Commentary: First the father, now the son

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Mar 31, 2013

Rand Paul is a slicker, more sophisticated but just as dangerous version of Ron Paul

Ready or not, here comes Rand Paul, the theatrical senator from Kentucky who has entered the 2016 presidential contest in two acts. That guarantees a Dr. Paul among the aspirants for the fourth time.

Senator Paul’s first act was his filibuster, momentarily blocking the confirmation of John Brennan as director of the CIA. According to Rand, that protected us from being assassinated on American soil from a drone strike ordered by President Barack Obama.

Then, after brief intermission, Paul told a group of Hispanic business leaders that the status of some 11 million undocumented immigrants should be legalized — short of citizenship. Hispanic citizens overwhelmingly have voted for Democrats recently.

Since Rand will now regularly flit across the screens of our tablets and TVs, a review of his performance is in order.

As George Bush 43 borrowed name, fame and a few pages from the playbook of George Bush 41, but added elements to escape his Dad’s one-term fate, so ophthalmologist Rand has channeled but updated father Ron Paul in an attempt to make his candidacy more than merely symbolic, where the obstetrician’s never was.

Father and son prey upon the American public’s faith in the ability of medical doctors to become good legislators. That trust is misplaced, as many of the worst members of Congress are physicians — in the vanguard of a group that has brought our legislative process to a standstill.

The Pauls avowed libertarian principles are quintessentially American and at first blush appeal to most voters. Who wants to argue against individual liberty or applaud when a cartoonish big-city mayor tries to limit the size of soft drinks?

Both Pauls grandstand to the delight of fans and chagrin of congressional colleagues trying to get work done. Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham both called out Rand for his filibuster. Now retired from the House, Ron “Dr. No” Paul almost always cast negative votes during his 12 terms. Most famously, Ron voted against every new or higher tax, years before this became the central tenet of the tea party movement and Rand became a founder of the tea party caucus.

Both Pauls would abolish the Federal Reserve, the Department of Education, Medicare and close all U.S. military bases abroad. Both say that they would have voted against the “public accommodations” title of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited the segregation and whites-only policies of most Southern restaurants, hotels and other such facilities. They both support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.

They sometimes disagree. Ron would bar gays and lesbians from adopting children while Rand would prevent them from serving in the military.

Though both style themselves as libertarian, it is very hard to reconcile that label with their positions on gays and that the government should bar a woman from terminating her pregnancy at any time or for any reason. Both justify this by pointing to the Constitution’s supposed 14th Amendment protection of what they call the unborn or pre-born, despite its explicit language stating that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States … are citizens of the United States …” They ignore this same constitutional provision by asserting that children born in the United States to illegal alien parents are not citizens.

Because he advocated these positions, Ron attracted a cult-like following but was thoroughly unelectable and frankly unsuitable to be president. Rand recognizes this and has begun to differ with Dad in less than subtle ways. Unlike Ron, he doesn’t say Social Security is unconstitutional. Rand’s recent immigration speech is another departure from Ron’s position and designed to demonstrate that he is a leader of a new Republican Party, seeking to appease minority voters in the wake of their massively anti-GOP vote in 2012.

The fact that Rand calls himself a Republican also separates him from Ron, who was the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president in 1988 and generally railed against the consensus positions of both major parties.

While Rand’s modifications to Ron’s positions on issues such as Social Security and immigration start pointing his spaceship to the planet where most of us reside, it still carries the cargo of many positions that most in the electorate will consider isolationist, racially insensitive, bigoted, anti-immigrant, misogynistic and, yes, anti-libertarian.

So there will once again be a candidate Paul but still no president there. And if the GOP is foolish enough to make Rand its candidate, there won’t be much left of the Republican Party, either.



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