More Wisdom from McCarthy on Rand Paul

Andy has other nice things to say about Rand Paul.  But he also introduces various notes of caution, especially regarding Sen. Paul’s caricature of the behavior of the Bush administration, and in particular his muddled comments about the Constitutional scholar and former Justice Department official John Yoo.  We might all applaud Sen. Paul when, in a recent speech, he called for a foreign policy defined by vital American interests rather than utopian democratic evangelism, one that  “would target our enemy, strike with lethal force,” and then leave. “If that is truly where he is coming from,” Andy comments,

he ought to study what former Bush Justice Department official John Yoo actually says instead of using a Yoo caricature as a piñata — the tack he took in the NR interview, regrettably reminiscent of the way McCain and Graham have disserved Paul himself. I doubt my friend Professor Yoo would dare dabble in ophthalmology, but in trying his hand at constitutional law, Dr. Paul predictably commits malpractice. He has confused Yoo’s scholarship on the “unitary executive” with advocacy of the executive lawlessness known as the “imperial presidency.”

The stakes here are high. “Foreign policy” is a phrase that also embraces “national security.” In the malevolent carnival that is business-as-usual in Washington, D.C., that link has often been obscured where it is not outright jettisoned.  But national security is a topic that has a way of coming back vividly to center stage when you least expect it. Everyone (well, everyone except the president, who just assured us that “there is no debt crisis”) is worried about the country’s economic situation, and with good reason.  But our domestic problems do not unfold in a vacuum, a fact we ignore at our peril (how do you spell “nuclear-capable Iran”?). Andy is right: “Any successful conservative foreign policy is going to marry the clarity about the enemy that animated Rand Paul’s Heritage speech with the clear distinction John Yoo draws between fighting war and fighting crime.”

There is an existential side to this issue — the future security of the United States — but the is also a pragmatic, party political side to it. Clarity and forthrightness tend to win elections in a way that politically correct waffling does not. As Andy observes in his closing remarks, “Ronald Reagan made the struggle against Soviet totalitarianism central to his campaigns. Mitt Romney regarded the struggle against Islamic-supremacist totalitarianism as something too politically incorrect to mention amid platitudinous five-point economic plans. There are reasons why eminently winnable elections are lost.”