Spinning the Rand Paul Disaster

No sooner did my column on the shortcomings of Rand Paul appear online then Brian Doherty was out with a long blog post on the Reason magazine web site, which starts out:

“I’m already hearing whispers especially from the antiwar libertarian hardcore that a strangely respectful and nuanced profile of the GOP Senate candidate from Kentucky via The New Republic‘s Jason Zengerle in GQ is giving them all the more reason to dislike or fear him.”

Respectful? The article is illustrated with a photo of Rand sitting in what looks like a television studio dressed in a suit and tie from the waist up, and yellow madras Bermuda shorts. He’s wearing dress shoes, and no socks. His face bears the expression of an errant schoolboy who’s been kept after school, his cheeks puffed out like an exasperated blowfish. Zengerles’ kindest description of the candidate, eagerly cited by Doherty, reads as follows:

“Unlike some of the prominent Tea Party leaders he’s routinely lumped in with, Paul is not an idiot.”

Doherty’s reaction – he’s thrilled by such extravagant praise — must leave his libetarian readers baffled, who don’t understand what a high it is to be considered undiotic by an editor of The New Republic.

Truly a pathetic display, one that reveals the existence of yet a new libertarian faction: the libertarian masochists. The piece goes downhill from there, as Doherty tries to frame the growing intra-libertarian debate over the Rand Paul sellout as just a lot of noise made by a few noisome dissenters of the “hardcore” variety:

“Unpromising indeed for those who love Rand’s dad Ron’s political bravery and sense on matters of foreign intervention. And I understand why that is infuriating to the extent that Rand is seen as some sort of gold standard for what “libertarian” or even “libertarian-leaning” is going to mean in American politics. But if you are just looking at him as a potential Senate candidate for the Republican Party, well, that means that maybe he’ll be just as bad as every single other one of them on foreign policy. Disappointing, yes, but not infuriating.”

Not unless you’re one of the thousands of libertarians who, prompted by the endorsement of Rand’s father, either gave money or else were talked into actively campaigning for him – in which case waking up to find that you’ve elected someone “just as bad as every single other one of them on foreign policy” would indeed be infuriating.

Doherty then rhapsodizes about all the really really great things Senator Paul will be able to do: form a “Tea Party caucus” in the Senate, alongside Sharon Angle and Jim DeMint – a caucus, by the way, that is opposed by the actual tea party movement, but never mind that. He cites Zengerle, who avers:

“It’s one thing to oppose Obama; it’s another to oppose legislation and threaten relationships that have been central to how the GOP does business.”

Oh, and what are these “relationships” that are “central” to the GOP establishment’s machinations? “Paul doesn’t support the military spending most of his fellow Republicans slobber over” –- perhaps once, but if Kristol, Senor, and Donnelly didn’t talk him out of that, then AIPAC surely did.

“He doesn’t support handing out big fat prescription-drug benefits to private insurance companies.” – well, maybe, but he sure opposes any reform of Medicare, meaning any cuts in the program, and no wonder: a great deal of his medical patients are Medicare clients.

“He doesn’t support the earmarks that Republican senators, especially McConnell, use to curry favor with voters back home” – this is a phony issue. As Ron Paul has correctly pointed out, earmarks merely mean that money goes to local projects instead of into a general nationalized fund to be disbursed by Washington bureaucrats. Opposition to earmarks is hardly “libertarian.”

Doherty enthuses: “What sensible American doesn’t say hoo-damn-ray to that?” Nice try, Brian, but my own response is so the f—k what? And just when you thought Doherty couldn’t be more unconvincing if he tried, he outdoes himself by defending the likening of Obama to … Hitler. Or to the rise of Hitler: or something like that. Oh, and to top it off we are told Rand violates Godwin’s Law “with nuance and intelligence,” no less!

