foreign policy are gaining ground with GOP voters. Since the Islamic State took over swaths of Iraq and Syria and began executing Western hostages, polls show Republicans have reverted to their Bush-era instinct towards aggressive counterterrorism abroad….The fear, rather, is that Paul could get the nomination despite his unconventional foreign policy views if the campaign, as it did in 2012, focuses largely on domestic affairs.

"Republicans are small government conservatives and so an ideological libertarian says a lot of things they agree with," Bolton said. "The consequences if you don't require the candidates to elaborate on their national security views [is that] somebody with a view that doesn't reflect the vast majority of the party might slip by."

If Paul gets remotely close to taking the nomination, you can expect the party establishment to wield weapons against him that are far more potent than King, Graham, Bolton, or even Bolton's 'stache. But if this is a sideshow, it's a notable sideshow. The hawks' anxieties are newsworthy in their own right.

Update: Daniel Larison comments:

The more that candidates like that are allowed to speak for the party's hawks, the easier it should be for Paul to present himself as a reasonable and necessary alternative. Since the impulse of many of the other hawks in the debate will be to express agreement with the hard-line no-hopers, the no-hopers' presence could also have the effect of dragging the more competitive hawkish candidates into adopting much more unpopular positions than they might otherwise take….

The hard-liner protest candidates may want to combat Paul and whatever it is they think he represents, but they will more than likely end up undermining candidates that agree with them on foreign policy. As so often happens in our foreign policy debates, the hard-liners haven't thought through the consequences of their plans here and could end up empowering the people that they are trying to oppose.

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  1. How exactly are they going to block him by running? Certainly not by taking votes from people who might otherwise support Rand. I suppose it has to be by imagining that their rhetorical performances and ads will tear him down.

    1. They want to make sure people talk about his foreign policy views.

    2. If all the other candidates support an interventionist foreign policy, that would make Rand look like more of an outsider. It would also make it easier for them to gang up on him on this issue.

      1. And make him the ONLY alternative to the warmongers.

        1. Right, that’s my point. I know for certain that there are moderate types who would lean towards a Romney, Jeb, Christie character who also aren’t uber-hawks. Making foreign policy an issue can cause some of them to give Rand a second look if he’s the only non-hawk.

          He’d win some, he’d lose some.

          In either case, there would be an opening for some other candidate to adopt a “moderate” foreign policy (kind of like what Paul has been trying to do positioning himself between the hawks and his father.)

    3. Are John Bolton’s parents alive? Because if so, that’s two votes that he might get. Maybe. Although, with the secret ballot, they might just say they did while expressing their profound and justified disappointment in the actual booth.

      1. Bolton doesn’t have any parents. He’s a human-like creature that was hatched in a lab.

  2. In a sane and just world, Peter King would be stripped naked and frog-marched towards gallows erected in the National Mall. After he climbs the gallows, a hemp rope would be placed around his neck. A switch would be pulled and King would hang until dead. His last sensation on Earth would be the sound of raucous cheers and applause as his vision fades to black.

    1. Tell us how you really feel, HM.

      1. Did I mention that before his execution that King would be publicly sodomized by a donkey?

        1. I thought you were providing a link to Dante’s going away party at Mooby’s.

    2. I would advocate a gentler approach to his demise. I believe he should die of starvation as a pariah. Let him wander the streets with a sign around his neck explaining his crimes.


    3. No wonder he wants hemp to be kept illegal.

      Would you accept hanging via a nylon rope, HM, if it means we can hang him sooner rather than having to wait for legislation legalizing hemp to pass?

  3. The NeoHawk 3: “Blood is the best lube!”

    1. Not really, it coagulates too easily and gums things up..er, so I’ve heard.

      1. That’s why they need more blood.

      2. No, you just have to stir it frequently as it is collected to get the coagulants out. This is a job that your orphans should be able to do easily. I did it as a kid when our neighbor was making blood sausage and if I can do it, any dumbass can do it.

