Americans say they want politicians to tackle the big issues and get things done. In 2008, they even elected a presidential candidate who said he was interested in “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”Yet almost every time elected officials have tried bold problem-solving in the past 20 years, it has produced a backlash against them. The more ambitious the attempt, the worse the political repercussions have been…But maybe in our era small ball is what people like. If so, then activists with more far-reaching agendas will have to resign themselves to advancing them in small bits. And people considering running for office should know that politics, for the foreseeable future, is probably not going to be much fun.
Rand Paul is a good-natured, thoughtful, and creative politician, and the GOP benefits from having such a high-profile figure who doesn’t look or feel like a typical Republican. But he will soon be running for an office where your view of the world matters profoundly, and his instincts sometimes seem more appropriate to a dorm-room bull session than the Situation Room.There is no doubt that the Paulite persuasion on foreign policy has made extraordinary inroads in the Republican party. Rand’s father, Ron Paul, was a reliable punching bag on national-security issues during presidential debates in 2008. He got a more respectful hearing in 2012. Now, his son’s noninterventionism is closer to the GOP norm that would have seemed possible in, say, 2004.But there are limits to how far Rand Paul can push it. The default position of the GOP is still toward strength, and the party will instinctively recoil from the distorted view of America implicit in some of Paul’s more impolitic statements.
Republicans, let’s get it over with. Fast forward to the finish line. Avoid the long and winding primary road. It can only weaken the nominee. And we know who he—yes, he—has to be.Not Jeb Bush, who plainly is unsuited to be president. He is insufficiently hostile to Mexicans. He holds heretical views on the Common Core, which, as we well know, is the defining issue of our time. And he’s a Bush. Another installment of a political dynasty just isn’t going to fly with the American people, who want some fresh blood in their politics.Unless the dynasty is named Clinton. Or Kennedy. Or Nunn. Or Carter. Or, come to think of it, Paul. In that case, dynasties are just fine, thank you.Chris Christie is also unfit to be president. His aides caused a traffic jam in the service of a petty political vendetta. The New Jersey governor may not have known about it, but it doesn’t matter because the mere taint of scandal makes him unfit to be the Republican nominee, much less the president.Unlike, say, the impeached former president. In 1999 Bill Clinton was cited for contempt of court by a federal judge. In 2001 he had his law license suspended for five years by the Arkansas Supreme Court. His post-presidential charitable work, the New York Times NYT +1.74% reported last year, is “a sprawling concern, supervised by a rotating board of old Clinton hands, vulnerable to distraction and threatened by conflicts of interest.” A “taint of scandal,” perhaps? In Bill’s case, it’s more like eau de cologne, irresistible to the ladies.No, what we need as the Republican nominee in 2016 is a man of more glaring disqualifications. Someone so nakedly unacceptable to the overwhelming majority of sane Americans that only the GOP could think of nominating him.This man is Rand Paul, the junior senator from a state with eight electoral votes. The man who, as of this writing, has three years worth of experience in elected office. Barack Obama had more political experience when he ran for president. That’s worked out well…
…If you compare Paul to Republican presidential nominees of yesteryear, you can get an idea of just how far the GOP has sunk. Mitt Romney was the governor of Massachusetts and a very successful businessman. John McCain is a long-serving senator and war hero. George W. Bush was twice elected governor of Texas; Bob Dole had been Senate majority leader;George H.W. Bush had been just about everything; and Ronald Reagan was governor of California for two terms.Obviously, experience does not in itself predict a successful presidency — one can hardly do worse than the younger Bush — but inexperience all but guarantees trouble. Barack Obama’s missteps in both foreign and domestic policy — the Obamacare rollout debacle and the Syrian fiasco — were undoubtedly a consequence of inexperience. Especially in foreign policy, where decisions can be made instantly and without advance congressional approval, experience matters greatly.My doubts about Paul, while based somewhat on his bizarre positions, are really grounded in a fear of the amateur. I expressed similar reservations about Elizabeth Warren, who seemingly moments after being elected a senator from Massachusetts was being mentioned by fellow left-wing Democrats as a presidential candidate. Warren had the good sense to take herself out of contention….
I think [Paul]’s a very smart and talented politician. Whether he should be the 2016 nominee is, of course, to be determined over the next couple of years. But I keep having to lecture GOP establishment folks on this point: If you criticize GOP candidates more harshly than you’re criticizing Democrats, you’re doing it wrong. There are plenty of ways to say that someone wouldn’t be the best nominee without screeching. Because screeching alienates those candidates’ supporters. And you’ll need all of them to turn out in 2016. And in 2014. This sort of thing seems like Politics 101 to me, but apparently not to everyone.