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Rand Paul’s Troubling Victory

May 18th, 2010 at 10:09 pm David Frum | 87 Comments |

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Rand Paul’s victory in the Kentucky Republican primary is obviously a depressing event for those who support strong national defense and rational conservative politics. In another year, such a victory would be a prelude to a Republican defeat in the general election. This year however the tide is running so strongly with the GOP that … well … that Rand Paul may benefit from the political rule so well described by Brooklyn ward heeler Hymie Shorenstein back in 1940:

Did you ever go down to the wharf to see the Staten Island Ferry come in? You ever watch it, and look down in the water at all those chewing-gum wrappers, and the banana peels and the garbage? When the ferryboat comes into the wharf, automatically it pulls all the garbage in too.

Paul will not have an easy ride. Paul offers a target-rich environment for negative advertising. On the other hand, Paul does lead his (likely) Democratic opponent, Jack Conway. It could be his year.

Which raises this question:

How is it that the GOP has lost its antibodies against a candidate like Rand Paul? In the past few months, we have seen GOP conservatives rally against Utah Sen. Bob Bennett. There has been no similar rallying against Rand Paul: no ads by well-funded out-of-state groups. Some senior Republicans, like former VP Dick Cheney, indicated a preference for opponent Trey Grayson. But despite Paul’s self-presentation as “anti-establishment,” the D.C. conservative establishment by and large made its peace with him. It is this acquiescence – even more than Paul’s own nomination – that is the most ominous news from tonight’s vote.

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87 Comments so far ↓

  • Oldskool

    This is exactly what the GOP wanted. Ok, maybe not wanted but asked for. For thirty years they’ve been telling anyone who would listen how horrible government is and surprise, their base believes it and is reacting to it. Their votes aren’t any less logical than the talking points that got them angry enough to vote in the first place.

    If the GOP had been dealing with their base in good faith they wouldn’t be in this predicament so for the rest of us it’s amusing to watch.

  • medinnus

    I think we can give up nation-building without giving up insta-deployment readiness.

    Think the Bush, Sr. Iraq invasion. Go in, destroy the military to a large degree, get out of Dodge. Or the Reagan era assaults on Libya. Where we get into trouble is when we want to stay, try and rebuild that we’ve just bombed to smithereens, and promote a “democratic” government in regions that have no tradition of (relatively) honest government.

    War is supposed to be hell. That’s why one is supposed to avoid it except as a court of last resort. Its a bloody stinking business, not a bloody John Wayne film.

  • balconesfault

    medinnus // May 19, 2010 at 11:23 am

    I think we can give up nation-building without giving up insta-deployment readiness.

    Takes a lot of patience and discipline, and we’re not particularly good at that.

    Think the Bush, Sr. Iraq invasion. Go in, destroy the military to a large degree, get out of Dodge.

    And maintain a decade-long no-fly zone to enforce sanctions.

    Or the Reagan era assaults on Libya.

    Ok, but we didn’t ever come near actually threatening Qaddfi’s hold on his country.

    Where we get into trouble is when we want to stay, try and rebuild that we’ve just bombed to smithereens, and promote a “democratic” government in regions that have no tradition of (relatively) honest government.

    The risk there is always going to be that whatever grows after we blew it to smithereens will pose a threat to US interests. And accepting and dealing with those new risks takes, as I said, patience and discipline. And we’re not particularly good at that.

    War is supposed to be hell. That’s why one is supposed to avoid it except as a court of last resort.

    Bingo. And anyone who says we did whatever we could to avoid the war in Iraq is just spouting ideology, not pragmatism.

  • AMurphy

    balconesfault,

    Actually the Dems-Vitenam analogy would not be a very good one for your case. Because, yes, the Dems did make a break with Vietnam with Eugene McCarthy downing LBJ in the NH primary. But since, then, the Democrats have yet to this day been able to break away from the charge they are “weak” on national defense. McGovern, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis and Kerry all were accused of being weak on national defense by Republicans and to this day, national security is still the trump card for the GOP in national elections.

  • frumpled

    “I hear the folks at the Neo-Nazi site Stormfront are celebrating today.”

    And how does one know that without frequenting the site? That site perpetuates thanks to fools and spinners who find it convenient to resurrect its infantile rhetoric with tangents of connection to their own points of bigotry. I wonder if they also think the sun is bright and the sky blue?

  • S.L. Toddard

    …….The problem alas lies with your reasoning not my space bar……which is probably why you’d rather focus on space bars.

    Period, double-space. Period, double-space. Say it with me: “Period, double-space.”

  • ottovbvs

    AMurphy // May 19, 2010 at 11:37 am

    “national security is still the trump card for the GOP in national elections.”

    ………didn’t prove a trump in 08 did it…….and only barely in 00 and 04……I’d say with all this talk of McGovern and Mondale you’re living in a time warp that has little or no relevance today

  • ottovbvs

    S.L. Toddard // May 19, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    “Period, double-space. Period, double-space. Say it with me: “Period, double-space.”

    …….the space bar mind at it’s full flowering………empty space

  • ktward

    I genuinely believe you [Frum] have some conservative viewpoints, but there is none that you won’t sacrifice to your Israel-centric mentality. (and before you scream, “Anti-Semite!” please know that the writer of these words is a Jewish Zionist whose views on Israel are to the right of Netanyahu).

    Ouch. That had to hurt.
    Cruel to be kind?

  • SFTor1

    Correct punctuation is one space after a period, or any other punctuation mark for that matter.

    Pedantic, I know.

  • ottovbvs

    SFTor1 // May 19, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    “Pedantic, I know.”

    ……..Er… yes……you could say that

  • balconesfault

    Correct punctuation is one space after a period, or any other punctuation mark for that matter.

