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April 07, 2014 4:10 PM The Vetting of Rand Paul Begins

By Ed Kilgore

At Lunch Buffet I mentioned in passing David Corn’s discovery of a 2009 Rand Paul video attacking Dick Cheney. Having now watched the video, I’m pretty much willing to write off Paul’s chances of winning the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, even though I understand how much can change between now and then.

Paul doesn’t just suggest the two-term Republican vice president was influenced by his tenure at Halliburton. He all but attributes the entire change in Bush 41 and Bush 43 policies towards the invasion and occupation of Iraq to Cheney’s personal enrichment by Halliburton. Had he gone ahead and accused Cheney of treason, it would have been entirely logical. And he also comes close to saying Republicans who supported the Iraq invasion—you know, nearly all of them—were dupes complicit in Cheney’s evil.

It hasn’t been all that long since Republicans—again, nearly all of them—were celebrating the Iraq War as one of the great acts of U.S. leadership that might well intimidate enemies into submission for decades. A great many of them believe we should still be fighting there, and/or that we might have won had a lot more troops been deployed (some of the older GOPers also think we should have fought on to “victory” in Vietnam, for that matter). And even those Republicans who now think the occupation was a mistake generally think getting rid of Saddam Hussein was “worth it.” And here’s Rand Paul telling them all his old man was right and they were wrong—not just wrong, but stupidly, immorally wrong—from the get-go.

But that’s not all. Later in the video Paul casually talks about a massive retrenchment of U.S. foreign policy commitments in order to slash the defense budget as part of a “grand coalition” with liberal Democrats to balance the federal budget.

Unsurprisingly, Paul uses the old Eisenhower warning about the undue power of the military-industrial complex to give his comments a touch of orthodoxy. But virtually no one other than liberal Democrats has used that quote for many, many years. The military-industrial complex still has significant Democratic support, but its home is in the GOP. And if it has any power at all, it will be mobilized to crush Rand Paul in 2016.

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.

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