Rand Paul defends his Romney endorsement in this interview. For the first several minutes, he makes a reasonable political argument that could have persuaded many skeptics that the endorsement by itself made sense. Where Sen. Paul went awry is his attempt to defend his statement on Romney’s foreign policy.
As part of the defense, Paul cites Romney’s one-time debate remark that the U.S. shouldn’t be fighting other nations’ wars of independence. Romney has never repeated this, and it doesn’t square with any of his other public statements on Afghanistan. Romney has ruled out negotiating with the Taliban, and has said that the goal should be to “defeat” them. If we take this seriously, this not only means that Romney believes the U.S. should be fighting what he would call a “war for independence” in Afghanistan, but that the U.S. should continue to fight it until our forces achieve total victory. The war in Afghanistan is a terrible example of the idea there is some “inkling” that Romney isn’t “always as bellicose” as many believe him to be. Romney’s position on Afghanistan is, in fact, one of the main pieces of evidence in favor of seeing Romney an aggressive hawk.
The next example Sen. Paul gives is even less persuasive. He invokes the Romney family’s opposition to Vietnam, which Mitt Romney also opposed after his father turned against the war. Whatever influence his parents’ example has had on Romney’s thinking, it has not translated into support for a foreign policy of restraint and prudence in the present. If it had, Sen. Paul would be able to cite more than two fairly weak examples to support the claim that Romney is not in favor of a reckless foreign policy.
There is nothing wrong in working with people who don’t agree on every issue, but it is important not to kid ourselves that Romney is actually more in agreement with non-interventionists and realists on foreign policy than he really is because he happens to hold other views that conservatives and libertarians like. If Republican foreign policy is ever going to improve and become less militaristic, it is essential that its current profound flaws are acknowledged and challenged. That starts with holding the current presumptive Republican nominee accountable for the awful foreign policy positions he has taken.