Last night Rand Paul was asked, straight-up, to defend a core part of his non-interventionist approach to foreign policy — arguably his signature reason for running. He punted. And in the process, he illustrated why his campaign is doing so badly.
— DavidJeffersGroup (@FLADaveJ) August 7, 2015
Paul was asked to defend comments blaming the rise of ISIS on “GOP hawks,” on the grounds that American interventions abroad had helped get arms into the hands of extremists. Paul demurred, saying that “only ISIS” is responsible for its violence.
“ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party,” he said in May. “Everything [the hawks have] talked about in foreign policy, they’ve been wrong about for 20 years but they have somehow the gall to keep pointing fingers and saying otherwise.”
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The problem here is that Paul’s libertarian base — the kind of people who love his father, former Rep. Ron Paul — want him to attack Republican hawks. They like Rand because he’s willing to forthrightly and openly attack George W. Bush–style neoconservatism, to say that America’s history of foreign wars might be a mistake. And, at times, Paul has been willing to say that stuff.
This is a basic, basic mistake. But even if his answer made sense, it still has a non-interventionist implication: America shouldn’t be sending weapons abroad to fight ISIS. That’s going to piss off most Republicans as well as key GOP donors, who support more aggressive measures about ISIS. No one in the party will like that answer.
Paul’s trying to thread a delicate needle: keep his libertarian base while expanding his reach to more typical Republicans. This kind of answer shows how he’s failing at both ends
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