By most measures, last week featured the start of two of the biggest, most important political debates of the year: (1) whether religious liberty includes the right to discriminate against LGBT consumers; and (2) an international agreement on Iran's nuclear program.
Both developments quickly became litmus-test issues for the Republicans running for the White House, and one by one, each weighed in on the subjects. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), an unannounced presidential hopeful, was the only one to say literally nothing.
Asked for comment, Paul's spokesperson would only say, "The Senator is out of pocket with family this week and has not weighed in at this time."
At a certain level, it's hard to blame the guy. The Kentucky Republican is formally launching his national bid tomorrow, so it's hardly outrageous that he wanted a week of downtime before the start of a grueling process that, whether he's successful or not, will take a minimum of a year. Paul could have had aides write up brief statements, taking a side on the major issues of the day, but the senator and his team took a pass, remaining silent and rejecting opportunities to comment.
But there was one, brief exception (via Ed Kilgore).
Despite the Paul camp's avowal of reticence in the week leading up to his announcement, in a story published in Politico on Wednesday afternoon, an anonymous Paul aide was quoted affirming the senator's support for a bill backed by the ethanol industry -- an influential lobbying bloc in Iowa.
"Senator, there's a national debate underway about private businesses looking for a legal right to discriminate against gay consumers. Your GOP rivals support the idea. What do you think?" Silence.
"Senator, a framework is now in place to stop Iran's ambitions towards a nuclear weapon, and if it advances, the international agreement would likely prevent a war. Is this a positive or a negative development?" Silence.
"Senator, folks in Iowa like ethanol." And just like that, Team Rand Paul makes an exception to the communications lock-down.
It's going to be that kind of year.