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“A Lot Of Homework To Do”: Rand Paul’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

It’s probably safe to say Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has had better weeks. Just over the last few days he started to lose his cool on NPR when asked about a neo-confederate he co-authored a book with; he was caught making ridiculous boasts about his record on minority rights; and he repeated a bizarre conspiracy theory about George Stephanopoulos that’s already been debunked.

And then, after all of this, the Kentucky Republican sat down for a chat with Businessweek‘s Josh Green.

Green: A recent article in the New Republic said your budget would eviscerate the departments of Energy, State, Commerce, EPA, FDA, Education, and many others. Would Americans support that?

Paul: My budget is similar to the Penny Plan, which cuts 1 percent a year for five or six years and balances the budget. Many Americans who have suffered during a recession have had to cut their spending 1 percent, and they didn’t like doing it, but they were able to do it to get their family’s finances back in order. I see no reason why government can’t cut 1 percent of its spending.

Except, whether the senator realizes it or not, his description of his plan is extremely deceptive. As Ezra Klein explained, Paul’s response wasn’t actually an answer: “Paul’s budget eliminates the Department of Commerce. It also eliminates the Department of Education. And the Department for Housing and Urban Development. And the Department of Energy. The State Department gets cut by more than 50 percent. Meanwhile, it increases spending on defense by $126 billion. Perhaps these are good ideas! But Paul doesn’t defend them. He obscures them. He tries to make his cuts sound small even though, in the areas Green asked about, they’re huge.”

In theory, Paul could at least try to explain why he thinks cutting the State Department budget in half would be good for the United States. But he either can’t or won’t do that, so he repeats vague talking points that obscure the facts.

Wait, it gets worse.

Green: Any political consultant who saw that list [of cabinet agencies Paul intends to eliminate] would tear out his hair and say the American people would never accept it. You disagree with that conventional wisdom?

Paul: You know, the thing is, people want to say it’s extreme. But what I would say is extreme is a trillion-dollar deficit every year. I mean, that’s an extremely bad situation.

Except, we’re not running trillion-dollar deficits every year. If the senator takes this issue so seriously, shouldn’t he keep up with the basics of current events?

Green: Who would your ideal Fed chairman be?

Paul: Hayek would be good, but he’s deceased.

Green: Nondead Fed chairman.

Paul: Friedman would probably be pretty good, too, and he’s not an Austrian, but he would be better than what we have.

Again, Paul doesn’t seem to know what he’s saying. As Jon Chait explained, the senator’s answer “makes no sense” because, “Paul is a hard-money fanatic who wants to abolish the Federal Reserve’s role in using money policy to stabilize the economy. That’s the joke. Milton Friedman, though, had the complete opposite view of monetary policy. His central academic insight was support for very active monetary policy.”

My principal concern with Rand Paul is not his ideology. On plenty of subjective questions, he and I would recommend very different courses of action, which is what spirited political debate is all about.

Rather, what troubles me about the senator is that he doesn’t seem to have the foggiest idea what he’s talking about. Worse, it’s not like he’s ignorant of obscure policy details on issues he deems irrelevant — Paul is strikingly confused about the issues he claims to care about most.

This Businessweek interview was a mess for the senator on economic matters, but let’s not forget that Paul also doesn’t seem to understand his own views on the use of drones, which is another issue he says he cares deeply about.

If this guy intends to seek national office and ask the American mainstream to consider him credible, he has a lot of homework to do — homework he probably should have done before making the transition from self-accredited ophthalmologist to U.S. senator.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 9, 2013

August 10, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Rewarded With Media Attention”: Code Pink Heckler Was Just Plain Rude And Disrespectful

It says something when the president’s handling of a heckler becomes a story in and of itself, especially when that story is a sideline to a very important and substance-filled speech about the future prosecution of terrorists and the use of unmanned drones. And what it says isn’t good.

President Obama was interrupted several times by a woman (later identified with being with the left-leaning group Code Pink) who badgered him with questions about closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. This is an important question, to be sure, and Obama has yet to follow through on a campaign promise to close it. But yelling at the chief executive – no matter who he is or what you think of him – in the middle of a speech is just rude. The fact that she did it while he was in the middle of addressing that very question is even more irritating. And it exposes what the true motivation was on the part of the protester: to draw attention to herself.

Obama handled it well, acknowledging her presence and her questions (an unnecessary concession to anyone who disrupts for the sake of disrupting) and finally reminding her that free speech means that she needs to listen, as well, while he is talking. The woman undermined her own legitimate cause by making it more about herself and the theater of it all than about the issue itself. And that is a theme that is becoming increasingly pervasive.

Court-watchers are horrified that convicted murderer Jodi Arias was allowed to give interviews while the jury was still deliberating on her (yet undetermined) penalty. That’s an understandable emotion – who wants to hear from someone found guilty of a brutal killing? But when the media (and viewers) turn the criminal justice system into a three-act play, we can’t be shocked if one of the main characters wants to deliver a closing soliloquy.

The hearings on Capitol Hill over a series of controversies – some far more serious than the others – have also become low-grade theater, with the accusations, rhetoric and character assessments dominating the process. The sheer soap opera tone of it all threatens to overshadow the very serious and important role of Congress in overseeing the executive branch. But the setup of the modern system, in which everything is televised, 24/7, promotes the idea of government as theater.

As for Obama and his heckler, how sad that the issue has become not why an adult person would behave so rudely, denying the president the right to speak in the name of the First Amendment, but how the president handled the situation. It’s unfortunately become acceptable – or at least, accepted – for grown people to scream at hosts at town hall meetings, shout over people espousing opposing viewpoints on TV, and even to interrupt the president of the United States while he is delivering a formal speech on a deadly serious topic. Most of us learned at the age of about four that such behavior would be punished, and so stopped doing it. Such behavior is now rewarded with media attention.

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, May 24, 2013

May 25, 2013 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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