Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 21, 2010

GRADING ON A CURVE.... Of all the reactions to Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) extreme beliefs, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R) take was my favorite.

"If I were you guys I'd give him a little leeway," Hatch told reporters. "He just got elected. It's a tough thing for him to get in the middle of this cauldron."

Similarly, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) complained that Rachel Maddow asked Paul about his views during a television interview. "I think it was sort of a gotcha question," Cornyn said. "If I'm walking down the street minding my own business and somebody sticks a microphone under my nose about a law that was passed 40 years ago, without more detail -- I think it probably caught him a little bit by surprise."

I can appreciate how tough it is to spin on behalf of a Republican nominee for the Senate who opposes the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Fair Housing Act, but this argument isn't exactly compelling. To hear Hatch and Cornyn tell it, the public should simply go easy on Rand Paul because, well, he's new at this.

Um, no. Paul has been running for the Senate for quite a while, and he won a statewide primary this week for an important public office. It's a "tough thing" for him to talk about his own beliefs? If so, perhaps he's not quite ready to serve in the United States Senate. Maybe he could start with city council or something and work his way up.

I can just imagine the reaction if a Democratic Senate nominee, soon after a primary, suggested in multiple interviews that public ownership over the means of production is underrated. If Dems argued that the candidate deserves "leeway" because he/she "just got elected," would that be persuasive to someone like Orrin Hatch?

For that matter, no one stuck a microphone in Paul's face while he was walking down the street minding his own business. Rand Paul articulated his beliefs to the Louisville Courier-Journal, and then again on NPR, and then again to Rachel Maddow. These are the same beliefs Paul stated as far back as 2002. This wasn't, in other words, some slip of the tongue, or a rookie candidate flubbing a complicated question after getting caught "by surprise."

Paul stated his beliefs accurately; he just happens to be an extremist. If Republicans are going to make excuses for his bizarre worldview, they'll have to do better than this.

Steve Benen 10:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

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Who knew Rand Paul was simply walking down the street when Rachel Maddow meanly stuck a microphone under his nose? I could have sworn she was sitting in a studio asking the question.

Posted by: Stetson Kennedy on May 21, 2010 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

For today's GOP, "Sir, do you have a valid driver's license" qualifies as a gotcha question.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on May 21, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Sarah Paulin

Posted by: getaclue on May 21, 2010 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Let's look at Hatch aand Cornyn a bit. Their comment firstly contain the lie, as you noted, that someone shoved a microphone in their face. Then they mention taking it easy on Paul. Neither Senator commented directly about what Paul said; they imply that Paul mis-spoke. It seems they will attempt to muzzle him very soon. This is the usual Republican method, don't address the statement, but blame the media and try to focus the dicsussion in another direction.

Posted by: Mudge on May 21, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

It's a bit like Alan Simpson complaining that reporters were trying "to stick it Reagan's gazoo". The impertinence of our royal press corps!

The meme has been established. Paul is both nutty and inconsistent. Whether that's enough to defeat him in Kentucky is doubtful.

Posted by: walt on May 21, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

I assume we're giving Hatch a pass on confusing "elected" with "nominated"... because somebody stuck a microphone under his face.

Posted by: Grumpy on May 21, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

I think Maddow was focused on Title II of the Act, but someone needs to ask him about Title VII, which I believe is the part which prohibits discrimination in hiring based on race, sex, religion and national origin.
I would assume that his libertarian ideology would dictate that private business owners or non-government employers could have a "whites only" or "white Christians only" hiring policy based on his notion of "freedom" and property rights.
Someone really needs to ask him about this.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on May 21, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

So winning the Republican nomination now counts as "getting elected," regardless of whether or not those pesky voters have weighed in? Another legacy of Bush vs. Gore, I guess.

Posted by: somethingblue on May 21, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Hey. Great one Orrin! Nothing like more hypocrisy from the senatorial king of hypocrisy! "Waa waa take it easy" from a guy whose consistent, over the top, bald face lying lo these last 20+ years makes me want to puke ...

Posted by: bigutah on May 21, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Not only was Maddow sitting in a studio, but Rand appeared voluntarily on her program. No one twisted his arm, and what did he expect from Rachel? Some softball Faux News questions that he knew about in advance?

Different rules for different folks, that's the Rethug motto. As, for instance, when Bill O'Reilly's producers stalk someone they don't like and actually ambush them on the street with microphone and camera.

It's beginning to look like Rand is not the brightest light in the Rethug chandelier. This could be entertaining. Rand and Scott Brown may become close friends. They're both idiots.

