David Corn, who dug up the video footage above, notes:
These days, Paul, who is stuck in a civil war within the GOP over foreign policy issues, is trying to Reaganize himself and demonstrate that he’s not outside the Republican mainstream. (His Senate office did not respond to requests for comment.) But not long ago, Reagan was a foil for Paul, who routinely pointed out that the GOP’s most revered figure actually had been a letdown. It’s no surprise that denigrating Ronald Reagan—and commending Jimmy Carter—is no longer common for Paul. Such libertarian straight talk would hardly help him become one of the successors to the last Republican president who retains heroic stature within the party Paul wants to win over.
For me, though, these clips make Paul’s candidacy more appealing, not less. What the GOP needs is an honest, stringent account of how it has ended up where it is – a party that has piled on more debt than was once thought imaginable and until recently, has done nothing much to curtail federal spending. Reagan was a great president in many ways, as Paul says explicitly in these clips.
But Reagan introduced something truly poisonous into American conservatism.
It was the notion that you can eat your cake and have it too, that tax cuts pay for themselves and that deficits don’t matter. This isn’t and wasn’t conservatism; it was a loopy utopian denial of math. And the damage it has done to this country’s fiscal standing has been deep and permanent. It is one of modern conservatism’s cardinal sins. And Paul is addressing it forthrightly – just as he is addressing the terrible, devastating consequences of neo-conservatism for America and the world in the 21st Century.
What we desperately need from the right is this kind of accounting. It’s what reformers on the left did in the 1990s – confronting the failures of their past in charting a new future. Taking on Reagan on fiscal matters may be short-term political death, as Corn suspects and maybe hopes, but it is vital if the GOP is to regain some long-term credibility on the core question of government solvency. Compared with the ideological bromides and slogans of so many others, Rand Paul is a tonic. And a courageous one at that.