In Kentucky, Rand Paul might kill GOP consensus on terrorism

The tea-partying isolationist looks likely to win his Senate race, jeopardizing the Republican message on terrorism

Topics: 2010 Elections, Dick Cheney, Jim Bunning, Ron Paul, War Room,

In Kentucky, Rand Paul might kill GOP consensus on terrorismRepublican Rand Paul speaks at the 129th annual Fancy Farm Picnic Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009 in Fancy Farm, KY. Paul, the son of 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul, ended months of speculation Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009 by saying he will run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated next year by fellow Republican Jim Bunning. (AP Photo/ Daniel R. Patmore)(Credit: Associated Press)

Here’s something odd: we’re now well into an election year, and we aren’t yet constantly talking about it. Probably because an ambitious president and his agenda have dominated political coverage so far, surprisingly little media attention has dripped down to fights for Senate seats and governorships and so on.

One race that’s worth a new look is the contest for the seat of retiring Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky. GOP leaders pushed Bunning out last year in favor of the candidate they’d lined up, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson. The Democrats have a couple of strong possible nominees, but it’s a pretty solidly conservative state, and Grayson is an orthodox, if uninteresting, conservative choice. In other words, if it’s July 2009, you’re betting on Grayson.

It’s a measure of the weird turn of American politics, then, that Grayson is now waging a desperate-seeming comeback effort for his party’s nomination, against Dr. Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist and the son of former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex. A savvy campaign by Paul seems to have tapped into the populist anti-government sentiment growing on the right. In catching up with and passing Grayson, he’s landed a Sarah Palin endorsement and piled up “moneybomb” donations like his dad did in 2007. It now seems pretty clear that Paul is the favorite for the May 18 primary.

After trailing Paul for months in the polls, Grayson is now going after him in what seems like it should be his softest spot: like his father, Rand Paul isn’t that interested in conservative orthodoxy about terrorism and national security. He’s echoed his father on the idea that terrorism is not fueled by “who we are,” but “what we do.”

Grayson has released a web ad that emphasizes the similarity of the Pauls, father and son, showing both saying things like, “We have to understand that there is blowback for our foreign policy.” The video then cuts to footage of Rev. Jeremiah Wright in his Chicago church, who is making much the same point.



In case you missed the point, Grayson is airing an ad on Kentucky stations that says, “Paul even wonders whether 9/11 was our fault.”

Paul has shot back with a 30-second television spot saying that after September 11, “fighting back was the right thing to do,” and accusing Grayson of politicizing the tragedy. Although the response doesn’t emphasize his dissent from the party line, it’s pretty clear that Paul will have little in common with other Republican senators on this set of issues, should he be elected. And that, presumably, is why the GOP establishment is determined to kill his candidacy.

It’s not the case, as with so many successful primary insurgencies, that Paul is seen as unelectable: the guy polls ahead of both possible Democratic opponents. It’s that he’s seen as, potentially, the Republicans’ Joe Lieberman — not in that he’s a sanctimonious moderate, but in that he’ll be an attention-grabbing dissenter.

Since September 11, the GOP has been generally succeeded in maintaining almost universal party discipline on war and terrorism issues. There have been, here and there, some obscure members of Congress who turned against the war, or moments of halfhearted criticism of detention policies from Republicans. But if Paul wins the primary, he won’t just become, like Lieberman, a media go-to critic of his own party. He’ll also show that terrorism may no longer suffice as the glue that holds together Republican coalition. As with the Cold War, say, 60 years ago, an aggressive, nationalist response to September 11 was one thing around which Republicans had no problem forming a consensus. If Paul wins, does it mean the magic has gone away? Does the GOP base care more about the Federal Reserve than about Afghanistan or Guantanamo?

It should be obvious, then, why former Vice President Dick Cheney decided to intervene in this race on Grayson’s side. Cheney definitely cares way more about Afghanistan and Guantanamo than about the Federal Reserve.

Cheney described Grayson as the candidate who will “stay on offense in the fight against terrorism.” We might just as well say that Grayson is the candidate who will stay on offense in the domestic political battle over the international fight against terrorism, and that probably matters to Cheney even more.

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>