Vox’s Zack Beauchamp declared last week, “Rand Paul just gave one of the most important foreign policy speeches in decades.” BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray didn’t see what the big deal was, responding, “I’m confused by these takes on Paul’s speech as if the content was new. He’s been saying the same stuff for some time.”
She’s not wrong. But neither is Beauchamp. In many ways Paul’s foreign policy speech Thursday was nothing new for the senator.
That does not make it any less monumental.
Beauchamp found Paul’s call for a more restrained military approach important because “Paul is signaling that, when he runs for president in 2016, he isn’t going to move toward the Republican foreign policy consensus; he’s going to run at it, with a battering ram.”
Paul’s foreign policy vision is significantly different from every other rumored 2016 GOP presidential candidate. “If he wins,” Beauchamp emphasizes, “he could remake the Republican Party as we know it.”
The Kentucky senator has consistently challenged long-held GOP views on issues like the war on drugs and federal drug sentencing laws by taking positions that once would have been considered almost exclusively left. Paul has introduced legislation ending the practice of civil asset forfeitures—police taking and keeping someone’s property based on nothing more than suspicion—an issue that had previously received little attention in Washington. The libertarian-leaning senator’s well-received address at progressive Berkeley last year on the dangers of the surveillance state would have been unthinkable for almost any Republican during the George W. Bush era.