    Really? My HS typing class (on real mechanical typewriters, if you want to date my HS career) taught us one space after a comma, semicolon, or colon that broke a sentence – two spaces after a period (or question mark, or exclamation point) that ended a sentence.

  • christophercarr

    I don’t see why liberals and conservatives alike aren’t thrilled about this. For Obama supporters honestly hoping for a post-partisan politics, a focused and de-radicalized tea party, working together with conservatives to solve problems, and political disagreement based in difference of values instead of Orwellian arguments about facts, Rand Paul is exactly what this country needs. For those who value heterodoxy, whether Republicans, Democrats, or Independents, Rand Paul should be a welcome addition to the U.S. Senate.

    http://www.theinductive.com/blog/2010/5/19/a-victory-for-heterodoxy-in-kentucky.html

  • S.L. Toddard

    “Correct punctuation is one space after a period, or any other punctuation mark for that matter”

    It’s actually a matter of taste at this point – the doublespace rule was leftover from the typewriter days, and now it is a matter of personal choice. But I think we can both agree that it’s not “three periods with no spaces between every sentence”.

  • ottovbvs

    christophercarr // May 19, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    “I don’t see why liberals …… aren’t thrilled about this.”

    ………they are……they think Paul is crazy and will therefore be easier to beat, or if elected become a permanent embarrasment to the GOP

  • ktward

    Aw, c’mon guys. This isn’t SPOGG Blog.

    Leave otto alone– he gets his point across with minimal miscommunication. That’s all that matters.
    Raise your hand if you’d rather focus on petty bulls**t than topical commentary.

  • Carney

    I have to endorse Frum’s take on this here.

  • ottovbvs

    Carney // May 19, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    “I have to endorse Frum’s take on this here.”

    …….I cross posted from another thread this sample of Paul’s oratory from his speech last night to demonstrate just how right you are on this occasion:

    ” The tea party movement is huge. The mandate of our victory tonight is huge…

    The tea party movement is about saving the country from a mountain of debt that is devouring our country and I think could lead to chaos…

    I think we stand on a precipice, we are encountering a day of reckoning…

    We have a President who went to Copenhagen and appeared with Robert Mugabe, Hugo Chavez, and others — Evo Morales — to apologize for the industrial revolution. … These petty dictators say that to stop climate change it’s about ending capitalism. … The president by attending Copenhagen gives credibility and credence to these folks and he should not go…

    When we had a crisis recently, when we had a crisis and things were teetering in the balance, people blamed capitalism, wrongly so. It was government! It’s the government that needs to be regulated…”

  • jakester

    People see taxes and government growing at an exponential rate and now they are fed up with it. Sure, a lot of teabaggers are crackpots or hicks but essentially they are locked into the pulse of the people better than the Dems or the std GOP. Look what decades of big government welfare state mentality did to my New York State, where everyone with a stake in government money descends on Albany to carve up their part of the pie damn the rest of the state, while the regular folks get socked with the bill.

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  • ottovbvs

    jakester // May 19, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    “People see taxes and government growing at an exponential rate and now they are fed up with it.”

    …….yeah they are fed up with it until the oil starts coming ashore, they lose their jobs and need unemployment benefits, little Jimmy isn’t going to get help with college, their SS or Medicare is under threat, they are increasing class sizes at the local high school……the outrage tends to be highly selective and I certainly don’t see most people voting for nut cases when it actually gets down to the wire……do you?

  • ottovbvs

    jakester // May 19, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    “People see taxes and government growing at an exponential rate and now they are fed up with it.”

    …..btw Jakester the federal tax take is at its lowest % of GDP since Truman

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  • Rabiner

    Rand Paul is on TRMS right now. It’s pretty interesting debate but I have to disagree with Rand Paul on his view of the Civil Rights Act. His view that the Civil Rights Act went too far since it imposed on private businesses so they couldn’t discriminate against minorities is something I’d disagree with.

  • forkboy1965

    Thank you oldskool. You are very close to being quite correct about the modern Republican Party. It seems incredibly short-sighted to constantly tell Americans that government is the problem, not the solution. It creates a mindset that is fundamentally inaccurate.

    Government can make mistakes because it is imperfect. Just as imperfect as the men and women who run it. But government isn’t always the problem and is quite often the solution, but the Republican Party doesn’t want anyone to believe that. Enter the Tea Party movement who now takes this mantra at face value.

  • Red Phillips

    “a lot of teabaggers are … hicks”

    As opposed to what? Urban sophisticates who read the FrumForum? Is there something inherently wrong with being a “hick,” whatever that even means? But of course it is the TEA Partiers who are all bigots.

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  • Ella in NM

    “How is it that the GOP has lost its antibodies against a candidate like Rand Paul?” IT NEVER HAD THEM. IT NEVER NEEDED THEM.

    Your party, David, has a long and notorious history of associating with “the garbage” as a means to pull in any and all votes. It has no real agenda to govern on behalf of all Americans–only those who want to grab back the legal reins that are needed to insulate them from the rules the rest of us have to follow. What you don’t seem to understand is, the Republican Party is the Party For Sale to any and all otherwise broadly unacceptable factions that can help it win elections. It will always embrace the Tea Partiers, the extreme Christianists, the racists, the Ayn Rand selfish. It needs these tiny, yet noisy, minorities to create the 50.01% it needs to win elections. As for how it manages to find a way to rationalize the ugliness of those factions into “sound conservative principles”, well, that is TRULY an art, just like how it manages to convince those factions that it will protect their interests.

    There is no “Republican Party”, David. It is an illusion, created by the Corporatist Powers that Be to hide behind so as to puppet what is left of the greatest country on the earth.

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