Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ted Cruz Seems to Be Outdoing Rand Paul on Iran

As I've said numerous times before, foreign policy is the one aspect of Rand Paul's policy planks that I don't always agree with, especially on Iran.  And while he publicly opposed additional sanctions on Iran, Ted Cruz has penned a great piece in Foreign Policy on the subject.  When it comes down to it, being weak on Iran is a huge no-no.  I hope Rand Paul does a course correction before it is too late. I'm not saying he needs to be a proponent of a US attack on Iran, he simply needs to be tougher.  Extremely tough sanctions could cause the collapse of Iran without a shot being fired.::

According to the interim agreement regarding Iran's nuclear program that was reached this weekend in Geneva, not one centrifuge will be destroyed. Not one pound of enriched uranium will leave Iran. Not one American unjustly detained in Iran's notorious prisons will be released. But Iran will start to receive, in a matter of days, $7 billion in relief from international economics sanctions.

This appears to be an unfortunate case of history repeating itself. As happened with North Korea in 1994, fascination with the negotiation process has blinded American diplomats to the true nature of their negotiating partners. Substantive sanctions relief has been exchanged for vague promises that the growth of a nuclear program will be curbed. Press reports on that failed deal are ominously similar to what we are reading today:

"President Clinton on Tuesday approved a deal reached by U.S. negotiators in Geneva to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program, saying the agreement 'will make the United States, the Korean peninsula and the world safer'.... The accord, concluded Monday in Geneva, gives North Korea a series of economic and political benefits in exchange for promises to freeze and eventually dismantle its current nuclear facilities, which the CIA believes have been used to make the material for one to two nuclear weapons."

We all know how this story played out. North Korea lied, cheated, and stalled for time, all the while using the economic windfall from the United States to finance its nuclear program until it was ready to test a weapon in 2006.

Likewise, the mullahs in Tehran can now laugh all the way to the bank while they spend the time and money they have gained in Geneva pursuing nuclear capability. And all Americans have bought for $7 billion is the prospect of additional negotiations that might result in progress at some point down the road. But given the unfortunate results of these most recent negotiations, it is difficult to place much faith in such rosy scenarios -- especially as the existential threat represented by a nuclear-armed Iran makes North Korea pale by comparison.

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We should have demanded preconditions from the Iranians before any direct meetings took place, and we can at least do so now before additional negotiations begin. We can start by reclaiming the moral high ground and demand the Iranian regime immediately and unconditionally release the three Americans they are unjustly detaining, Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Robert Levinson. American citizens are not bargaining chips, and there should be no further discussion while they are languishing in prison.

In addition, Iran should affirm Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. The noxious rhetoric in which Israel is referred to as a "rabid dog" that is "doomed to failure and annihilation" should be utterly unacceptable to the United States. Tolerating such verbiage on the eve of the Geneva negotiations sent a dangerous signal to Iran that the Obama administration was more eager to get a deal than to stand with Israel.

Finally, the United States should be crystal clear that to gain any further sanctions relief, Iran must take concrete steps not just to pause the nuclear program but to dramatically scale it back by, for example, ceasing the enrichment of uranium, exporting any remaining stockpiles of enriched uranium, and permitting full and unconditional inspections of the Arak nuclear facility. The burden should be on Iran, not the United States, to demonstrate it is a good-faith negotiating partner.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Frank Rich Wrote a Surprisingly Glowing Piece About Rand Paul

Although disdainful of some of Rand Paul's positions, Frank Rich's profile of Rand Paul in New York Magazine is pretty glowing of Rand Paul personally.  More and more liberals are showing respect for him, which is something I haven't seen much before towards a GOP politician:

This has been quite a year for Paul. Not long ago, he was mainly known as the son of the (now retired) gadfly Texas congressman Ron Paul, the perennial presidential loser who often seemed to have wandered into GOP-primary debates directly from an SNL sketch. Like his father, Rand Paul has been dismissed by most Democrats as a tea-party kook and by many grandees in his own party as a libertarian kook; the Republican Establishment in his own state branded him "too kooky for Kentucky" in his first bid for public office. Now BuzzFeed has anointed him "the de facto foreign policy spokesman for the GOP"—a stature confirmed when he followed Obama's prime-time speech on the Syrian standoff with a televised mini-address of his own.

