Though he has been at or near the top of near-meaningless early primary polling, he is nonetheless a long shot to ascend to the top of the GOP ticket, let alone to the White House. And a good thing too: A Paul presidency would be a misfortune for the majority of Americans who would be devastated by his regime of minimalist government. But as we begin to imagine a post-Obama national politics where the Democratic presidential front-runners may be of Social Security age and the Republicans lack a presumptive leader or a coherent path forward, he can hardly be dismissed. Nature abhors a vacuum, and Paul doesn’t hide his ambitions to fill it. In his own party, he’s the one who is stirring the drink, having managed in his very short political career (all of three years) to have gained stature in spite of (or perhaps because of) his ability to enrage and usurp such GOP heavyweights as John McCain, Mitch McConnell, and Chris Christie. He is one of only two putative presidential contenders in either party still capable of doing something you don’t expect or saying something that hasn’t been freeze-dried into anodyne Frank Luntz–style drivel by strategists and focus groups. The other contender in the spontaneous-authentic political sweepstakes is Christie, but like an actor who’s read too many of his rave reviews, he’s already turning his bully-in-a-china-shop routine into Jersey shtick. (So much so that if he modulates it now, he’ll come across as a phony.) Paul doesn’t do shtick, he rarely engages in sound bites or sloganeering, and his language has not been balled up by a stint in law school or an M.B.A. program. (He’s an ophthalmologist.) He speaks as if he were thinking aloud and has a way of making his most radical notions sound plausible in the moment. It doesn’t hurt that some of what he says also makes sense.The hell it doesn't! Heh. But then again, I agree with Pat Buchanan sometimes too. It's disturbing, until I realize that even a blind pig can find an acorn once in a while.
But not everyone on the right believed Christie had thrown a knockout punch at the infidel within the GOP. Writing in Commentary, Jonathan Tobin noted that other conservatives had been echoing Paul’s condemnation of the “national security state” and accused as unlikely a subversive as Peggy Noonan of defecting to the “old line of the hard left.” Even the ultimate GOP tool, the party chairman Reince Priebus, had praised Paul’s filibuster as “completely awesome.” Tobin worried that a “crack up” of the “generations-old Republican consensus on foreign and defense policy” would be at hand if others didn’t follow Christie’s brave example and stand up to Paul and his cohort before “they hijack a party.”Biden maybe, but speaking as a guy who's going to turn 68 in a coupla days, Hil's a babe!
The truth is that that consensus cracked up long ago—done in by the Bush administration and the amen chorus, typified by McCain, Kristol, and Krauthammer, that led the country into the ditch of Iraq. As Reason, the Paul-sympathizing libertarian magazine, pointed out approvingly, Paul’s filibuster “could have been aimed 100 percent at George W. Bush and the policies the Republican party and the conservative movement have urged for most of the 21st century.” And he had gotten away with it despite the protestations of the old conservative guard. Christie may think he can rewrite or reverse this history by attacking Paul, but he’s in denial. Bellicose exhortations consisting of a noun and a verb and 9/11 reached their political expiration date with the imploded Giuliani campaign of 2008.
None of this means that Paul has any serious chance of appealing to centrist and liberal Democrats in significant numbers in a national campaign. He labors under most of the same handicaps as the rest of his party. He has no credible commitment to serious immigration reform. He is an absolutist on guns and abortion. He is opposed to gay marriage (though trying, like many Republicans these days, to keep the issue on the down-low). In a speech at the Reagan Library this year, he acknowledged that the Republican Party will not win again until it “looks like the rest of America,” but his own outreach efforts have been scarcely better than the GOP’s as a whole. His game appearance at the historically black Howard University backfired when he tried to pretend that he had never “wavered” in his support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 even though his recent wavering was a matter of public record, captured on video.
While Paul has tried to stay clear of the loony white Christian-identity extremists who gravitated to his father, he had to sacrifice an aide who was recently unmasked as a onetime radio shock jock prone to neo-Confederate radio rants under the nom de bigot “Southern Avenger.” What was most interesting about the incident, however, was the response of another cardinal of the waning GOP Establishment, the George W. Bush speechwriter turned Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, who argued that Paul’s harboring of the Southern Avenger illustrates why it is “impossible for Rand Paul to join the Republican mainstream.” By that standard, the party would also have to drum out Rick Perry, who floated the fantasy of Texas’s seceding from the union, along with all the other GOP elected officials nationwide who are emulating Perry’s push for voter-suppression legislation in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s vitiation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That Gerson would hypocritically single out Paul for banishment in a party harboring so many southern avengers is an indication of just how panicked the old GOP gatekeepers are by his success. They will grab anything they can find to bring him down.
He is a godsend for the tea party—the presentable leader the movement kept trying to find during the 2012 Republican freak show but never did. Next to Paul, that parade of hotheads, with their overweening Obama hatred and their dog whistles to racists, nativists, and homophobes, looks like a relic from a passing era. For that matter, he may prove equally capable of making the two top Democratic presidential prospects for 2016, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, look like a nostalgia act.
Read it or don't, your call, but it's an interesting article.