The latest member of the Paul family -- and a top Tea Party favorite -- to win a federal election job wants the Pentagon's substantial hide on the spending cutting board.
This is the latest evidence that the Tea Party broadly favors cutting defense -- and other federal spending -- dollars as it brings its fear of the ballooning federal deficit to town. “Republicans traditionally say, oh, we'll cut domestic spending, but we won't touch the military. The liberals -- the ones who are good -- will say, oh, we'll cut the military, but we won't cut domestic spending,” Senator-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky told ABC TV's "This Week" talk show on Sunday. “Bottom line is, you have to look at everything across the board.”
He did not offer up any sacrificial lambs such as the F136 second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter or missile defense programs. He also didn't mention trimming or freezing military pay or benefits.
Paul offered the interesting insight that, although a registered Republican, he takes President Obama's position that he is not a partisan and wants to work for the national good. "I don't see things in terms of political party, so I think this can be something where I can work across the aisle -- but the second thing you need is a compromise on where the spending cuts come from,” he told Christiane Amanpour. (One wonders if Paul is sending a clear signal to the GOP that he will work across party lines in pursuit of defense and other cuts.)
As further evidence of his deficit-hating bonafides, Paul said he will oppose raising the debt ceiling. In the long run, one of the best ways to educate Paul and some of his fellows of the difficulties of cutting defense spending while you are fighting two wars and trying to remain the world's preeminent power might be to offer them seats on the armed services committees. Of course, as he takes his seat and learns the limits of his power, Paul will doubtless be reminded by voters, Chambers of Commerce and defense contractors that among the realities of electoral truth in his state are the facts that Fort Knox and Fort Campbell are in Kentucky, along with almost 40,000 active duty personnel -- not to mention their friends and spouses.
On the larger issue of the Tea Partiers and whether they will, effectively if not by design, become the latest incarnations of American isolationism (driven by their hunger to cut spending and taking care of America first), I asked Brooking's Mike O'Hanlon this on Friday. His take: unclear for now. But he noted that bringing oppositional ideas and policies to Washington is a prime requirement of groups representing a dissatisfied electorate. He also said it's at least a year too soon to begin considering real defense cuts since Afghanistan and Iraq have not yet been resolved.