Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is now going by "doctor" on Twitter and has a new handle entirely. [...] Removing the title of "senator" from his Twitter handle could be one step in a presidential campaign that is expected to use antiestablishment and anti-Washington themes.
Swing by Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) new website for his presidential campaign and visitors will see many of the typical features for any candidate: an issues page, a donations page, information on how to volunteer, etc. What visitors won't see is any reference to the Kentucky Republican's current job: the candidate is described as "Dr. Rand Paul." The word "senator" is nowhere to be found.
Indeed, in the candidate's online store, the first item for sale is an eye chart featuring "Dr." in big bold letters above the candidate's official slogan.
Andrew Kaczynski noted this week that it's part of a broader branding overhaul.
In his official campaign kick-off speech yesterday, Paul twice referenced his work as a physician, but the words "Senate" and "senator" were not uttered. In fact, at one point, Paul told his audience, "I have been to Washington" -- as if he were some kind of tourist who briefly visited the nation's capital, rather than a sitting member of Congress since 2011.
As a matter of political strategy, all of this seems smart. Since medical professionals are widely respected -- and politicians are not -- it stands to reason that Paul would want to remind voters about his professional background, while putting some distance between his candidacy and the unpopular institution in which he serves.
But in the senator's case, there's also a downside.
The more Paul talks about his medical background, the more we're reminded that whenever medicine and politics have intersected lately, the GOP lawmaker has gotten himself into trouble with nonsense.
For example, Rand Paul's deeply ridiculous rhetoric about the Ebola virus looks absurd, if not genuinely dangerous, six months after the public-health scare.
His rhetoric about vaccines was arguably even more bizarre. Remember when he said vaccinations and "profound mental disorders" are "temporally related"?
Paul seems to think medical research at the National Institutes of Health is some kind of punch line, worthy of mockery. He's also been a longtime member of a medical organization, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, which has "expressed doubts about the connection between HIV and AIDS and suggested that President Barack Obama may have been elected because he was able to hypnotize voters."
Given all of this, does the senator really want to cite his work as a doctor as some kind of presidential qualification?