  4. Why should he change? You’re the on who sucks.

    1. Best campaign slogan evah!

      1. It’s the new heading on all of the TPS reports too.

  5. Paul hasn’t seen anything yet. On the other flank (Christian conservative), he will be have all kinds of darts thrown at him from Huckabee and Santorum over things like drugs, abortion, etc.

    There is no doubt about it…the GOP debates will prove very interesting.

    The real question is, does Paul equivocate on any of these issues.

    1. Re: Jackass Ace,

      Tell me again how AGW is bad because you live your life as a stationary tide gauge, JA.

        1. Did he stutter, motherfucker? Answer the goddamn question!

          1. English! DO…YOU….SPEAK IT!

            1. What does Old Mexican look like?

              1. He’s old…… he’s Mexican…..

                1. DOES HE LOOK LIKE A BITCH?

                  1. Pulp Fiction?

                  2. Wha…..

                    1. YES! HE KINDA DOES!

  6. “It’s all about my vision for the country and national security and economic security,” Graham said.

    Your vision sucks, and requires continual slavery, and bloodshed by those of us who would fight for real deal freedom and liberty.

    These douche sheissers have been preaching how these interventions and wars are in the name of freedom, while we become less free.

    If any of these characters had a security business, they would not only go broke from protracted conflict (don’t forget folks would defend themselves against such violence as well) and customers refusing to do any further business with them.

    Just think if they even presented such a business model they parrot on the campaign trail. Which entails interventionism, and all kinds violence. Investors would run away! The employees would probably run away too, as who in the hell wants to run around bothering people when they will actually face consequenses for their actions when they can not benefit from qualified immunity.

  7. “They’re there to block Rand Paul… who doesn’t share their passion for a muscular, handsome foreign policy.”

    I read this as “… who doesn’t share their passion for a counter-factual, reckless, wealth destructive, and objectively failed foreign policy.”

    1. Who doesn’t love the comforting embrace of a tall muscular and handsome foreign policy?

      1. This might explain Cyto’s odd neocon fetish…

        1. I think he’s just hard wired that way.

        2. ITT, idiots who don’t understand what a neocon is.

          1. The lady doth protest too much, methinks

            1. I’m not a lady. Take that.

  8. They’re there to block Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator and likely presidential candidate who doesn’t share their passion for a muscular, handsome foreign policy.

    Great idea. Run a slew of warmongers, saying exactly the same things, dilute the warmonger vote to 10% for each allowing Paul to win with 11%.

    Who says Republicans are stupid and can’t strategize?


    1. Fransisco,

      I forsee them all belittling his non-aggressive position to marginalize him in the minds of the base.

      As the primaries go on they’ll drop out one by one and throw their support to their favored establishment war-monger (or the one trending highest amongst the base).

      Their one-time supporters will pick the candidate who is their next choice in the lineup, and the process will repeat until the convention, where it’s likely to come down to Paul and Warmonger X (if Paul makes it that far).

      1. Yes, but if Paul wins the first 10 states…

        They’re fucked.

        1. If enough of us continue/start promoting a more sane foreign policy in comment sections across the web, we may make a tiny difference in some voters’ viewpoints. It can’t hurt.

          We can also combat the aggressive foreign policy being advocated.

        2. My jaded side expects that Paul is going to come behind a big government socon type candiate like Huckabee in Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina, which will somehow be spun as proof that socons are still the natural allies of libertarians.

          1. Pretty likely in Iowa. The caucuses often vote for socons that don’t go anywhere. Pat Robertson in 1988 for example.

  9. Good. Give them enough rope. It’s about time South Carolina and some New York district were publicly humiliated for electing Graham and King.

    1. Graham didn’t even win as many votes for Senator as Tim Scott in an election held in his same state at the same time, and he has all that seniority. How is he possibly considered serious?

      1. He’s quoted and interview quite a bit by the press John, and that helps lend him an air of credibility with the citizenry.

