As a libertarian-minded Republican in congress for decades, Rep. Ron Paul (right) became the defacto leader of the libertarian movement in the U.S. His son Rand Paul (left) is now trying to take on that mantle as a Senator from Kentucky and likely presidential hopeful.
Ed Reinkeā€”AP
January 9, 2015 2:14 PM EST

We don’t pick our parents, and by most any measure, Rand Paul was exceedingly lucky with his. Former GOP Representative and presidential candidate Ron Paul bequeathed to his son a name and a network that propelled his ascent from unknown ophthalmologist to presidential contender in the span of a few short years.

But as Rand Paul prepares for a likely campaign launch this year, it’s clear that his famous father is no longer an asset. Ron Paul retired from Congress in January 2013, but he hasn’t strayed far from the political stage. In columns and interviews, he regularly espouses positions which are out of step with the Republican electorate and which opponents will harness in an attempt to strangle his son’s presidential aspirations.

After the terrorist attack in Paris this week, Ron Paul said that French foreign policy had helped drive the attack. “It’s an overall policy that invites retaliation,” Paul told Newsmax TV. “It doesn’t justify [the attack], but it explains it.” The argument echoed his claim that American military adventurism precipitated the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a belief that doesn’t wash well with a party predicated on national pride.

And if Ron’s foreign policy clashes with the party’s prevailing views, so too do some of his domestic prescriptions. In a column published Thursday, Paul wrote the U.S. “is a police state” marred by a “police culture that accepts the principle of initiating unjustified violence against citizens.” Such convictions are anathema for much of the Republican Party, which considers law enforcement sacrosanct and rejects criticism of cops, particularly in the wake of the killing of two New York City police officers last month.

As he gears up for a presidential campaign, one of Rand Paul’s central challenges will be to nurture his father’s ardent fans while separating himself from Ron’s impolitic positions. Since his election to the Senate in 2010, Rand has taken a different tack than his dad, both in tone and in substance. But Rand Paul’s primary opponents will try to use the father’s remarks to discredit the son.

A Paul adviser predicts the attack won’t stick, noting it hasn’t impeded the Kentucky senator’s meteoric rise. “If Rand’s opponents and the media are successful at tying him to his father’s comments, it will be the first time in history,” the adviser says. “People don’t vote based on for someone for president based on their father.”

But Ron Paul’s remarks this week are an unpleasant reminder that Rand may be forced to defend or disown his father’s remarks throughout a presidential campaign.

Write to Alex Altman at alex_altman@timemagazine.com.

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