Posted by: rrk1 on May 21, 2010 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

and..let's look at Rand Paul's visit to Rachel Maddow. No sensible Republican would ever visit her. You won't see any Rachel Maddow-Sarah Palin interviews soon, although equating the word sensible to Sarah Palin is nonsense. In her case no common sense Republican would visit Maddow.

I can see an arrogant ideologue visiting Maddow because he is so smart that he and his extraordinary ideas will reveal how shallow and wrong Rachel is.

Didn't work out that way.

Posted by: Mudge on May 21, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Very few Republicans have been willing to appear on Rachel Maddow's show, unless they are in some sense dissidents, like Rand's dad. Now even fewer will.

Posted by: Joe Buck on May 21, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

"I think it was sort of a gotcha question," Cornyn said.

That's just pathetic. How is asking "Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?", a piece of legislation even schoolchildren know about, a "gotcha" question? No decent person should even have to think about an answer to that.

Then again, when referring to the modern GOP, the word "decent" is rarely, if ever, applicable.

Posted by: electrolite on May 21, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe worse, is Rand Paul saying Obama was too hard on BP, accidents happen and aren't always fault. Well, here's the latest scoop from Oil Drum and it's very much a matter of fault:
What caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster?

More on Rand and BP, please Steve.

Posted by: Neil B on May 21, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Title VII folks, employment discrimination, I'm telling you, someone needs to ask him about that part as well, because his 9/10 support is probably a lie.
Maybe I have it mixed up with another act, but nevertheless his ideology as he's described it would allow for race, sex, religious and any other form of discrimination in employment.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on May 21, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Posted by: Hanan Kolko on May 21, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

My impression of Paul from that interview was that here was a man who's spent his whole adult life surrounded by and talking to people who agree with him and has rarely, if ever, had to defend his views to a smart, adversarial interviewer.

He was nervous, inconsistent, at times incoherent.

And the next day he folded like a cheap lawn chair.

Posted by: Gummo on May 21, 2010 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think the question is whether Rachel was "mean" or playing "gotcha" - the reality is that, for all his success and apparent appeal to voters, Paul is new to politics and interviews. "Misspoke" won't excuse him (a good thing to keep in mind with Blumenthal, too, I think), but I think trying to make Paul out as a monster is similarly overblown: he made a newcomer's mistake, and it may lose him the whole race.

The biggest mistake in politics, after all, is saying what one "really thinks." What the best politicians do is say what "most people" really think, as if they'd thought of it just now, in a way that can, if needed, be restated as the complete opposite thought down the road. This is not just a Republican tendency to "talk around" the issues; Democrats do it quite well, too, and the best politicians can, skillfully, "comment" on an issue while saying nothing at all.

Indeed, it's just this sort of non-speak, non-answer type of political rhetoric that's driving a lot of the current voter anger and election of "outsiders" - Arlen Specter switching parties and blithely assuming you can just, you know, explain away 40 years from the other side. Voters are picking fresher, less polished, less politically savvy speakers to tell them, well, something real. And that's how Rand Paul won the primary. It's almost cruel, then, that the thing that got him where he is - the sense that he comes to politics without the kind of verbal smoothness that... well, an Orrin "hey! today I'm an outsider!" Hatch has - has now caused his downfall as well. If we want "plain spoken" - and I'm not sure we really do - then we're bound to get, well, some pretty interesting stuff. I don't think Rand Paul is right - I'm no libertarian, because it's too absolute - but I think he did get invited into speaking plainly, and now gets to pay for doing it. And that, I think, probably leads to a less useful political dialogue, not a better one.

Posted by: weboy on May 21, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

For that matter, no one stuck a microphone in Paul's face while he was walking down the street minding his own business. Rand Paul articulated his beliefs to the Louisville Courier-Journal, and then again on NPR, and then again to Rachel Maddow.

...to which he was invited, and agreed to appear.

Republicans are lying in defense of their indefensible belief system? You don't say...

Posted by: Gregory on May 21, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Paul is both nutty and inconsistent. Whether that's enough to defeat him in Kentucky is doubtful.

True. After all, he will be replacing the nutty and inconsistent Jim Bunning.

At leasst Jim Bunning had a great fastball in his day.

Posted by: Pug on May 21, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Which of the civil rights legislations did you actually approve of Mr. Rand ? All of them Katy all of them.
Someone must have passed the Morons Rights act while I wasn't watching. Be as stupid as you want and still get elected.

