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The Presidential Posturing of Perry and Paul

Reckless warmonger vs. naïve isolationist? The contrast may not be as stark as all that.

by
Walter Hudson

Bio

July 14, 2014 - 11:15 pm

Politics is show business with consequences. The theatricality which presents around political contests often exaggerates differences in policy. The recent back and forth between Texas governor Rick Perry and U.S. senator Rand Paul, both of whom appear likely to seek their party’s nomination for president in 2016, provides a good example.

Delivering the opening salvo in Friday’s Washington Post, Perry accuses Paul of being an “isolationist” who prescribes “next to nothing” in response to the developing threat posed by the Islamic State marching in Syria and Iraq. Yet, when the rhetorical smoke clears, Perry’s prescription differs little from what Paul has called for. The Kentucky senator highlights as much in his response published Monday at Politico:

Perry says there are no good options. I’ve said the same thing. President Obama has said the same thing. So what are Perry’s solutions and why does he think they are so bold and different from anyone else’s?

He writes in the Washington Post, “the president can and must do more with our military and intelligence communities to help cripple the Islamic State. Meaningful assistance can include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sharing and airstrikes.”

The United States is actually doing all of this now. President Obama has said he might use airstrikes in the future. I have also been open to the same option if it makes sense.

If the governor continues to insist that these proposals mean I’m somehow “ignoring ISIS,” I’ll make it my personal policy to ignore Rick Perry’s opinions.

Paul gives as good as he gets, attempting to portray himself as stronger, wiser, and more Reaganesque. But this too is more showmanship than substance.

In truth, the differences between Perry and Paul manifest more in rhetorical spin than actual policy. Perry has an interest in portraying Paul as an “isolationist” who will do nothing in the face of an imminent threat to American lives, even though Paul has said nothing of the sort. Likewise, Paul has an interest in portraying Perry as a rabid warmonger chomping at the bit to toss American lives into a foreign meat grinder, even though Perry has not prescribed troop deployment in response to the current crisis.

There are real differences between these two, and real differences along the spectrum of foreign policy positions in the Republican Party. However, we should remain mindful of the interest likely candidates have in exaggerating those differences to build momentum for their campaigns. In truth, we need not choose between reckless war and naïve isolation. Our real choices are much less neat.

(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 11:19 minutes long; 10.87 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)

Walter Hudson advocates for individual rights, serving on the boards of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, Minnesota Majority and the Minority Liberty Alliance. He maintains a blog and daily podcast entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of conservative Minnesotan commentary, and regularly appears on the Twin Cities News Talk Weekend Roundtable on KTCN AM 1130. Follow his work via Twitter and Facebook.
All Comments   (7)
All Comments   (7)
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I'm not a Perry fan by any means, but Rand Paul is just as bat sh!t crazy on foreign policy as his father, and neither he, his dad, or Rick Perry have any business in the Oval Office. Now, Sen. Jeff Sessions on the other hand.....true conservative, true Patriot, experienced, respected by both parties (not the same as 'liked' by both parties), and above all - HONEST.

Remember BENGHAZI!
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
With Trey Gowdy as Attorney General?

That wouldn't be bad at all....

11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
The differences between Perry and Paul are far more than this author lets on. There is of course the always-popular straw men of "you're a warmonger" vs. "you're an isolationist". There are few of either in the Republican coalition today. But that does not mean the differences are not huge and meaningful. If someone cannot see that Rand Paul is far closer to Barack Obama than he is to Ronald Reagan is to be seriously misinformed.

Paul seeks always to minimize American interests outside of our borders. He is not quite the full-on isolationist that his father is, but he is much more dismissive of our vital national security interests. He frets far more about our President droning American terror suspects overseas than he does about the Iranians getting a nuke arsenal, and destablizing the entire Middle East as they are surely driven to do. He is muddy in his thinking and clearly not ready to be Commander in Chief.

Perry is only beginning to define his foreign policy, but he clearly rejects the notions that our biggest security threat today is Obama with a drone. He clearly states that we have vital national interests at stake around the world, and we need to be engaged in defeating our enemies - not necessarily by foreign military adventures, but by applying steady pressure and making clear statements of purpose, and recognizing both friends and foes for who they really are. That is the true Reaganesque approach.

To say as the author does that "Paul gives as good as he gets, attempting to portray himself as stronger, wiser, and more Reaganesque." is deliberately deceptive, or naive at its best.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
I see in your comment the same rhetorical flourish that Paul calls Perry out for. You say, "We need to be engaged in defeating our enemies - not necessarily by foreign military adventures, but by applying steady pressure and making clear statements of purpose, and recognizing both friends and foes for who they really are."

What does any of that mean in practice? How does it differ substantially from what Paul has actually called for? He wishes to avoid "foreign military adventures," which you seem to concede as a desirable goal. He makes clear statements of purpose regarding the security of American citizens as distinguished from squabbles between foreigners. What's involved in "recognizing both friends and foes for who they really are" aside from military adventure? What specific policies and actions would Paul implement which you object to, and how would Perry or anyone else be better?
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
The nation is in crisis and neither of these yahoos has shown any inclination to real leadership. Forget 'em, we have more than enough just like 'em.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is a difference between the two. Rand does have core beliefs that guide his policies.

They are wrong, but they are real.

Perry is merely a politician, of the finger-in-the-wind variety. Given the right pressures from enough people, he'll do the right thing.

Given the wrong pressures....



11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'll take "none of the above", for the win, please, Alek.

11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
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