I’ve met Rand Paul, U.S. Senator, only once. He visited Athens while stumping for Mitt Romney in October 2012. I covered his speech at the Athens County Republican Party headquarters.
Rand launched his bid for the White House today. It reminded me of what he had to say when he visited Athens and the unsurprising hypocrisy he’s now undertaken as he positions himself in the 2016 Grand Old Party Presidential Primary Pageant.
Back in 2012, waiting for the man from Kentucky to appear, I was doing my level best not to break out in hives as I overheard all those types of things you might expect to overhear when throngs of Republicans gather around each other to extol the virtues of Willard M. Romney and complain about how victimized they are by libtards and socialists.
Rand arrived looking like an early ’90s stand-up comedian from Texas: Cowboy boots, jeans, blue blazer, pastel-colored paisley tie.
I’ve covered enough formal Republican Party events, I was looking forward to see if Rand would bring anything to the table other than the typical balanced budget red meat that usually gets thrown around at these things.
While he didn’t get specifically into BBA territory, Rand had plenty of economic fear-mongering chum to chuck, railing against foreign aid and U.S. monetary policy.
Then he turned to a position that I knew at the time would become untenable for him if he ever had presidential aspirations. You don’t often hear a national-profile Republican telling a room full of Republicans that we shouldn’t be spending such an insane amount of money on the military.
My report on Rand Paul, October 2012:
Paul said that the American dream is a dream of self-worth. He then called on conservatives to acknowledge overspending on the military. He said that the total U.S. military spending comes in just a shade less that the total of all other countries’ military spending combined.
He said conservatives have to note the problem of overspending on military, and Democrats have to acknowledge overspending on entitlements.
“It’s going to take some tough love,” he said. “We need to figure out how to pay for it.”
So of course the flip-side of Paul’s then-proposed military cuts was utter decimation to the U.S. social safety net, which, natch, plays great with a room full of Republicans.
But overspending on the military, if that kind of talk doesn’t pump up a conservative crowd… It would seem not.
By September 2014, the liberal Wall Street Journal reported, Paul had stopped talking about even a 10 percent cut in military spending. And foreign aide? Well, Paul evolved, maybe not eliminate it entirely, maybe just cap it at $5 billion.
But even that wasn’t going to cut it.
So by late-March 2015. TIME was writing the headline, “Rand Paul Proposes Boosting Defense Spending,” and Paul had begun wearing some snazzy designer suits:
In an olive branch to defense hawks hell-bent on curtailing his White House ambitions, the libertarian Senator introduced a budget amendment late Wednesday calling for a nearly $190 billion infusion to the defense budget over the next two years—a roughly 16 percent increase.
Paul’s amendment brings him in line with his likely presidential primary rivals, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who introduced a measure calling for nearly the same level of increases just days ago. The amendment was first noticed by TIME and later confirmed by Paul’s office.
The move completes a stunning reversal for Paul, who in May 2011, after just five months in office, released his own budget that would have eliminated four agencies—Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Energy and Education—while slashing the Pentagon, a sacred cow for many Republicans. Under Paul’s original proposal, defense spending would have dropped from $553 billion in the 2011 fiscal year to $542 billion in 2016. War funding would have plummeted from $159 billion to zero. He called it the “draw-down and restructuring of the Department of Defense.”
Apparently Rand Paul has found it easier to draw-down and restructure his own deeply-held beliefs than try to lead the GOP out of its unending love affair with war.
But of course, this is now presidential politics Rand is playing. Watch the cookie crumble.
David DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure based out of Athens, Ohio. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He can be found on Twitter @TheRevDeWitt.