Rand Paul is an opportunity and a trap - an opportunity because the country would benefit greatly from a nuanced discussion of the boundaries of big government; a trap because for the Republicans to win in November, the discussion must remain focused on the economy.
First, on the discussion. The forum will have to be the intellectual Charlie Rose show, not Rachel Maddow where Paul initially announced his candidacy and naively thought that he would get a friendly congratulations on his May 18 nomination victory. Despite numerous statements of support for the totality of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and denunciations of racism, his desire to talk about support for property rights became the story. The media and the Democrats will go for the jugular on snippets that can be made politically incorrect, one for ratings (where MSNBC is fighting for a quarter of Fox's audience) and the other for political gain. Republican Senate whip Jon Kyle was correct that the 2 am college dormitory debates don't translate to Washington; on the other hand, that is part of the problem.
For decades we have not been able to have a discussion about the trade-offs between two desirable, but conflicting objectives without advocacy for one being vilified as opposition to the other. In this case, Paul would have liked a discussion of the importance of property rights as well as the civil rights of minorities. In other discussions: the sanctity of life and a woman's personal freedom of choice; the right to privacy and the need for intelligent national security; national financial responsibility and military defense capabilities; support for student achievement and protection of teachers; constrained resources and Social Security commitments. If we are to find wise solutions to difficult problems, we cannot just complain about politicians who can't compromise, we need to be able to discuss the intersection of conflicting legitimate objectives.
The Left's reaction to Rand Paul is reminiscent of Sarah Palin's reception. Certainly Paul's intellectual, libertarian strain of the Tea Party movement must be discredited and stamped out (by Democratic and Republican leaders alike) before the millions of likely supporters for smaller government get to hear what he is saying. But, somebody is reading the 500,000 copies of Ayn Rand's 1957 classic, Atlas Shrugged, that were sold last year.
As for the Republicans' 2010 focus, it must remain on the economy. The day belongs to the people with economic answers, like Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and, hopefully, Tom Campbell of California. Things like Rand Paul's libertarian ideology and the Arizona illegal immigrant controversy are important, but they give the Democrats a chance and to take the focus off of 10% unemployment, Obama's trillion dollar deficits and Greek-like $13,000,000,000,000 national debt, and the government's economic cluelessness - while riling up the African-American base and turning Hispanics toward the Democrats.
Lets hope that Rand's advisers hold the discussion until December - and that he comes fully prepared.
This week's video is Joe Sestak's admission that he was offered a job in the Obama administration to withdraw from his ultimately successful Pennsylvania Democratic primary campaign against Arlen Specter. Don't hold your breath waiting for Eric Holder's justice department to investigate the illegal quid-pro-quo offer.
And Arizona's latest cute and substantive commercial about the illegal immigration law. The incompetents in this administration make such easy targets that it is almost unfair.
bill bowen - 5/28/10
Next Week: Obama's Katrina ?