- - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If diversity is the secret of winning politics, the Republicans are running the most ambitious cafeteria in town, featuring the favorite dishes of several freshman senators fired by both conviction and ambition. If a hungry customer doesn’t see what he wants, there’s probably something else coming from the kitchen.

Rand Paul of Kentucky put himself on the menu this week, joining Ted Cruz of Texas, and both come with a bottle of Tabasco sauce. Season well to taste.

Mr. Paul — his bumper stickers use just his Christian name, reflecting the family admiration of the iconic Libertarian author Ayn Rand — introduced himself to the nation with the fiery bluntness that promises to be the flavor of the season. “I have a message,” he says, “a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words. We have come to take our country back! [Exclamation point his.] We have come to take our country back from the special interests that use Washington as their personal piggy bank, the special interests that are more concerned with their personal welfare than the general welfare.

“The message of liberty, opportunity and justice is for all Americans, whether you wear a suit, a uniform or overalls, whether you’re white or black, rich or poor. Many Americans, though, are being left behind. The reward of work seems beyond their grasp. Under the watch of both parties, the poor seem to get poorer and the rich get richer.”

This is boilerplate Republican campaign rhetoric, suited for the season; the Gipper warned the party never to paint its colors in pastels, and a little bravado makes partisan hearts beat a little faster. But Mr. Paul took remarkable pains to scold his party. “Too often,” he says, “when Republicans have won, we’ve squandered our victory by becoming part of the Washington machine. That’s not who I am … It seems to me that both parties and the entire political system are to blame. Big government and debt doubled under a Republican administration, and now it’s tripling under Barack Obama’s watch.” Right on, as the political cognoscenti used to say.

In his brief but prominent career as a senator, Mr. Paul has taken on several issues that needed a champion, but are issues not always popular with the people they should be most popular with. He proposes reforming the criminal justice system — eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing, to give judges more room to fit consequences to circumstances, and reforming civil-asset forfeitures which now enable the cops to keep the assets of certain criminal suspects without even a trial. Such reforms would render justice to people who do not always get a fair shake.

It’s his foreign policy views that disturb many conservatives. “A sympathetic understanding of [Mr.] Paul’s foreign-policy views,” write the editors of National Review, “is that he would like America, believed by conservatives to be the indispensable nation, to conduct its foreign policy as if it were any other country.” Charles Krauthammer, whose columns and television appearances are widely read and listened to by conservatives, says Rand Paul will be the Republican running whose foreign policy views are closest to Barack Obama’s, and redressing those views will be “the hill he cannot climb.”

He wants to “broaden” Republican appeal, particularly to minorities and the young, even if it means having a friendly chin-wag with the likes of Al Sharpton. Broadening any party’s appeal is a good thing to do; that’s how elections are won. But it’s important that the party not merge and morph into the other party. Rand Paul brings excitement to the race, and he’ll have a lot to say that Republicans need to hear.

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