There is a reason that Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and the handful of lawmakers who agree with him are constantly demonized on both sides of the legislative aisle and in mainstream media reports: He criticizes the political establishment, spending equal time bashing big-government Republicans and Obama-worshipping Democrats.
On CNN’s “The Situation Room” this week, Paul delivered a fiery rebuke of the George W. Bush Administration’s “really, really bad” pre-9/11 security protocols and the abrogation of Constitutional rights the White House deemed acceptable following the attacks.
“Really, someone should have been removed from office for that, and they should have said this is never going to happen again,” Rand said of the “really, really bad intelligence” and “really bad police work” that left the government unprepared for the attacks.
Paul said that instead of realizing and moving to correct failures in a Constitutional manner, the government took advantage of a shaken populace to double down on the unConstitutional initiatives that Americans live with today.
“Instead they said, ‘oh, we need to look at the records of all the innocent Americans’ phone calls every day.’ And I think you need to have a respect for the Bill of Rights, a respect for privacy and particularly a respect for the fourth amendment,” he said.
Paul’s tirade was in response to questions over criticism he received from former Vice President Dick Cheney for speaking out about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.
Early in the week, Cheney appeared on FOX News and defended still-standing Bush Administration intelligence efforts.
“Congress, in fact, authorized the president to use military force to deal with that crisis,” Cheney said during the interview. “And that put you over into the category of being able to use all of your military assets, your intelligence assets, and so forth, in order to protect the country against another attack.”
Paul, with his penchant for civil libertarianism, appears to stand apart from many of his Congressional peers in the GOP, as well as Democrats, with regard to the NSA scandal. Stepping out of line with the leadership among both parties, Paul has referred to NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden as a “civil disobedient,” whereas his legislative seniors have much preferred “traitor.”
“On deciding when you decide to become a civil disobedient — we’ve had famous ones in our career, but some of them only had to serve, like [Henry David] Thoreau only had to serve one day in jail, Martin Luther King served 30 days in jail,” Paul told FOX’s Sean Hannity this week. “[Snowden] may be looking at life in prison. … People are saying, ‘Oh, he ought to just come home.’ But I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad idea if he’s facing life in prison.”
For his troubles pushing an idea of a more libertarian-leaning future for mainstream American politics, the media pulls a familiar stunt in covering Paul. It’s a shtick that his own father, former Representative Ron Paul, is certainly familiar with: Make him look as loony and dangerous as possible (which certainly must be getting increasingly difficult while establishment politicians are making themselves look wrongheaded without any help).
The Times piece painted Paul as an anti-democracy Ayn Rand fanatic with a political philosophy akin to “a kind of inverted Marxism.”
But, Friedersdorf notes:
In the political press, it happens again and again: libertarian leaning folks are portrayed as if they’re radical, extremist ideologues, even when they’re expressing ideas that are widely held by Americans across the political spectrum.
After enduring the political misguidance of the past decade and a half, it seems it would be impossible to imagine that trying out some of the proposals of anti-establishment political thinkers could yield any less-appealing legislative results.