Rand Paul

Return of the Aqua Buddha! Rand Paul Survives Another Long Magazine Feature


Rand Paul at the Urban League. |||

The New Yorker has published an 11,753-word article on Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and his political navigations on the way to a 2016 White House run. The tepid, conclusion-averse nature of Ryan Lizza's piece—as opposed to more bold profiles in recent years in the New York Times Magazine and The New Republic—is encapsulated in the subhed: "The Senator has fought to go mainstream with the ideology that he shares with his father. How far can that strategy take him?"

While the article ends with some late-breaking pessimism on that question, in the form of quotes from observers doubtful about the salability of Paul's positions on foreign policy, criminal justice, and abortion, the piece begins by hailing the potential breakthrough nature of his candidacy:

Like many Republicans speaking before a black audience, Paul quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., but he also invoked Malcolm X. He declared, "I support the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act." If enacted, Paul's agenda would arguably do more to address issues that are important to the black community than anything that other members of his party are currently proposing. […]

In some respects, Paul is to Republicans in 2014 what Barack Obama was to Democrats in 2006: the Party's most prized fund-raiser and its most discussed senator, willing to express opinions unpopular within his party, and capable of energizing younger voters.

Much of the rest of the article is what you've read before about Rand Paul, only with more detail. Aqua Buddha makes a comeback, only this time GQ's unnamed target of Paul's collegiate pranking gets named, and quoted (saying "I would not use that as a specific reason not to vote for him"). Lizza also provides some important new anecdotal evidence that Paul's best college buddy was fond of doing nitrous hits (whee!).

We hear more about Rand's interest in campaigning for his father, but we get some extra sauce about his talent for the job. Paul's history of making philosophically-based arguments against the government prohibiting private-sector discrimination gets a few more citations (sample bit of 1982 writing: While "eliminating racial and sexual prejudice" had "noble aspiration," such laws "necessarily utilize the ignoble means of coercive force"). And there is the requisite people-in-his-world-have-played-the-race-card angle, complete with references to Ron Paul's newsletters, Jack Hunter's past, and Lysander Spooner's fanclub. But as indicated by the article's lead anecdote of Paul speaking in front of the Urban League, Lizza seems much less convinced by this critique than New York Times writers Sam Tanenhaus and Jim Rutenberg were in their dot-connecting exercise this January.

After the jump, some bits of particular interest to Reason readers.

* Rand Paul does not enjoy paying taxes, or suffering through regulations governing what he can't do with his property. He also was a Lysander Spooner fan in college.


* His views on criminal justice have been heavily influenced by Michelle Alexander's recent drug war book, The New Jim Crow, and also by his ongoing engagement with various African-American communities.

* Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said (in August anyway), that he'd back Paul if he won the 2016 GOP nomination. Quote: "I've seen him grow and I've seen him mature and I've seen him become more centrist. I know that if he were President or a nominee I could influence him, particularly some of his views and positions on national security. He trusts me particularly on the military side of things, so I could easily work with him. It wouldn't be a problem."

* Here's a single, thin, pre-political-career anecdote about maybe wanting to legalize drugs, which Paul will likely never advocate in office:

In 2000, when a caller to "Kentucky Tonight" asked guests what they thought of a plan to legalize all drugs, release all nonviolent drug offenders, and use the savings to fix Social Security, Paul responded, "I would agree."


As with so many aspects of his personal history, Paul approaches the subject of his intellectual influences as though he were defusing a bomb. In his book, he wrote about several libertarian writers he had turned to since high school: Ayn Rand ("one of the most influential critics of government intervention and champions of individual free will"), Hayek ("'The Road to Serfdom' is a must-read for any serious conservative"), and the Mises disciple Murray Rothbard ("a great influence on my thinking"). In my conversation with him, he shrugged them off.

Ayn Rand was just "one of many authors I like," he said. "And it's, like, 'Oh, because I believe in Ayn Rand I must be an atheist, I must believe in everybody needs to be selfish all the time, and I must believe that Howard Roark is great and Ellsworth Toohey is evil,' but she's one of many authors I've read. I like Barbara Kingsolver, too."

Hayek? "I wouldn't say I'm like some great Hayek scholar."

Rothbard? "There are many people I'm sure who are more schooled."

Reason on Rand Paul here.


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  1. He also was a Lysander Spooner fan in college.

    That’s enough for me.

    1. Well, at least we know he wasn’t treasonous.

  2. If this doesn’t get him to guest on < i The Independents, nothing will.

  3. He’s like that one geek in your friend group who thinks he’s too cool for you. So in high school he tries to befriend all the jocks and cool kids. With a few solid backslaps they take him in, all while snickering to each other and glancing around in that “knowing” way. They get tired of him, steal his lunch money, throw him in the dumpster, and leave him out to dry.


