It seems much of the media establishment has decided Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ken.) deserves to be taken seriously. He's made seven Sunday show appearances since February; the New York Times recently described Paul as one of his party's "rising stars"; and the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza last week referred to the Kentucky Republican as "the most interesting politician in the country" and "the most interesting man in the (political) world."
And yet, it's difficult to reconcile the media adulation and Rand Paul's occasional crackpot tendencies.
Earlier today, for example, the senator appeared on Glenn Beck's show to discuss, among other things, the Supreme Court's ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. The host suggested the ruling could lead to polygamy: "If you change one variable -- man and a woman to man and man, and woman and woman -- you cannot then tell me that you can't logically tell me you can't change the other variable -- one man, three women. Uh, one woman, four men.... If I'm a devout Muslim and I come over here and I have three wives, who are you to say if I'm an American citizen, that I can't have multiple marriages."
For Paul, this seemed perfectly sensible. In fact, the senator went even further than Beck. Here's the entirety of Rand Paul's response, in which the senator said he's "kind of with" the unhinged host.
"I think this is the conundrum and gets back to what you were saying in the opening -- whether or not churches should decide this. But it is difficult because if we have no laws on this people take it to one extension further. Does it have to be humans?"You know, I mean, so there really are, the question is what social mores, can some social mores be part of legislation? Historically we did at the state legislative level, we did allow for some social mores to be part of it. Some of them were said to be for health reasons and otherwise, but I'm kind of with you, I see the thousands-of-year tradition of the nucleus of the family unit. I also see that economically, if you just look without any kind of moral periscope and you say, what is it that is the leading cause of poverty in our country? It's having kids without marriage. The stability of the marriage unit is enormous and we should not just say oh we're punting on it, marriage can be anything."
Raise your hand if you think Rand Paul has any idea what he's talking about.
I realize there's a "Stand With Rand" crowd that's convinced the Kentucky Republican is a visionary when it comes to limited government, and I understand that much of the media establishment is eager for us to perceive him as a serious and credible person. But Rand Paul decided to chat with Glenn Beck, and during the interview the senator raised the prospect of marriage-equality proponents asking, "Does it have to be humans?"
If this is what constitutes an "interesting" politician and "rising star" in Republican politics, the GOP is in dire straits, indeed.
There is a contingent of the population that's desperately looking for a prominent political figure in Washington who celebrates civil liberties, is openly uncomfortable with the national security state, and opposes the rush towards more wars, especially in the Middle East.
But we're frequently reminded why Rand Paul probably isn't the champion these folks have been waiting for. He believes bizarre and unsettling conspiracy theories; he's convinced the Obama administration is responsible for problems with his toilet; his concerns about armed drones are strikingly ignorant and contradictory; he considers fringe outlets like World Net Daily to be credible news organizations, and on the morning of a civil-rights breakthrough for LGBT Americans, he hangs out with Glenn Beck and raises the specter of bestiality.
If you've chosen Rand Paul as your freedom-celebrating hero, you've probably picked the wrong guy.