As Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul continues to raise his profile as a potential 2016 presidential nominee, GOP leaders are becoming increasingly outspoken against his isolationist rhetoric on foreign policy, fearing he could make a convincing case among the American people.
In the past three days, Rand has been hammered by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. John McCain, and former Vice President Dick Cheney, each of whom have warned in different forums against the dangers of Paul's views on foreign policy, Politico
"The general fear on the part of a lot of leaders in the Republican Party is that there's an isolationist temptation after two big wars, an isolationist temptation in the American electorate," Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush, told Politico.
"And I think people are genuinely concerned about it and desirous of trying to stop it before it spreads further."
Paul rejects the "isolationist" label, but he has long made the case against foreign entanglements, most recently with regard to Iraq, drawing criticism from mainstream parts of the GOP that he is dangerously undervaluing the importance of American leadership on the world stage.
"Maybe [the Republican critics] are starting to realize that he could emerge as a leader of the party, and he'd be dangerous for the country," New York Rep. Peter King, one of the GOP's most vocal foreign policy hawks, told Politico.
He added that if Paul's views go unchallenged, "it's possible that people will become convinced they're valid foreign policy views, and they're not."
Paul's camp disagrees with the way he is being characterized and also believes there's a wide appetite within the grass roots of the GOP for less intervention in foreign conflicts.
"It's not isolationism. It's setting a high bar for sending our sons and daughters overseas," Lorne Craner, a foreign policy adviser to Paul who served in the State Department under both Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, told Politico.
Others are concerned that the silent GOP majority has gradually become more isolationist, so mainstream Republicans feel it is important to make the debate more public, according to Politico.
Robert Zarate, policy director of the think tank Foreign Policy Initiative, said, "The internationalists need to not only debate the isolationists in Washington, D.C., but they also need to continue making their case persuasively to the American people," Politico reported.
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