    1. your knowledge of this phenomenon seems unusually…intimate.

  4. “Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said (in August anyway), that he’d back Paul if he won the 2016 GOP nomination.”

    Well, McCain damned well better. Think of all the Republicans who held their noses, repressed their gag reflexes, and voted for McCain. Now McCain sure as hell better not get all delicate about endorsing his party’s own candidate.

    1. Do you think it ever occurred to team red that telling their own base to go fuck themselves may not have been the best idea?

      1. Maybe I’m a little naive of primary politics, but McCain won the primary in 2008 with 72% of the delegates (and Romney took another 12% that year); considering that primaries draw most heavily from base voters (AFAIK), is it not a reasonable conclusion that (by the numbers), McCain was the candidate most representative of the base (ca. 2008)?

        In other words, if the Republican base opposed McCain, they probably should not have elected him their party’s representative.

        1. Looking a little more closely, McCain still won a plurality of the primary popular vote (44%) in 2008 and Romney took the next largest share (22%). That’s not as definitive, but it still points strongly to “the base” favoring milquetoast “moderate” candidates.

          1. Perhaps because they bought the story that
            moderates like McCain and Romney were the only way to beat Obama, and a more ideological candidate would lose?

            1. Nah. most people that voted are just stupid and agree with the platforms of those guys.

            2. Eh, I’m just speculating, but you would think after the failure of that strategy in 2008 it would not be repeated in 2012, yet Romney won 52% of the primary popular vote and Newt Gingrich took another 14% (although Santorum was second with 20%).

              1. 2012 was just weird. Very few people actually liked Romney, but every other candidate imploded around him. The big money went all in for him early and a lot of people voted for him out of fatalism rather than anything else.

                1. Romney was to 2012 what Kerry was to team blue in 2004. GWB was vulnerable in 2004, but Kerry ran as Bush Lite. If a viable alternative had run against against W, or if Kerry had voted against the Iraq War, the outcome could have been different. If Romney hadn’t been behind Mass. healthcare, the outcome could have been different. In both races, the challenging team pick a guy that didn’t have the edge on the incumbent’s most vulnerable issue.

                  1. The outcome of what would’ve been dif? The nomination, or the gen’l election? I seriously doubted, and still doubt, it mattered in 2012 who the GOP nominated for prez. The decisive vote was Obama vs. not-Obama, and practically anyone would’ve filled the not-Obama role as well. Obama beat not-Obama; nothing not-Obama could’ve done or been would’ve made a significant dif. Practically nobody in the gen’l election was voting for Romney per se, nor would anyone more have voted for anyone else they could’ve nominated. Not-Obama had plenty of support (i.e. there was a lot of opposition to Obama), but not as much as Obama. Whoever not-Obama was could neither have significantly built on, nor cut into, hir support.

                    So all this analysis of how good or bad Romney was is a waste of effort. He might be able to run for some office some time where he actually has personal positives or negatives that matter, but 2012 for prez was not it.

          2. McCain won primary season due to his results in the early primaries, which depended on non-Republican votes:


            1. Thank you, and that’s something else I was thinking. I really hate the way primaries are done gradually. Seems like the whole point is to get a candidate preferred by the ag subsidy crowd and northeast/Midwest moderates.

              1. You would prefer if it was the Rick Santorum/Mike Huckabee type candidate?

  5. Here’s a question- if he doesn’t win the nomination would he pull a Johnson and go for the libertarian nomination? If so, would that create the biggest libertarian electoral success of all time?

    (of course he wouldn’t- he’s not a libertarian. but, think about it.)

    1. I’ve often said he can win the nomination by simply telling the establishment Republicans the following:

      I want to be president. I will be on the ballot in 2016. I will continue to be on the ballot until I win the presidency OR I have been the Republican nominee, once.

      That simple. Watch the establishment fall in line then.

  6. I know that if he were President or a nominee I could influence him, particularly some of his views and positions on national security. He trusts me particularly on the military side of things, so I could easily work with him. It wouldn’t be a problem.

    That is what you think, you old dust farter – you won’t be around much longer to plague advise and influence a freakin’ President, much less another Senator.

    1. I just imagine McCain blathering on over a speakerphone while Rand reads the paper or a proposed bill and periodically throws in an “uh-huh” to sound engaged.

    2. *That is what you think, you old dust farter – you won’t be around much longer*

      When Obama was running against McCain and people I knew tried to use the argument that McCain would probably keel over dead if elected–therefore we should vote for Obama, since he was young–I pointed out over and over that McCain’s mother was still alive [Still is! 102!] and Obama’s parents were both dead, prematurely.

      So don’t be too sure that McCain “won’t be around much longer”, simpleton.

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