Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Myth of the Interventionist Revival

A lot of the criticism of Rand Paul’s anti-interventionist foreign policy pronouncements, as well as his high profile opposition to the NSA’s spying on Americans, is couched in terms of “that was then, this is now.” The argument goes something like this: with ISIS on the rise in the Middle East, and in light of effective fear-mongering by government officials and their media echo chamber, Sen. Paul’s views are out of fashion. In a piece confidently entitled “Rand Paul Just Sacrificed His Presidential Campaign For His Libertarian Principles,” Peter Weber, senior writer and “curator” of The Week, opined:

[H]is chances of becoming the 2016 Republican nominee just went from unlikely to long-shot.

“Shutting down American espionage and surveillance capabilities, even for a few days, is too off-brand for the GOP — especially at the moment.

"Paul is ‘a niche candidate of a shrinking niche, because events are not playing out the way he anticipated two years ago when he began running for president,’ George Will said on Fox News Sunday. ‘The world looks much more dangerous than it did,’ and ‘literally cashing in’ on his ‘conscientiousness as a libertarian’ really ‘muddies the waters’ of his intentions."

Paul’s intentions should be clear enough, even for someone such as Will who sees everything through Beltway lenses: the junior Senator from Kentucky intends to dismantle the unconstitutional surveillance system that was secretly foisted on the American people in the dead of night and roll back if not entirely reverse the dangerous foreign policy that served as its rationalization. Aside from that, however, the idea that Paul represents a small and somewhat precious minority is another instance of Will’s myopia: he really ought to get out more.

A new poll shows that the American people side with Paul – and that includes Republicans. The GOP “elders,” aptly embodied by Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and John McCain, sought to renew Section 215 of the Patriot Act – which had been interpreted by the FISA court and our government to allow for universal (or “bulk”) surveillance – a position held in this poll by a mere 12 percent. More than twice as many – 27 percent – take Paul’s position: let it expire. That includes Republicans as well as Democrats. A plurality – 47 percent – want to “modify,” i.e. limit in some way, the government’s surveillance powers, and again Republicans are right up there with Democrats in their opposition to the McConnell-McCain spy-on-everyone stance. 

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