Sunday 23 May 2010

How Rand Paul outsmarted us all…

Remember the West Wing episode in which the President caught a lot of flack for saying something controversial to a reporter when he thought the mike was off? Only it wasn’t a mistake – he did it on purpose?

I’m thinking Rand Paul did the same sort of thing on Rachel Maddow.

Let me set the stage here. After the 2008 election, statisticians took a good look at the election results, county by county, and compared them with the 2004 race. They found that most of the country gave Obama more support than Kerry had gotten in 2004, which is unsurprising since Obama won and Kerry lost. But there is a particular part of the country where Obama actually lost ground, relative to Kerry. That zone runs from West Virginia, down the Appalachians through Kentucky and Tennessee, and then across the river into Arkansas and Oklahoma. In other words, the economically depressed areas filled with white racists didn’t like having a black president.

The epicenter of that we-hate-Obama belt is in Tennessee. Kentucky, right next door, was also really bad for Obama – he lost Kentucky by almost 300,000 votes, one of his five or six worst states.

Everybody is bellowing that Rand Paul blew it on the Maddow show. I don’t think he did. I think he signalled to his true supporters – the gigantic racist vote in Kentucky – that he is one of them. That was no mistake: it was a perfect reflection of his own views, as well as those of his father, who argued six years ago that the federal government was wrong to prevent private businesses from discriminating against minorities. He is emitting an endless series of explanations, not to clarify his views, but to keep his name out there front and center – to remind his true followers that he is still one of them.

And Paul’s latest policy statement on BP is also in keeping with that. BP is a foreign company that has inflicted incredible disaster on the American economy, but Rand Paul is insisting that Obama is “un-American” for criticizing BP. In other words, Obama the blameless American leader is more un-American than the foreign folks who turned Louisiana into a toxic waste dump.

Or, to break the Rand Paul code, “Kenya” is more un-American than “Britain”, because “black” is more un-American than “white”.

“I am still one of you! I’m still a racist! I’m not going to go Hollywood on you!”

The media people think they’re hurting Paul when they label him an extremist. Au contraire: every time they say it, he wins more supporters in the only place he cares about, Kentucky. The fact that the other 49 states think he’s Lester Maddox elicits only amused indifference in him.

All Republicans know by now that tangling with Rachel Maddow and her ninja-like research staff is like hanging a curveball on Albert Pujols: you make the slightest mistake and he will give the ball a ride all the way to the Mississippi River. So Rand Paul had nothing to gain and everything to lose by going on Maddow’s show, deep in enemy territory on MSNBC: unless Paul intended to make a “mistake” on purpose.

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