Last Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky endorsed Mitt Romney for president of the United States and followed up a day later by saying he would be “honored” to be Romney’s choice for vice president. Paul pledged his support after having a discussion with Romney in which the latter outlined some of his positions that were of particular concern. According to Paul, Romney supported “reforming the Federal Reserve, limiting regulations, and opposing the Stop Online Privacy Act,” adding that “there is a lot of kinship between us on those issues.”
Regarding Mitt’s foreign policy views, Rand Paul told Sean Hannity that “[we] had a very good and I think honest discussion about a lot of these things; and I came away from it feeling he would be a very responsible commander in chief, I don’t think he’ll be reckless, I don’t think he’ll be rash, and I think that he realizes and believes as I do that war is a last resort and something we don’t rush willy-nilly into, and I came away feeling that he’ll have [a] mature attitude and beliefs toward foreign policy.”
Basically, Rand Paul came away with nothing in exchange for providing Mitt Romney with some modicum of acceptability and respectability vis-à-vis the millions of Paulistas and tea partyers who support him and his father. Mitt does not want to audit the Fed but would indeed limit government regulation as it relates to himself and his predatory capitalist friends. He might or might not oppose SOPA, but freedom of the Internet is not a core issue for him and might, in fact, be something he opposes for copyright protection, i.e., corporate money, reasons. And Rand is dead wrong about Mitt the commander in chief. It is generally accepted that Mitt’s foreign policy will be a repeat of George W. Bush’s, except maybe even worse. In exchange for a pocketful of mumbles for Rand, Mitt Romney has successfully marginalized Ron Paul supporters, who are now under orders not to try to disrupt the Republican Convention in Tampa in August.
It is already being argued that Rand Paul’s bowing to the Republican establishment by endorsing Romney should have been anticipated and is essentially a political calculation: if one wishes to reform the beast, it is only possible to do so by remaining inside and apparently loyal. No Republican luminary will now be able to claim that Paul is anything but a true blue (or red) supporter of the party. The example of Pat Buchanan is cited to demonstrate that leaving the party means abandoning the debate to others who couldn’t care less about the principles at stake.
But I don’t see it that way. Rand Paul will be mistrusted by the Republican oligarchs whether or not he endorses Romney. More important, as we are really talking about Ron Paul and his legacy, the issue is not how well one plays the political game. Ron Paul was as close to an honest politician as is possible to find on Capitol Hill. He was guided by principle and never wavered, which is precisely why he created a high level of rock star–style enthusiasm among his supporters. He called for radical changes in how we do business as a nation and demanded a return to both constitutionalism and rule of law as well as a restoration of national integrity. Rand instead is trimming his message, or even ignoring what he claims to believe in, because he and his advisers have made a political calculation regarding what has to be done to remain viable. These overpaid advisers, who are drifting over from his father’s poorly run campaign, apparently think far too much about political strategies and think far too little about what is wrong with this country.
Rand’s endorsement of Mitt turns everything on its head, reestablishing the principle that winning is everything and that the details don’t much matter. Rand obtained no concessions from Mitt in exchange for his genuflection. He could have sought some genuine shifts on specific policies, possibly even some moderation in foreign policy. He might have lobbied for a commitment that the secretaries of defense and state be moderate Republicans, eschewing the demands of Mitt’s neocon advisers that John Bolton and Joe Lieberman be given those positions.
An endorsement is, after all, just that. It expresses approval of and agreement with a candidate’s positions. It is ironic that even as Rand Paul was endorsing Mitt, a key Romney foreign policy adviser, Richard Williamson, was in Israel telling a local audience that “Iran will see that there’s a new sheriff in town” if Romney is elected. Williamson promised credible military threats against Iran, including actually using armed force to stop the Iranian weapons program, recommended arming the rebels in Syria, and reiterated the extremely dangerous arguments that Russia is America’s “number-one geopolitical foe.” He also pledged that Romney’s first overseas trip would be to Israel, while the candidate himself has already stated that he would defer to Tel Aviv’s interests when crafting U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Romney, who does not accept the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Iran has no weapons program, was the only Republican presidential hopeful actually proposing an increase in the Pentagon budget and the size of U.S. armed forces. He also frequently exalts American exceptionalism to support his belief that the United States should militarily dominate the world.
Rand Paul is certainly aware that Mitt Romney is clueless and dangerous on foreign policy, is surrounded by Bush administration neocon advisers, and is likely to promote reckless initiatives overseas that could well prove catastrophic for our nation. While I understand perfectly Rand’s desire to remain viable and reform from within, his endorsement of what Mitt represents is ultimately more about himself and his own ambition to become president in 2016 than it is about protecting the interests of the American people, who will bear the consequences of the next four years. Rand’s father understood the difference between right and wrong, even when it meant that he would be vilified and ostracized. Rand could easily have come to a realization that to endorse what he knows to be wrong is a deal with the devil. He could have just kept his mouth shut and soldiered on as a Republican and many of us would have stood beside him through thick and thin. Now instead we will hear a lot of gnashing of teeth and wailing explaining how it all was a good move “politically.” Bollocks. Listening to the Rand claque’s “understanding” of this sellout, I can’t help but remember the Bobby Burns poem “Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation” in which the great poet and Scottish patriot denounced the traitorous aristocrats who sold out his country’s independence to England. “Such a parcel of rogues in a nation” indeed.