Rand Paul and the Scarlet “I’

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

As noted here last week, Rand Paul’s campaign has fallen into something like a Slough of Despond, leading to all sorts of speculation that he’s phoning it all in or that his minions are at each other’s throats. But whatever the sources of the problem, the lost mojo seems to have convinced Paul to make a little more controversial noise. Now that the entire Republican Party is stampeding towards a confrontation with Obama over Planned Parenthood funding, it’s not clear ol’ Aqua Buddha’s going to get much distinctive credit for going there first. So now the talk is that after years of trying to live down or even repudiate the scarlet “I” of isolationism his old man wore, Rand Paul may suddenly begin re-accentuating his non-internventionist impulses, or so says the canny Paul-watcher Dave Weigel:

The first Republican debate of the 2016 presidential campaign, said Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, will be between him and people who “want to blow up the world.” The showdown Thursday night will pit him against opponents who will “send half a million of your sons and daughters back” to Iraq. He vowed that he will ask his Republican presidential rivals, face to face, whether they “want to always intervene in every civil war around the world.”

“I want to be known as the candidate who’s not eager for war, who thinks war’s the last resort,” Paul said on a weekend swing through Iowa. “When we fight, we fight to win, but much of our involvement has led to consequences that made us less safe. You’ll see that come into sharp distinction.”

It’s about time, say his long-suffering libertarian supporters, several of whom are quoted by Weigel as thrilled with the signals the apparent Rand/Ron split on foreign policy is coming to an end or will at least be abated. I guess if his campaign is adrift, reconnecting with the Revolution is the obvious way to recharge it. And perhaps this is an example of a candidate finally figuring out that a 17-person field means differentiating oneself is the way to move up into the top tier instead of tediously pursuing the same conventional conservative “base” voters.

“He’s the only candidate of the 15 who has a position like this,” said Michael Hager, 23, after seeing Paul speak in a suburb of Chicago over the weekend. “I figure, hell, why not swing for the fences on this? Why not separate himself from the pack?”

If, of course, Paul really wanted to swing for the fences he’d channel his father’s 2012 rap on the Iranians having every reason to pursue nukes thanks to our constant meddling in their affairs, or better yet, just come right out and embrace the “I” word. As from whatever it would do for Paul, it would make Marco Rubio’s whole year.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.