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“The Republican Quasi-Isolationists Change Their Tune”: America Can Solve All The Worlds Problems Again!

It looks like the debate over what to do about ISIS has given Republicans one fewer thing to argue about:

A roiling national debate over how to deal with the radical Islamic State and other global hot spots has prompted a sudden shift in Republican politics, putting a halt to the anti-interventionist mood that had been gaining credence in the party.

The change is evident on the campaign trail ahead of the November midterm elections and in recent appearances by the GOP’s prospective 2016 presidential candidates, with a near-universal embrace of stronger military actions against the group that has beheaded two American journalists.

A hawkish tone has become integral to several key Republican Senate campaigns, with a group of candidates running in battleground states calling attention to their ties to veterans and their support for the U.S. military at every turn.

The most notable shift has come from Rand Paul, who used to talk a lot about the dangers of interventionism and foreign entanglements, but is now ready for war. “If I were president,” he told the AP, “I would call a joint session of Congress. I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily.”

This follows on a recent Pew Research poll which found that while last November only 18 percent of Republicans said the U.S. does too little to solve the world’s problems and 52 percent said we do too much, today 46 percent say we’re doing too little and only 37 percent say we’re doing too much.

It’s possible that all those Republicans have changed their perspective because circumstances have changed. ISIS in particular certainly looks much stronger and more threatening than it did a few months ago. But it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that what has changed is Barack Obama. Once the old conservative narrative that he’s a weak weakling endangering us with his weakness reasserted itself, most of those alleged quasi-isolationists, including the one who wants to be president, scuttled back to the fold.

This highlights a simple fact about today’s Republicans: After six years of the Obama presidency, they define themselves almost entirely by being the opposite of whatever the guy in the White House is. I guarantee you that if Barack Obama did exactly what Rand Paul seems to be recommending—a full-scale war against ISIS—he and millions of other Republicans would change their tune in short order, now claiming that he was pulling us into another quagmire, and America can’t solve all the world’s problems. And they’d be completely sincere.

This is an extension of the way Republicans have been thinking throughout his presidency. As we know, whenever Obama has embraced one of their ideas, like the cap-and-trade carbon-reduction plan, or the conservative health-care plan that became the basis of the Affordable Care Act, they immediately decide that not only is it the soul of evil, but that they’ve always believed that, like the Party in “1984” declaring that we have always been at war with Eastasia.

To a degree, that’s natural. When the other side’s guy is president for two terms, he shapes the whole debate and even how you wind up thinking of yourself. But Republicans have been unusually reactive, I think in part because their abhorrence of Obama is so intense. He could say that he enjoys ice cream, and a million conservatives would swear never to let the vile frozen sludge pass their lips again.

Of course, there’s a core of conservatism that is unchanging, no matter who the president is—taxes and regulations are bad, the rich are noble job creators, the safety net is for leeches, and so on. But on all those other issues that don’t necessarily occupy their ideological core, it does make you wonder if they’ll be able to figure out who they are once Obama is gone come 2017. I guess then they’ll define themselves as against whatever President Clinton is for.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 4, 2014

September 5, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Middle East, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Evolution Of Rand Paul”: Pandering To GOP Mega Donors

A week ago today, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal condemning “interventionists,” who are quick to use military force abroad “with little thought to the consequences.” Over the course of his 900-word piece, the Republican senator was dismissive of the “hawkish members of my own party.”

“A more realistic foreign policy would recognize that there are evil people and tyrannical regimes in this world, but also that America cannot police or solve every problem across the globe,” Paul wrote. “Only after recognizing the practical limits of our foreign policy can we pursue policies that are in the best interest of the U.S.”

But a few days later, the Republican senator attended the annual summit of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ main political operation, where Rand Paul took a very different line.

Speaking to a ballroom later, some of the loudest applause for Paul came when he quipped: “If the president has no strategy, maybe it’s time for a new president.”

In an emailed comment, however, Paul elaborated by saying: “If I were President, I would call a joint session of Congress. I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily.”

Wait, what?

On Wednesday, Paul said he had no use for “interventionists” and the “hawkish members” of his own party who are calling for using force in the Middle East. But just 48 hours later, Paul supports U.S. military intervention abroad to destroy ISIS?

Also keep in mind, less than a month ago, Paul was asked about U.S. airstrikes targeting ISIS targets in Iraq. The senator said he had “mixed feelings” about the offensive. Apparently, those feelings are no longer mixed and Paul is now eager to “destroy ISIS militarily” – says the senator who complained last week about Hillary Clinton being a “war hawk.”

At what point do Rand Paul’s loyal followers start to reconsider whether Rand Paul actually agrees with them?

Sarah Smith recently noted that the Kentucky senator has changed his mind about federal aid to Israel, use of domestic drones, immigration, elements of the Civil Rights Act, Guantanamo Bay, and even accepting donations from lawmakers who voted for TARP.

Now, even the basic elements of his approach to using military force are up for grabs.

I suppose a Paul defender might take heart by assuming the senator doesn’t actually believe these new policy positions; he’s just saying these things to bolster support from centers of power within the Republican Party in advance of a presidential campaign. His genuine beliefs, the argument goes, are the ones he espoused before he started pandering to GOP mega donors.

But if that is the argument, it’s cold comfort. For one thing, once a politician replaces his fundamental beliefs with a more palatable worldview, it’s hard to know which version is the “real” one. For another, the “don’t worry, he’s lying” defense just never seems to resonate with a broad spectrum of voters.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 3, 2014

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Middle East, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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