Terry Gross: With the war against ISIS now, [Rand Paul] has shifted his views on that, so what did Rand Paul initially say about dealing with ISIS and what is he saying now?
Ryan Lizza: His position on what to do about ISIS has been confusing and maybe hasn’t shifted as much as we all thought, but it sounds like he’s shifted. Let me try and take you through it. When I was interviewing him over the summer, he was going on, at length, about why the United States should never be involved in the Syrian civil war and stating all the contradictions of the war—we’re against [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad, we’re also against ISIS, which is Assad’s enemy, talking about the failures of the Iraqi army and how could you send American GI’s back to Iraq to defend territory that the Iraqis can’t defend, making a fairly good case against intervening in a pretty chaotic place. …
That was in July, what happened in the subsequent weeks of course was that the brutality of ISIS became an international story. The beheadings dominated the news and there was a real movement among conservatives to do something about it. … Rand Paul responded … by coming out with a statement saying that he now believed that the United States should destroy ISIS militarily. Now, if you think of what follows from a statement like that, that’s a pretty serious statement—that means all-out war against ISIS. And that’s the point where me and others thought, “Wow, this is a huge shift in policy. If you’re really for destroying ISIS militarily, you are for a serious intervention in Iraq and Syria.” When it came down to it, there was not as much follow-through, there was no plan from Rand Paul to go over there and destroy ISIS militarily, and in fact he voted against the legislation to arm the moderates, the so called “moderate” opposition to Assad who are also fighting ISIS.
Read Lizza’s latest piece in the New Yorker, The Revenge of Rand Paul