Rand Paul Wants It Both Ways

Do not stand with Rand.

Whereas Paul told me back in 2013 that he hoped to make “audit the Pentagon” as popular a rallying cry as his father Ron Paul did “audit the Fed,” he’s now proposing $190 billion in spending increases for defense over two years, but claims fiscal conservative bonafides regardless since the proposal comes with accompanying cuts elsewhere.

Paul used to be very forceful in distinguishing his vision of American power abroad from the “neoconservative” one that tried to gin up constant war in the Middle East. Now he’s definitely for using force against ISIL and signed the Tom Cotton letter clearly intended to scotch negotiations over keeping Iran from getting nuclear weapons. That decision lost Paul some prominent supporters from the anti-empire crowd that flocked to his father, but Paul said at an appearance at the SXSW festival that it was more complicated than it might seem: he was not trying to end negotiations; “The message was to President Obama that we want you to obey the law, we want you to understand the separation of powers.”

By Brian Doherty


o prove that Sen. Rand Paul is not his father, all you need to do is look at ethanol. Rand Paul would not be where he is without the machinery of fans and financing that his father Ron Paul built, and the libertarian ideology that excited them. That legacy is also the weight Rand Paul balances as he walks so many fine lines of policy and rhetoric. Steve Grubbs, running Paul’s Iowa operation this year, says Paul “believes that it’s important to believe the right things but it’s equally important to act on and have success with those beliefs.”

In a country that is by no means majority libertarian, that means Paul can’t be everything that his strongly anti-government fans might want. Paul has himself used the term libertarian as an adjective describing his Republicanism, as a mere one influence among many on his thought, and in an interview with me last year as more or less an albatross around his neck, as reporters will frequently try to force him to defend or explain the wildest edges of libertarian thought.

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