Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will never be elected president and that is a very good thing for our country for a great many reasons.
Paul is a libertarian first, a Republican second, and a conservative only when his libertarianism accidentally intersects with conservative values. And that’s not very often.
Republicans, especially conservatives, have fought for civil rights for more than fifty years. Democrats were the principal opponents of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Today, Paul has refused to say he’d have voted for it if he were in Congress at the time. And it gets worse. For example, in an April 2010 videotaped interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, he tried to get around that precise question. Within his rambling answer he said, “I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners…I abhor racism…I think it’s a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant but at the same time I do believe in private ownership.” (The pauses are in the original.)
That was consistent with a 2002 letter he wrote to the Bowling Green Daily News, in which he said:
A recent Daily News editorial supported the Federal Fair Housing Act. At first glance, who could object to preventing discrimination in housing? Most citizens would agree that it is wrong to deny taxpayer-financed, “public” housing to anyone based on the color of their skin or the number of children in the household.
But the Daily News ignores, as does the Fair Housing Act, the distinction between private and public property. Should [discrimination] be prohibited for public, taxpayer-financed institutions such as schools to reject someone based on an individual’s beliefs or attributes? Most certainly. Should it be prohibited for private entities such as a church, bed and breakfast or retirement neighborhood that doesn’t want noisy children? Absolutely not.
Decisions concerning private property and associations should in a free society be unhindered. As a consequence, some associations will discriminate.
This is libertarianism at its finest, which is to say with its fundamentally conflicting beliefs clearly exposed. Libertarianism usually prescribes several beliefs on the same subject each of which conflicts with the others. It’s logically impossible to resolve those conflicts without changing one or more beliefs, but libertarianism doesn’t require resolution. Libertarianism tells people that cognitive dissonance is just fine, so they can be as simplistic and intellectually lazy as they like. Yes, Paul condemns racism, but he evidently believes discrimination in housing is fine if the housing project is privately-owned.
Discrimination in housing sales is and should be illegal. Paul believes it shouldn’t be illegal because it conflicts with his beliefs in the constitutional rights in property. (The Fifth Amendment protects Americans from the deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. There’s no constitutional right to property any more than there is a constitutional right to smoke pot.) There is absolutely no chance that a man with this record on civil rights will ever be elected president. Nor should there be.
Paul appeals to a lot of young conservatives for his supposed clear-speaking on complex issues. He speaks clearly, like most libertarians, because his positions are naïve and other-worldly. It’s easy — and correct — to say the federal debt is an enormous problem, even to say that it’s a national security problem, as Paul has said. But is it really, as he has also said, the biggest national security problem America has? Hardly.
This accounts for at least some of Paul’s muddle-headedness on how America should deal with the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons development. In a 2007 radio interview, Paul said he didn’t think Iran is a threat to us or to Israel:
Even our own intelligence community consensus opinion now is that they’re not a threat. Like my dad [Rep. Ron Paul] says, [the Iranians] don’t have an Air Force, they don’t have a Navy. You know, it’s ridiculous to think they’re a threat to our national security. It’s not even that viable to say they’re a national threat to Israel. Most people say Israel has 100 nuclear weapons, you know.
This is a fundamental blindness that libertarians share: they see no difference in Iran having nuclear weapons and our having them, Israel having them or France having them. That is a judgment of moral equivalence found only in libertarians and isolationist liberals. To Paul, every nation — regardless of its ideology, its support for terrorism, or its threats against American allies — has equal rights to nuclear weapons. And Paul conveniently forgets that Iran has threatened often to wipe Israel off the map.
In a Tax Day op-ed in the Washington Post, Paul didn’t recant any of the 2007 statements. He wrote, “I am unequivocally not for containing Iran. I am also not for announcing that the United States should never contain Iran.” What he is for Americans, our military, and our allies are left to guess.
Paul says he’s a “non-interventionist,” and by saying so tries to wrap himself in the image of Ronald Reagan. Let’s be clear: every conservative is a non-interventionist. But, like Ronald Reagan we believe that some acts of aggression are so severe they cannot be tolerated, and that some adversaries cannot be deterred, so they must be defeated at the time and place most advantageous to us.
There is no possibility that Iran can be contained. Its ideology and the kakistocracy that govern it are not going to surrender their nuclear weapons ambitions or their plans to use nuclear weapons to dominate the Middle East — at least — to establish a Shiite caliphate. Now, in the years since its 1979 revolution Presidents Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama have all said that Iran will never be allowed to have nuclear weapons, nothing has been done to prevent them from doing so. Obama has made a deal with the mullahs — who still demand that their audiences chant “death to America” before the mullahs preach or speechify — that serves only to ensure that they will produce nuclear weapons at the moment they choose.
Iran is now producing, buying, and deploying all the weapon systems it will need to defend against an attack on its nuclear arsenal before they actually produce the bombs. That is just what Paul and the libertarians choose to ignore. If we and the Israelis wait too long, we will reach the point predicted by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in his September 2012 speech to the UN: “The relevant question is not when Iran will get the bomb. The relevant question is at what stage can we no longer stop Iran from getting the bomb.”
Paul claims his policy is “nuanced,” and that such sophistication in strategy is what we have lacked before his deft-handed approach came along. But Paul is stumbling along a path we’ve trod before. He’s probably unaware of it, but the political world is round and when you go far enough to the right, you end up on the left. Rand Paul’s foreign policy would have the same effect as Obama’s because they are different only in names and labels.
Not even the Republicans are dumb enough to nominate Rand Paul, but a Paul candidacy — like the last one — will have only negative effects. The media will try to damage the whole field of candidates by associating them with Paul’s civil rights horrors. And Paul will serve as the media’s foil on foreign policy. Reagan mastered “strategic ambiguity” because he knew that it meant keeping the adversary off-balance. To Rand Paul, strategic ambiguity means confusing our allies and our military, keeping them off-balance while trying to understand when he means to be are serious and when he does not. He’s just a chip off the old blockhead.