Trail To The Chief: Rand Paul vs. The World

06/08/2015 07:00 am ET | Updated Jun 08, 2015

Rand Paul Vs. The World

Rand Paul says the darndest things. Especially about privacy, government surveillance, ISIS and … himself. Three recent examples from last week: filibustering Patriot Act reforms; saying that GOP hawks created ISIS by sending arms into the Gulf region; and accusing his foes of wanting another terrorist attack in the U.S. so they could blame the carnage on him. That last remark was such a piece of grandiose self-pity that no one wanted to respond. Why play into the Kentucky senator’s martyrdom shtick?

Paul first became a Republican sensation in 2013, when he used a filibuster to raise alarms about the CIA’s drone program. This time around, Paul is a declared presidential candidate, and his filibuster this week against the NSA’s bulk data collection program elicited within his party a scattering of wan support, but mostly criticism, much of it from rival GOP presidential contenders.

None of his moves this week shifted his poll numbers one way or the other.

Paul managed to procure some measure of backing from his fellow 2016-ers, with the strongest support coming from Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, who has shed the nice-guy conservative approach that won him Iowa in 2008 for an edgier, to-the-right-of-everyone strategy now. As CNN reported:

Huckabee said that the original [Patriot Act] was "hastily passed" in the wake of 9/11 without extensive debate. Public opinion has shifted now, he said. "Fourteen years ago, we were worried about terrorists. Now we're worried about our government," Huckabee said, singling out controversies around the IRS and Justice Departments.

Elsewhere, Dr. Ben Carson put himself firmly in the “probably” camp on NSA bulk surveillance reform, saying, "We really have to protect the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment, and there are aspects of the Patriot Act, such as the massive meta-data collection, which I think probably are not necessary."

The best Paul’s fellow firebrand Ted Cruz could muster was this: “I would note he and I agree on a great many issues, although we don’t agree entirely on this issue, but I want to take the opportunity to thank the senator from Kentucky for his passionate defense of liberty. His is a voice that this body needs to listen to.”

But that was about it from Paul’s colleagues in the nomination hunt. For the most part, by week’s end, just about everyone else in the GOP had, in one way or another, suggested that the good doctor was naive, or a media grandstander (as if they weren't!), or a soft-on-terrorism isolationist who was afraid to confront a global Islamist jihad.

Here’s the Rand vs. World rundown, listed in descending order of vehemence:

Team McCain’s 2016 entrant was unsparing, suggesting that a Paul nomination would mean a 2016 loss for the GOP, to Hillary Clinton: “I think [Clinton] would be able to tear him apart because his view of foreign policy is one step behind leading from behind, and at the end of the day the average American sees radical Islam as a threat much greater than the NSA.”
This is old hat for Santorum: He spent the 2012 debates beating up on Rand’s old man: “I think the idea that we accept now that this tripe from the left that it’s our fault that ISIS exists -- go back to the thousand-year history of Muslim expansionism, and look at some of the horrible things that were done to spread radical Islam. That is not something that America had anything to do with. ... I would expect to hear that from maybe Bernie Sanders. I don't expect to hear that from someone running for the Republican nomination.”
Perry’s been calling out Rand for a while now. A 2014 WaPo op-ed from Perry takes a polite tack -- until the Reagan reference: "Paul is an articulate advocate for his views, which are shared by many on the left and some on the right. But in today’s world, with today’s threats, we still cannot 'take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost.' That was President Reagan’s warning. Sen. Paul would be wise to heed it."
Essentially called out Paul for being insincere, suggesting all this to-do was about political marketing: "Allowing any of these programs to expire is a mistake, but that’s what is happening as a consequence of the reckless spreading of misinformation and political posturing."
High dudgeon from the guy who’s appointed himself the recording secretary of all party rhetoric: “I was appalled by his statement. ... Listen to what he said. 'ISIS exists because of the hawks in the Republican Party.' You know, if President Obama had said that, every Republican senator and governor would be calling him out rightfully. It’s just not right to blame America first.”
Fully aware that the Patriot Act is part of his brother’s legacy, fully aware that he shouldn’t trumpet that legacy too loudly: “I think he’s wrong in saying that this is unconstitutional or saying that people’s freedoms have been violated by the Patriot Act,” Bush said in New Hampshire. “I think we need to reauthorize the Patriot Act, and put aside who’s speaking where. The simple fact is that it’s been an effective tool to keep us free and to keep us from being attacked by Islamic terrorists.”
Quips ‘n’ schtick from a slowly fading vaudeville act: "That’s who Mike Lee and Rand Paul are siding with? With Edward Snowden? Hey, come on.”
A tepid response? Remember that Walker wants to stitch every part of the right-wing coalition together: "We need to have a responsible way that is legal and constitutional, but a way that we can make sure that if someone is an enemy combatant, or aligned with an enemy combatant, the United States and the people of this great country, we've got to have the tools we need to prevent another act from happening."
Because George Pataki gets to answer 2016 questions now: “I may be a liberal New Yorker on abortion and gay rights but I’m tough on terrorists. ... It's just, to me, totally wrong that a filibuster would be used to create this void in our security at a time when we are at risk."

Candidate Photos: Getty, Associated Press

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