Rand Paul (Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

Rand Paul's foreign policy fraud: Where's the supposed anti-interventionist now?

He flip-flopped on Israel, went AWOL on bombing ISIS. Now he has “mixed feelings." The jig is up


Joan Walsh
August 12, 2014 8:15PM (UTC)

Where’s Rand?

Robert Draper just informed us: This might be the nation’s “libertarian moment,” and that’s good news for Tea Party Sen. Rand Paul. The son of libertarian cult figure U.S. Rep. Ron Paul came in first among Republican 2016 contenders in a recent poll of millennial voters. “On issues including same-sex marriage, surveillance and military intervention,” Draper explained, “his positions more closely mirror those of young voters than those of the G.O.P. establishment.”

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Draper’s an excellent reporter, but I’m not sure how he made that last claim, about military intervention. Because we don’t know Rand Paul’s positions on military intervention right now. He went radio silent after President Obama ordered airstrikes against Iraq, refusing multiple media requests for comment. Finally he commented on Obama’s decision Monday night in remarks to the Campbellsville, Kentucky, Chamber of Commerce:

I have mixed feelings about it. I'm not saying I'm completely opposed to helping with arms or maybe even bombing, but I am concerned that ISIS is big and powerful because we protected them in Syria for a year. Do you know who also hates ISIS and who is bombing them? Assad, the Syrian government. So a year ago, the same people who want to bomb ISIS wanted to bomb Syria last year. Syria and ISIS are on opposite sides of the war. We're now bombing both sides of one war that has spread into another country.

“Mixed feelings: Rand Paul 2016” isn’t much of a campaign slogan.

I’m not sure what Paul means by saying “we protected” ISIS in Syria for a year. Did he support calls to arm the “moderate” rebels along with neocon hawks and Hillary Clinton? To be charitable, there’s a glimmer of insight in Paul’s answer. One could now ask: Does the U.S. care more about toppling Bashar al-Assad or defeating ISIS? Nobody, from Obama to Hillary Clinton to POTSS (President of the Sunday Shows) John McCain has actually answered that question to my knowledge.

But again, he’s Randy Paul, pampered scion of the Ron Paul libertarian empire, and nobody has ever demanded that he make sense. He’s never actually formulated a coherent foreign policy because he’s never had to. And he will have to very soon if he’s really running for president.

Nowhere is Paul’s muddle clearer than on Israel. Poor Rand. He’s trying to claim he never advocated cutting foreign aid to the dominant Middle East power, when in fact he’s on the record many times and in many places doing just that. Politifact broke it down here. Not content with flip-flopping on foreign aid to Israel, he went for the Grand Pander with his “Stand with Israel” act, which cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority – going further than either AIPAC or the Israeli government would go, which means he’s not exactly standing with Israel, but whatever.

It’s also disturbing, on quite a few levels, that Paul decided earlier this year that he was likely to face Hillary Clinton if he made it through the GOP 2016 gauntlet, and decided to go at her hard – not for her slightly hawkish foreign policy stands, but for her husband’s behavior. Sexist and cowardly all at the same time.

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Paul still thinks he’s the GOP candidate who makes Democrats lose sleep over 2016. "There are a lot of people independent or Democrat that would like a reasonable foreign policy where we're not always at war,” he told the local Chamber of Commerce Monday night. “Where we are reluctant to go to war, where we have more of a moderate foreign policy, I think is appealing to a lot of people. I think Democrats fear that," said Paul.

I don’t think so, Sen. Paul.  To paraphrase the great Democrat FDR, there’s nothing to fear but … well, nothing. There’s nothing to fear from Rand Paul, unless he gets some smart foreign policy advice and straps on a spine and lays out a Rand Paul doctrine that can challenge his GOP rivals and Democrats. He’s not even close to doing that.

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Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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