Before He Disappears

There’s that 1946 sad bar song Angel Eyes – perfect for Frank Sinatra in his rather fine later seen-it-all burnt out years, and a jazz standard because it has great changes – but it’s the narrative that makes the song. There’s the bar, where everyone is loose and happy, except for the guy who feels so out of place. Things aren’t working out for him, and they won’t work out, ever. Somehow the perfect woman got away. He doesn’t know why, nor how that happened, but he knows he shouldn’t be there with all those happy people. Alienation is a bitch, and he does what he must:

Pardon me but I got to run… The fact’s uncommonly clear… I’ve got to find who’s now number-one… and why my angel eyes ain’t here. Excuse me while I disappear.

It’s a song for losers, surrounded by winners, who decide to make a graceful exit. The guy in the song needs to lick his wounds and find out what’s really going on. He misjudged everything. It’s best if he disappears for a while. He needs some time alone. He needs to rethink everything. Who actually is number one, and why isn’t he number one? This is a song that should be Rand Paul’s 2016 campaign song. Sooner or later he will disappear. He should consider doing that gracefully, just slipping out the back door of the bar. He won’t. But he should.

On Tuesday, April 7, 2015, Rand Paul announced he was running for president – and the more he explained his positions on this and that the less anyone knew what he wanted to do about anything – a problem for libertarians who don’t like rules about anything. On Wednesday, April 8, he started campaigning, and things got worse. Ed Kilgore explains the basic problem:

Like most movement conservatives, Paul shares the conviction that the Republican Party lost its way after 1964 – or maybe 1952, or 1932, or 1904 – expert opinions differ – by abandoning its vision of an eternally fixed central government and instead trying to promote what Barry Goldwater mocked as a “dime store New Deal.” But while fellow “constitutional conservatives” like Ted Cruz imagine a winning coalition composed of GOP “base” voters psyched out of their skulls along with nonvoters who have been secretly pining for a rightwing savior, Paul’s electability argument is that his eccentric path back to the policies of the distant past will attract key elements of the other party’s base.

Put simply, Paul offers limited-government conservatives an interesting bargain: They can take America right back to the economic and social policies of the Coolidge Administration – if they give up spying on, imprisoning and sending off to war young people and minorities.

The problem, of course, is that the attractiveness of this bargain depends on how much of the spying, imprisoning and war-making agenda Republicans are willing to give up for electoral victory, and also their assessments of Paul’s credibility as a vote magnet for young and minority voters.

Forget that vote-magnet thing:

Now the conventional wisdom and the public opinion climate among conservatives are demanding that all Republicans more or less support a re-invasion of Iraq, a bellicose posture towards Iran, a blank check for Bibi Netanyahu, and more defense spending. So far Paul is hanging in there, though one can only imagine what Ron Paul thought of his son signing onto Tom Cotton’s letter to Tehran. But the once-fashionable idea that young voters might flock to a Paul-led GOP as the “peace party” in contrast to the “hawkish” Democrats led by Hillary Clinton is becoming increasingly laughable.

Josh Marshall sees that and sees more:

The alleged coalition Paul is striving to create is deeply improbable, if not downright impossible. But quite apart from that, and many other profound liabilities, there’s just one that will inevitably sink him: a long, long history of conspiracy theories which are uniformly whacky and often veer into the rantings of the militia, white supremacist and neo-confederate right. Here’s one that is simply whacky that came to mind as I was reading the Paul coverage this morning.

It goes back to 2008. And Rand Paul is campaigning for his father in Montana. And he’s railing against something called the “NAFTA Superhighway.” As Paul’s father wrote two years earlier, “Proponents envision a ten-lane colossus the width of several football fields, with freight and rail lines, fiber-optic cable lines, and oil and natural gas pipelines running alongside. … The ultimate goal is not simply a superhighway, but an integrated North American Union – complete with a currency, a cross-national bureaucracy, and virtually borderless travel within the Union.”

Haven’t heard of the NAFTA Superhighway? That’s because it doesn’t exist. It never has. It’s not just that it hasn’t been built. The whole thing is a concoction of the Alex Jones, freedomy militia far-right. Even Rand, warning about the dangers understood that people had to be careful talking about it since people might think you’re crazy. “It’s a real thing,” Rand told dad’s supporters, “and when you talk about it, the thing you just have to be aware of is that, if you talk about it like it’s a conspiracy, they’ll paint you as a nut.”

Imagine that.

