Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is the Republican Party’s most visible dove and skeptic of foreign intervention. So it raised more than a few eyebrows when he added to his nacent presidential campaign a long-time foreign policy hand who has spent years intervening in other countries’ affairs and associated with the Senate’s best-known hawk.
Lorne Craner, a former John McCain staffer, Bush administration official, and democracy promotion advocate, recently joined the ranks of the Kentucky Republican’s potential 2016 campaign. The move, first reported last month in The Washington Post, has left some in the GOP foreign policy world perplexed.
No Republican presidential candidate in recent memory has won the nomination on a dovish or non-interventionist platform. But eight years of war under the Bush administration left Americans war-weary, and may conceivably open up space for a Republican candidate arguing for a foreign policy of restraint. Indeed, a potential Hillary Clinton vs. Rand Paul race could see many neoconservatives back the Democratic candidate. Is a former McCain staffers’s defection to the Paul camp a sign that the hawkish Republican foreign policy establishment is co-opting the non-interventionist—some would say isolationist—Rand? Or is Rand co-opting them by merely using his newfound advisers as fig leaves?
“Very odd,” is how one board member of the International Republican Institute, which Craner headed until last year, describes the move. IRI is the Republican offshoot of the National Endowment for Democracy, founded by Congress over 30 years ago to promote democracy and good governance overseas. It has long been a target of ire for the isolationist wing of the GOP—like Rand Paul’s father, former congressman and perennial presidential candidate, Ron—which sees it as a meddlesome, money-wasting plaything of the party’s foreign policy hawks. McCain has been IRI’s chairman for over 20 years.
“Lorne’s whole career at IRI and at State was about having a vigorous human rights policy and about American foreign policy activism,” a former senior foreign policy official in the Bush administration told The Daily Beast. “So how does he end up with the leader of American isolationism?”
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