It's been a pretty good election night for Republicans so far. That means that, naturally, former GOP member of Congress and general gadfly Ron Paul decided to rain on the parade:
Republican control of the Senate = expanded neocon wars in Syria and Iraq. Boots on the ground are coming!— Ron Paul (@RonPaul) November 5, 2014
On a night when most of his former party is celebrating its moves toward taking the Senate, Paul is bemoaning the idea of a Republican takeover on grounds that it'll lead to more wars in the Middle East. Normally, vitriol from an ex-congressman wouldn't bother anyone. But there's the small matter of Paul's son, Rand — the GOP senator who's almost certainly running for president in 2016. This tweet bemoaning the GOP takeover of the Senate is just a taste of the problems that the father will cause the son in his bid to win the Republican nomination.
Here's the big issue. Both Ron and Rand Paul share a commitment to downsizing America's involvement in foreign wars. But while Ron is an absolutist more interested in speaking his mind than building allies in the Republican party, Rand is a strategist who's built a version of foreign policy non-interventionism designed to succeed in the actual Republican party.
This isn't to say that Rand agrees with Ron on everything and is lying to voters. That doesn't appear to be true: Rand has long had a different vision of the world than Ron. But not everyone believes that. A number of media reports have already linked Rand and his ideas to Ron's ideas, each time providing grist for the anti-Rand Paul mill among more hawkish Republicans.
And Rand Paul is already facing an uphill battle on that front. The Republican consensus on foreign policy is considerably more aggressive than Rand's views are. He's trying to gently nudge them in a different direction — but the more he's linked to father's extreme — and sometimes outright crankish — views, the harder that's going to be. Ron Paul is toxic among Republican elites, exactly the kind of people Rand needs to win over in his presidential bid.
Which is why things like this tweet are so problematic. For one thing, Ron's prediction here is kind of crankish: the president, not Congress, will determine whether US soldiers go to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Moreover, he's implicitly saying that Democrats (as the somewhat less interventionist party) are better if you hold views like his — or Rand's. When Ron says things like this in a high profile way — say, on election night — it raises questions about Rand-Ron links among exactly the wrong people.
It's not clear Ron is going to stop anytime soon. He's now the chairman of the Ron Paul Institute, a think tank whose publications have names like "Neocon Watch." Ron's publications have been a problem for him in the past, but it doesn't look like he plans on packing his keyboard away. But as long as he's publishing, he's a threat to his son's 2016 campaign.