Earlier this week, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) posted a message on Facebook that caused a bit of a ruckus in conservative circles.
"We're supposed to believe that the perpetrators of 9/11 hated us for our freedom and goodness," he wrote. "In fact, that crime was blowback for decades of U.S. intervention in the Middle East."
That required Ron's son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), to do some damage control in the press, though he didn't exactly discredit his father's views:
What I would say is that, you know there are a variety of reasons and when someone attacks you it's not so much important what they say their reasons are… And whether or not some are motivated by our presence overseas, I think some are also motivated whether we're there or not. So I think there's a combination of reasons why we're attacked. [Politico]
Many conservatives, including Washington Post writer Jennifer Rubin, were not placated by Rand's comment:
Total evasion.. Does Rand agree we deserved it? A simple repudiation is needed... http://t.co/yLdbda85zc
— Jennifer Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) September 12, 2013
This isn't the first time Ron Paul has been criticized over his views on U.S. foreign policy. During the 2012 Republican primary debates, a crowd in South Carolina repeatedly booed him after he recommend making cuts to the U.S. "military industrial complex."
And that was when he had something to lose. Now, out of office, he has had little reason to watch what he says.
Since his retirement from the House, Paul has offered a puzzling critique of a murdered Navy SEAL, slammed the police in Boston for shutting down the city to find bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and, most recently, gave a speech to a Catholic organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center called "the single largest group of hard-core anti-Semites in America."
Then there is the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. Launched in April, its advisory board includes a 9/11 truther, an apologist for the late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and Lew Rockwell, who has been accused of writing Paul's newsletters in the '90s, which one critic has called a "toxic stew of racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, sympathy for right-wing militia movements, and support for a litany of conspiracy theories."
"It might be unfair that Rand has to answer for the sins of his father," wrote The Daily Caller's Jamie Weinstein several weeks ago, "but this is politics and it isn't always fair."
Not that Rand can, or even wants to, sever the political connection to his father. A big reason that Rand has a strong libertarian-leaning base is that Ron has been building it since entering Congress in 1976.
Plus, Rand Paul occasionally "channels his father's views," argued Rubin, "questioning the need for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, pushing containment for Iran, cozying up to the pro-Confederate crowd."
Those views might not fly if Rand is serious about running for president.
"Ron Paul was never really damaged by these issues because he was always a marginal presidential candidate," argued Commentary's Jonathan S. Tobin. The situation is different for Rand. While Hillary Clinton looks like the clear front-runner for the Democrats in 2016, the Republican candidacy looks wide open, meaning he might actually have a chance in a way that his father didn't.
"If Rand wants to truly go mainstream, his father's baggage is going to have to be jettisoned," wrote Tobin. "Doubletalk may suffice for now, but as we get closer to 2016, the questions will get sharper and the danger that his father's big mouth represents to his presidential hopes will only get worse."