Redstate.com’s recent article “Rand Paul is no Ronald Reagan” relies more on partisan undertones than relevant facts as they attempt to debunk the perception that Rand Paul is the new Ronald Reagan. No sensible advocate of this perception expects Rand Paul to be identical to Reagan. Reagan was president during the Cold War in an America with manageable levels of debt. Rand Paul is looking at an America facing no such threat as the Soviet Union, but some of the worst debts we’ve ever seen. With that said, Rand Paul, like Ronald Reagan, is trying to move the Republican Party into the future against the wishes of the party establishment. They are alike in the ways that matter.
I will debunk this article, by a contributor with the username “streiff”, by using the same three subtitles: Stature, Economics, and Foreign Policy.
The redstate.com article starts with the author’s most solid point. Unfortunately, it’s only mildly relevant. Reagan has much more stature than Rand Paul. Yes, indeed he does. Paul relied at least in part on his family name to become a US Senator for Kentucky. He does not have the long list of accomplishments as does Reagan, and I admit this means he’s a little green to be President. Still, Rand Paul has never claimed to have Reagan’s greatness, and this is hardly relevant to the debate over the future of the GOP’s policies.
Redstate.com contributor “streiff” did actually show how Reagan’s economics differed from Paul. Reagan ran substantial deficits, and Rand Paul has criticized Reagan for this. But “streiff” Redstate thinks that makes Paul look bad in some way? With rank-in-file Republicans, saying anything critical of Reagan is a heresy deserving electoral punishment, even if the criticism is true. Paul has much in common with Reagan, but if it is heresy to learn the Reagan-God’s mistakes, Rand is most certainly guilty!
Rand Paul has argued that Jimmy Carter’s fiscal policies were more conservative than Reagan’s. The article points this out as if it somehow is a blight on Paul’s record. But again, heresy though it may be within the Republican establishment, it’s actually true. If you look at deficits as a percentage of GDP, under Jimmy Carter they never exceeded 2.6%. Under Reagan, however, they exceed this amount every year except for 1981, and reached as high as 5.9% (more than double Jimmy Carter’s highest rate). Redstate.com and “streiff” may not enjoy learning that Jimmy Carter really was more fiscally conservative than Ronald Reagan, but there’s no sense in punishing Rand Paul for simply acknowledging this. I must add, considering redstate’s viewers and likely reaction to the name “Jimmy Carter”, this was a cheap shot.
As with the economy, we face a very different world than Reagan faced. The entire Cold War was one where the power struggle was bi-polar – that is, it was 2-sided. Nearly every nation, state, or even tribe was forced to side with either the US, or the Soviet Union. When you’re facing a threat like that, you win at any cost…as did Reagan. It meant running record debts to expand our military, and it meant meddling in affairs you might otherwise avoid, such as the invasions of Granada, Lebanon and Reagan’s many proxy wars. Streiff, like many rank-in-file Republicans, seems to think that Reagan’s Cold War strategy was meant to be a permanent US foreign policy platform. However, even the “Godfather of Neoconservatism” himself, Irving Kristol, became far less hawkish after the Berlin Wall came down. There’s no reason to believe that Reagan would support the kind of meddling advocated by today’s GOP, as a growing number of conservatives are realizing.
Many neocons and other hawks in this post-Iraq era are trying to reposition themselves as cautious “realists”, and this author is no exception. The author describes Paul’s foreign policy as “indicative of a man who either hasn’t considered the reality of the world or is fearful of offending his political base”. Is this the reality of the world that most of us live in, or the reality of the bubble a few remaining neocons live in? The Cold War is over! We face no threat today as significant as the Soviet Union. The two biggest foreign threats we now face are the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and various Islamist terrorist groups. The CCP’s military might is growing, but is still far inferior to the US military. They pose a much greater threat to our manufacturing base due to “free trade” than our military presence. This could pose a longer term threat to our military might, as it is crippling our tax base and thus ability to fund our military. We will certainly not solve this problem by going even deeper into debt to fund more unnecessary wars! We need to build our economy at home, if we are to balance out the CCP. As for Islamist terrorists, they are scary, they are desperate, and they can hurt some of us. However, they are nowhere near powerful enough to do anything more than hijack planes, blow up trains, mail anthrax, or go on shooting sprees. This should be taken seriously, but it will not be solved by outgunning them. We outgun them 50 times over, and that doesn’t stop them. They are desperate, angry, and have nothing to lose. They’ve also been outgunned for at least a century (since the fall of the Ottoman Empire), so that’s nothing new to them. Fortunately for US, they are better at killing other Muslims in that part of the world than at killing Americans or Europeans. As Rand said, “Like Dwight Eisenhower, I believe the U.S. can actually be stronger by doing less.” The author found this statement bizarre for some reason, but it is perfectly applicable to dealing with the Islamist terrorist threat. Al Qaeda hates Hezbollah, Hezbollah hates Hamas, Hamas hates Al Qaeda; but our invasion of Iraq and meddling in Syria largely helped create ISIS – and they’re all afraid of ISIS. These Islamist groups are far more effective at killing each other than killing US, so why stop them? We really could do more by doing less.
This article contains no factual errors, but also fails to prove very much of relevance. It proves that Rand Paul is not exactly like Ronald Reagan, but Paul has never made such a claim. He actually has made it clear that neither he nor any other Republican can be the “next Ronald Reagan”. As Mark Twain once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes”. In many ways, Paul “rhymes” with Reagan, but as many of the old grassroots Reagan supporters have become part of the new GOP establishment, they resent that realization that they are the establishment now. This redstate.com article is clearly an expression of their frustration at this unfortunate epiphany. Given that Reagan himself was an innovative, bold, and adaptable leader, I seriously doubt he would object to yet another necessary renovation of the Republican Party. Ike was a great leader in his time, but the party couldn’t stay in the 1950s any more than it now can stay in the 1980s. It’s 2014, and we’re ready for Rand.
Links for further consideration:
Original article in case you didn’t catch it up top:
This chart shows national debt as a percentage of GDP. As you can see, it is much worse today than during Reagan’s time:
I know that some of you will question my claim that “Hamas hates Al Qaeda”, so I want to show some evidence here:
This “The American Conservative” article from a few years ago predicted how the neocons would rebrand themselves as “centrists”: