Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul announced yesterday that he is running for president. Paul is the second major Republican candidate to enter the 2016 presidential race, but what he’s running from is at least as important as the office he’s running for.
Coming on the heels of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s announcement last month, Paul’s announcement may give him a slight fundraising advantage. (Ted Cruz raised $500,000 within one day of his announcement, and $4 million just over a week later.)
It also gives Paul a chance to define — or redefine — himself as the GOP field fills up and the race really begins. That’s the advantage Paul probably seeks, because running from his record is going to be just as hard as running for president.
Rand Paul is one of the biggest flip-floppers in Congress.
If you don’t like Rand Paul’s position on any given issue, just wait a while and he’ll choose another one, and claim that it was really his position all along. Or as one Democratic strategist put it, “Rand Paul takes more positions than the Kama Sutra.”
- In a 2013 speech at Howard University, Paul claimed that he had “never wavered in my support for civil rights and for the Civil Rights Act,” even though he adamantly opposed an important part of the 1964 law prior to entering national politics.
- In 2014, Paul told the National Urban League that he supported the Voting Rights Act, even though he previously told the right-wing media outlet Newsmax that he opposed the act.
- Paul has been on all sides of the marriage equality debate. He was “in favor of the concept” of a federal marriage amendment banning same-sex marriages, but opposed to a federal role in the matter. He supported state bans on same-sex marriage, but insisted that the GOP can “evolve” without a “complete flip” on the issue, and finally opposed same-sex marriage because he and others are “offended” by it.
- Likewise, Paul has claimed that failure to pass a federal “personhood” bill would cause the collapse of civilization, but opposed bans on contraception even though his “personhood” law could ban several forms of birth control. Yet, he opposes changing abortion laws because the country is too divided on the issue.
Paul’s reasons for flip-flopping are probably as myriad as his positions themselves. Paul crafts his position to suit his audience, and tries to distance himself from his scariest positions.
Rand Paul’s ideological acrobatics will prove problematic. The rest of the GOP pack will have a grand old time picking him apart. Voters will see him as all over the map, leaving him nowhere at all.
Rand Paul is a major conspiracy theorist.
- Paul is a frequent guest of right-wing talk show host Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist who believes the government was behind 9/11 and that there’s a secret Illuminati plot to confiscate guns and put people in FEMA camps.
- Lately, Paul is convinced that the Federal Reserve “now prints … money to lobby against congressional oversight.”
- In a fundraising letter, Paul warned supporters that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the “global gun-grabbers” are out to “strip you and me of ALL our freedoms” by signing a treaty designed by the “petty dictators and one-world socialists who control the UN” to “CONFISCATE and DESTROY” all civilian firearms guns.
Rand Paul has serious “daddy issues.”
Like most scions of nepotistic dynasties, Rand Paul finds his heritage both a blessing and a burden. Former congressman Ron Paul won’t be officially involved in his son’s campaign, but the campaign will be haunted by him.
Heritage may ultimately hobble Sen. Paul’s candidacy. He’s inherited some of his dad’s unusually passionate supporters. Growing up steeped in Ron Paul’s hard-right-leaning “paleo-libertarianism” will make it nearly impossible for Rand Paul to hold on to that support and broaden his appeal to reach non-wingnut voters in the general election — if he survives the primaries.
Rand Paul has race problems.
One of the most troubling things Rand Paul inherited from his father is his race problem.
- In 2009, Paul’s Senate campaign spokesman was forced to resign over racist comments and a historical image of a lynching, which were posted on his MySpace page.
- Paul hired neo-confederate Jack Hunter as his social media director and even co-authored "The Tea Party Goes To Washington" with Hunter. The aide, who refers to himself as “The Southern Avenger,” once appeared in public wearing a confederate mask, openly supported secession, defended the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and was chairman of the Charleston, South Carolina wing of the League Of The South.
- Paul defended hiring Hunter when called on to dismiss him and declared that he had “zero tolerance” for discrimination.
- In 2014, Paul penned the foreword to a book by Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News legal analyst who denounced Abraham Lincoln as a tyrant, and argued that slavery would have died “a natural death” without Lincoln’s “murderous war.”
- Not only has Rand Paul has taken money from white supremacist groups like Stormfront, and white supremacist and League of the South member William Johnson, whom his father nominated for a judgeship. Paul failed to return the money when his opponent demanded he do so.
- It’s no surprise Rand Paul has ties to secessionists. He was raised by one. Ron Paul’s connections to neo-confederates and secessionists go back as far as the 1980s and 1990s. Last fall, Ron Paul praised Scotland’s secessionist movement, and called for more secessionist movements in the U.S.
Jonathan Chait summed it up best:
The deep connection between the Pauls and the neo-Confederate movement doesn’t discredit their ideas, but it’s also not just an indiscretion. It’s a reflection of the fact that white supremacy is a much more important historical constituency for anti-government ideas than libertarians like to admit.
Rand Paul has woman problems.
Back in February, Sen. Paul resurrected the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair during an appearance on “Meet The Press” to accuse President Clinton of “predatory behavior.” Even his fellow conservatives thought it bizarre, but it was in line with Paul’s odd problems with women’s issues.
- Paul was one of 22 (male) Republican senators who voted against the Violence Against Women Act, claiming that he believes all domestic violence program should be funded at the state level.
- Paul voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, comparing it to Soviet efforts to control the price of bread.
- Paul defended Herman Cain against sexual harassment allegations, and told the National Review he felt that sexual harassment laws damage workplace relations.
- In January, Paul told NBC’s David Gregory that the war on women had been “won” by women who were “out-competing the men in our world.”