Will The Hawks Come Around On Rand?

Ryan Lizza’s lengthy profile of Rand Paul is making the rounds. McCain, of all people, had kind words for Paul:

John McCain, one of Paul’s longtime critics, told me in August, “I see him evolving with experience, with travel, with Senators Discuss Balanced Budget Amendmenthearings on the Foreign Relations Committee. I see him having a better grasp of many of the challenges we face than when he first got here. That doesn’t mean he is now a John McCain, but it certainly does mean that he has a greater appreciation and has been articulating that.” He compared him with Ron Paul. “His father is a person who really believes that the United States should not be engaged in foreign events and foreign countries. I think that Rand Paul is seeing a very unsettled world, one in significant turmoil, and I see him understanding and articulating what in my view is a realistic view of the United States and the importance of its leadership and role in the world.” …

McCain told me that, if Rand Paul is the Republican nominee for President in 2016, he will support him. “I’ve seen him grow and I’ve seen him mature and I’ve seen him become more centrist. I know that if he were President or a nominee I could influence him, particularly some of his views and positions on national security. He trusts me particularly on the military side of things, so I could easily work with him. It wouldn’t be a problem.”

Allahpundit is shocked:

Remember, a little more than a year ago, McCain was telling reporters that he didn’t know who he’d support if the 2016 election came down to Paul and his old friend Hillary Clinton.

If memory serves, he later tried to play that off as a joke. But there’s nothing jokey about it; it would make all kinds of sense for Maverick, whose political brand these days is more about interventionism than Republicanism, to endorse a true blue hawk like Hillary than the “wacko bird” libertarian Paul. As recently as this past summer, former McCain right-hand-man Mark Salter said flat out that GOP hawks would have no choice but to back Hillary if forced to choose between her and Paul. And now here’s Maverick himself, in a splashy piece for the New Yorker, giving Rand the interventionist seal of approval. What happened?

Regardless, Aaron Blake expects the hawkishness of the GOP base to do Paul in:

A lot can happen over the next 18 months, but the renewed focus on foreign policy — and more specifically, the Islamic State — has reminded the Republican Party where its true views on international affairs lie. And it is decidedly not with non-interventionists like Paul (R-Ky.). A new poll from CNN/Opinion Research is the best we’ve seen to date bearing out this point. …About seven in 10 (69 percent) [of Republicans] say they are hawks, while just one-quarter (25 percent) side with the doves. That’s nearly three-to-one.

 picks out other important quotes from Lizza’s piece. At the top of his list:

1.  “Ron was always content to tell the truth as best he understood it, and he saw that as the point of his politics. Rand is the guy who is committed to winning.” — Paul family strategist Jesse Benton

This gets to the core of the difference between Rand and Ron Paul. It’s not — as Lizza correctly notes in his piece — fundamentally about their policy views on which there is considerable overlap. “They don’t really have differences,” Carol Paul, wife of Ron and mother of Rand, told Ryan. “They might have fractional differences about how to do things, but the press always want to make it into some kind of story that isn’t there.”  The real difference between the two men is stylistic and focus-oriented. Many Republican strategists admit that if Ron Paul had simply refused to go down the rabbit hole of his foreign policy views (over and over again) during nationally televised debates, he might well have won a primary or caucus in 2012.  Rand Paul, by contrast, understands the need to pivot off of topics where his views are not entirely aligned with the people he is trying to woo.

But Emma Roller notes that Ron Paul remains a liability:

Rand Paul has all the political savvy that his father lacked. He built his own political career on his father’s name recognition—and the ardent band of libertarian fanboys who came with it. “I had some notoriety, but not much. My dad had a lot,” he told Lizza.

Making matters worse for his son, Ron Paul refuses to stop espousing those “crackpot theories,” as former John McCain chief of staff Mark Salter has called them. In July, Ron Paul cast doubton the idea that pro-Russian rebels shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, writing that “Western politicians and media joined together to gain the maximum propaganda value from the disaster.” And on Monday, he drew parallels between Scotland’s secession vote and Americans who have called for secession.

“Americans who embrace secession are acting in a grand American tradition,” he wrote. “It is no coincidence that the transformation of America from a limited republic to a monolithic welfare-warfare state coincided with the discrediting of secession as an appropriate response to excessive government.”

And David A. Graham considers the awkward position Rand is in:

Voters are willing to grant candidates room for youthful indiscretion, and they’re certainly willing to forgive them the sins of their fathers. But by refusing to take his reversals head-on, Paul is passing up a chance to explain why he’s changed or how he differs from his father, and get credit for it. It puts him in a weird state of suspension, both pilloried by some critics for taking fringe stands and accused by others of abandoning his principles for craven reasons. As Ryan Beckwith notes, this could also create a dilemma for those crafting attack messages against Paul, though it seems more likely that the different raps cater to different segments of the populace. In the meantime, Ditzler’s question lingers uncomfortably. “If he’s changed, why can’t he just say that he’s changed?”

(Photo: by Win McNamee/Getty Images)