Rand Paul’s evolving appreciation for earmarks

RAND PAUL’S EVOLVING APPRECIATION FOR EARMARKS…. In the months leading up to the midterms, there was a nagging question the right tried not to think too much about: would GOP candidates telling Tea Party zealots what they want to hear ultimately change course after the elections?

I don’t doubt that Republicans will be taking plenty of irresponsible steps to satisfy the demands of their base, but we’re already seeing some preliminary moves away from campaign-season rhetoric.

Take Sen.-elect Rand Paul (R-Ky.), for example, who’s railed against earmark spending. As recently as Sunday, Christiane Amanpour asked the right-wing ophthalmologist, “Would you say no to earmarks?” He replied, “No more earmarks.” She followed up, asking “No more? Not even in your state?” Paul answered, “No.”

He told the Wall Street Journal something different.

Father and son, age 47, have different styles. Asked what he wanted to do in Washington in a Wednesday morning television interview, the senator-elect said that his kids were hoping to meet the Obama girls. He has made other concessions to the mainstream. He now avoids his dad’s talk of shuttering the Federal Reserve and abolishing the income tax. In a bigger shift from his campaign pledge to end earmarks, he tells me that they are a bad “symbol” of easy spending but that he will fight for Kentucky’s share of earmarks and federal pork, as long as it’s doled out transparently at the committee level and not parachuted in in the dead of night. “I will advocate for Kentucky’s interests,” he says.

So you’re not a crazy libertarian? “Not that crazy,” he cracks.

I’ll look forward to the Tea Partiers’ response.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.