"Stand with Rand" -- a nice, snappy exhortation for sure; comparable, in rhythm and energy, to "I Like Ike."
Not that Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul stands, shall we say, in much danger of becoming president, despite his straw-poll victory (31 percent) at the Conservative Political Action Conference. (For comparative purposes, Ted Cruz got 11 percent, Marco Rubio 6 percent, and Rep. Paul Ryan 3 percent, a figure wholly non-commensurate with the ex-Veep nominee's qualities).
When you're young and on fire, as were nearly half the straw poll participants at CPAC, you're subject to hurling obstacles out the window. For instance, does the American electorate as a whole chew its fingernails as earnestly as Paul does over federal storage of telephone call information for potential use in fighting terrorism? "The Fourth Amendment" -- illegal search and seizure -- "is just as important as the Second Amendment," the senator contends.
In the end, do privacy and guns -- which, may it please the court, I am not calling dumb issues -- affect national wellbeing so intimately as the mess we call Obamacare? Consider this week's news that state prison officials are turning over their health care costs to the federal government. Reports the New York Times: "Health care experts estimate that up to 35 percent of those newly eligible for Medicaid under Mr. Obama's health care are people with histories of criminal justice system involvement ... "
Might we call this further testimony to the need for liberating health care from government control? Sen. Paul, who highly values freedom, likely would. The libertarian agenda, nonetheless, has an exoticism to it, unlikely ever to carry any libertarian candidate into the White House.
At CPAC, a combined 62 percent of the attendees came out for legalizing marijuana either outright or for medical purposes. Pot -- a brand-new "conservative" endearment? I wouldn't count on it in November 2016. It's a diversion, all the same, from concerns such as the size, capability, and mission of the U.S. armed forces, and from the ticking financial bomb called Medicare.
The range of political concerns in our time seems as immense as the solar system -- the direct consequence of state intervention in every human concern that comes to mind. Got an idea you'd like to flesh out? Let's see if the federal taxpayers can't be stirred up to get behind it. Small wonder the federal government never gets smaller.
Libertarians, bless 'em, have their freedom-loving hearts mostly in the right place. Their peculiar weakness is a gift for going bananas over such matters as governmentally recorded phone calls -- outside the larger context of what it takes to keep their own society safe from the malignancy of terrorism.
Other activists, right and left, have their own obsessions: For instance, the Georgia Republican senatorial candidate reported this week as calling for abolition of the United Nations. Yeah, right -- that's really going to happen. And if it did happen, who, five minutes later, would regard the United States as more secure in its constitutional freedoms?
Barack Obama, possibly the best friend Republicans have in the world right now (and getting better all the time), keeps heaping gasoline on the blaze that his big-government, anti-capitalist ideas created as if by spontaneous combustion. The thing that Republican candidates of all makes and models want to avoid is getting in his way by defining the nation's needs in terms that cause substantial numbers of voters to gaze at them with wide-open mouths, saying, "Huh?"
The republic and the world can be made better, and obviously should. But history never shifts into reverse gear because of political war whoops, for all their shivery gratifications. Americans need to keep their eyes not on the small and the limited, but on the big; on those first things that, by common report, deserve to come first. A very good and able man is Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Paul, nevertheless, as national savior -- maybe not; not yet at least.