Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), after tentative steps to reach out to the pro-Israel community including a trip to Israel, has now infuriated Christian and Jewish leaders alike.
In an interview with Buzzfeed last week he declared, “There’s a big transition in the Republican Party, but also in the public. People are right about the public being war-weary. They’re right.” He later said, “I think some within the Christian community are such great defenders of the promised land and the chosen people that they think war is always the answer, maybe even preemptive war. And I think it’s hard to square the idea of a preemptive war and, to me, that overeagerness [to go to] war, with Christianity.”
His chief of staff and key adviser Doug Stafford tried to smooth things over, telling the conservative Washington Free Beacon he wasn’t directing his comments at the country’s largest pro-Zionist group, Christians United For Israel. This has not satisfied conservatives. (Although CUFI accepted the clarification its executive director David Brog told the Free Beacon the he “must disagree with the assertion that these wars were somehow linked to Israel. Israel did not want the war with Iraq, and it certainly did not ask for it. And Israel remains the only nation in the world which is fighting America’s enemies on America’s behalf so that our sons and daughters don’t have to.”)
Evangelical leader and strong Israel supporter Gary Bauer told me today, “The GOP has been the party defined in part by support for a strong national defense and a robust defense of freedom. Obama’s feckless foreign policy, which all too often has led to Isolationist success in the Middle East coupled with the perception that over time Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be inconclusive at best, has eroded traditional conservative support for confronting our enemies.” He admonished the junior Kentucky senator: “Senator Paul is ‘mining’ these discontents but his characterization of Christians as ‘anxious’ to go to war is an outrage and will hurt him.”[...]
A senior GOP leader with close ties to the Jewish community was shaken by Rand Paul’s remarks. He told me this morning, “The recent comments by Sen. Paul regarding Christian evangelicals saying they want war in the Middle East is deeply troubling on many levels. It’s factually wrong and demonstrates a lack of knowledge and naiveté on the part of Paul.” Like Bauer and Nance, he says that Paul’s remark “defames Christian conservatives, which by the way, is not smart politics for someone looking to run for president in 2016. Many conservatives are very worried about the pull on the party, led by Sen. Paul, to a neo-isolationist posture.”
In short, what sounds good to anti-military libertarians raises grave concerns about Paul’s views among significant factions of the GOP. It is one thing to criticize Obama’s foreign policy — as the three I interviewed have done; it’s quite another to go left of the president. That dog just won’t hunt among mainstream conservatives and value voters in the GOP.I think the neocons have finally figured out that Rand does not care about them and that he is only pro-Israel for the evangelical vote. It appears, the neocons are now going to attack his mixed foreign policy policy positions by egging evangelical leaders to separate from Rand, unless he becomes a total war hawk.
I really don't get Rand's game. If you are not going to act in terms of principle and are willing to stand as a pro-Israel hawk to get the evangelical vote, what is the upside to pissing off the neocons and apparently even the evangelicals at times? When you dance with the devil, you don't get to wander around the ballroom floor without bad consequences delivered your way.