Rand Paul’s mixed message

 

Sen. Rand Paul’s tea-party response to the State of the Union was a mixed bag. At its best, it reflected real movement on the right in favor of immigration reform; at its worst, it was just plain weird.

The Kentucky Republican was least convincing Tuesday night on the topic for which he is best known. He promised to balance the budget in five years, but what he offered was not promising. Consider this passage:

“It is time for a new bipartisan consensus. It is time Democrats admit that not every dollar spent on domestic programs is sacred. And it is time Republicans realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud. Where would we cut spending? Well, we could start with ending all foreign aid to countries that are burning our flag and chanting death to America . . . Not only should the sequester stand, many pundits say the sequester really needs to be at least $4 trillion to avoid another downgrade of America’s credit rating. Both parties will have to agree to cut, or we will never fix our fiscal mess.”

Surely Paul knows that foreign aid is a microscopic part of the federal budget and that Republicans accepted significant cuts in the military — $487 billion over 10 years — before sequestration. To pretend that cutting foreign aid and national security spending will solve our problems is absurd and all too reminiscent of the phony frugality he complains about.

Paul reverted to reality-based governance when it came to immigration reform, saying: “We must be the party that sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities. We must be the party that says, ‘If you want to work, if you want to be an American, we welcome you.’ ” Great. Now he should tell us if he supports the Gang of Eight plan or something else (and what that something else is).

He was on terra firma with a plea for school choice, putting special emphasis on “poor children in a crumbling system of hopelessness.”

But Paul also seemed to hint at another agenda, saying he would insist on trial by jury and search-and-seizure protection. Hmm. We have those things, right? And he said he objects to “secret lists” of Americans to be killed “without trial.” Does he think we can’t kill an American-turned-jihadist on the battlefield?

Some of what Paul says is simplistic to the point of being misleading; some of it is daft; and some of it is important (albeit vague). If he wants to build credibility, he will have to start spelling out what he means. It is relatively easy to be a gadfly in the Senate. It is much harder to master detail, present credible legislation and accomplish aims.

© 2013, The Washington Post

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • Who pays the most on Tax Day?

    Which taxpayers experience the greatest tax burden — and who pays the most in taxes?

  • A battle ahead on ‘personhood’

    Some of the most hard-fought Senate races this fall are likely to feature big fights over “personhood.”

  • The Cuba embargo is such a bad idea

    On a drive across Cuba a few weeks ago, my family and I decided to make a quick detour to the Bay of Pigs. It was hot, and the beach at Playa Giron — where 53 years ago a tragicomic CIA-sponsored invasion force stormed ashore — seemed like a good place for lunch. Plus, who could pass up the opportunity to swim in the Bay of Pigs? I would swim in the Gulf of Tonkin for the same reason.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category