Friday, November 5, 2010

Rand Paul's Moment and Ours

Rand Paul’s triumph in Kentucky is a welcome sight but it deserves to be considered in its own context. This isn’t the end of the old world or the birth of a new one.

The mainstream media has been eager to label Paul as a “libertarian purist,” “libertarian ideologue,” and anything else to imply mental instability, even though Paul has never identified himself as such, instead preferring “conservative.”

This definitely irked some legitimate libertarian purists as well as Paul’s statements in support of keeping the Guantanamo Bay prison open, not taking anything off the table regarding Iran, and his flip-flop on the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

To be honest, this all disappointed me as well. It disappointed others to the point that Rand Paul began acquiring other, more odious appellations like neoconservative and RINO.

But this is just as misplaced and inaccurate as “libertarian purist.”

The reason for most of the confusion and wrong name-calling is because of Rand Paul’s father, Ron.

Being Ron Paul’s son brought certain expectations, good and bad.

The good was that he was able to tap into his dad’s national network of donors and fund much of his campaign. This more or less nationalized the Kentucky Senate race, opening up charges that Rand Paul was uninterested or uninformed on local and state matters (disregarding the fact that almost as soon as the younger Paul moved to Kentucky he formed a watchdog group to monitor Kentucky politicians’ votes on taxes).

The bad was in expecting him to truly be Ron Paul, Jr. Many projected the image of the father onto the son. In collecting votes from the mainstream of the Republican Party, Rand Paul inevitably had to hurt a few feelings of the true believers.

But it’s doubtful this would have happened if he was someone else’s son.

Had he been Rand McCain, Rand Romney, or Rand Huckabee, he probably would have been lauded and championed by those who have become disenchanted.

But he’s not any of those. He’s Rand Paul for good and bad.

The most obvious examples that comes to mind is the treatment Rand Paul has received from antiwar.com’s talented editor Justin Raimondo.

Raimondo has taken the younger Paul to task for wobbling on the Iran nuclear issue and for being, in his words, “a hollow man.”

Raimondo makes relevant points on the Iranian issue and the manner in which Rand Paul scrambled his way back toward Acceptable Opinion after his infamous “questioning” of a single provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But Raimondo’s and others’ gripes with Paul are really that he is not acting exactly like his father.

This isn’t a matter of philosophical apostasy.

From the very beginning of his campaign, Rand Paul has stated that he supported the initial incursion into Afghanistan but not into Iraq -- mirroring his father’s positions. At National Review Online, Rich Lowry admitted that when Rand Paul visited their offices, the candidate “clearly [thought] we [had] no business being in Afghanistan anymore.”

What’s interesting is that Raimondo is always searching for allies in his antiwar cause. He has pinned his hopes on some unlikely people, such as Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz, Arlen Specter, and he strangely sang the praises of Ann Coulter, who denounced Obama’s “surge” in Afghanistan while she still spewed partisan points about the justness of the Iraq war, a war Raimondo and both Pauls have consistently opposed. The only explanation I can come up with is that Raimondo holds Rand Paul to a higher standard because he is Ron Paul’s son.

Rand Paul’s position on Iran still leaves much to be desired, and his first votes on Iran and foreign policy will demand intense scrutiny. But to imply he is a neocon or some other garden variety interventionist based on his Iran position alone would warrant ridicule if the person in question was anyone besides Ron Paul’s son.

But just as it is unfair to expect Rand Paul to be a duplicate of his father it is also unfair and unreasonable to expect much “change” from him either.

The son may not be the father but he is also likely to be better than any other member of the Senate when it comes to libertarian or traditionally conservative causes.

Even the only other reputed “Tea Party” victor, Marco Rubio, is not an iconoclast and has never shown any interest in upsetting the GOP status quo.

My pessimism surrounding Rand Paul in the U.S. Senate actually has little to do with the man himself and has more to do with his institution and Washington in general.

To be fair to Rand, his father hasn’t brought much change to Washington either. This isn’t a judgment on him but a consequence of over a century of bureaucracy and cronyism.

Ron Paul is admired and respected because he is an honest politician who doesn’t waver in his principles. Even when he was booed and jeered during the 2007 Republican primary debates, he stood his ground.

But the elder Paul’s unending integrity and iron spine haven’t done anything to curb Leviathan.

During his tenure in the House, we have seen the Departments of Education and Homeland Security crop up, the Federal Reserve increase its power and exponentially increase the money supply, the power of the presidency reach unprecedented heights, the housing and student loan industry nationalized, Congress’ absolute abdication of war-making authority and the judicial branch’s assumption of legislating social policy, just to name a few of the more obvious travesties.

This certainly is not Ron Paul’s fault but only shows what we really face.

Son Rand is in a slightly more advantageous position by sitting in the Senate where there is a filibuster, but this is of only limited use and success.

What would he filibuster? To force an audit of the Fed or a real declaration of war, one prays.

What should reasonably be hoped for with Senator Paul are small successes, not large ones. The former should be demanded. The latter will leave us empty.

It’s been observed that liberals have had some dreams dashed by the Obama presidency. Of course, claiming that rising sea levels will recede is the perfect set-up for heartbreak.

The elevation of Rand Paul to the U.S. Senate is a good thing. He might not be precisely as principled as his father, but there is a lot more going on with him than anyone else in that chamber. One doesn’t defeat a pair of statewide-elected empty suits in his inaugural run for office by being an empty suit himself.

We are dreadfully mistaken if we believe Rand Paul’s presence in the U.S. Senate will make the Fed and all those other unconstitutional agencies disappear or that troops are going to come home from wars of which Paul disapproves.

But we might just see a real audit of the Fed. We might actually hear a debate about the wisdom of our foreign policy, even if it’s phrased in terms of the financial solvency of it.

We won’t tear down the gates of hell with this election. But if we’re lucky we just might be able to make the devil squirm.


Carl Wicklander,
Regular Columnist, THL
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