Rand Paul: No Longer a Still Point of the Turning World

Tom Frank’s not the only person in the news today who’s prone to fixed and counter-factual views of how the world works. The closest thing we’ve ever had to a nationally marketable libertarian, the junior Senator from Kentucky, had this to say about criticism that he’s been a mite flexible of late in his foreign policy views (per a report from Politico‘s Jonathan Topaz:

Sen. Rand Paul on Monday pushed back against heightened criticism that he has flip-flopped on foreign policy issues, saying he has stood firmly against the Obama administration’s policies in Syria


Appearing on CBS “This Morning,” the Kentucky Republican conceded that he has shifted his views in some areas, including on what is an appropriate U.S. response to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. “As world events change, obviously you change your analysis. Five years ago, ISIS wasn’t a threat,” he said, using an alternate name for the terrorist group that has mobilized across much of northern and central Iraq.

No one, of course, was asking Paul five years ago about ISIS, were they? So that’s a non-sensical defense. He needs to explain why ISIS is so different from previous “threats” absent any immediate danger of an attack on the United States, and/or why he’s suddenly embracing the “flypaper theory” of why overseas wars are necessary for homeland security that his old man hated so much?

But beyond Paul’s day-to-day opportunism, you do have to wonder at what point the libertarianish folk that are his hardcore financial (and in some places electoral) base are going to stop regarding him as a clever missionary for the Cause who’s made himself presentable to the heathen, and start fearing he’s a sell-out. This “things change” rap is the sort of thing libertarians–and for that matter, the Christian Right and the entire Con-Con coalition–really hate. Their entire perspective is that things do not change; there’s an eternally correct way to govern a country that the United States has either lost or has never adequately tried. Paul better watch his mouth.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.