Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, suspended his presidential campaign last week. Though he took fifth place in the Iowa caucuses, he garnered a mere four percent of the vote.
“Ours has been a unique voice in this race,” the senator rightly declared, “one that says Big Government threatens Americans from all walks of life, rich and poor, black and white — from the coal miner who has lost his job over President Obama’s destructive EPA regulations to the teenager from a poor family facing jail time for marijuana.”
Some of Rand’s message resonates in the Republican Party; other parts, not so much.
An anonymous senior Paul aide told Politico that the problem — in addition to “Trump” — was “this foreign policy environment,” noting that “Rand was more flavor of the month a year ago . . . before they were beheading people in the Middle East. . . .”
Still, the GOP would be wise to heed Paul’s message, especially on foreign policy. Had leveler heads prevailed a few years ago, when Barack and Hillary began their bizarre attempts to “fix” Libya and Syria, ISIS might not be now such a threat. Interventions have consequences, in foreign lands with bullets and drones, just as domestically with regulations and taxes . . . as well as bullets and drones.
“I will not ignore the terrible cost of decades of war and chaos in the Middle East, and the unintended consequences of regime-change and nation-building,” the senator assured supporters. “I will continue to fight for criminal justice reform, for privacy, and your Fourth Amendment rights. I will continue to champion due process over indefinite detention.”
In assessing his presidential campaign, Paul told reporters, “Brushfires of liberty were ignited, and those will carry on, as will I.”
That’s good. Following his father’s calling, Dr. Rand Paul has become freedom’s foremost firebrand. He faces a reelection campaign this year and we desperately need him in the U.S. Senate.
But can anyone stand in for him among the remaining presidential contenders?
Among the Democrats, no. Though independent of party and the professional Left’s army of special interests holding most Democratic politicians in hock, Bernie Sanders is so ideologically encumbered that he’s actually competitive with Hillary Clinton in the Definitely Bad for Freedom Dept.
Among the Republicans, it is trickier.
Donald Trump is a protectionist and a demagogue, making him at best a Wild Card, but at worst an enemy of liberty. Trump’s protectionism, like Bernie’s, if taken literally is worse than Great Depression Era Smoot-Hawley. It is possible that his Say Anything approach might account for some of his policy absurdities, but it means that, among the Republicans, he cannot stand in for Rand.
Far from it.
Ted Cruz has a lot going for him, having taken on the establishment and spoken truth to power — within his own party. But on foreign policy, Cruz has been too willing to play warmonger in difficult Mid-East conflicts. The principles of limited government require, at the very least, sobriety in foreign policy discussions, not loose talk suggesting carpet bombing and “making the sand glow” ina region filled with innocents as well as malefactors.
Equally troubling, Sen. Cruz has seemingly flip-flopped on the issue of NSA collection of Americans’ metadata. Paul complains that, “With the NSA vote, [Cruz] gets on the stage as soon as he’s attacked by Rubio, he responds by saying ‘well, I voted for it’ so the government can collect 100 percent of your cell phone records. He wants to have it both ways.”
Paul supporters are also upset that Cruz missed the Senate vote on auditing the Federal Reserve.
Amongst the others, we hear talk of freedom every now and then, but it is always blunted by power lust and a lack of realism regarding what government can and cannot do. Chris Christie has one issue it would be great were someone else to take up — entitlement reform, with a gimlet eye focused on possible solvency — but it gets lost in the usual bully-bully talk Americans learned to love from the Republican president who had a stuffed bear named after him.
Yes, I miss Rand Paul already. It is time for Americans to put away childish, bullying politics and return to limited government.