A Delicate Question (Hashtag GOP Forty-Seven Paultopian Mess Mix)

Somebody stop him.

Any number of political thoughts occur. This man wants to be president, for instance. Or, Why are you still trying that line? Better yet: You still don’t get the point you’re trying to make?

Start with Dave Weigel for Bloomberg:

During a town-hall meeting with employees of a cloud computing company, Kentucky senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate Rand Paul said he signed Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton’s letter to Iran’s leaders to help the Obama administration craft a better deal.

Which is pretty much what he had said a week before, but as we noted then, it took him a couple days. And after this much time, Sen. Paul (R-KY) still does not seem to comprehend the point he is trying to make. Steve Benen tries to put it into context:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), looking thoughtful.  (Photo credit: Unknown)As we talked about the other day, the senator’s posture is arguably the worst of both worlds. For far-right politicians like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), last week’s unprecedented stunt was at least coherent – he and other Republicans wanted to derail the diplomatic efforts, betray President Obama, undermine American foreign policy, and push the world closer to a military confrontation with Iran. Putting aside whether or not the letter was disgusting, there was at least an obvious parallel between the letter and its objectives.

There is no similar logic to Rand Paul’s argument. He’s opposed to a war with Iran, so he signed on to a letter than would push us closer to a war with Iran. He wanted to help the White House “negotiate from a position of strength,” so he put his signature on a letter designed to weaken the administration’s negotiating position.

The fact that Rand Paul signed the letter is a problem. The fact that Rand Paul apparently didn’t understand the point of the letter he signed is a much more alarming problem.

It might be hard to ignore the amount of failing to comprehend people are willing to attribute to the Kentucky junior.

The important part is simply that there is, in fact, an argument by which the #GOP47 has helped President Obama. The downside for Mr. Paul and his fellows is pretty obvious when we consider the analysis that preceded him, from Daniel W. Drezner for the Washington Post suggested: “So, to sum up: Republican senators are trying to scuttle the negotiations with Iran. But not only do I think it won’t work, it might paradoxically help Obama.”

From there it is easy enough to postulate a political sleight, to take your weakness and try to tack it to your opponent, but in this case it is a tough sell. The Tea Party movement is one that has gotten by in large part on reorienting the discussion through a curious custom of saying whatever they want and expecting it to be considered at least somewhat true. And while this might have worked well enough to relitigate human rights for women in the court of American public opinion, the Cotton Letter appears to have been a bridge too far. This time around, Mr. Paul either does not understand the letter, or he does not understand his explanation.

Political questions do arise. This guy wants to be president?


Weigel, Dave. “Rand Paul: I Signed Cotton Letter to Help Obama ‘Negotiate from a Position of Strength'”. Bloomberg Politics. 20 March 2015.

Benen, Steve. “Why Rand Paul can’t explain his support for the sabotage letter”. msnbc. 20 March 2015.

Drezner, Daniel W. “Congress tries to go beyond trolling on foreign policy. It won’t work.” The Washington Post. 9 March 2015.

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