Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is the latest Republican to declare he hates Washington so much that he is prepared to spent billions of dollars – of other people's money, naturally – to win a four-year lease on government housing and become the personification of Washington and government.
As a freshman senator he called for eliminating all foreign aid, including Israel's $3.5 billion grant, not, he said, because he is anti-Israel but because he is pro-Israel and wants to help the Jewish state overcome its dependence on the United States. He modified that somewhat as he set his sights on the presidency and raising Jewish contributions.
The National Jewish Democratic Council said Paul's shifting positions on aid to Israel and other allies "would greatly endanger the safety and security of the Jewish state."
He has some additional baggage that will trouble Jewish voters: his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) was a three-time presidential candidate with a very anti-Israel reputation. The son insists he is different, and he deserves to be able to stand on his own record. Doubters should recall that Joseph P. Kennedy was an anti-Semite but his sons Jack, Bobby and Ted certainly were not.
Paul is the second prominent Republican to announce his candidacy. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a fellow Tea Party favorite, made his announcement before 10,000 cheering evangelical Christians at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Other Republican wannabes are expected to be tossing their hats in the ring this month, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Gov. Paul Walker of Wisconsin, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
All will be running against Washington, as though they – and in several cases, their families – had never been part of government here or anywhere else and as though they think they can flummox voters.
Paul, a libertarian conservative, said, “I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government.” We've heard that before from conservatives like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who left Washington with a bigger bureaucracies, bigger deficits and more intrusive domestic spying than when they arrived. As the Republicans run against big government, they will try hard to ignore a Wall Street Journal report that the size of the federal bureaucracy actually shrunk under Barack Obama to below the 1966 level.
Paul is doing what all candidates do, run away from their own records, shrugging them off as ancient history and irrelevant, while slamming away at their opponents for their own records and rhetoric of the same vintage. Remember how effectively Republicans hammered John Kerry during his 2004 presidential campaign for his "I was for it before I was against it" statement? Every candidate who has served in public office, especially in the Congress, has a few of those on his or her record, and opposition researchers for their rivals have been digging them out for months.
Paul has a tendency to get irritable and annoyed when reporters ask him to explain his flip-flops. Topics that will get a lot of attention from Jewish voters will be his shifting positions on Israel, foreign aid and Iran. You can expect his rivals to bring all those up in their debates.
What I find so interesting are the candidates who rail against big government and big spending and then proceed to spend record amounts of money on obnoxious and usually negative campaigns so they can get a chance to take over the government and make it even bigger and more intrusive.
If they hate Washington so much, why do they try so hard to stay here and bring in all their friends?