Republican presidential candidate US Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks during a rally at the Desert Vista Community Center on April 11, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty

Rand Paul’s short memory

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) apparently has an idea as to why Democrats won the last two presidential elections.
“The last two nominees,” said Paul, referring to McCain and to Mitt Romney, “I don’t remember any tax cuts being part of their programs at all.”
I’m afraid that says more about Rand Paul than it does McCain and Romney.
In 2008, two years before the Kentucky Republican joined the Senate, McCain’s economic platform was built on a foundation of tax cuts, the bulk of which would have benefited the very wealthy. During the campaign, headlines like these were common: “Tax Cuts at Center of McCain’s Economic Plan.”
In 2012, two years after Paul joined the Senate, Romney unveiled a plan that would have cut taxes by over $1 trillion, to the overwhelming advantage of the rich.
If Rand Paul doesn’t “remember any tax cuts being part of their programs at all,” it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether he paid any attention whatsoever to current events in 2008 and 2012.
But looking closer at the context, the problem is less with the Republican senator’s memory and more with his policy perspective.
In those same New Hampshire remarks, Paul rhetorically asked the audience, “When is the last time you heard a Republican run for president who said they will cut taxes or follow through with it?”
It’s almost as if he believes McCain and Romney proposed tax cuts, but the plans were forgettable because they were too modest and unambitious. Rand Paul, the argument goes, will deliver real, wildly irresponsible tax cuts, not like those other guys and their tepid visions.
There’s no shortage of problems with this, including the fact that the GOP lawmaker doesn’t really know much about tax policy. Jonathan Allen had a good piece yesterday, noting that Paul “can’t keep his own story straight.”
On Saturday, Paul appealed for tax cuts that would benefit the poor, some of which he’s repeatedly voted against – including on a non-binding budget amendment just last month – on the Senate floor. That amendment was adopted on a 73–27 vote with fellow Republican presidential hopefuls Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz voting in favor. Paul has also misstated the level of fraud in the earned-income tax credit program.
In private conversations, Republicans often say they can’t trust that Paul will say the same thing tomorrow that he’s saying today. His tendency to run away from himself – and to misrepresent the positions of fellow Republicans – undermines the core appeal of his candidacy.
That’s generally not an assessment applied to successful presidential candidates.