Rand Paul is now an official candidate for President, making him the second Republican to announce his intentions. The Kentucky Senator and former ophthalmologist is one interesting dude. There's a lot to like and a lot to wonder about with Paul. Here's my take.
There are some things about him that I love. First, he's the first National Republican who seems to care about the outrageous mission-creep over at the NSA. Paul is rightly concerned about an agency of our government which has the power and apparently the inclination to spy on every American citizen. Section 215 of the Patriot Act is a ridiculously broadly written mistake that is allowing this unprecedented intrusion into our privacy and the Senator has pledged to do away with it. Good.
I also like his willingness to publicly question the long standing Republican view that it is America's job, and America's only, to be the world's policeman. He rightly asks why it is that America' military is still in Germany, Japan and Korea decades after those wars. Why exactly are the American taxpayers paying for the defense of three of our largest and most capable economic rivals?
The Senator's work on criminal justice reform has also been stellar. Mandatory minimum sentencing by any measure you choose has been an abject failure and it's time someone said so and got busy changing the policy. Cudos to him and Rick Perry in this regard. Rand Paul, in my view is the one candidate who seems the most serious and committed to restraining the growth of government. His concept of Liberty and his distrust of the power of government will serve him well in the White House.
The objections I have with him is that he seems to be a bit of a hot head. This is the temperament issue that I think is perhaps the most overlooked qualification for the office of the Presidency. Watching him interact with reporters can be worrisome. He seems prickly, too dismissive and more than a bit rude. Granted, most of the reporters he deals with hate him because he's not a liberal democrat, but that comes with the territory, and he must learn to deal with them more effectively. Although he's not as cranky as his famous father, he does give off a whiff of instability at times.
Also, to be taken seriously as a Presidential candidate, he has had to modify some of his prior positions on issues like abortion and even foreign policy, not unlike every other candidate who ever lived. These policy changes however seem all over the map, especially his views on Iran. Expediency may be a wise political move, but in Paul's case it seems more drastic. How do you go from saying that Iran is a small country that poses no threat to American interests to sounding the alarm about Obama's Iran deal as a flawed and dangerous appeasement? Surely, he isn't the first or only candidate to commit such flip-flops, but for so eloquent a speaker about America's misadventures abroad to do such a 180 seems particularly slimy.
Still, I like his instincts. I agree with his more libertarian impulses. Let's see how he does.