Rand Paul (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is officially running for president, but his White House aspirations are just as clumsily implausible as an Ayn Rand plot.
The son of conservative folk hero Ron Paul, the retired Texas congressman and failed Republican presidential candidate, likes to present himself as a civil libertarian.
But his actual positions on many issues are mean-spirited, religiously tinged claptrap that’s reactionary enough to win a GOP primary, but far too hard-right to win a national election.
For example, Paul thinks six months is plenty of time to pay unemployment benefits to jobless workers – and anything beyond that does them a “disservice” by encouraging them to remain unemployed. “I don’t doubt the president’s motives, but black unemployment in America is double white unemployment — and it hasn’t budged under this president. A lot of African-Americans voted for him, but I don’t think it’s worked.”
Paul is against public assistance on a fundamental level, once suggesting the possibility of cutting government benefits for unwed mothers to discourage them from having more children. “Maybe we have to say ‘enough’s enough, you shouldn’t be having kids after a certain amount.’” The small-government conservative admitted that would be unpopular and difficult to implement, but he thinks it’s worth a shot. “It’s tough to tell a woman with four kids that she’s got a fifth kid we’re not going to give her any more money, but we have to figure out how to get that message through.”
The libertarian senator’s views on abortion are right in line with the GOP establishment, and the self-certified ophthalmologist touts his professional bona fides to argue that life begins at conception. “I often say in my speeches that I don’t think a civilization can long endure that doesn’t respect the rights of the unborn,” said Paul, who supports fetal personhood legislation that would outlaw abortion and likely prohibit contraception, stem-cell research, and in-vitro fertilization.
Paul also cites the same ridiculous slippery-slope arguments as any religious conservative against same-sex marriage. “If we have no laws on this people take it to one extension further,” Paul said. “Does it have to be humans?” He later claimed his warning against human-animal marriage was sarcastic and pointed to other arguments he made during the same Glenn Beck radio appearance, saying that he opposed marriage equality on economic grounds. “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.’”
Paul agreed with Beck during another radio appearance that Obama’s immigration policies would make most Americans “second-class citizens” compared to undocumented migrants. “I’m thinking about lobbying to become an illegal immigrant so I wouldn’t have to participate in Obamacare,” Paul said.
Speaking of the Affordable Care Act, the senator backed the Republican shutdown of the federal government in an ill-fated attempt to defund the health care law – although Paul publicly said he was willing to compromise. “I know we don’t want to be here, but we’re going to win this, I think,” Paul told then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
He used the death of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by officers while selling untaxed cigarettes, to argue against government regulation. “I think it’s hard not to watch that video of him saying, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,’ and not be horrified by it,” Paul said. “But I think there’s something bigger than the individual circumstances. Obviously, the individual circumstances are important. But I think it is also important to know that some politician put a tax of $5.85 on a pack of cigarettes, so they’ve driven cigarettes underground so as to not make them so expensive.”
The self-certified physician expressed doubts about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines in the midst of a measles outbreak linked to anti-vaxxer families. “I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul said, citing evidence that directly contradicts the scientific and medical consensus.
The senator furiously sniffed that he didn’t realize speeches required citations after MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow caught him plagiarizing a Wikipedia article on the movie, Gattaca. Additional analysis found that Paul had lifted portions of other speeches without citing his sources, and the senator later scrubbed those remarks from his website. “I will admit sometimes we haven’t footnoted things properly,” he said. “I’ve written scientific papers. I know how to footnote things, but we’ve never footnoted speeches — and if that’s the standard I’m going to be held to, yes, we will change and we will footnote things.”
Paul and Maddow famously tousled before over his controversial remarks on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Paul, during his 2010 Senate run, defended the property rights of restaurant owners who wished to bar blacks. “Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant — or does the government own his restaurant?” he said at the time. “These are important philosophical debates but not a very practical discussion.” Maddow mocked Paul four years later, when the Kentucky senator celebrated the 50th anniversary of the landmark legislation.