My inbox has been filling up with attacks and counterattacks between Senator Rand Paul’s campaign and Governor Bobby Jindal’s proto-campaign, and every time I start to write something about it there’s another volley. Here’s a selective timeline: Two years ago, Jindal sided with Chris Christie when the latter criticized Paul for opposing the National Security Agency’s telecom metadata surveillance. Last week, Jindal said that he wanted Congress to vote to rein in that surveillance. Journalist David Weigel suggested that he had flip-flopped. Jindal said that he had instead taken a middle course on the issue.
This morning Paul was asked about Lindsey Graham’s comment that Paul’s views were to blame for the rise of ISIS: If we had intervened more forcefully in Syria, it wouldn’t have happened. Paul responded by saying (as he has said before) that it was hawks who were responsible for the rise of ISIS: “ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately and most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS.” Jindal said Paul had taken an “illogical” and “outlandish” position that showed him to be “unsuited to be commander-in-chief.” Paul aide Doug Stafford shot back, “It’s ironic Governor Jindal would level such a charge when he flip-flops on crucial issues like Common Core and national security, and he has cratered his own state’s economy and budget.”
Last up — so far! — is Jindal aide Timmy Teepell:
It’s astonishing that Sen. Paul will blame conservative Americans for the rise of ISIS but will hide behind a staffer rather than defend his comments. This was clearly not a gaffe. What we’ve learned today is that Sen. Paul is to the left of President Obama and Hillary Clinton on foreign policy. It is the kind of blame-America rhetoric we normally only hear from Hollywood celebrities and Al Jazeera commentators. Senator Paul is a one-term senator, with no executive experience, and we all know how that has worked out in the current administration.
A few tentative observations:
1) I don’t think Jindal truly flip-flopped on the NSA, but he has shifted his tone.
2) I am not sure we can say with confidence what would have happened to ISIS in either of the counterfactual scenarios that Graham and Paul are implicitly conjuring.
3) But Paul’s argument is either right or wrong, and calling it “blame-America rhetoric” doesn’t show it’s wrong.
4) It does not seem as though Stafford is using the word “ironic” appropriately.