Poor Doherty: faced with the Sisyphean task of “spinning” what Andrew Sullivan accurately calls Zengerles’ “hit piece” as evidence of a Strange New Respect for Rand Paul, he pulls out all the stops – to no avail. In the end, he is reduced to this:

“The [Zengerle] piece leaves me feeling about Rand Paul as I already did: not as good as his dad; likely better than every other Senator of his party. And it leaves me a little more sure that any success he has won’t be successfully used to shame or marginalize the domestic limited-government movement writ large (except to the extent that it distances it from anti-interventionism, which remains lamentable).”

Lamentable, but not essential – because it’s “hoo-damn ray” for Rand Paul, who thinks Obama is a Nazi, and is “solicitous” of an organization plumbing for war with Iran on Israel’s behalf. Only the “antiwar hardcore” libertarians care about such things: little matter that this is the majority of libertarians in the US.

What I find troubling is that the same magazine that ran countless article smearing the elder Paul as a racist, an anti-Semite, and a embarrassment to the libertarian movement — written largely by a writer who is today employed as a professional anti-libertarian smear-monger for Slate.com and MSNBC —  is now extolling Paul the Lesser, who is a genuine embarrassment and openly panders to racist anti-Muslim hysteria. There’s an agenda here, but what is it: moral inversion? Bizarro World “logic”? Or simply a desire to sell out for the lowest possible price?

9 thoughts on “Spinning the Rand Paul Disaster”

  1. It's interesting how Reason turns to New Republic writers (we might as well say, DNC operatives) as authorities on the Paul family. First Jamie Kirchick, now Jason Zengerle. Rand has said some things that make him seem less opposed to war than his dad. The neocons (or whatever they call themselves) at TNR can live with him, as can the beltway libertarians at Reason – with original 'warblogger' Matt Welch at the helm.

  2. I sure hope that there are serious students of history following all of this. There needs to be lots of note taking to document the "Very Fast Decline and Fall of the American Empire". Rome's decline took centuries, ours just a few years. It will be nice to have an accurate record.

  3. You make a convincing case that the TNR hit piece is in fact a hit piece. I also am worried about Rand's pro-military industrial complex rehtoric. I also understand that Reason is a smelly attempt by the Kochtopus to co-opt libeterarian to support war and the Fed.

    However, isn't the fact that TNR has to smear Rand…isn't that a good sign?

    Isn't that a sign that MAYBE rand is only using his the pro-interventionist talk as a atempt to blend in with enough of the GOP mainstream to get elected?

  4. Please keep in mind that he has to be elected in Kentucky and the political atmosphere there is very murky by the standards of most antiwar.com readers.

    Allow me to extrapolate from one example, a long time friend who moved there from DC many years ago, a college graduate logger/small business man; a Reagan democrat still stuck in the 80's (imo). Does not have broadband (key factor, also imo). Admits to liking NYT and specifically Friedman. Admires Lincoln and both Roosevelts, believes what we call empire to be necessary for defense and who's biggest concerns are the devastated economy of western KY and illegal immigration, which he sees as directly related. Furious over bailouts which he somehow sees as Obama's fault. I'm pretty sure he has never read TNR or Reason, let alone LRC or AWC, and lacks the tools or inclination to connect the dots in a coherent way. In so many words – massive cognitive dissonance. Oh yeah, and never heard of the Pauls before the last primary.

    How would someone get this guy's vote without finessing certain incompatible policies, or outright obfuscation? Education can be very slow in the face of constant propaganda, especially without the net to provide alternative information. No wonder Rand looks so beat in the photo – mama said there would be days like this! Give him credit for fighting on his own turf, and the benefit of the doubt, fer chrisakes. Elect him, observe his voting record, then bitch. I'm sending him another 50 bucks…

    Thank you

    1. Also keep in mind…

      A poll came out – "Looking back, do you think the invasion of Iraq was a good decision?"

      2/3 of Kentuckians said YES

      You have to be very careful how you frame your position on foreign policy in a state like that…

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