But even before an international crisis thrust him center stage, Paul had become this year's most compelling and prescient political actor. His ascent began in earnest in March with the Twitter-certified #standwithrand sensation of his Ayn Rand and Gabriel García Márquez. He has, in the words of Rich Lowry of National Review, "that quality that can't be learned or bought: He's interesting." 

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Nature abhors a vacuum, and Paul doesn't hide his ambitions to fill it. In his own party, he's the one who is stirring the drink, having managed in his very short political career (all of three years) to have gained stature in spite of (or perhaps because of) his ability to enrage and usurp such GOP heavyweights as John McCain, Mitch McConnell, and Chris Christie. He is one of only two putative ­presidential contenders in either party still capable of doing something you don't expect or saying something that hasn't been freeze-dried into anodyne Frank Luntz–style drivel by strategists and focus groups. The other contender in the spontaneous-authentic political sweepstakes is Christie, but like an actor who's read too many of his rave reviews, he's already turning his bully-in-a-china-shop routine into Jersey shtick. (So much so that if he modulates it now, he'll come across as a phony.) Paul doesn't do shtick, he rarely engages in sound bites or sloganeering, and his language has not been balled up by a stint in law school or an M.B.A. program. (He's an ophthalmologist.) He speaks as if he were thinking aloud and has a way of making his most radical notions sound plausible in the moment. It doesn't hurt that some of what he says also makes sense.

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As a foe of the bank bailout of 2008 and the Fed, Paul is anathema as much to the Republican Wall Street financial Establishment as he is to the party's unreconstructed hawks. Those two overlapping power centers can bring many resources to bear if they are determined to put over a Christie or Jeb Bush or a Rubio—though their actual power over the party's base remains an open question in the aftermath of the Romney debacle. What's most important about Paul, however, is not his own prospects for higher office, but the kind of politics his early and limited success may foretell for post-Obama America. He doesn't feel he has to be a bully, a screamer, a birther, a bigot, or a lock-and-load rabble-rouser to be heard above the din. He has principled ideas about government, however extreme, that are nothing if not consistent and that he believes he can sell with logic rather than threats and bomb-­throwing. Unlike Cruz and Rubio, he is now careful to say that he doesn't think shutting down the government is a good tactic in the battle against Obamacare.

He is a godsend for the tea party—the presentable leader the movement kept trying to find during the 2012 Republican freak show but never did. Next to Paul, that parade of hotheads, with their overweening Obama hatred and their dog whistles to racists, nativists, and homophobes, looks like a relic from a passing era. For that matter, he may prove equally capable of making the two top Democratic presidential prospects for 2016, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, look like a nostalgia act.

This leaves Paul—for the moment at least—a man with a future. If in the end he and his ideas are too out-there to be a majority taste anytime soon, he is nonetheless performing an invaluable service. Whatever else may come from it, his speedy rise illuminates just how big an opening there might be for other independent and iconoclastic politicians willing to challenge the sclerosis of both parties in the post-Obama age.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Latest PPP Poll: Rand Paul Leads in NH, But Once Again Loses Women & Seniors

The latest PPP poll pretty much the same story as before, Rand Paul takes the Very Conservative (thought his time does well amongst the "somewhat conservative", Men and those under 65.  He is in 2nd or 3rd place among Women, Seniors and "moderates". He has been spending a lot of time on minority outreach, which is good, but he really shouldn't forget women and seniors.  He can reach out to as many minorities as he likes but if women and especially seniors aren't with him, he won't get the nomination.  And we've seen this weakness in poll after poll.

Vogue Profile of Rand Paul

Check out this pretty nice and long profile of Rand Paul in Vogue:

"If he announces, he'll be considered a first-tier candidate," says James Carville, Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign manager, who knows a thing or two about winning elections—and who adds that he'll tip his hat to Paul if he can find a way to broaden his appeal without losing his Tea Party base. The senator is already catching the eye of elite operatives, including Obama's political guru David Axelrod—currently a news analyst for NBC. "He's not your father's Dr. Paul," he tells me.