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Seven Takeaways from the New Yorker's Profile on Rand Paul

"In some respects, Paul is to Republicans in 2014 what Barack Obama was to Democrats in 2006..."

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the U.S. strategy to defeat the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The New Yorker magazine published a thorough profile on Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) regarding his likely 2016 presidential campaign.

From comparisons to President Barack Obama to his comments on the Islamic State, here are seven aspects of the New Yorker piece that stand out:

1. Rand Paul another Barack Obama?

The New Yorker makes the comparison between Paul, a first term senator considering a presidential run in 2016, and Barack Obama, who won the presidency less than four years into his first term as a U.S. senator from Illinois.

“In some respects, Paul is to Republicans in 2014 what Barack Obama was to Democrats in 2006: the Party’s most prized fundraiser and its most discussed senator, willing to express opinions unpopular within his party, and capable of energizing younger voters,” the New Yorker said. “The Republican National Committee, which in 2008 refused to allow his father, Ron Paul, to speak at its convention, recently solicited donations by offering supporters a chance to have lunch with Rand Paul.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the U.S. strategy to defeat the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the U.S. strategy to defeat the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The article later added, “Yet, also like Obama at a similar stage in his career, Paul could be hobbled by past associations and statements, especially on race and foreign policy. He has questioned government attempts, including a core provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to address discrimination in the private sector. He has proposed dramatically slashing the Pentagon’s budget and canceling all foreign aid. Ron Paul ran for president as the nominee of the Libertarian Party in 1988 and as an isolationist Republican in the Presidential primaries of 2008 and 2012. Rand has followed his lead in opposing most U.S. military interventions of the past few decades, aside from the war in Afghanistan.”

2. Ron and Rand: 'A Sensitive Issue'

The New Yorker says “Paul’s relationship with his father is a sensitive issue.”

“Ron was always content to tell the truth as best he understood it, and he saw that as the point of his politics,” longtime Paul family confidant Jesse Benton told the magazine. “Rand is the guy who is committed to winning.”

Rand Paul differs publicly from his father in support for the U.S. military strikes against the Islamic State.

“If Ron were president, he would have had to govern like Rand,” Benton said. “Ron is much more of a purist about non-intervention, and that’s fine, but in many ways Ron’s foreign policy can exist only in an academic sense. It’s just not possible for the United States to be non-interventionist. It’s not much of adifference on principle, but a much bigger difference in practice.”

Ron Paul declined to be interviewed for the story, but the former House member's wife and senator's mother spoke on the record in an hour-long conversation.

“Everybody that calls him wants to argue about their differences,” Carol Paul told the New Yorker. “They don’t really have differences. They might have fractional differences about how to do things, but the press always want to make it into some kind of story that isn’t there.”

3. Did Rand Paul inhale … laughing gas? Aqua Buddha and other college high jinks

The piece explains that Paul's best friend at Baylor University, George Paul – a fellow member of the NoZe Brotherhood, “once procured tanks of nitrous oxide from a friend studying dentistry. 'He called them pleasure units,' Kristy Ditzler, who was on the swim team with Rand and George, said. She, Rand, and George got high on laughing gas. 'We attached a scuba mask directly to it,' George said. “We knew it was dangerous, but we also knew how to adjust the air mixture to keep it just right.”

In a statement responding to this, Paul told the magazine, “College was a long time ago. The high jinks reported by others make my college experience sound way more adventuresome than it actually was.”

The Baylor president condemned NoZe Brotherhood for “sacrilegious, vulgar, obscene, and sometimes tasteless crudities.” In 2010, a NoZe prank, known as Aqua Buddha, was used against Paul by his Democratic challenger in the Senate campaign. The New Yorker reveals that the anonymous source for the GQ.com story in 2010 on Aqua Buddha was Ditzler.

Ditzler, a Democrat, told the New Yorker, “I would not use that as a specific reason not to vote for him … The only reason I felt like speaking up was that I was a little bit irked by him making himself out to be all about God and country and all about conservative values, because he was clearly not promoting that when I knew him … I mean, we all change, we all have a past. If he’s changed, why can’t he just say that he’s changed?”

George said “Aqua Buddha was an inside joke on the swim team.”

4. John McCain's two minds on Rand Paul

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a hawkish critic of Paul's avoidance of intervention, told the New Yorker,

“His father is a person who really believes that the United States should not be engaged in foreign events and foreign countries. I think that Rand Paul is seeing a very unsettled world, one in significant turmoil, and I see him understanding and articulating what in my view is a realistic view of the United States and the importance of its leader- ship and role in the world.”

Lizza wrote, “McCain told me that, if Rand Paul is the Republican nominee for president in 2016, he will support him. “I’ve seen him grow and I’ve seen him mature and I’ve seen him become more centrist. I know that if he were president or a nominee I could influence him, particularly some of his views and positions on national security. He trusts me particularly on the military side of things, so I could easily work with him. It wouldn’t be a problem.”

That was in July. In a Sept. 17 interview with the Daily Beast, Paul – explaining opposition to arming Syrian rebels – said McCain previously met with members of the Islamic State. It was a statement shot down by fact checkers.

“They had a doctored picture of me with Baghdadi!” McCain said, speaking of the leader of ISIS: “It is disappointing that he would pick up and legitimatize what was clearly information that was being pushed by people who are enemies of the United States … He said we have to destroy ISIS, and yet he has not described a strategy in order to achieve that goal.”

5. Mitch McConnell's two minds of Rand Paul

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) strongly supported Rand's opponent in the 2010 Republican Senate primary. McConnell biographer John David Dyche wrote that McConnell, “realized that [Paul] was not his father’s son in all respects, and that he was interested in winning and achieving things rather than just making philosophical points … McConnell quickly realized that this is somebody with whom political business can be done.”

Benton, now a McConnell aide, said, “McConnell has moved more toward Paul than Paul has moved toward McConnell. They’re not best friends, and neither is going to pretend that they’re best friends. But they worked out a relationship that’s good for Kentucky.”

6. Paul's strategy to gain African-American voters

Paul has issues with mandatory minimum sentences that he believes disproportionately affect blacks. The Rev. Kevin Cosby, a black Baptist pastor in Louisville, Kentucky and the president of Simmons College, relayed a conversation he said he had with Paul.

“He said that if he could he would shut down a lot of these prisons, and he specifically said that the money saved from mass incarceration would be re-channelled toward job training. Now, I am one hundred per cent sure he said that to me.” Cosby told the magazine. “I was blown away, because I’m thinking, This doesn’t sound like libertarianism to me. This sounds like big government. Libertarianism means redirecting money back to the taxpayers. If he made a statement like that publicly, and stood by it, I don’t know where he will stand within the Republican Party and the libertarians, but that would shake things up in the black community.”

7. What Paul said about Islamic State in July

Paul notably has taken a more hawkish stance against the Islamic State than his father. But, based on the July interview, he has evolved on that.

“You could probably write an essay of the hundred ironies of the Middle East in our policy right now,” Paul told the New Yorker.

“When you have so many confusions, how can you ask an American G.I. to go fight and lose his life for something where we’d be fighting with the Iranians and the Syrians against ISIS, but in the neighboring country we would be fighting with many people who hate Israel, hate the United States, hate Christianity? Makes absolutely no sense,” he added. “I think the American people are with me, not the Old Guard that wants to always fight.”

One last thing…
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