My paternal grandmother was no student of politics. She was your standard lifelong WASP Episcopalian Republican. Nevertheless, her judgment of Richard Nixon was absolute, many years before Watergate.
“I don’t like his eyes,” she said. No political argument would budge her from this pronouncement. “There’s something wrong with his eyes. I don’t trust him.”
She was right. Who knew?
I’m keenly aware there’s been a bit of a Rand Paul bubble in the Republican presidential sweepstakes. Otherwise sane conservatives seemed to be clambering, if not leaping, onto his bandwagon. Even some of National Review’s writers were open to his candidacy and promise.
Most distressingly, my wife seemed to have gotten her head turned by his sudden ascendant celebrity. At a rational level, I argued that his notions of foreign policy were naive and ill considered. When that failed, as is often the case with the war-weary, I reverted like my grandmother to irrational convictions. Here’s a distillation of my entirely private rants about this guy.
“How can no one see? I don’t get it. There’s something deeply wrong with him. No one but me sees he has the eyes of the Runaway Bride? Just listen to him. He consistently hits that high pitched iambic keening note of a woman who is making reality up as she goes along. What happened to “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”? His father is a crazy, isolationist anti-Semite. The son is also a crazy, isolationist anti-Semite. Who can take this guy seriously?”
Thank God for the recent public battle between Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. It resulted in this realization at National Review:
With his enthusiastic support for Barack Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) again shows that his foreign-policy views are wrongheaded. With his bizarre mislabeling of his views and of those who disagree, Paul shows himself (yet again) to be truly ignorant about foreign affairs. And with his juvenile, nasty, strangely personal attacks on fellow Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Paul shows himself temperamentally unsuited for the presidency.
Rand Paul is no conservative; he’s a quack…
One could write much more about the perilous loopiness of Paul’s antipathy to American arms and diplomatic robustness, but let’s concentrate on his meltdown concerning Cuba. Alone among potential Republican presidential candidates, Paul wholeheartedly embraced Obama’s prostration to the Castro brothers. Rubio, whose father emigrated from Cuba, quite naturally bristled when asked about Paul’s comments by Fox News’s Megyn Kelly: “Like many people who have been opining, he has no idea what he’s talking about.” Rubio then explained at length what he meant, without mentioning Paul again. It was neither a premeditated attack on Paul nor a deliberately personal one; he was taking aim at the “many people” he thinks are wrong on the issue.
Paul then had a hissy fit. First he took to Facebook with a two-paragraph, full-scale assault on Rubio’s position, including this strange passage: “Seems to me, Senator Rubio is acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism.”
How, pray tell, is it “isolationist” to take an active stance to penalize another country? Existing sanctions against Cuba don’t isolate the United States; they isolate Cuba in ways that, as the Washington Post has pointed out, have actually worked to keep Cuba’s harms in check. To call American policy “isolationist” means that the United States is retreating behind its own borders, not that we are insisting (with significant, if tacit, support from other nations) that an evil regime remains within its own.
Paul didn’t stop there. Continuing his highly personal attack on Rubio, Paul emitted a series of at least four Tweets, each mentioning Rubio by name, mocking the Floridian and again accusing him of wanting to “build a moat.”
This is the kind of name-calling that middle-school debate-club members resort to, putting down others with snark to hide their own adolescent insecurities. Paul’s tweets were not so much reasoned debate as a variation of “yeah, and so’s your mother!”…
But this is part of a pattern with Paul. He seems utterly unable to disagree on any matter involving arms or diplomacy without insulting his adversaries or questioning their conclusions, intelligence, or motives — or all three.
My grandmother had an eye for character and temperament. I’m hoping that even Paulistas can learn from her example.
The upside? I’ve gained a lot more respect for Marco Rubio. Heard him this morning on a talk show. He sounds exhausted. But his knowledge of Cuba is encyclopedic. Seems like a man who can learn as much as he needs to. And willing to do it.