Rand Paul: The flip-flop king

Editor’s Note: Maria Cardona is a political commentator for CNN, a Democratic strategist and principal at the Dewey Square Group. She is a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and was communications director for the Democratic National Committee. She also is a former communications director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Story highlights

Maria Cardona: Rand Paul has been shifting positions so often, it could give you whiplash

She says he's talking now about minorities' rights, but previous statements will haunt him

She says he denies saying U.S. should stop aid to Israel. But he did. Voters can use Internet

His moves on reproductive rights, immigration will alienate groups he needs, she says

CNN  — 

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is giving people whiplash. In the last month, he has shifted, flip-flopped and pandered so strikingly on a range of positions and statements that it makes you wonder whether he has suddenly developed a deep disregard for his own convictions, or never had any to begin with.

Maria Cardona

At the Urban League’s National Convention in Cincinnati in July, Paul expressed support for the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and talked about the necessity of protecting the rights of minorities. Kudos to him for even showing up, not a usual move for Republicans. But we must hold him accountable for his past statements that private businesses had the right to deny service to anyone they wanted, something the Civil Rights Act specifically forbids.

Last year when the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, Paul seemed to suggest it wasn’t necessary, since we had an “African-American president.”

Just a few days ago, in a flip-flop worthy of the International House of Pancakes, a straight faced Paul denied ever saying the United States should stop sending any military aid to Israel. Does he really think that little of American voters?

Let’s refresh the senator’s memory. In 2011, Paul put forth a budget proposal that would have cut $500 billion from the federal budget and would have ended all foreign aid, including to Israel.

He has since engaged in pretzel-like messaging maneuvers trying to rewrite history to fit reality – one where a Republican candidate perceived as even the slightest bit anti-Israel can kiss any chance of the Republican presidential nomination good-bye. It gets better. Or at least more cringe-worthy.

Paul has repeatedly said he is a huge proponent of immigration reform and understands how wrong his party has been on this issue. Frankly, this is one instance on which I have given Paul props for being on the right side of history, the American people and the long-term viability of his party with at least a glimmer of hope and an opening to start a conversation with Latino voters.

That hope fizzled recently when first, Paul decided to go campaign for Rep. Steve King of Iowa, the most anti-immigrant/anti-immigration reform member of Congress. Then, in a grand gesture, a profile in courage, Paul could not have fled faster as Erika Andiola, an undocumented “Dreamer” confronted King at an event, with Paul sitting right next to him.

According to his staff, Paul left so abruptly because he was late for a media interview. Maybe. Or maybe, he didn’t have the guts to reconcile his hypocritical pro-immigration reform statements with his support of someone like King.

At least King, who stayed and spoke with the young woman, had the courage of his convictions, twisted as they are.

Maybe there is something in the water in Iowa. Or something in the voters. Oh, yes, they get to decide presidential nominees. That must explain why Paul, in another rewrite of his record, said he didn’t think anyone there wanted to ban birth control.

This is a tad bit different from reality. Paul’s staff should remind him we can all do Internet searches for what our elected officials have said and done in the past.

In 2013, Paul introduced the personhood amendment that would not only have banned abortions but also would have in effect banned many forms of birth control, including some forms of the pill. Paul also supported the Blunt Amendment, which would have given employers an excuse to deny contraceptive health care coverage based on their conscience. When this was defeated in the Senate and the issue made its way to the Supreme Court in the form of the Hobby Lobby case, Paul praised the decision that lets employers deny such coverage on religious grounds.

Every one of these flips underscores how the GOP has flopped in gaining traction with key demographics it will need to be competitive in a 2016 general election. This last one underscores how nervous Republicans are that even in the midterms, the ever-growing gender gap might be big enough to deny the “Republican wave” the party is dreaming about–and that would include taking over the Senate.

As a strategist, I understand Paul’s (and his party’s) frustration and the need to try to bamboozle the public into thinking he supports something he has denied in the past, and sometimes vice versa. It’s very confusing.

But as a woman and a Latina, a member of two key constituencies where Republicans desperately need to gain support if they are ever to see the inside of the Oval Office, I am offended. I can read. I can do research. This is not George Orwell’s “1984.” Paul does not get to rewrite history and pretend he is not doing so.

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