I'd more or less assumed that the controversy surrounding Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) habitually presenting others' work as his own had run its course
. The Republican senator got caught, he tried a variety of strange excuses, he made an odd comment about duels, and then Paul eventually conceded he and his staff "made mistakes" and would change their policies.
The capstone came last night when the conservative Washington Times
, which ran one of Paul's plagiarized pieces, said it would no longer publish
a weekly column from the Kentucky lawmaker.
But instead of moving on, Paul has decided to portray himself as a victim. Robert Costa reports today
In an interview with National Review Online on Capitol Hill, Paul was furious, especially with the press coverage of the allegations. "It annoys the hell out of me," Paul said. "I feel like if I could just go to detention after school for a couple days, then everything would be okay. But do I have to be in detention for the rest of my career?" Paul, a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, also said he is sensitive about his character being questioned. "What makes me mad about the whole thing is that I believe there is a difference between errors of omission and errors of intention," he said.
It's an odd approach. Paul presented others' work as his own, on a wide variety of occasions, and in several types of media (speeches, op-eds, and books). He's "annoyed," not with himself for his persistent wrongdoing, but with those who pointed out his mistakes. Since he didn't "intend" to plagiarize, Paul considers recent criticism unfounded.
What's more, the senator said of journalists, "I'm being criticized for not having proper attribution, and yet they are able to write stuff that if I were their journalism teacher in college, I would fail them."
It's not clear who or what he's referring to. Paul, who was a self-accredited ophthalmologist before getting elected to the Senate, has no background in journalism, and hasn't pointed to any flaws in the reports that have highlighted instances in which he presented others' work as his own.
Rather, it seems as if the senator is simply irritated by accurate reports about his own mistakes. Self-reflection can be difficult and awkward, and it appears Paul finds it easier to lash out at those who presented inconvenient truths about his record to the public.
The editorial board of the senator's hometown paper, the Louisville Courier-Journal
, seems to find Paul's self-pity tiresome
(thanks to my colleague Mike Yarvitz for the heads-up).
Mr. Paul's reaction so far has not been to plead guilty and beg forgiveness. That's not his style. He has instead claimed to be victim of a "witch-hunt" by "hacks and haters." ... And he said takes it as an "insult" that people would accuse him of being "dishonest, misleading or misrepresenting. I have never intentionally done so." The real insult here is that Mr. Paul would expect voters to believe his half-baked, nutty explanations. The real insult is that he would expect us to believe he's not at fault and this is the result of partisan opponents. But the biggest insult is that he would use a writer's or researcher's words, claim them as his own and expect everyone to look away when he gets caught.
This is arguably Paul's first meaningful test of adversity since getting elected in 2010, which offers a peak into his character and instincts as a politician. So far, it would appear the senator is struggling badly with this test.