Various libertarians and Ron Paul supporters predictably were upset when Rand Paul made his announcement that he is supporting the presumptive Republican nominee for President, Mitt Romney. Despite the fact that there were strong signs that Rand was not Ron philosophically, and apparently Rand had even stated he would support whoever the ultimate Republican nominee was, the reaction by many was frustration and anger.
Many rightly wondered about the backstory. In politics, everything is a deal. What was the reason for Rand’s endorsement? Of course, somewhere in there, it was suspected, was a trade.
Next thing you know, Rand appeared in a guest editorial column in the National Review, entitled “Opposing Unconstitutional Wars.” The key paragraphs, and focal point of the editorial, regard Rand’s views of limited executive power when it comes to war making:
I do not yet know if I will find a Romney presidency more acceptable on foreign policy. But I do know that I must oppose the most recent statements made by Mitt Romney in which he says he, as president, could take us to war unilaterally with Iran, without any approval from Congress. His exact words were:
I can assure you if I’m president, the Iranians will have no question but that I will be willing to take military action if necessary to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world. I don’t believe at this stage, therefore, if I’m president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force. The president has that capacity now.
This is a misreading of the role of the president and Congress in declaring war.
The Constitution clearly states that it is Congress that has the power to declare war, not the president. The War Powers Act also clearly states that U.S. forces are to engage in hostilities only if the circumstances are “pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”
Absent these criteria, the president has no authority to declare war.
The most curious aspect of this is the venue (National Review) and the message (the President’s powers are limited).
That it is in National Review suggests that Rand is at least somewhat acceptable (and important) to what has for decades been the gatekeeper, neo-con, rag. More important: Rand’s message was found worthy to print in the gatekeeper rag suggests that there is something about this message that is acceptable, even perhaps desired.
I am only somewhat knowledgeable about NR and it overall editorial policies over the decades, however these two factors strike me as curious, if not important. Why would NR publish commentary that suggests the President’s powers are limited? At that, the Republican President (if he wins the election)?
Now there is more. Rand apparently is generating at least some support for being Romney’s VP nominee. Again, this is reported in National Review:
In conversations with Romney sources about the VP stakes and related matters, I’m hearing the usual names: Portman, Pawlenty, and Ryan. All three are seen as top campaign surrogates. But one surprising name was added to the mix by a couple of Romney advisers: Senator Rand Paul. Inside Romney world, the Kentucky freshman’s stock is rising. He’s certainly not a leading veep contender — he has not been asked for paperwork — but he is a valued ally. Within weeks, Paul will hit the trail for Romney. Rallies and other public events are in the works.
All of this as background for the Rand Paul – Ronald Reagan connection. I look back to the last time the US had an economic crisis that in some way looked like this one, the late 1970s: many years of slow economic growth, high unemployment, and high inflation (the CPI does not show this, but when calculated by shadowstats, inflation is comparable).
We all recall that Reagan won the election, defeating Carter who was viewed as the face of the poor economy. Reagan talked the right game: government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem; lower spending; reduce regulation; end the Department of Education. He was as libertarian-sounding a candidate that either main stream party had produced in decades, if ever.
His words were a breath of fresh air for those who believed government was too large and too intrusive. Sadly, his deeds didn’t follow his words. Of course, government continued to grow, departments weren’t eliminated, and deficits became acceptable to conservatives. Many look back fondly on Reagan because of his words, completely blind to his deeds. But for most of his two terms, he was a rather popular president. He was also successful in the act (surprise) of saying one thing while his actions did another.
So what of the connection to Rand? More from Rand’s NR editorial:
I have always done what I believe and I have never been blinded by party. In my time in the United States Senate, I have opposed the USA Patriot Act, voted against the NDAA over indefinite detention, fought to end mandatory minimum drug sentences, and voted against my party’s official budget because it didn’t cut enough spending.
There is no doubt that Rand’s words and deed are better than almost any if not any other member of the Senate (not a high hurdle, I admit, nevertheless true). Rand is certainly as libertarian sounding as Reagan was. The economy is certainly in a mess (albeit a very different mess) as it was during Carter’s term.
All of this is my very long-winded way of suggesting that Rand is being groomed to play the role Reagan played in a (on the surface) similar economic time. Certainly, if Romney wins, Rand will be a valuable ally. However, I believe this election cycle seems to be set up for Obama to win re-election.
If Romney loses, as I anticipate is likely, Rand is being set up to be the 2016 version of the 1980 Reagan. While the oligarchs have significant power, events of the last five years make clear that they don’t have a new playbook. The old “solutions” are trotted out in an attempt to solve problems – seemingly similar on the surface, yet quite different in reality.
Imagine four more years of economic malaise (the best case?). Budget deficits continuing, unemployment rising, inflation as measured by the CPI showing a nasty trend. The Republicans know this is likely as do the oligarchs. I believe, even more so, those in power realize that a step back must be taken – the chaos that is possible with a continuation of present policies might be helpful for those in control, but nothing is certain in this age of internet. Too many people are being exposed to truths that they might not have seen in decades past.
Trot out someone who speaks the same language as Reagan. In fact, give him some victories in the Senate to build his credibility with conservatives and lite-libertarians – some minimal reductions in the abuses of civil-liberties, a superficial audit of the Fed, privatizing the TSA (yes, this is Rand’s solution and it will sell with the beltway libertarians), maybe even the elimination of one or two programs.
Prime him to be the next Reagan. Is this the plan?