ESSAY If Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky runs for the Republican presidential nomination, his biggest critic just might be Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who once again is sharply criticizing the tea party darling’s foreign policy views.
King’s latest salvo came in response to an op-ed Paul published Tuesday in the Washington Post, a piece Paul used to do, primarily, two things: One, combat charges that he favors merely keeping a nuclear-armed Iran in a box; and, two, argue that no commander in chief should *ever* publicly announce his or her next foreign policy move.
Here’s a snippet of what Paul, expected to run for the GOP nomination, wrote about US policy toward Iran:
“I am not for containment in Iran. Let me repeat that, since no one seems to be listening closely: I am unequivocally not for containing Iran.
“I am also not for announcing that the United States should never contain Iran. That was the choice I was given a few months ago and is the scenario being misunderstood by some in the news.
“To be against a ‘we will never contain Iran’ resolution is not the same as being for containment of a nuclear Iran. Rather, it means that foreign policy is complicated and doesn’t fit neatly within a bumper sticker, headline or tweet.”
His op-ed also features this carefully worded walk-off:
“National defense is the No. 1 job of our government, and I believe in a strong nation, at peace with the world.
“I believe peace through strength should be our goal at all times.”
The last bit reeks of a political gambit aimed at pleasing various faction within the Grand Old Party’s famed big tent. There’s something for everyone.
And despite borrowing a quote from the party’s beloved Ronald Reagan, the so-called GOP Foreign Policy Establishment isn’t buying what Paul is selling.
That camp is again hammering Paul, slapping the “isolationist” moniker on his fledgling presidential campaign. In short, the Establishment within his own party essentially are saying this about Paul: He just doesn’t get it. And, therefore, he isn’t suited to be commander in chief.
Take King, who made his views about Paul clear Wednesday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.
Host Joe Scarborough asked King if he wants to see Paul as commander in chief.
“No, I wouldn’t. I think his policies would be disastrous, Joe,” the congressman said. “I think he appeals to the lowest-common denominator. This is an isolationist wing from the 1930s.”
King told Scarborough the two of them are capable of engaging one another in a “honest disagreement” about foreign policy issues. How about Paul, congressman?
“But Rand Paul brings it to this hysterical level,” King said, again blasting Paul for his 2013 Senate-floor filibuster during which he alleged President Obama or a future commander in chief might use armed drones to kill Americans “at Starbucks” on US soil.
King, a former — and potentially soon-to-again-be — House Intelligence Committee chairman, acknowledges the country needs to discuss policy issues like the US drone program. But he’s pulling no punches in saying Paul shouldn’t — no, cannot — be part of those deliberations.
“We do need an intelligent debate,” King said. “And I don’t think Rand Paul is capable of that debate.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., often lectures reporters that there always has been a tension among various factions of the Republican Party, with some favoring a hawkish foreign policy and others preferring a less-muscular America on the global stage.
Upon further review, Paul’s op-ed appears a bit less “isolationist” than the Scarborough-King wing of the party contends. After all, he states clearly that he believes “all options should be on the table to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, including the military option.” (Emphasis added.) And “peace through strength” indicates Paul shares the GOP Establishment’s desire for a large, well-funded and well-equipped US military.
In the op-ed, Paul criticizes Obama’s “red lines” that caused so much turmoil on Syria. He also dismisses merely allowing Tehran to field a nuclear arsenal and then implement a policy of containment. And he embraces Reagan’s doctrine of a strong US military enhancing the chances for peace around the globe.
So there are ample reasons to believe the eventual Republican nominee’s position on defense and foreign policy matters will bear a striking resemblance to the philosophy Paul laid out this week — especially since the Kentucky tea party favorite seems to understand better than his party’s Establishment that American voters are, after 13 years of sustained war, leery of new conflicts.
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