Somebody save Rand Paul from himself.
At a time when champions for liberty are in short supply, someone has apparently convinced the original "wacko bird" that the road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue isn't "stand with Rand," but "where does Rand stand?" Because, you know, it worked so well for President Romney or something.
Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Ambitious Republican wants desperately to be president, so he begins what amounts to a nationwide pandering tour. To show he's not like all those other "spiteful conservatives" that inhabit his party, he pre-emptively apologizes for what his base believes, or even presumes to sanctimoniously lecture them why they're wrong to offend the very people trying to dismantle American Exceptionalism institution by institution, cherished ideal by cherished ideal.
His strategy is to assume if he doesn't stand for anything now, he can't be attacked for it later on, despite the fact the Left treat all GOP presidential nominees with the same disdain whether they deserve it or not. When he's criticized for his duplicity, his supporters tell us we have to realize that "so-and-so has to play the game now to get elected, but once he's in office he'll fight for us." Of course, so and so can't get elected president doing this because people don't trust him so they don't vote for him.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Sadly, Rand Paul is dipping his toe into the lukewarm water already soiled by the previous two GOP presidential losers. Remember when the "Paul" name in politics meant revolution, draining the swamp, and challenging the status quo? Yeah, good times. That's ancient history now, dude. Puff, puff, pass the decriminalized marijuana, man. Puff, puff, pass.
Now it appears Rand has decided to assimilate into the very Borg Collective known as Washington, D.C. his father fought for decades to dismantle. And his timing couldn't be better. I mean, with admiration and respect for his father's liberty-minded mission at an all-time high, why not start sounding like every other Republican that hasn't won the presidency? Makes sense to me, but I'm still waiting for Karl Rove to tell Mitt Romney to go ahead and concede.
Rand's latest step to what our insipid ruling class calls "maturing" is to play the race card against those of us who think you ought to show photo identification to vote. Because nothing says "racist" like demanding people to show the same documentation to vote that is also required to buy Sudafed. How come when minorities have to show photo I.D. to get a library card the public library isn't racist? Unfortunately, there's no time for commons sense while Rand is pandering like this:
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky broke Friday with fellow Republicans who have pushed for stricter voting laws as a way to crack down on fraud at the polls, saying that the focus on such measures alienates and insults African-Americans and hurts the party.
"Everybody's gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing," Mr. Paul said in an interview. "I think it's wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it's offending people."
There you go, folks. We can't uphold the rule of law because its "offending people." Viva la Revolution! Come on, shouldn't the "surrender caucus" have a libertarian wing for its "big tent" as well?
In just one paragraph, Rand Paul violated almost every one of the 10 commandments of political warfare from my new book "Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again." He abandoned his base, he allowed his opponents to define him, he accepted the premise of his opponent's argument, he got put on the defensive, etc.
I'm sure Rand will be getting all kinds of thank you cards from Republicans for voter ID after the lamestream media asks them this question repeatedly: "Senator Rand Paul says so-called voter ID laws are offensive to African-Americans, and your own party leadership believes it needs to diversify to win elections again. So why are you proposing policies that even Rand Paul agrees drives African-American voters away? Those are Rand Paul's words, not just the words of your Democrat opponents."
Yikes! With friends like Rand Paul doing your messaging, who needs MSNBC? Rand also forgot to mention we can't call President Obama by his full name (McCain 2008), and that we shouldn't talk about Benghazi either because the consultants say it doesn't matter (Romney 2012).
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident with Rand.
In 2013, Rand wrote an op-ed for The Washington Times that was to the left of the "gang of 8" on amnesty. Rand said he would "normalize the status of 11 million undocumented citizens." So we've gone from "illegal aliens," to "illegal immigrants," to "undocumented immigrants" in the Leftist media currently, to "undocumented citizens" according to Rand. Does anybody know how one gets to be an "undocumented citizen" of Canada, since they have replaced us as the best country in the world for the middle class on Barack Hussein Obama's watch?
Rand has admirably sponsored pro-life legislation in the U.S. Senate that would declare an unborn child a "person" under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution from the moment of conception, without exception. But in a CNN interview last year, he said there were "thousands" of exceptions that make it okay to kill babies, and last month told an audience "My personal religious belief is that life begins at the very beginning, but the country is in the middle, [and] we're not changing any of the laws until the country is persuaded otherwise."
So if we're not going to change any laws until the country is persuaded otherwise, why is Rand putting forth legislation to change the law? Not to mention Rand is a doctor, so he shouldn't need to use his "private religious beliefs" as his excuse for why he's pro-life. He should be uniquely qualified to discuss this on a scientific level with the American people and change minds, which is what is required of a pro-life presidential candidate.
But wait, there's more clarity to come.
Rand gave three totally different answers in the span of two weeks on Russia's incursion into Ukraine. Rand praised Anthony Kennedy for "avoiding a cultural war" by declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Apparently in Rand-world inflaming a cultural war that leads to unprecedented attacks on religious liberty and free speech is avoidance. Kennedy's opinion was so egregious that fellow Justice Antonin Scalia criticized it as "confusing" and "rootless" for its "shifting justifications." Rand called the plan to try and defund Obamacare his base supported "a dumb idea" even though he admitted "it did appear as if I was participating in it."
What's happening here is Team Rand is so concerned about his presidential aspirations, they have forgotten their first love. He was sent there to complete his father's mission of dismantling statism's foundation, not just repaint the walls. If we wanted a passive-aggressive president who made up his worldview as he went along, Romney would be in office.
Rand Paul has been a fantastic U.S. senator for the most part, but running for and being president is much different than the Senate. How you message your vision is just as important in that capacity as what your vision is. We want the Rand Paul who helped save us from fighting alongside al Qaeda in Syria, and filibustered on behalf of the 4th Amendment. We want a standard bearer that doesn't force us to make a false choice between liberty and morality, but realizes you can't have one without the other.
There is still time for Rand to right his ship, but that time is running short. The Iowa Caucuses will begin in just six months, and if I know my home state this version of Rand Paul isn't going to win here. Instead, Iowa Republicans will "agree to disagree" with this Rand Paul that he's ready for primetime.
(Steve Deace is a nationally-syndicated talk show host and the author of "Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again." You can follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)