But it is just as possible that Rand Paul's odyssey to Israel and outreach effort to pro-Israel conservatives is analogous to Barack Obama's path in the years before he was elected president. Obama had few ties with pro-Israel groups, and was known as the friend of pro-Palestinian activists and other radicals. But with the help of some in the Jewish community, he worked hard to change his image. He, too, said it was all a misunderstanding to see him as anything but a friend to Israel, albeit one that didn't like the views of the Likud. Those who vouched for his pro-Israel bona fides have had a lot of explaining to do during his presidency.
Those who are allowing themselves to play that same role for Rand Paul need to think long and hard not just about being cheap dates but about the likelihood that the candidate whose positions they are rationalizing may have a very different agenda if he ever got into the White House.
"It was a home run," said David Lane, a California-based evangelical leader who organized Paul's trip. "He handled himself — his first trip to Israel – very, very well."
"For the first time, he's actually taken a very substantial position — now he's on the record where he stands," said Mallory Factor, an influential conservative activist who accompanied Paul for part of his trip. "He does have a handle on the issues — he calls it the way it should be called, instead of trying to be politically correct about it."
"I really have liked his approach to the questions that I've heard posed to him so far — it's really atypical to what you've heard in the past," said South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly. "He's not just asking for pat answers, he's asking for something that is really in-depth and thoughtful. He's demonstrating that he's listening to both sides of the issue."
California-based pastor Rob McCoy added: "He is approaching the Israel community same way he is approaching our evangelical community. He is not fawning over us or them. Instead he is honestly trying to understand us."
"There is a part of me that wonders if he is part of the evangelical community, but there's another part that says I really enjoy his presence, and that it doesn't matter," McCoy said. "I don't want somebody who is going to play me — the Republican Party has already played me."
Jonathan Tobin needs to wake up and open his eyes.
My guess is though that there is something else at play. The problem Tobin has with Rand Paul is not just his fear of what his views are about Israel but probably just a general disagreement with him politically. Tobin is a big government Republican. He and practically the entire Commentary staff were behind Mitt Romney during the entire primary season, even when more pro-Israel candidates like Newt Gingrich gained momentum. He wants "better" government not "limited" government and that is probably why he hates Rand Paul so much. He is going to be supporting the Chris Christies' of the world every day of the week and twice on Sunday in any battle with a Rand Paul or any other true conservative/libertarian.