Rand Paul’s race for US Senate in Kentucky has quickly come to exemplify everything that is right — and wrong — with the mainstream conservative movement. Let’s start with what’s right: as the son of the outspoken, anti-establishment Republican Congressman Ron Paul, eye surgeon Rand Paul entered a daunting GOP senate race promising to shake things up on Capitol Hill, quickly won the support of grassroots conservatives with his earnest limited government message, and now has a substantial lead in the polls over his more established opponent, Trey Grayson.

Now for what’s wrong with the mainstream conservative movement — or as former Vice President Dick Cheney announced earlier this month: “I’m a lifelong conservative, and I can tell the real thing when I see it. I have looked at the records of both candidates in the race, and it is clear to me that Trey Grayson is right on the issues that matter.”

Cheney is a Bush Republican and as such, it might be first worth noting what issues don’t matter to him — exorbitant government spending, TARP bailouts, amnesty for illegal aliens, massive entitlement expansions of Medicare and increasing federal control of public education through programs like No Child Left Behind. Bush grew government more than any president since Lyndon Johnson, doubling the national debt, something Cheney famously dismissed by saying “deficits don’t matter.” Trey Grayson, whom Cheney considers the “real thing,” is a former Democrat who voted for and supported Bill Clinton in 1992, and though his former party affiliation has been of some concern to Republican voters in Kentucky, it doesn’t seem to faze Cheney, who still insists Grayson is right on the “issues that matter.” What the former vice president neglects to mention is that for “conservatives” of his stripe only one issue matters.

Reported The Politico earlier this month: “a well-connected former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney convened a conference call last week between Grayson and a group of leading national security conservatives to sound the alarm about Paul. ‘On foreign policy, [global war on terror], Gitmo, Afghanistan, Rand Paul is NOT one of us … It is our hope that you can help us get the word out about Rand Paul’s troubling and dangerous views on foreign policy.’ ”

What are Paul’s “troubling” and “dangerous” views on foreign policy? Like Republican Congressman Walter Jones; GOP Senator Tom Coburn; the late editor of National Review, William F. Buckley; and a majority of Americans, Paul regrets the U.S.’s decision to invade Iraq. Like conservative pundits Pat Buchanan and the late Robert Novak, Paul says he would have opposed going into Iraq in 2003. Like John McCain, Paul has concerns about Gitmo, but unlike his father Ron, son Rand does not believe its prisoners should be tried in civilian courts. Like conservative columnist George Will, Paul has serious reservations about President Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Like Dwight Eisenhower, Paul fears government waste, particularly as it relates to what Ike called the “military-industrial complex.” Paul also believes all wars should be declared by Congress, that the most important task of the federal government is national security and that defense should be the largest part of the national budget-albeit a much smaller national budget.

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