Let’s begin with a lengthy, but cogent question: If you were a space alien who had just landed on the planet earth, and were exposed to politics for the first time, and were taught about the ideologies of the Republican and Democrat parties, and then you watched John McCain publicly condemning the newly minted President of the United States in a foreign country – with which party would you guess Sen. McCain is affiliated?
The wrong answer would be Republican. McCain publicly betrayed his president while visiting Germany on Saturday. He followed it on Sunday with an outrageous claim that Trump’s criticism of the media is akin to that of a dictator. But despite McCain’s obvious, transparent personal vendetta against the leader of his own party, no GOP member of Congress seems to have uttered a critical word against the “venerable” Senator from Arizona.
Except one: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). And anyone who has, like me, paid close attention to Paul’s career should not be surprised.
Let’s take a step back to put things in perspective. The 2016 Republican presidential field featured no less than fifteen politicians – the very best the GOP could offer within the political class. There were also two outsiders on the slate (Donald Trump and, lest we forget, Ben Carson). And when GOP voters bypassed all those impressive politicians and delivered a sweeping victory to Trump, it was an unmistakable sign that they were thirsting for something entirely different.
They were ready for someone who would speak real truth to real power. The public no longer believed that any of the politicians could actually deliver the genuine reform they had been promising for so many years.
Now, if Trump had not been in the field, who might the voters have anointed with the GOP nomination? Given his impressive organization, unapologetic pronouncement of hard-core conservative principles and second place standing in the end, the obvious answer would be Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
But if they wanted a politician who came closest to Donald Trump in speaking uncomfortable truths, then their man might have been Sen. Rand Paul.
Sure, Sen. Paul lacks the stature and the “look” of a president. He is diminutive, thoughtful and soft-spoken. But except for Trump, he was the only candidate willing to criticize his party for their most damaging decision of the 21st Century – the war in Iraq. The rest of the politicians marched in lockstep, refusing to admit how tragic a mistake that war ultimately proved to be. Instead, they focused all the blame on Barack Obama for a premature withdrawal from Iraq, as if President Bush’s decision to engage in that war of choice had little or nothing to do with the disintegration of the middle east that followed.
But Sen. Paul was consistently willing to call out the neo-conservatives for their seemingly perpetual war footing. He stood firm even as he was consistently dismissed by the hawks as an unrealistic, libertarian dove who would be dangerous as Commander-in-Chief.
Well, Sen. Paul certainly exacted a measure of revenge during his appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday:
Or read coverage of this from The Hill:
He argued that the nation is “very lucky” that Trump is president and not McCain, who won the 2008 GOP nomination but lost to Barack Obama in the general election.
Paul said that McCain’s recent criticisms of Trump are driven by his “personal dispute” with the president over foreign policy.
He added that McCain and Trump are at odds because McCain supports the wide deployment of U.S. troops to protect and promote American interests abroad while he characterized Trump’s views as closer to a realpolitik approach to foreign policy.
“Everything that he says about the president is colored by his own personal dispute he’s got running with President Trump, and it should be taken with a grain of salt, because John McCain’s the guy who’s advocated for war everywhere,” Paul said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“He would bankrupt the nation. We’re very lucky John McCain’s not in charge, because I think we’d be in perpetual war,” Paul added.