Tea party purists say they can only succeed by sticking strictly to fiscal issues. But Paul counters that America’s foreign engagements — costly both in terms of blood and treasure — are an inextricable part of the problem.
In that respect, the former Air Force physician is reminding voters of President Dwight Eisenhower’s parting plea to beware of the “military-industrial complex.” It’s a warning that echoes George Washington’s admonition to steer clear of “foreign entanglements.”
Indeed, Paul may be the Republicans’ best crossover candidate. His insular foreign policy hits home with a wide range of voters leery of — if not exhausted by — America’s role as nation builder and global cop at a time of serious economic and social disarray in this country.
The irony is that the mainstream media and so-called conservative pundits continue to portray Paul as a fringe candidate, even as he rises in the polls. Notably, those Republican surveys fail to reflect Paul’s appeal to the left end of the political spectrum.
Building from a paleoconservative base, Paul sets himself against the neoconservative establishment that has controlled the Republican Party for decades. These “neocons” relentlessly advocate an ever-expanding military presence under the guise of exporting “freedom and democracy.”
Neocons — reformed liberals, actually — are also architects for bigger government. They link arms with the likes of Ted Kennedy to federalize education, cozy up to corporations and shill for “comprehensive immigration reform” (i.e., open borders). Among the current crop of GOP candidates, Newt Gingrich is a neocon poster boy.
None of the neocons’ global agenda and few of their domestic initiatives have anything to do with classic conservatism — or classic liberalism, for that matter. Yet neocon Republicans have grafted themselves onto the tea party with remarkable success.