This came Tuesday, and it was billed as a major foreign policy speech from Sen. Paul. The overarching message didn’t particularly shift from what Paul has been saying, so it’s a bit questionable how major a speech it was as a basic reinstatement of his philosophy on national security and foreign policy. He touched the usual bases – stop sending money to countries who burn the American flag, don’t pour weapons into chaotic and confused civil-war situations, don’t back dictators and other enemies of freedom, don’t support people who kill Christians. All of which are points which, even if you believe that Paul is too much of an isolationist to qualify as a proper presidential candidate, are difficult to dispute, but since he’s been making them for a year or more in some cases the only thing significant about them was Tuesday’s venue.
That’s not to say the speech wasn’t a newsmaker. Paul offered two fairly significant items at the Citadel. He suggested the formation of a task force on scrubbing waste out of the Pentagon budget and using the savings on technological modernization and better pay and benefits for the active-duty military and veterans.
And the other element, which shows up about 12 minutes in, was Paul’s opining on Hillary Clinton’s performance in respect to the security at our diplomatic installation in Benghazi in advance of September 11, 2011. Paul says Clinton’s failure to provide adequate security for Benghazi given whatever it was we were doing there was a dereliction of duty so severe as to disqualify her from ever holding high office again.
And since Clinton is being presented as a fait accompli as both the Democrat nominee for 2016 and the favorite for election in that cycle (a media narrative which is severely deficient given not just her record as Secretary of State but her dismal performance as the Democrat fontrunner in 2008), you can be assured that Paul – and one imagines several other Republican luminaries with interest in the 2016 race – will be following her around and flogging the charge of dereliction of duty with great gusto. Hanging the moniker of “Old Benghazi” on Clinton is a winning strategy – making her damaged goods could well create a vacuum on the Democrat side in 2016 and impose a bruising and expensive primary on that party, and it could also expose the abject lack of a solid bench in that party. That Elizabeth Warren, one of the most out-of-touch Ivy League leftists in the country and a national embarrassment as a faux affirmative-action baby in advance of a preordained Senate victory in Massachusetts, is being bandied about as a potential nominee is an indication of just how thin the Democrats’ bench really is if Clinton, with heavier baggage than 2008, can’t run a better race than she did then.
And most of all, it shows that Paul is willing to do what the last two Republican nominees cost themselves election by failing to do – namely, to call out the Democrats’ standard-bearers for their lack of fitness to lead the nation. The current president ran twice for his current office against GOP candidates who were not willing to fully go to the mattresses in an effort to challenge his qualifications and leadership, and America has suffered for that failure. By firing this fusillade at Clinton three years out from an election year, Paul is serving notice that he will be no such nominee if given an opportunity.