Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul thinks Mitt Romney's ideas for the Middle East are dangerous and wrongheaded, and he worries that the Republican nominee's defense-spending proposals will lead the United States down the dark path of fiscal ruin.
But he's stumping for him anyway.
"I believe this election will and should be about moving America back from the edge of the abyss on which we stand, where our debt and spending threaten to overwhelm and drown us. Romney's belief in free markets, limited government and trade make him the clear choice to lead our country come January," Paul wrote in an Oct. 10 op-ed announcing his plan to campaign for the former Massachusetts governor.
But Paul devoted the vast majority of the op-ed to his objections to Romney's foreign-policy vision and to his own crusade against American interventionism and foreign aid to countries that don't support U.S. policies.
"At times, I have been encouraged by Romney's foreign policy. I agree with his call to end the war in Afghanistan sooner rather than later and with his skepticism of, and call for reform in, foreign aid, but I am a bit dismayed by his foreign policy speech, titled "Mantle of Leadership," Paul wrote, referring to Romney's Oct. 8 address at the Virginia Military Institute.
"Romney chose to criticize President Obama for seeking to cut a bloated Defense Department and for not being bellicose enough in the Middle East, two assertions with which I cannot agree."
Paul said the Obama administration's 2011 intervention in Libya was unwise and done without the required consent of Congress, whereas Romney has criticized Obama for "leading from behind" in Syria and has said he would have intervened earlier and with more aggressiveness to end the struggle earlier.
Paul also criticized Romney's repeated call for more U.S. involvement in Syria, especially Romney's statements that his administration would identify those Syrian rebels who share American values and then get them advanced weaponry to fight the Syrian regime.
"We've been 10 years in Afghanistan and we can't identify friend from foe. Do you think we can, with certainty, identify friend and foe in Syria?" Paul wrote. "We owe it to ourselves, our soldiers and our children to take a more careful look at our foreign policy, to not rush into war, and to not attempt to score political points with wrongheaded policy ideas."
Paul caused a major problem last month in the Senate when he demanded and then was eventually granted a vote on his bill to eliminate all U.S. foreign aid to Egypt, Pakistan, and Libya. Now Paul is taking his fight against foreign aid to key Senate races. His group Rand PAC is running ads against Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Joe Manchin (D-WV), attacking them for voting against his aid-cutting idea.
"Radical Islamist protesters stormed our embassy in Egypt, tore down our flag, and shouted death to America," one ad said. "What would you do? Claire McCaskill voted to send taxpayer dollars to Egypt... Claire McCaskill works with Barack Obama to send our money overseas to radicals who attack our embassies, burn our flag, and kill our diplomats."
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.