        1. I meant “interviewed” of course.

          1. No worries. There aren’t many resident spell checkers here. Also the grammar monster tripped and broke all of its teeth…… So now when it tries to correct us, we point at it and laugh. It used to be fun at first………but I think it’s all depressed now…….which is kinda sad…..but the thing made me extremely mad when it tried to eat waffles for his grammer and stuff…. So with that in my mind, my feelings of sadness for the Grammer monster have severely diminished.

  10. As so often happens in our foreign policy debates, the hard-liners haven’t thought through the consequences of their plans here and could end up empowering the people that they are trying to oppose.

    “We’re the greatest power the world has ever seen, so we can handle any consequences.”

  11. Is Rand even running? He’ll lose his Senate seat if he does.

  12. Making Rand Paul talk about his foreign policy views all the time might be better for him than if he had to talk about his domestic ones. I don’t really think there’s a big voting constituency clamoring for more warmaking.

    1. “I don’t really think there’s a big voting constituency clamoring for more warmaking.”

      Call it defending freedom or making the world safe for democracy or humanitarian aid instead Tony and watch the tide turn.

      1. Just like folks that call themselves compassionate liberals, conservatives and so on while their ideology requires violence, and extortion in order to exist.

        1. Its not an ‘ideology’

          its politics. Its a mistake to assume that people disagree with you on a policy because they have opposing ‘philosophical positions’ – or that that have any ‘philosophical’ approach at all.

          This is something I pointed out the other day re: the problems that libertarianism has when dealing with ‘practical politics’

          “Utopian libertarianism” doesn’t sell. The vast majority of the voting public isn’t interested in ideas. they care about basic issues of national security and economic prosperity.

          GOP candidates have traditionally appealed to these concerns by proposing a more unilateral approach to foreign affairs – “Our Issues Come First”

          that’s pretty much the sum of it. Its neither “pro” or “anti” war. Its simply a preference for politicians who seem to put US interests before those of any international coalition of Meddling Do-Gooders, a la the UN.

          1. “Utopian libertarianism”. You mean the belief that somehow government will limit itself and follow the constitution? If that were the case, then the gov’t would have shrunk to nothing.

            There is nothing utopian about being free. There is no reason, especially in our day that folks should be slaves to the state. I understand where your coming from, but how many more years of slavery does there need to be? How many more folks that haven’t a clue of the violence their “politics” requires are going to vote peaceful folks that just want to be free into slavery? How many folks are going to sit in church, stare at the Ten Commandments, while advocating violence through their politics. How many more are going to make like they know Jesus who actually despised the state, and made it clear tax collectors were sinners, will go out and try to justify extortion as ok because folks in fancy suits and costumes say it’s ok?

            Let people lie to themselves, and involuntarily enslave themselves. Leave free folks the hell alone. The market can provide defense, roads and anything else folks desire. To say the voices of millions should be silenced and handed over to 500 some odd douche bags is nonsensical and antithetical to a free society.

            People should be called out for the violence they espouse. Beating the system from within worked during the revolution. That was it, but they made the mistake of forming a new one.

            1. “I understand where your coming from, but how many more years of slavery does there need to be? “

              If this is your reaction to my point, you don’t understand where i’m coming from.

              1. I’m not sure why you disagree with the term ideology as it was used.

                1. Was that addressed to me?

                  I think the simplest distinction would be =

                  Contrasting ideologies are debated by academics. With tenure, presumably.

                  Politicians, by contrast, play ‘politics’.

                  Voters don’t care *why* you support X policy or Y policy. (the ‘why’ being the ideology)

                  They only care that your policy posture is consistent with their popular understanding of what maintains strong national security, and a robust economy.

                  Aka, ‘Politics’.

                  You can *try* and change the popular understanding of what’s in people’s best interests; but don’t expect it to win elections.

                  Or do you really think Paul’s campaign advisor should recommend he lead with “We Should Leave ISIS Alone” as his banner ME-policy?