There’s more here:

A fringe right-wing radio host who believes the government was behind 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, and several other catastrophes, has been a key figure in the political rise of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)…

Paul has credited Alex Jones, who heads conspiracy website and an eponymous radio program, for being a vital part of his 2010 Senate campaign. Jones endorsed Paul, turned out followers to his events, and partnered with Paul for fundraising, at one point crashing his website. Since Paul’s election to the Senate, Jones has continued to serve as a key Paul booster, including endorsing him for 2016.

This item goes on and on with details like this:

Paul worried that “martial law” with “mandatory” vaccines could surface. Paul agreed with Jones that Democrats want to start a “shooting war” marked by ammunition confiscation. Paul predicted that an “army of armed EPA agents” would enforce climate regulations. He connected the Obama administration to Nazi Germany. And he promised Jones he would help him fight the “globalist agenda” and help expose a White House adviser’s purported support for eugenics and forced drugs in the water supply.

Rand Paul is not saying those things now – he knows better, or he’s evolved, or he was just kidding – but he wasn’t kidding and those things are out there. It’s what is already out there that’s always the problem, and that was a real problem with his first day of campaigning:

Sen. Rand Paul clashed with Today show host Savannah Guthrie over her line of questioning during an interview Wednesday morning, criticizing her for editorializing over perceived changes in his political views since his election to the Senate.

“You have had views on foreign policy in the past that were somewhat unorthodox, but you seem to have changed over the years,” Guthrie told the Kentucky Republican, who was appearing via satellite from Nashua, New Hampshire. “You once said Iran was not a threat, now you say it is. You once proposed ending foreign aid to Israel, now you support it, at least for the time being, and you once offered to drastically cut … defense spending.”

But before she continues her question, or gets to the actual question, he stops her cold, and he talked over her, louder than she could talk:

“Why don’t we let me explain instead of talking over me, OK?” Paul interjected. “Before we go through a litany of things you say I’ve changed on, why don’t you ask me a question, ‘Have I changed my opinion?’ That would sort of a better way to approach an interview.”

“Is Iran still not a threat?” Guthrie asked in the cross-talk.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Listen, you’ve editorialized,” Paul said. “Let me answer a question. You ask a question, and you say ‘Have your views changed?’ instead of editorializing and saying my views have changed.”

He told her she didn’t know how to do her job. That’s that mansplaining thing – all women know about it. There are certain things you have to explain to women. The pretty little things just don’t know anything, really, and Republicans seem to understand that – let me tell you how your body really works and all that stuff. Let me tell you what you really want. He was just trying to be helpful.

Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog isn’t so sure about that:

I don’t think the apparent gender condescension will hurt Paul – right-wing women (and men) think feminism means supporting right-wing women exclusively (defending Sarah Palin, yes; defending Sandra Fluke, no), and they think sexism is something only liberals engage in (just as liberals, in their eyes, are America’s only racists). So attacking Guthrie is not a near-term problem for Paul.

What is a problem for Paul is what he was saying as he attacked Guthrie. He’d actually be cheered by the right if he lashed out at a female “liberal media” journalist while passionately defending boilerplate conservative positions. But Paul was defending his past assertions that it would be good to phase out all foreign aid, including aid to Israel. (This at a time when the right is absolutely smitten with Israel.) He does say, in the Guthrie interview, that he doesn’t want to phase out aid to Israel right away, and he’d rather phase out aid to other, more hostile countries first, and he does point out that Benjamin Netanyahu, in a 1996 speech to Congress, proposed a gradual phase-out of U.S. aid to Israel. But it’s nearly twenty years after that speech, and it sure doesn’t look as if Netanyahu wants to revisit that idea anytime soon. In the meantime, Rand Paul is still talking favorably about zeroing out aid to Israel. If you’re getting into beefs with reporters as part of a campaign to win Republican primaries, this is not what you want to be fighting about.

Nor do you want to be defending the assertion you made a few years ago that Iran wasn’t a significant threat to the United States. True conservatives think post-Shah Iran has always been a threat to the United States. (Pay no attention to that Iran-contra action in the Reagan years.) If you’re going to draw attention to yourself by getting into a spat, you don’t want to do it saying that.

Either way this didn’t go well and Salon’s Joan Walsh is not happy at all:

He simplistically and condescendingly walked her through the world according to Rand… What a steaming load of entitlement. Paul interrupts an interviewer, then blames her for talking over him and lectures her on “a better way to approach an interview.” When she accepts his premise, and asks the question the way he suggests she should ask it, he won’t accept it, and berates her yet again.

