Rand Paul just said something very important, and almost nobody noticed


Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks at the Defending the American Dream Summit sponsored by Americans For Prosperity at the Omni Hotel last week in Dallas. (Mike Stone/Getty Images)

A funny thing happened over the weekend: While President Obama took heat for saying he didn't have a strategy to deal with the Islamic State (also known as ISIS and isil) in Syria, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) delivered a pretty remarkable statement.

"If I were president, I would call a joint session of Congress," Paul told the AP. "I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily."

The quote didn't really make the rounds and was buried deep in the AP story, but it's a pretty telling little nugget.

Why? Because, to date, it's one of the most hawkish things that any potential 2016 presidential contender has said about the Islamic State. And Paul is supposed to be the non-interventionist in the bunch.

Below is a sampling of what the others have said.

As tensions escalate with the Islamic State, Sen. John McCain, Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Paul Ryan are among the Republican lawmakers calling for more military action against the militant group. (Julie Percha/The Washington Post)

Hillary Clinton: Has not weighed in recently.

Chris Christie: ""The ISIS situation is one that deserves a really detailed answer, which I'm not going to give you while walking down the boardwalk and taking selfies."

Marco Rubio: "If we do not act now to assist our Iraqi partners and moderate Syrians who oppose ISIL, as well as utilize our own forces to directly target ISIL’s leadership, the result will be more suffering and tragedy for our people.”

Paul Ryan: "“What we need to have is a strategy to finish them off, to defeat ISIS. Not contain them, not to react, but to fundamentally finish them off."

Ted Cruz: Said that the Islamic State is "mocking America" and "we ought to bomb them back to the Stone Age."

Mike Huckabee: "[Obama] needs to be calling leaders of Arab states. We have got to demand of the Saudis and the people of Qatar and the UAE, look, this is your part of the world, it's blown up in your face. We're not going to shed American blood for what you guys ought to be helping us to contain and eradicate. You either get in the game or we're done with you. That's the kind of leadership we need to be exercising."

Rick Perry: "American leadership is needed now, more than ever. Presidential leadership is needed now, more than ever."

Mike Pence: "The president of the United States is the commander of chief of our armed forces. I wouldn't want to prejudge what his military advisers counsel."

Paul's prescription for the current situation ranks only below Cruz on the hawk-o-meter, and everyone else is being considerably more careful. Yes, Paul is calling for congressional authorization, but his "destroy ISIS militarily" is a good bit further than most of his compatriots have been willing to go -- at least for now.

All of which serves as your weekly reminder that you should never, ever try to put Rand Paul in a box -- whether "libertarian," "tea partier," or in this case, "non-interventionist." He is truly his own politician.

It also suggests that the looming debate over foreign policy in the 2016 GOP presidential primary might be much more in the realm of the hypothetical/ideological than actual events on the ground, where Paul appears to be on the same page as his party's more hawkish members.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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