A man with a target on his back.                                  Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images
A man with a target on his back.                                  Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

You would think Democrats -- Obama Democrats, in particular -- would be a bit more sensitive if not responsible.

After all, Democrats have endured decades of scurrilous charges about their love of country. The most toxic dregs of American politics -- Joseph McCarthy, Spiro Agnew, Newt Gingrich, multiple individuals with the surname "Cheney" -- have made a specialty of it. So why would the Democratic National Committee, operating under a president who has been the target of more deranged, ugly falsehoods than any in recent American history, resort to the scoundrel's familiar refuge in attacking Republican Senator Rand Paul?

Paul wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday in which the ostensible targets were Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. However, the headline gave away the game: "How U.S. Interventionists Abetted the Rise of ISIS."

Paul's more proximate target is the Republican foreign policy establishment. "Our so-called foreign policy experts are failing us miserably," he wrote, immediately after having castigated "hawkish members of my own party" for gross misjudgments about the civil war in Syria.

Calling the president names is the entry fee for a Republican presidential contestant; if anything, Paul is more delicate than most of his fellow aspirants. Meanwhile, between the lines, Paul all but thanked Obama for his restraint in the Middle East -- and the president's stiff-arm of the John McCain-Lindsey Graham-Bill Kristol axis of knee-jerk aggression. (I couldn’t make the alliteration work. Suggestions appreciated.)

The official response to Paul (when none was required) by DNC National Press Secretary Michael Czin managed to be both slimy and inane. Relying on repurposed jingoism, it essentially accused Paul of the crime of nattering nabobism.

Paul "blames America for the problems in the world," Czin stated. "Last week he criticized American policy to the president of another country on foreign soil." After some more manufactured outrage, Czin concluded by defining the "Rand Paul Doctrine" as "Blame America. Retreat from the World.”

It's fine to argue, as Czin did, that Paul's preferred approach to, or retreat from, the world makes us "less safe and less secure" -- although some of us unskilled in the nuances of foreign policy might have a hard time discerning safety from security. But Paul wasn't "blaming America" anymore than Obama ever has. Right or wrong, he was stating his view of how to make the U.S. successful.

So what is the point of the DNC's slander? In the Senate, Paul lacks the power to achieve his foreign-policy goals while at the same time serving as a rhetorical brake on his party's worst instincts. He makes it easier for Obama to position himself in the sensible center between isolationism and Cheneyism. But even if Paul weren't useful to the White House politically, why emulate the lazy indecency of impugning an opponent's patriotism? Why stoop?

To contact the writer of this article: Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.net.