All in all, it’s been a pretty bad week for Rand Paul. The liberal media, anyway, has been making a lot of noise about his shadier political associations and long-standing penchant for conspiratorial theorizing, not to mention his relationship with Alex Jones. He’s faced a lot of questions about flip-flopping and backsliding too, which made him act a little peevish and mansplainy with some female reporters.
Maybe he can ooze out from under Alex Jones and the Southern Avenger — the mainstream media seems incapable of appreciating just how far right and racist some of these people really are. Look how long Pat Buchanan stayed in the mainstream. Paul Senior got something of a free ride too, even if he did get called out a few times about those racist newsletters.
But the thing about the Pauls’ brand of right wing populism is that its enemies aren’t just minorities, immigrants, and the poor — they are elites, too, which is to say, the very rich, powerful, ultra-connected people who get invited to Bilderberg meetings, speculate on international currencies, trade oil futures, choose the leaderships of developing countries, and in general, underwrite and lead the Republican Party, which Rand now aspires to do (not to mention the free world). Paul wants to get credit for hating the Republicans but he also wants to outdo them at their own game — and become their acknowledged leader. He is the ultimate cognitive dissonance candidate.
And notice that I’m not saying anything about the police, law and order, incarceration, recreational drugs, the military, and all the other issues where Paul once defied Republican orthodoxy.
Faced with questions about some of those exact things, he purportedly stormed out of an interview with The Guardian.
If you watch the video, you’ll see that this wasn’t the tantrum the headlines made it out to be; he was over-scheduled. But you’ll also see that he is brittle and defensive, and has a manner that falls a few yards short of commanding or even comfortable in his own skin. He looks a lot like a son who is desperate to please his overbearing father, but who might also have some Oedipal ambivalence about what that entails. He’s in a real bind — he can’t make any headway at all unless he throws his father under a bus and offers himself up to the Koches and Sheldon Adelson.
It seemed to me that the only time Al Gore looked relaxed and at peace with himself during the 2000 campaign was when he finally made his concession speech. He had both won the presidency and lost it, and so in a way he was having his cake and eating it too — fulfilling his father’s dream while also failing — and at the same time, escaping the prison of expectations that his life had been up to that moment. No wonder he went on to get a divorce and make a billion dollars — it was like he was finally free to be whatever he wanted to be.
I wondered if Romney’s robotic weirdness in 2012 (and Romney at his worst is much more formidable than Rand Paul at his best) wasn’t a manifestation of that same kind of filial ambivalence too.