If all this sounds familiar, it should: Paul had a similar tantrum with another female interviewer, CNBC’s Kelly Evans, just two months ago. You’ll recall: Evans asked Paul about his odd statements questioning vaccine policy in the wake of a dangerous measles outbreak. The Kentucky senator not only bristled, he rudely shushed the news anchor, literally, with a finger to his lips. “Let me finish. Hey, Kelly, shhh. Calm down a bit here, Kelly. Let me answer the question.”

At least he didn’t tell her what her question should be.

Walsh adds this:

There’s a lot going on here. To be fair, Guthrie hit Paul with the toughest challenge for his campaign. He has, in fact, moderated some of his foreign policy views, which risks losing him his father’s passionate, anti-intervention base of support. Yet the neocon hawks hate him anyway, and they’re spending millions to derail his candidacy before it gets off the ground.

And Paul’s entitlement may not only be an issue of gender. I’ve written often about Randy Paul the pampered princeling, who acts as though his every uttering is genius, who clearly wasn’t shushed enough at the dinner table growing up.

On the other hand, it’s hard to leave gender out of it, since I can’t think of a time when Paul treated a male interviewer so poorly. Not just poorly, but contemptuously, and with an evident irritation at the shocking spectacle of a journalist doing her job.

Here’s her theory about this:

Paul either gets his buttons pushed in these situations and he just can’t control himself, or he’s deliberately insulting female journalists to play to the GOP base’s distrust of a) journalists and b) uppity career women. I’m not sure which is worse, that he’s got a remarkably short fuse, or that he’d insult a female journalist to play to his party’s caveman base.

But I know one thing: It would be a lot of fun to see him in a debate with likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

He won’t get there at this rate, but he has his explanation:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) denied on Wednesday afternoon that he has a problem with female journalists – just hours after he got into a testy exchange with NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie.

Paul was asked during an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the accusations from his critics that his interactions with journalists have a sexist bent.

“I think I’ve been universally short tempered and testy with both male and female reporters. I’ll own up to that,” Paul said. “And it’s hard sometimes. As you know, like during our interview right now, I’m looking only at a camera and it’s hard to have a true interaction sometimes, particularly if it’s a hostile interviewer and so I do think that interviews should be questions and not necessarily editorializing.”

Paul said if he’s been interviewed by someone who’s editorializing “you feel somewhat at a loss on the other end. You can’t see the person who you think is mischaracterizing a position and not really asking a question.”

And to be fair, he has a problem with male journalists too:

Later on Wednesday, Paul got into it again, this time with a male journalist, the Associated Press’s Philip Elliot, when pressed to explain his stance on abortions. Paul, according to Elliot, “grew testy” and said at one point “I gave you about a five-minute answer. Put in my five minute answer.”

Paul told CNN that he “will have to get better at holding my tongue and holding my temper, but I think it is pretty equal-opportunity, not directed towards one male or one female.”

Fine, but Steve M brings up the technology question:

First of all, news organizations don’t put Rand Paul and only Rand Paul in this special sensory-deprivation situation. Every satellite interviewee has to go through the same I-can’t-see-the-interviewer thing. And oddly enough, quite a few of them manage it with a degree of politeness and civility, even when asked tough questions by an unseen interviewer (or fellow interviewee).

But beyond that, I just want to remind Senator Paul that ordinary people frequently have to deal with a similar technology that deprives us of the opportunity to look into the eyes of the person talking to us. That technology is called “the telephone.” Many of us deal with bosses, clients, businesses we have disputes with, doctors’ offices, customer service representatives, and others over the telephone – all without seeing the faces of the people we’re talking to. Just like Rand Paul in those interviews that make him so cranky! And sometimes our interactions make us cranky too! And yet many of us manage not to lash out at bosses or service techs or the seventh so-called customer service person to transfer our call.

(There’s another technology called “email” that also deprives us of face-to-face contact. And there’s “texting.” We use these technologies, and most of the time we somehow manage not to fly off the handle, despite not seeing a human face while using them. I don’t know how the heck we do it!)

Steve M sees the real problem here:

Rand Paul is a spoiled brat and a whiner. He thinks he’s the most put-upon person who ever lived – this despite the fact that he chose to run for the Senate and then the presidency, and did so as a politician who deliberately courts controversy. Want to avoid all this pain, senator? Get a real job. Go back to being a full-time ophthalmologist. Stop demanding sympathy because you went into politics and it turned out not to be beanbag.

