Today, Paul lashed out via Twitter, calling Rubio an “isolationist” for wanting to keep the embargo. The charge, leveled at one of the Senate’s leading internationalists and most adept defenders of human rights, was ludicrous on its face. Paul followed up with an op-ed, echoing the president’s rationale for the change in Cuba policy. He wants to know why Cuba is different from, say, China. For one thing, Cuba is listed as a state sponsor of terror and harbors U.S. fugitives, including a cop killer and a Puerto Rican terrorist. (The Daily Beast reminds us: “Assata Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard, escaped from prison in 1979 after being convicted of murdering state trooper Werner Foerster. She had been in a car with two fellow members of the Black Liberation Army when Foerster and another trooper pulled them over on the New Jersey Turnpike. Shakur was on the run for five years after her prison break before managing to reach Cuba, where she was granted asylum in 1984.”)
So why is Paul doing these things?
One explanation is that he has been sinking in the polls for a year and is now in single digits in pre-2016 surveys. He has been at odds with his party repeatedly, and the strain between his libertarian impulses and his attempt to appear less wacky than his father is starting to show. He has to do something to shake things up, so picking a fight is one way to do it.
Another explanation is that perhaps he has decided simply to be his father’s son, forgetting about mainstream appeal and simply sending dog whistles to his narrow base of support. He calls attention to himself for being true to his libertarian beliefs. So send money to his PAC (or whatever he wants).
A third explanation is that he is still utterly and irreparably tone-deaf on foreign policy and public safety. His opposition to new Iran sanctions, his siding with Senate Democrats on release of the CIA report, his knee-jerk criticism of the police in the Michael Brown affair and sitdown with the Rev. Al Sharpton, his desire to tie the president’s hands in fighting the Islamic State and now his decision to line up with the Obama-Clinton-Kerry Cuba policy (not to mention his aim to eliminate aid to Israel, which is okay since he is cutting out aid for everyone else) make him a non-starter with many Republicans. But in his hermetically sealed world, surrounded by like-minded advisers, Paul thinks his foreign policy matches up with the base. I know, every single poll says otherwise, but he is not the first pol to delude himself into thinking his eccentric views are popular.
Whatever the explanation, Cuba is only one illustration of the problem Paul faces with the GOP electorate. He wants to be president (presumably) in a party that fundamentally rejects his worldview. Maybe he should run in the Democratic Party, where his foreign policy views and notions about policing are in style.