Posted by: john R on May 21, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Something tells me that Rand may have bitten off more than he bargained for as the news media actually begins to give attention to this looney dude now that he is actually the Republican nominee. Should be fun.

Posted by: sparrow on May 21, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

And this is why Ron Paul can't/won't win an election in a region bigger than a Congressional District...

Posted by: TonyB on May 21, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

What else is there to say? The badass tough guy got his ass kicked by a girl and now he's playing the victim. Just another punk.

Posted by: glorp on May 21, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Also. How much slack did the thugs and their corporate media lackeys cut President Obama? And this was when he was saddled with perhaps the worst state of the economy and international relations that a President has been in a very long time. And *they* (I am referring here to both the thugs and their corporate media lackeys) were the cause of that state, too boot.

Posted by: radha on May 21, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

So I watched the entire segment on Maddow, [painful] and while I have to hand it to the guy to appear on her show, it is pretty clear that he said he "stands by" what he told the Courier-Journal - which, btw, was an interview held WELL BEFORE the primary. He also appears to be uncoached in the ways of interviews, and his attempts at changing the subject were pretty pathetic. More red herrings than a Norwegian food fight. They guy apparently has some core beliefs, that, when hit with the bright shining lights of real interviewers, turn out to be theoretical constructs that do not work for the 21st century. And is it just me, or do these libertarians tools seem a tad -- unctious and superior?

Posted by: bigutah on May 21, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

This is all part of the problem with conservatism generally. They want their country back.

They want to go back to the good old days when Elvis was king, only white men got elected president or to congress or appointed to the Supreme Court, and women and blacks knew their place.

Craven mealy-mouthed RINOs like Bennett, McCain, Crist, Schwartzenegger, and Grayson need to grow a pair and stop pandering to leftist socialists or they will be primaried and replaced by true conservatives.

In their cloistered, segregated, gated communites, Teabaggers think everyone believes as they do. In their reality only fags, Al Sharpton, and liberals think that this country needs change.

True Conservatives can't believe or understand how anyone could think differently. That's why Paul is in trouble. In his naivete, before professional "conservatives" could correct him, he spoke on his true beliefs thinking that everyone held his same teabagger beliefs.

Now he knows better.

Posted by: Winkandanod on May 21, 2010 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Rand knew exactly what his beliefs were, but realized it would be "politically incorrect" if he stated them, so he just started weaseling around. My favorite was when Rachel asked him if the blacks had a legal right to be served at the Woolworth's lunch counter, yes or no, and he responded with the opener "you also have to take the commerce clause into consideration . . ". I am sure tired of wing nuts who claim to have all the answers, but when some body asks them the tough questions it turns out they really haven't thought about it a lot (Marco Rubio, I'm talking about you).

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on May 21, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Remember, the kooky reactionary right will say ANYTHING to get elected or appointed (in the case of the Supreme John Roberts) then revert to type.

Once elected Rand Paul will simply say "HA HA" and then proceeed to go on his merry way to attempt to destroy the Federal Government.

It's not out of the relm, look at what Bush and Crew were able to accomplish. Look what the Arixona state legistalture is accomplishing.

I would tie him to this, ignore what he ahs to say, and then go on punching and punching and punching until he is a bloody mess.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on May 21, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

The next meme that the R's will try is that the liberal left media did not do the reporting necessary to inform the voters of the positions of Paul, so that they could take him down after he won nomination.

Posted by: newtons.third on May 21, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Well, of course we don't want to know anything about an elected official until AFTER they're elected. What fun would that be?

GOP mantra: trust me! I'll only put the head in, the check's in the mail, no your ass looks great in those 2 sizes too small jeans.

Posted by: MsJoanne on May 21, 2010 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

It's always the same with today's conservatives with the pampering and coddling.

Posted by: Silver Owl on May 21, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

They say politics ain't beanbag.

Would be kinda cool to deliver a basketful of beanbags to Rand Paul's campaign office.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on May 21, 2010 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

"you also have to take the commerce clause into consideration . . ". - Rand Paul. Wow, what a good line to use against him either to show "not authentic", and/or as hypocrite.

Posted by: neil b. on May 21, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Where's that honeymoon! Sumbody tell me where my honeymoon is.

Posted by: CDW on May 21, 2010 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

In some respects Mr. Paul made the mistake of saying what he believed. The part that the media seem to be missing, and that more seasoned pols are trying to avoid, is that these views are precisely why the man won in the first place. When T-baggers bang a drum about "constitutional conservatives,' this is what they mean.

Posted by: jhm on May 22, 2010 at 6:45 AM | PERMALINK
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