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Rand Paul’s Presidential Campaign Launch: Good and Bad

Senator Rand Paul officially launched his 2016 presidential campaign last Tuesday, calling for “a return to a government restrained by the Constitution” and for a “return to privacy, opportunity, liberty.”

Paul noted that “too often when Republicans have won we have squandered our victory by becoming part of the Washington machine” and that “big government and debt doubled under a Republican administration.” He also observed that, now, under the Obama administration, “we borrow a million dollars a minute,” and “this vast accumulation of debt threatens not just our economy, but our security.”

What to do? “We can wake up now and do the right thing. Quit spending money we don’t have.” Toward that end, Paul continued, we should, “force Congress to balance the budget with a constitutional amendment.” Of course, balancing the budget would be great—so long as it is done by cutting spending and not by raising taxes. Unfortunately, Paul did not specify that as part of what should be mandated. But he did say, “Currently some $3 trillion comes into the U.S. Treasury. Couldn’t the country just survive on $3 trillion? I propose we do something extraordinary. Let’s just spend what comes in.” That’s a worthy initial goal.

Paul also called for limiting the terms of Congress, which is a good idea, and for passing a law to force Congress to read the bills, which sounds good but may be impossible to enforce.

In an effort to convey his position on defense policy, Paul said:

In my vision for America, freedom and prosperity at home can only be achieved if we defend against enemies who are dead set on attacking us. Without question we must defend ourselves and American interests from our enemies, but until we name the enemy, we can’t win the war. The enemy is radical Islam. You can’t get around it. And not only will I name the enemy, I will do whatever it takes to defend America from these haters of mankind.

We need a national defense robust enough to defend against all attack, modern enough to deter all enemies, and nimble enough to defend our vital interests. But we also need a foreign policy that protects American interests and encourages stability, not chaos.

At home, conservatives understand that government is the problem, not the solution. Conservatives should not succumb, though, to the notion that a government inept at home will somehow succeed in building nations abroad. I envision an America with a national defense unparalleled, undefeatable and unencumbered by overseas nation-building.

I envision a national defense that promotes, as Reagan put it, peace through strength. I believe in applying Reagan’s approach to foreign policy to the Iran issue. Successful negotiations with untrustworthy adversaries are only achieved from a position of strength.

We’ve brought Iran to the table through sanctions that I voted for. Now we must stay strong. That’s why I’ve cosponsored legislation that ensures that any deal between the U.S. and Iran must be approved by Congress. Not only is that good policy, it’s the law. . . . I will oppose any deal that does not end Iran’s nuclear ambitions and have strong verification measures. And I will insist that the final version be brought before Congress.

Paul’s claims here are hardly ideal, but they sound better than one might have expected.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to take seriously such claims from a politician who, in 2007—when even the profoundly evasive Bush administration acknowledged that the Iranian regime is “the most significant state sponsor of terrorism”—said: “Iran is not a threat. Iran cannot even refine their own gasoline. . . . My dad says they don’t have an air force, they don’t have a navy, you know? It’s ridiculous to think that they’re a threat to our national security.” (For an indication of the murderous nature of the Iranian regime and the threat it poses to America, see “The Jihad Against America and How to End It.”)

It’s even harder to take seriously Paul’s newfangled foreign policy claims when, as David Adesnik reports, among the books Paul recommends for students, “The foreign policy section of the list consists entirely of works that blame the United States for the rise of Islamic extremism while offering solutions that verge on isolationism.” Adesnik’s article, “A Revealing Reading List,” is essential reading for anyone considering supporting Paul’s presidential bid. (The reading list, which was on Paul’s official Senate website before Adesnik’s article was published, has since been removed; but Bloomberg has a copy of it here, and the Washington Free Beacon has a cached version of it here.)

Back to Paul’s campaign announcement . . .

He turned next to the issue of unconstitutional surveillance:

To defend our country, we do need to gather intelligence on the enemy. But when the intelligence director is not punished for lying under oath, how are we to trust our government agencies? Warrantless searches of Americans’ phones and computer records are un-American and a threat to our civil liberties. I say that your phone records are yours. I say the phone records of law-abiding citizens are none of their damn business. . . . The president created this vast dragnet by executive order. And as president on day one, I will immediately end this unconstitutional surveillance.

That, of course, is a welcome promise.

Unlike Ted Cruz, who laced his campaign announcement speech with references to God and Christianity (and delivered it at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University), Paul did not mention religion in his speech, except to say “Today I announce with God’s help . . .” Unfortunately, however, on the day of his campaign launch, Paul also launched a petition calling for Americans to demand that their representatives and senators “cosponsor and cast every vote for a Life at Conception Act”—which, if passed into law, would declare that from the moment of conception, “unborn children are persons legally entitled to constitutional protection” and would thus “overturn Roe v. Wade.”

Given that outlawing all abortion and overturning Roe v. Wade appears to be one of Paul’s most adamant political aims, it is rather fishy that he did not mention this intention in his campaign announcement speech. On his campaign website, however, he is crystal clear: “I believe that life begins at conception and that abortion takes the life of an innocent human being. Under the 14th Amendment, it is the government’s duty to protect life as defined in our Constitution. . . . As President, I would strongly support legislation restricting federal courts from hearing cases like Roe v. Wade.

It appears that both Senators Paul and Cruz (whose campaign launch speech indicated his desire to ban abortion) are so wedded to religion that they aim to legislate in accordance with the faith-based nonsense that (a) individual rights begin at the moment of conception, and (b) the actual rights of women are subordinate to the alleged rights of zygotes.

At the start of this election cycle, one thing is certain: It’s going to be a long and frustrating process for radical capitalists.

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