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This article in the New Republic – an admittedly liberal publication – gives Rand Paul and his presidential aspirations a fair shake, and is worth reading either for its prescience, or so that years from now you can look back on 2013 and go, ‘How crazy was that?’ when discussing the dark and hopefully final throes of the Tea Party. Could be either, or, really, both.

When Paul launched his political career three years ago, he was viewed in much the same way as his father, or, as Senator John McCain once called him, a “wacko bird.” He was identified with the same marginal issues (drug legalization, neo-isolationism) and the same marginal constituencies (anarchists, goldbugs). But this year, Paul has emerged as a serious candidate. He has started actively campaigning for the nomination earlier than any of the other Republicans mulling a run. Already, he has racked up multiple meet-and-greets, dinners, and coffee gatherings in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. While his father may have been an also-ran, national polls show Rand Paul as one of the top contenders for the GOP nomination. In private, Paul has been meeting with key GOP power brokers, including the Koch brothers, and he has courted techies at Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook, and eBay. “We’re doing something that Ron never did; we’re reaching out to major donors,” says a Paul adviser. “Not everyone is giving us money, but there’s definitely some flirtation going on.” According to this adviser, in the last six months, RAND PAC, Paul’s national political operation, has raised more than a million dollars. “He’s very politically talented,” says a former senior official at the Republican National Committee. “He is absolutely a contender.”

In his efforts to court new audiences, or to bring what he calls “tough love” to friendly ones, Rand Paul is aiming for a bigger, broader base than Ron Paul—or, for that matter, Mitt Romney—ever captured. But though he has staked out more moderate or traditionally Republican positions than his father, at his core, Rand retains the same pre–New Deal vision of hyper-minimalist government and isolationist foreign policy. In other words, Paul has managed to take the essence of his father’s radical ideology—more radical than that of any modern presidential candidate—and turn it into a plausible campaign for the Republican nomination.

I have increasingly mixed feelings about Rand Paul as a Senator, or Rand Paul as a legislator, or Rand Paul as a Person of (Any) Influence. He’s very closely aligned with issues I personally support (the aforementioned drug legalization, his series of Verb the Noun bills “intended to make senators more diligent: the Read the Bills Act, the Write the Laws Act, and the One Subject at a Time Act”) and issues that I strongly oppose (the dismantling of the New Deal, the defunding of the federal government, institutional racism), and likewise with certain constituencies (Libertarians and Tea Partiers, respectively). So the idea of Rand Paul as President is a bit hard to muster.

Rand Paul as a candidate, however, is not hard to imagine – we are, after all, currently witnessing it – but it is hard to imagine him winning.

The biggest argument against Obama in 2008 – and one that has not faded too far from memory, as we are bearing witness to it as well – was his lack of experience, an argument made, I might add, by many people who may consider themselves Rand Paul constituents. Two terms in the Illinois State Senate, one term in the U.S. Senate, then president. Rand Paul, however, does not even have the pre-U.S. Senate experience Obama had. Before the current term – his first term – as Senator, Rand Paul was an ophthalmologist, a position that may or may not lend itself to governmental leadership (though I admit it does lend credibility to his anti-Obamacare stance). But it is not political experience, and it is a definite soft spot with a target painted on it for whoever his opponents will be, both in the primary and in the general. Hillary, particularly, if 2016 lines up that way, would tip the experience scales pretty drastically. So would Biden, though they almost certainly would not be pulling from the same pool of voters. The problem for Republicans, though, is that Paul could very possibly win the primary, based on current circumstances. His outsider, anti-government image could sufficiently rile up the base and build a new super-conservative, neo-Tea Party movement on which he rides to primary victory, essentially being to conservative Republicans what Obama was to Democrats in 2008. But nationally he is seen as too much of a symbol of the far-far-right, of the sort that both scares and infuriates liberals, while the whole of the country, as we’ve heard about with the rise of minority groups and young people, is swinging left. No time for a Rand Paul presidency. The Republicans would be best served, when the time comes, with nominating someone with much more broad popular support, who can win nationally, rather than trying to tern anti-Obama super-con fervor into its own party. If Republicans “fall in line,” as the saying goes, Paul is not the establishment candidate here to form up the ranks. It’s the wrong time.

From an article by Tim Carney at the Washington Examiner that, sadly, I happen to agree with:

Finally, Obama’s policy prescriptions are grounded in what’s politically popular rather than what would effectively address the problem of gun violence. Obama repeatedly called for a ban on “military-style assault weapons.” This is not actual class of weapons — this is a rhetorical device to make some rifles sound scary.

Scariness is what “assault weapons” talk is all about. The 1994 “assault weapons ban” didn’t have a real definition of assault weapon. The law listed a bunch of guns that would be illegal and then laid out some criteria for what could make a gun be an “assault weapon.” The qualifications were mostly cosmetic: A rifle could become illegal if you added a flash suppressor; it could become legal if you removed a bayonet.

And restricting rifle ownership has very little bearing on curbing murders. According to FBI data, rifles are responsible for less than 3 percent of all U.S. murders for which the murder is weapon is known. You are five times more likely to be killed by a knife or a blade than by a rifle. Handguns, the data show, are used in a vast majority of gun murders. But handguns don’t look as scary as the AR-15.

Many on today’s Left flatter themselves as being more “reality-based” than the Right. Liberals care more about science, data and the empirically proven, you’ll hear from MSNBC or the New Republic.

But Obama’s arguments for gun control aren’t based on data or logic. They are based on aspersions, emotion and popular fears. In other words, it’s politics as usual.

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Some people are giving Obama too much credit. And they’re not his supporters, or really anyone in the Democratic Party. To find anyone with heartfelt belief in Obama’s second term, who truly believe he will make monumental progress on any of his issues, you have to go to the far right. Yes, the right. It is only they who seem to most strongly believe that Obama will start doing great things now. I’m paraphrasing Thomas Frank, in an article for Harper’s:

To find someone who sincerely believes that Barack Obama is going to preside over his second term as a strong, determined progressive, you must make your way far to the right. There, the panicked consensus holds that he will remake the nation as dramatically as did Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. There, and only there, will you be told that Obama is preparing to tackle the unemployment problem by establishing a new Works Progress Administration of the kind I called for in this magazine’s pages back in December 2011. Of course, for the true believers who make this assertion […] the idea of a resurgent WPA is the ultimate slacker-coddling nightmare.

Granted, the far right’s assertion of Obama’s greatness is couched in hysteria and apprehension, as with the oncoming of a certain doom, but in so believing it they nonetheless hold the most productive vision of a second Obama term.

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MarijuanaHigh on my list of Obama’s Un-kept Promises is his inconsistency on medical marijuana policy. When he was entering office, there was a perception that Obama was going to respect the laws of states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes – currently numbering seventeen, though less at the time – and that he would essentially stand-down Justice Department prosecution of cases related to the issue. Where did this perception come from? Maybe here:

In a March 2008 interview, Obama told the Oregon Mail Tribune that medical marijuana ranked low on his list of priorities.

“I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that’s entirely appropriate,” Obama said. “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.”

ObamaPotObama said this to the Oregon Daily Mail during his first campaign. However, Obama’s own personal penchant for smoking marijuana has been well-documented, so perhaps he just forgot. Because during his first three years in office, Obama’s Justice Department was responsible for over one hundred medical marijuana busts. In his first term, his wrath on dispensaries has exceeded even that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

And, as we all undoubtedly know, marijuana has been legalized for recreational use under the state laws of Washington and Colorado (a similar measure was defeated in Oregon) – so the sky should be falling down any day now.

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