Rand Paul should stick with Fox News, and David Weigel notes what happened when Rand Paul did that:

After Tuesday’s announcement in Louisville, Paul (flanked by security, some of it from Fox News) strolled over to a square platform where the Fox News host was waiting. While Texas Senator Ted Cruz had given Hannity an in-studio interview, Paul was meeting the host in his home state, with a backdrop of supporters waving pre-approved signs and new 2016 campaign swag. At commercial breaks, Paul spokesman Sergio Gor would signal the crowd; it would break out in cheers. …

The result was a largely friendly interview that allowed Paul to advance his message and settle scores – and to bracket off anything related to Ron Paul as irrelevant. Hannity began a series of questions about Iran by mentioning a new ad from the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, a 501(c)(4) that played a 2007 clip of Rand Paul telling radio host Alex Jones that it was “ridiculous” to think that Iran posed a threat to American security. (The ad did not mention the age of the quote; it is currently on the air on New Hampshire.)

“You know, things do change over time,” Paul said. “I also wasn’t campaigning for myself; I was campaigning to help my father at the time.”

Hannity let that slide. He allowed Paul to frame his opposition to new sanctions that would scuttle the Iran negotiations as his way of telling Obama he’d “have to bring a deal back to” Congress.

These Fox News journalists know how to do their jobs:

Paul had mostly remained quiet about the Iran deal until his launch speech and this interview. He’d also totally avoided discussing Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Hannity brought it up in the nicest possible way:

“What is your take on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and – and the Indiana bill, the 1993 bill signed by Hillary Clinton’s husband?” he said, furthering the false notion that the federal RFRA was just like the one Indiana had passed.

“I think our founders would be aghast that anyone would think that they could tell you what do something – to perform a ceremony or be part of a ceremony that’s against your religious beliefs,” Paul said. “You know, that being said, though, I think the law ought to be neutral and I don’t – I don’t think we ought to treat people unfairly and, you know, I’m all for treating people with respect and tolerance … people ought to understand that people’s opinions change through persuasion. And if I really want to convince you to come to my political way of beliefs or my religious beliefs, you know, I don’t go to evangelism, like if I go to Africa, I don’t evangelize by forcing you to accept my religion.”

Hannity took that answer, whatever the hell it meant, and went to a commercial break, and Weigel notes this about Hannity:

He’d actually given Paul more trouble with another question, about a video that showed him asking whether Dick Cheney’s ties to Halliburton made him evolve from a skeptic of invading Iraq to the biggest advocate for war.

“You took a shot at Dick Cheney back in 2007, saying that maybe…”

Paul interrupted him. “Once again,” he said, “before I was involved in politics for myself.”

“Oh, OK,” said Hannity.

“That was a long time ago,” said Paul.

This was not true. The video was shot in April 2009, shortly before Rand Paul declared his successful campaign for U.S. Senate. Hannity had a golden opportunity to call out the candidate, to argue that he was not so far from Ron Paul as he claimed.

But the Fox News host whiffed. He let Paul walk back the 2009 comments about Cheney.

“That was probably over the top and mean-spirited,” said Paul. “I shouldn’t have questioned his motives or his patriotism.”

Everything is fine on Fox News, but not everyone in America relies on Fox News to know everything that’s going on in the world, at least not yet. Rand Paul may end up like that guy in the song in a room full of loose and happy people, wondering who actually is number one, and why it isn’t him – the guy who slips out. Excuse me while I disappear…

Rand Paul, given his unshakable self-regard, may never say those words, but he could get tossed out of that bar for being a cantankerous jerk. Of course that would be a different song.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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1 Response to Before He Disappears

  1. Rick says:

    The main thing about Rand Paul is hardly anybody of any political stripe does like this cantankerous jerk — except those few naifs who pride themselves on not giving much thought to politics, who somehow find his total unsuitability for public office “refreshing” — so yes, hardly anybody will complain when he gets thrown out of the bar.

    For one thing, once he finally gets his chance to answer those unwelcome questions his way, he’ll find that there is no way for him to explain to anyone, foe or friend, his changes of position on Iran, Israel, and on national defense itself. “That was a long time ago” and “before I was involved in politics for myself” are not just non-starters, they’re career-enders.

    But for another thing, he doesn’t seem to realize that even those who don’t like reporters will think you ought to be able to answer a few devil’s-advocate questions from them without sounding like a whiney little kid. Nobody wants to help nominate a whiney little kid for president, so I’m sure Paul needn’t worry about ever having to face Hillary in a debate.

    This guy is just one of those desperate candidates who foolishly hope to make up for their lack of popularity by showing up way the hell too early to the campaign. And in fact, he’s such a clueless bore, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hang around way the hell too long.


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