Political Animal


January 24, 2013 2:54 PM Borderline

By Ed Kilgore

At WaPo’s The Fix, where it’s apparently Wingnut Week, Aaron Blake had a post yesterday on Sen. Rand Paul’s efforts to stake out a position well to the right of any potential 2016 presidential primary opponents:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is quickly establishing himself as the conservative option in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.
Paul’s statement at Wednesday’s Senate hearing on Libya that he would have fired Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be replayed over and over on cable news in the hours to come. But it’s hardly the first time he’s put himself in the middle of a controversy — and chosen about the most conservative posture possible.

Blake then runs through some of young paleo-libertarian’s recent escapades, including votes against anything vaguely resembling a fiscal deal; a vote against Sandy assistance; and a shot at Chris Christie. He then suggests Paul is in the process of establishing himself as the “true conservative” candidate of 2016, presumably dragging the whole field to the right.

Blake’s general point is spot-on, since nothing has quite characterized recent GOP presidential nomination candidacies more than the gnawing fear of being outflanked on the right. Yet Paul’s foreign policy and civil liberties views may well prevent him from ever defining the rightward borderline that separates the GOP from the people in tinfoil hats; “true conservatives” have a lusty taste for war, and typically favor civil liberties only for white male American “patriots” stockpiling military weapons in case Obamacare drives them to violent revolution. The only similar candidate in recent years was Pat Buchanan, who only gained traction in 1992 and 1996 as a magnet for protest votes against the front-running RINOs Poppy Bush and Bob Dole, and then faded fast when things got serious.

In a crowded field, the more-conservative-than-thou competition could indeed become heated, but it’s not clear to me that Rand Paul is more “conservative” than, say, Bobby Jindal or perhaps even Marco Rubio. Rick Perry, when he’s strutting around on a stage feeding red meat to right-wing audiences instead of having to think on his feet, is capable of vein-popping extremism, too. And you never know, the experience of 2008 and 2012 could perhaps convince movement-conservative types to unite early behind one candidate, as they did with George W. Bush in 2000 (though you’d never know it from how they denounce him today as a sell-out).

Let’s see who all shows up for the circus before identifying the most colorful clown.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on January 24, 2013 3:18 PM:

    In the Republican's (not so) "Big Tent," all there is, is clowns.

    And Rand Paul, with the Donald Trump ferret-toupee-starter-set, is one of the biggest clowns in there.

    And, I agree - I don't think his relative pacifism, compared to the "Invade the Browns" philosophy of the rest of the party, will play well.

  • Josef K on January 24, 2013 3:28 PM:

    Letís see who all shows up for the circus before identifying the most colorful clown.

    Agreed. Its not like we have a few years in which to enjoy the show, after all.

    Plus there's all the pesky governing the GOP has shown its incapable of, which ought to give plenty of amusement as well.

  • AfGuy on January 24, 2013 3:53 PM:

    I think that, to win an election, NOT just a primary, you have to have have (1) a personality (2) at least a touch of charisma, and, lastly, (3) some popular ideas.

    Rand's 0-3 in that regard.... and the aforementioned "dead ferret" on his head doesn't help matters either.

  • AfGuy on January 24, 2013 3:55 PM:

    Sorry, wrong species... Trump has the "ferret"... Paul's is obviously more of a species of "poodle".

  • serita on January 24, 2013 3:57 PM:


    I think he'd be adorable in a cute little leprechaun suit.

    Of course, it would be green--the color of money.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on January 24, 2013 4:24 PM:

    I tickle myself. I saw that ridiculous clip of the HRC hearing on the tube while I was at the gym last night. I didn't know that that was Rand Paul at the time, but I seriously thought: "Who is this pompous, overly bombastic prick, desperately trying to channel a vague sense of outrage by feigning hyperventilation???"

    Any crack-pot pol who starts a sentence with "If I were the president..." is an asshole by default... An asshole with delusions of grandeur, at that. (Wonder how long he rehearsed that line in the mirror...?)

    But I do applaud Hilary's ability to keep a straight face during what was perhaps the most perplexing WTF-moment in all of political-dom. If that's Paul's opening bid for 2016, I'm sticking my head in the sand right now.

  • g on January 24, 2013 4:59 PM:

    Maybe his stupid comment that Benghazi was the "worst tragedy since 9/11" will be played on endless loop instead. I'm sure the Newtown and Aurora victims' families will be impressed with his gravitas.

  • Neil B on January 24, 2013 5:17 PM:

    Wanting to fire someone over ostensible incompetent handling of defense from an attack is not inherently more "conservative" or liberal etc. - it's at logical tangent to the more appropriate definitions of those political positions. I know that "toughness" is more associated with conservatism etc but this is not good practice.

  • June on January 24, 2013 6:29 PM:

    Rand Paul's comment was absurd on so many levels, two of them being that were he president, he would no doubt have used the recent GOP playbook of appointing the least qualified whackjob he could find as SoS. So, were Paul president, Hillary Clinton most definitely would not have been in his Cabinet for him to fire her in the first place. Secondly, had Benghazi happened on Paul's watch, John McCain and Lindsey Graham would have seen absolutely no reason to inject themselves with faux outrage over the incident's aftermath, and the GOP/Fox News machine would have turned Paul into a hero for it having happened on his watch, see: Bush, 9/11.

  • smartalek on January 24, 2013 7:41 PM:

    Amen, June.
    I will credit ol' Rand with one thing that I truly would not have expected: he used the proper form of the verb ("if I were Pres") for the subjunctive mood required by the counterfactual.
    Not too many people would do so (or recognize the need), and even less so among the anti-"elitist," anti-intellectual Publicans. Good for him for that much.

  • Kathryn on January 24, 2013 8:58 PM:

    Also folks don't miss HRC's expression when Paul asks another question about arms flowing from Libya to Turkey, his source FOX. She has a slight, incredulous smile on her face as she says Turkey?

    Thanks again media for focusing non stop attention on the Tea Party in 2009/2010, thanks for making every meeting of 25 old farts with tea bags on their hats into a movement, great job,

  • kwd101 on January 24, 2013 10:35 PM:

    I would love to see Hillary versus Rand in a debate/election setting. She wouldn't have one hand tied behind her back like she did today.

  • mrs. j on January 24, 2013 11:04 PM:

    Rand Paul is just repulsiveness personified. That voice, that Glenn Beck mentality. Most people hate his guts.
    He made a joke out of himself at the senate hearing.
    Just that Hillary was a day later in front of the senate committee introducing Senator Kerry as nominee made her victorious.

  • RussL on January 24, 2013 11:13 PM:

    Inside Sec. Clinton's head: "Senator Paul, if you insist on running for President
    on Chris Stevens grave, I'll rip off your head and sh!t down your neck!!!!"

    Thank you Kentucky for sending us this astounding dink.

  • gyfalcon on January 25, 2013 2:09 AM:

    Bring him on. Rand Paul is easily the most unpleasant character on the national stage for many years. He makes Richard Nixon look like Mr. Congeniality.

  • John D'oh on January 25, 2013 9:06 AM:

    We all saw how well that worked for Santorum in 2012. I say go for it, Rand.