Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rand Paul bucks conventional wisdom, moves to the left for the primary

Conventional wisdom is that Republican presidential candidates have to move to the right to win the nomination, then move to the center to have any chance of winning the general election.

But there's nothing conventional about Kentucky's U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, as shown by his frequent moves to the left as he sets out on his as-of-now unofficial quest for the 2016 nomination.

From vote fraud to drug control policy to law enforcement to felon voting rights, Paul has frequently taken liberal positions that are at odds with the conservative base of the Republican Party.

Just last week, he staked out a position to the left of Hillary Clinton on national defense. Her response was, in essence, to wish that Saddam Hussein was still alive. Although Paul may be the only person in the world who might consider her a "war hawk," the truth is that either one of them would be a disaster where defending our country is concerned.

We've long been skeptical of Paul and his motives. He is basically a more polished version of his father, who has been better able to appeal to the masses instead of being a fringe figure like his daddy was. But we honestly don't see how he can have any hopes of succeeding if he continues trying to play both sides of the aisle.

If he thinks that black liberals are going to vote for him over a Democrat because of his positions on drugs and felon voting rights, then he's been hitting his Aqua Buddha pretty hard. No amount of pandering is going to get a bloc of habitual Democrat voters to turn away from their natural inclinations and vote for him. And if he continues to take positions on the left that repel conservatives, he'll be lucky to have any base of support outside the minority of hard-core libertarians that don't represent the base of either party.

The most frequently heard 2008 criticism of Barack Obama -- that he lacks executive experience and is too wet-behind-the-ears as a first-term senator to be president -- is equally applicable to Paul. (Unfortunately, it also applies to putative conservative favorites Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz; not to mention that Cruz has that same not-born-in-America thing that excludes him from being president that some have tried to use against Obama). No one who used the inexperience reason against Obama has any room to now turn around and support Paul.

While many look at the list of possible 2016 GOP presidential candidates and become discouraged at the thoughts of liberal Republicans like Jeb Bush or Chris Christie being the nominee, Paul has proven himself to be far more liberal than those two on many issues about which conservatives are passionate. Yet somehow Paul picks up a lot of support from various TEA party sympathizers.

With control of the Senate looming and Mitch McConnell's re-election campaign in the spotlight, and Paul's not-so-secret presidential hopes on the radar screen, Kentucky is getting its share of national political attention. It's a rarity for a state that doesn't have very many electoral votes up for grabs and isn't usually considered a swing state that could tip the presidential contest. We're just not sure we like the kind of attention that Paul is attracting.

It's time for conservatives to take the blinders off regarding Kentucky's junior senator. In many important ways, he's not conservative at all. And with threats to our nation building in the Middle East and in Russia, our country doesn't need a leader cut from the Obama cloth, who isn't willing to protect our interests.

It will be interesting to see how many other liberal positions Paul takes as 2016 draws nearer. His leftist positions on certain issues are no different than liberal views by others (Bush, etc.) on other issues.

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