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Rick Perry Gives Hawks a Blank Slate

The hostility that Rand Paul’s recent foreign policy address has evoked in neoconservative circles has, I suspect, rather little to do with the content of his speech. How could it? Consider the Senator’s opening salvo:

Some isolationist.

No, what bothers neoconservative stalwarts like the regrettable Jennifer Rubin [1] and the cast of characters over at the Weekly Standard is not that Senator Paul is an isolationist, neo- or otherwise, but that he isn’t a tabula rasa: what D.C.’s hearty band of neocons most wish for is influence, access, and power, above all. A presidential candidate like Paul—who clearly has his own ideas about foreign policy—is simply less likely to genuflect before the arbiters of neoconservative ideology and beg for advice. And so if Paul won’t debase himself at the feet of Bill Kristol, who will?

David Frum’s recent mash note [2] to Texas Gov. Rick Perry in The Atlantic provides something of a clue. Besides its cringe-worthy unctuousness, which has long been a hallmark of Frum’s style, the piece was notable because Frum, despite a brief (and of course very well-publicized) break with the neocons in 2010, remains a reliable bellwether of what passes for thinking in neoconservative circles.

According to Frum, the Texas governor would provide an attractive “alternative to the neo-isolationist approach championed by Sen. Rand Paul” because he would begin the race with two “big advantages.” The first is that Perry, by virtue of his current office, can credibly claim to have had nothing to do with the 2011 sequester deal which, by neocon lights, has supposedly gutted the venerable American war machine. The second advantage Perry would bring to the 2016 contest is that not only is his last name not “Bush” but his relations with the Bush clan are positively frosty. It is hard to argue with Frum on that score.

In any event, Frum finds abundant evidence for a credible Perry run in the latter’s recent trip to Europe—cut short by the Ebola outbreak in Dallas. Rejecting the relativism of our supposedly feckless multiculturalist President, Frum says Perry told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute that he, at least, can tell the good guys from the bad guys:

The shortcomings of Western democracies, the systematic savagery of the enemy, to a certain way of thinking, it all gets mixed up as one: ‘They’ve got their bad guys over there; we’ve got a few of our own, what’s the difference?’

What Frum liked even more was the text of the speech Perry had been scheduled to give in Poland, where Perry was to assure an audience of Varsovians that, as opposed to Russia, “we operate a little differently in the NATO countries. We actually keep our commitments. That helps explain why, after nearly 70 years, there is still a NATO.”

Actually, that has nothing to do with why “there is still a NATO,” but details have never been the governor’s strong suit. But it’s those tricky details that neocons like Mr. Frum are all-too-anxiously waiting in the wings to provide.

James Carden is a TAC contributing editor, and served as an advisor to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission at the State Department from 2011-2012.

8 Comments (Open | Close)

8 Comments To "Rick Perry Gives Hawks a Blank Slate"

#1 Comment By Bangle On October 30, 2014 @ 6:38 am

As a fairly regular reader of the Washington Post I can attest to the fact that Jennifer Rubin is about as bad as they get (concerning writing opinion) when it comes to espousing the Neocon party line. Hardly a day goes by that she is not bashing Rand Paul as being an isolationist that should not be anywhere near the presidency. In fact her on-going and daily attacks on Sen. Paul are shameful and quite frankly a little pathological in nature.

#2 Comment By johnny On October 30, 2014 @ 10:23 am

RNC: Let’s pull out the stoppers and let’s try this failed strategy a third time!

Do people like Christie or Perry or Romney or Graham or Jeb Bush or McCain etc. actually think they can differentiate themselves in an already crowded chickenhawk/neo-omni-internventionist/Neocon circle?

The level of surrealism is such that one can find Republicans fighting for Social Security so anything, such as a Paul run is possible? [3]

#3 Comment By WV observer On October 30, 2014 @ 11:43 am

Neocons prize ignorance in presidential candidates. A candidate with his eyes on the prize, who has no time or patience for hard study – sweating details and geopolitics are for eggheads – is the ideal vacuum into which they move, giving scope and force to their own agenda.

As for Rand Paul, genuine policy differences aside, the neocons will never forgive him for being Ron Paul’s son. Ever. They only grudgingly and provisionally forgave their erstwhile hero G W Bush for being G H W Bush’s son.

#4 Comment By Myron Hudson On October 30, 2014 @ 1:35 pm

Yes to all of the above. The neocons want an empty head into which they can pour their drivel, and coach and guide. W was a perfect example. He eventually caught on, but far too late.

Unfortunately the neocons are in the core of the conservative entertainment racket, which is as self-preserving as any other organism. I’m spared a lot of it by not watching TV. If I did, I may have jumped off a bridge or commenced feuding with my neighbors a long time ago. And I like my neighbors.

#5 Comment By grumpy realist On October 30, 2014 @ 2:48 pm

Even though I think Rand Paul is one of the members of the Axes of Weasel, I’d gladly pick him over Perry or any other of the neocons.

I might even pick him over Hillary if he managed to stand up against the rah-rah-rah Israel-first crowd.

#6 Comment By Bill Jones On October 30, 2014 @ 11:23 pm

I’ve always long held the opinion that any serious organization wanting to stop the US/Israel hammerlock on the US media merely needs to kill, at the rate of about two a week, a few opinionists of the Murdoch crime family and the old and rotting newspapers.

The drivel would end in a year.

That this has not happened is telling as to the purpose of the supposed “terrorist” threat.

#7 Comment By Tom On October 31, 2014 @ 12:21 am

Fantastic piece

#8 Comment By Tom On October 31, 2014 @ 12:36 am

I agree with “Grumpy Realist”, I would certainly pick him over Perry, and as a recovering Democrat (Obama was the greatest disappointment) would certainly choose Paul over another Wall Street Clinton (and she is way too hawkish for me as well).