"Benedict" Paul? Flip-Flop on Defense Spending Could Ruin Senator's Reputation
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has been a big name in politics since his election to Congress in 2010. The son of libertarian U.S. Representative and frequent presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX), Paul entered office as a grandfathered-in candidate for the Oval Office. He excited young conservatives by breaking the Republican mold on issues. Refreshingly, he was even brave enough to confront the Republican sacred cow of defense spending. Acting as a true small-government conservative, Paul advocated for cutting defense spending.
Now, as he approaches his likely official announcement that he is running for president in 2016, Paul has reversed course. According to ABC News, Paul now wants to increase defense spending over the next decade. This move brings him in lockstep with most other likely GOP presidential contenders. He has tried to explain the shift as making the U.S. government more accountable for its spending rather than simply increasing spending.
And, true to his word, Paul has come up with ways to pay for this increase in defense spending without increasing overall government expenditures. Like other Republicans, he wants to cut spending on social programs.
While the move makes Paul more palatable to mainstream Republicans, including well-heeled political donors, it will likely hurt him among his chief supporters: Young idealists, libertarians, and small-government conservatives. They will view him as a hypocrite. Rand Paul was not supposed to be the standard Republican pol, willing to say whatever it took to get elected. People admired him for his candor and his outspokenness, similar to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).
By compromising his initial values, Rand Paul risks losing what made him special to voters in the first place. And it will not pay off...turning himself into a mainstream Republican like Jeb Bush will not replace Jeb Bush as the top candidate. Reversing course on defense spending may win Paul a bit short-term support from GOP insiders, but he may end up a modern-day Benedict Arnold, supported by neither side.
Arnold, the American Revolutionary War general whose name has become synonymous with "traitor," famously switched sides in 1780. However, according to History.com, Arnold was viewed with "ambivalence" by his new British allies and died in obscurity after the war. Apparently, nobody respects a turncoat, even those to whom to he has turned. While Benedict Arnold got his money and his commission in the British army, he gave up his legacy as a hero.