It’s generally wise for candidates to avoid rhetoric they might regret later. Last week, for example, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was asked about his strategy for the coming months. “I think we’re putting all our eggs in the basket of Iowa,” the GOP presidential candidate said.
The problem should be obvious: if Walker comes up short in Iowa, he’s done. The governor is setting his own benchmark for success, which is an inherently risky game to play.
Similarly, Sen. Rand Paul was on “Face the Nation” yesterday, where host John Dickerson asked about voters’ “appetite for outsiders.” Dickerson asked what the senator believes accounts for these attitudes. The senator replied:
“Well, you know, I ran for office because I was unhappy about Washington and I still am. The more I see of Washington, the more unhappy I am of how thing are dysfunctional and don’t work. I’m a huge proponent of term limits. I would throw everybody out, myself included. I’m serious.”
You could almost hear Democratic ad-makers, getting ready to make a series of 30-second spots in which Rand Paul declares, on national television, “I would throw everybody out, myself included. I’m serious.”
Remember, if the senator’s national ambitions fail – he remains a long shot for his party’s presidential nomination – Paul will return to his adopted home state and ask voters to send him back to Capitol Hill for another six years.
Of course, in context, the Kentucky Republican probably meant he “would throw everybody out” after he’s re-elected to serve through 2022. But his case for term limits nevertheless remains odd, especially for someone with libertarian sensibilities.
After saying he “would throw everybody out,” Paul added, “The status quo remains because the same people remain, decade after decade.” It’s worth noting, of course, that we already have term limits; they’re called elections. Lawmakers are elected by Americans to serve a set term – two years in the House, six in the Senate – at which point Americans get to make another choice.
Rand Paul is of the opinion that the federal government should impose arbitrary constraints on voters’ ability to choose their own members of Congress – constraints that punish popular, experienced officials precisely because they’re popular and experienced.
Why the senator believes that’s consistent with limited government is unclear.
Postscript: Rand Paul’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), served 12 terms in Congress. By the senator’s reasoning, his father should have been kicked out of Congress half-way through his career, regardless of his constituents’ wishes.