Sen. Rand Paul is a lot like Ron without Ron’s Ronness. Padding around the Iowa State Fair in shockingly neon sneakers, a T-shirt, and some truly hideous plaid skateboarder shorts — this is a U.S. senator here — he looks like every other word out of his mouth should be “dude.” But it’s not. Deft where his father is clumsy, and having learned to keep himself on a much shorter leash, Rand Paul is hailed from the stage at Ames as a future presidential contender himself. Who’s doing the hailing? That loopy Ivers guy from the Schmitz and Buchanan campaigns.
There was a real sense of the torch changing hands there in Iowa, personality cults having a hereditary aspect. Senator Paul, whose libertarianism is more of the populist Tea Party variety than the I’ve-read-every-Mises-book variety, seems to have found a formula for balancing his slightly more traditional conservatism with the Ron Paul movement’s more theoretical libertarianism, particularly on the subject of foreign policy. “Our movement has people from all walks of life who have come together under the banner of freedom,” he says. “The Republicans will have to someday acknowledge that not all military spending is sacred or well spent, and that we can save money from the military budget. Democrats will have to acknowledge that all money spent on social welfare and entitlements is not sacred or well spent, and the Democrats will have to acknowledge that they have to cut social spending. That is the compromise — the compromise is about cutting spending across the board.” Defending the Tea Party from accusations of extremism, he asks, “Is it extreme to say that we should balance the budget gradually, over a seven-to-eight-year period? I tell people that is the compromise — I’m compromising by not doing it immediately.” He jokes about John McCain’s Tolkien-themed dismissal of the Tea Party movement: “I’d rather be a hobbit than a troll. And didn’t the hobbits win the battle of Middle Earth?” To which a supporter shouted in response, “One Ron Paul to save them all!” No, not that far from the tree at all.