WASHINGTON – As controversy surrounding the recent international agreement on an Iranian nuclear program continues to swirl, U.S. foreign policy regarding Iran looms as a seminal 2016 election issue. Republican candidates in particular appear to be the most fixated, or at the least the most passionate, on this policy area.
The Mike Huckabee campaign, to provide the most recent example, was reported by the AP as saying Sunday that, “the Iran nuclear deal is marching the Israelis to the door of the oven.”
More significant, though perhaps not as astonishing as Huckabee’s Holocaust inference, are statements made in a video that the Rand Paul campaign uploaded to the official Paul 2016 YouTube channel late last week. From the official Paul campaign video description:
“Senator Rand Paul questioned Secretary John Kerry [during a hearing] about the new Iran deal. Paul has always supported diplomacy over any military action but has held reservations with this new deal having to do with the removal of sanctions without proper oversight. Paul is pleased to see the US sitting down to come up with a deal but would just like to make sure the US does not get stuck with a bad deal and Iran procures a nuclear weapon because of it.”
Over the course of several minutes, Senator Paul is seen in the video asking Secretary Kerry essentially for an explanation as to how the recent deal is not a dangerous mistake.
Paul stresses repeatedly that the Iranian government is not to be seen as sincere, at one point stating to Kerry that Iran has a “history of untrustworthiness.” He also highlights recent commentary on the deal by Iran’s Ayatollah, which according to Paul is indicative of the Iranian state’s duplicity. Paul rhetorically reminds Kerry:
“We have a lot of verbiage coming from the Ayatollah already saying, ‘well this really isn’t any limitation on our ability to make a [nuclear] weapon.’ So then really it comes down to…will this stop [Iran] from having a nuclear weapon?”
Rand Paul’s past positions
The reason Paul’s latest sentiments are so significant is because of the degree to which they run counter to his earlier, espoused foreign policy views.
While Paul may now find himself harmonizing with Huckabee, in spirit if not in hyperbole, this is in absolutely stark contrast to where Paul has often positioned himself in years past.
A piece by Alana Goodman written for the Washington Free Beacon in April 2014 cites a clear example. In that article, titled, Rand Paul: Nuclear Iran Not a Threat to U.S., Israel, Goodman cites an interview of Rand Paul conducted by media personality Alex Jones, where she quotes Rand Paul as saying:
“Even our own intelligence community consensus opinion now is that they’re not a threat. Like my dad [Rep. Ron Paul] says, [the Iranians] don’t have an Air Force, they don’t have a Navy. You know, it’s ridiculous to think they’re a threat to our national security. It’s not even that viable to say they’re a national threat to Israel…most people say Israel has 100 nuclear weapons, you know.”
Goodman’s piece is blatantly trying to cast Paul in a certain light, discrediting him for, “endorsing…conspiracy theories before winning [his] senate seat.” Regardless, Goodman noted the inconsistencies in Paul’s rhetoric on Iran vis-à-vis Israel and the United States, contrasting the viewpoint he articulated in the Alex Jones interview with his support of a senate resolution sponsored by Lindsey Graham that took a “neo-con” approach to Iran.
While a few writers like Goodman and others from the mainstream “left” of American politics have been highlighting Rand Paul’s inconsistent foreign policy rhetoric for several years, the situation could grow increasingly difficult for the Paul campaign as voices from the “right” and the libertarian sphere join in.
As a recent pieces by Daniel Larison in The American Conservative and Shikha Dalmia for Reason.com demonstrate, there is growing disillusionment with Paul’s policy positions in the aforesaid camps; not only regarding Iran, but other fundamental issues, such as global military interventionism and the domestic surveillance state/NSA spying.
With the rhetoric having changed from year to year, then month to month, one can envision the Paul 2016 campaign articulating opposing policy positions as the day and/or audience dictates.
Will this be perceived by potential Rand Paul voters as a “history of untrustworthiness” on Paul’s part, or simply as necessary conduct to secure the presidency? Is there a difference?
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