Senator Elect Rand Paul gave a national interview to Christiane Amanpour, and although he took some heat from her for refusing to give specific answers as to where he would cut the budget (which has been typical of Republican doublespeak on deficits) I think he was quite expansive in other areas. What was Rand Paul (in my opinion) right on?
1) He supported Pay-Go, and highlighted the fact that Congress routinely violates its own rules by declaring spending to be an “emergency”, thereby eliminating the pay-go requirement for corresponding spending cuts or tax hikes to support “new spending”. On that issue he is right.
2) He highlighted (anecdotally) the Congressional practice of ascertaining spending levels first, and worrying not at all about building that spending around existing revenues. He advocated for legislators being “responsible” in their approach to budgeting. He may be dreaming on that, but he is right.
3) He said that whatever budget cuts occurred they ought to include defense. And while he only hinted at his position, the notion of Europe and Japan shouldering a bigger share of their own defense costs was clearly on his mind. On that he is especially correct. We close military bases in the United States that at least promote economic activity and keep open bases in Germany that promote economic activity and jobs (for Germans). What are we doing with any bases in Western Europe anyway?
4) He questioned the rationale for the war in Afghanistan. At $2 billion a week somebody better start questioning it. On that issue he is correct.
Contrary to the impression left by Ms. Amanpour I think we got a fairly good flavor of where Rand Paul is on key policy issues, and although I disagree on many I think Rand Paul is going to give the contrast needed to have the type of debate we need now. I don’t think I am alone in that. Today Frank Rich in the New York Times suggested that President Obama invite Rand Paul to any meetings involving Republican leadership.
Better still, the president should open this bargaining session to the full spectrum of his opposition. As he said at his forlorn news conference on Wednesday, he is ready to consider policy ideas “whoever proposes them.” So why not cut to the chase and invite Congressional Tea Party heavyweights like Jim DeMint, Rand Paul and Michele Bachmann to the White House along with the official G.O.P. leadership? They will offer the specifics that Boehner and McConnell are too shy to divulge.
DeMint published a book last year detailing his view that Social Security be privatized to slow America’s descent into socialism. Paul can elaborate on his ideas for reducing defense spending and cutting back on drug law enforcement. Bachmann will explain her plans for weaning Americans off Medicare.
I think Rich was also correct today. Lets have the debate, but with Republicans that have the courage of their convictions. Not with the craven majority that refuses to say what they really think. Take it to the bank. Rand Paul will end up saying just what he thinks. And then the contrasts will be clear.