                  (i.e. it may be the ‘right idea’ to a libertarian = does that make it the right policy position to campaign on?)

                  1. Yes, Gilmore.

                    Would you agree that there are politicians who operate from an ideology? Progressivism is certainly an ideology.

                    I’m aware of a great many voters who vote as you have described, yet I personally know individuals who vote or choose policy makers for the candidate’s stated ideology (or actual record).

                    1. “Would you agree that there are politicians who operate from an ideology?”

                      You are assuming there’s an either/or relationship between candidate’s ‘possession’ of an ideology and their relative political flexibility.

                      as an example =

                      Rand believes ISIS exists as a consequence of prior US ME policy.

                      (not something most people in the country would agree with, whether its ‘sort of true’ or not)

                      Rand ALSO supports aggressive US military attacks against ISIS

                      Do you think Rand Paul ‘operates from an Ideology’?

                      Does it matter?

                      The point is = i and many would prefer to see someone like Rand get the GOP nomination.

                      To do so, he’s going to have to demonstrate some Matrix-level flexibility (*the more ideologically-purist may even call it ‘wildly hypocritical’) to maintain his chances at any kind of political success.

                      The war-boner/Neocon types like Bolton, Graham, etc. are going to do everything possible to make this difficult for him. Because they’re not interested in the dimension of nuance he’s trying to advance.

                      In particular, postures like “the US created terrorists” isn’t exactly an election-winner, no matter how much he now wants to bomb them.

                    2. The US didn’t create the ISIS terrorists. They existed beforehand.

                    3. your diligent fact-checking is noted

                      Rand’s point is slightly more subtle than the headline would have you believe

                      the argument he makes is that this particular brand of Levant-ish Sunni militancy wouldn’t actually ever had coalesced had we not destabilized the region by invading iraq…

                      …and consequently providing their Sunni-cause a central-motivating theme = the prevention of an ascendent ‘Shia-Crescent’ – where Shia-run parties control everything between Lebanon (hezbollah), Syria (alawite, but close enough), Iraq and Iran

                      He might have a point.

                      I’m not sure how much it actually helps inform ‘what to do about the ongoing sunni-shia Civil War’, if anything.

                      He apparently decided that bombing ISIS isn’t inconsistent with his ‘anti-interventionism’ after all. I’m not sure he’s wrong either. But its a hard pair of positions to maintain during an election year.

            2. Thoroughly stated Vamp, however Jesus said: render unto Ceasar what is Ceasars. BTW I have a cousin named Jesus, and one named Cesar, I am not sure of their position on this topic, but one of them loves Hillary (boo!!!)

              1. Caesar was not god, so nothing was Ceasers. Why do you think Jesus took the coin from the mouth of a fish to pay taxes? He used trickery to avoid paying. If he would have blatantly said, “no one of us is paying a red cent, they would have killed him real quick, and he wouldn’t have had time to do spread his message, and so on.

                Mark2:15—snip—–“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

                17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

                1. And don’t forget Samuel 8:

                  1When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders.a 2The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

                  4So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to leadb us, such as all the other nations have.”

                  6But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

                  10Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king.

                  1. 11He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16Your male and female servants and the best of your cattlec and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

                    19But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

                    21When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22The Lordanswered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

                    Then Samuel said to the Israelites, “Everyone go back to your own town.”

    2. “. I don’t really think there’s a big voting constituency clamoring for more warmaking.”

      No, there isn’t. But see my remark above

      Democrats generally talk about ‘being actively involved’ with the world (which inevitably also means engaging in ‘limited conflicts’ on a regular basis) – whereas the standard rhetorical posture that the GOP has relied on for decades has been

      “Humble Foreign Policy – BUT* (and its a big one)…a Willingness to Act Alone in our Own Best Interest”

      Every single GOP candidate generally tries to put fresh make-up on this old formula. It tends to work with the broadest base of GOP voters.

