Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) aversion to involving the U.S. in any foreign disputes, Real Time host Bill Maher and his panel agreed on Friday, was what pushed him to the forefront of last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
While the “talk-feces throwers” and “lunatic fringe” in the GOP were pushing for the U.S. to send troops to the Crimean peninsula and calling President Barack Obama “a pu*sy for not taking on the Russkies,” Maher argued, Paul did just the opposite, relying on the non-interventionist policy favored by his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).
“He is for not having an American empire,” Maher said. “That’s the thing I love about the Pauls, and what does that tell us? Obviously there is a split in the Republican Party, and obviously Rand Paul is a much better politician than his father.”
Author Amy Chua pointed out that the CPAC audience tended to skew younger, with more Libertarians, so it was still too early to tell how Paul would fare overall.
“CPAC, it’s a beauty contest,” novelist Salman Rushdie interjected. “The Pauls are good at beauty contests, but not any good at actually winning races.”
“[New Jersey Gov.] Chris Christie (R) did win the swimsuit competition at CPAC,” Maher retorted. “[Sen.] Ted Cruz (R-TX) won Miss Congeniality.”
Columnist and managing editor for The Dish Andrew Sullivan noted, however, that those young voters are the ones who go out and win elections, saying Paul’s message can resonate with them.
“I think Rand Paul’s attempt to say what most people in this country really understand, which is that we don’t need to run the world,” Sullivan said. “We don’t want to run the world. America would be in a better place if we were less interested in our own power, and more interested in freedom.”
The panel also agreed that Paul stood a fighting chance if he were to run for the presidency against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, with Sullivan saying she would come off like a “neo-con” by comparison.
“He’s so independent-minded,” Chua said of Paul. “I think with Hillary Clinton, you feel like it’s just going to fit into certain familiar things. But he’s just a little unpredictable, you know, he doesn’t care what people think. That’s appealing to a lot of people.”
The panel did not mention Paul’s apparent opposition to the Civil Rights Act, his problematic attempts at outreach with the African-American community, or his getting caught lifting speeches from Wikipedia.
Watch the discussion, as posted online on Friday, below.