Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) presidential campaign has hit a bit of a rough patch. It’s early, but as the 2016 race takes shape, the Republican senator’s support in the polls is underwhelming; his fundraising is unimpressive; his endorsement total is anemic; and his ability to generate attention isn’t working.
For Team Paul, it’s apparently time for desperate measures – or in this case, it’s time for a p.r. stunt involving a chainsaw. Business Insider reported this morning:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) released an intense new video on Tuesday where he appears to be literally destroying the US tax code.Paul has made tax reform central to his presidential campaign. To draw attention to his plan, Paul is asking his supporters to vote how they want to see him shred the current tax system. The options for his supporters are: chainsaw, fire, and wood chipper.
This might sound like a joke. It’s not – or at least, it’s not intended to be. The Paul campaign actually released this 51-second video today in which the Kentucky Republican is seen setting fire to large stacks of paper, putting the paper through a wood-chipper, and literally using the chainsaw.
That third option was apparently the campaign’s favorite, since it was released as a separate video, featuring slightly more footage.
Sounding very much like a used-car salesman making a low-budget commercial, the senator tells viewers, “Hey I’m Rand Paul and I’m trying to kill the tax code – all 70,000 pages of it.”
As a substantive matter, any serious policy analysis of the Paul tax plan invariably leads to an obvious conclusion: it’s an incoherent mess. The senator seems to believe the nation can cut taxes by trillions of dollars and balance the budget at the same time. It’s impossible to take such nonsense seriously.
But it seems Rand Paul doesn’t want a serious debate over tax policy; Rand Paul wants to be seen with a chainsaw. Fiscal discussions are boring; silly commercials are, at least to this candidate, fun.
The Huffington Post recently announced plans to move Donald Trump from the political section to the entertainment section. As of this morning, I’m wondering if the HuffPost picked the wrong Republican.
I realize that we’ve seen some candidates try similar stunts – Joe Manchin literally shooting a cap-and-trade bill with a rifle comes to mind – but among major-party presidential candidates, Paul appears to be breaking new ground.
My radar may be badly flawed. Perhaps voters will see this and swoon, convinced that what America really needs in the Oval Office is a confused, self-accredited ophthalmologist who uses a wood-chipper in public-relations stunts. This may prove to be a brilliant strategy that turns the senator’s struggling campaign around.
But I think that for most voters, there is such a thing as a “presidential” quality. Americans generally like the idea of national leaders who are adults with stature, who conduct themselves with a degree of grace.
Rand Paul is evidently trying a very different approach.