      No matter how ‘tired of war’ most voters are, no one wants to hear a GOP candidate say, ‘Let Israel and Iran deal with their problems themselves’ (which is the kind of thing Rand could be forced to say)… or that “ISIS is the consequence of US middle east policy”… which is possibly something else he might say.

      He probably wouldn’t say these things unless its pulled out of him. And the entire purpose of Lindsay Grahm and John Bolton here is to do that kind of pulling, IMHO.

      1. Well reasoned Gil…but do you think Rand Paul will “adjust” his views? Ala the heroic Mitt Romney?

  13. Didn’t a Brand X (by that name) become established in at least 1 product category after advertising comparing other products to an unspecified brand labeled “X” backfired? People figured it must be good if the other products are comparing themselves to it. And they had all that free comparison advertising!

  14. I wouldn’t describe the foreign policy that neocons like Dolton want as ‘muscular’. More like ‘wildy unfocused and altruistic’. Being a non-altruist, I cannot be a neocon. Their strategy to paint Paul as some kind of ‘isolationist’ is amusing given that his support for the anti-ISIS campaign kind of inoculates him against that.

    1. “Their strategy to paint Paul as some kind of ‘isolationist’ is amusing given that his support for the anti-ISIS campaign kind of inoculates him against that.”

      I agree with you regarding this, but somehow I don’t think this will prevent some of them from throwing out the isolationist label with frequency.

  15. my best friend’s sister makes $61 hourly on the computer . She has been without a job for 8 months but last month her income was $15147 just working on the computer for a few hours. this page…………..

    ????? http://www.netpay20.com

  16. First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.

    The more useless, senseless, ineffectual, atrociously expensive wars we fight, the more ‘wounded warriors’ we see in our neighborhoods, the less RP’s FP views will seem eccentric.

    1. Picture this:

      “If you don’t want to go back into Iraq to restore order and prevent the bloodbath that’s taking place, it means that all of our brave service members who died, died in vain.

      Why don’t you support the troops, Senator Paul?”

      Similar comments were made to the elder Paul during or after one of the debates.

      1. The answer to that is that one cares about all of the troops, enough to keep them out of unnecessary wars. It may seem harsh to think somebody died in vain, but ignoring that possible fact and doubling down doesn’t change whether it was or not, it only furthers the mistake that will eventually cause our downfall as it has caused the downfall of others. One may heavily respect the troops, and show that respect by showing their anger at those who misuse them and caused them to die needlessly. It is conversely disrespectful to continue it in the name of supporting the troops because what is going on is not supporting the troops but the act of needless war.

  17. Roose Bolton?

  18. Graham is less eager to put himself so explicitly in the anti-Paul camp. Asked by msnbc what impact Paul’s ambitions had on his decision to explore a run he responded: “Zero.”

    Lindsey Graham is running for President in hopes that if he does well enough, Rhett Butler will finally come back.

  19. “Republicans are small government conservatives” Bullshit!!! That asshole must have Angel-dust on that Mustache.

  20. Libertarian paranoia. Of course, all of them are concerned about Paul’s foreign policy. Paul is a nut-ball isolationist who is now trying to walk it back because the ideas are so dumb.

    But these guys in there to block Paul? Get serious.

    1. the neocon foreign policy has worked very well for us hasn’t it?

    2. So how is the ballooning national debt treating you. Fucking idiot.

  21. Foreign Policy has a way of changing people’s minds once they get involved. Think Jefferson vs the Islamic Pirates.

  22. I am NOT suggesting that Reason borrowed from my article, but I would like to point out that I made similar observations in this article last year.


    My point was that if uber-hawks get to run uber-hawk candidates, then shouldn’t non-interventionists run a similar niche candidate that is more non-interventionist than Rand? I am unhappy with the rhetorical concessions Rand has already made, and when he is confronted on what views he has in the primary, he is going to predictably concede more. We need someone in the primary forcefully articulating the non-interventionist gospel like Rand’s father did.

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