Rand Paul, Distilled

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JONATHAN CHAIT OCTOBER 1, 2010

Rand Paul, Distilled

[Guest post by Noam Scheiber:]

Chait linked to Jason Zengerle's excellent Rand Paul profile earlier this week, but I thought it was worth excerpting one more portion, which struck me (and presumably Jason, given its placement in the piece) as kind of the essence of the guy:

Paul pauses again, although this time it's not out of any hesitation on his part; he's just making sure we're still with him. "In 1923, when they destroyed the currency, they elected Hitler. And so they elected somebody who vilified one group of people, but he promised them, 'I will give you security if you give me your liberty,' and they voted him in. And that's not to mean that anybody around is Hitler, but it's to mean that you don't want chaos in your country. And we could have chaos, not just because of the Democrats, but because the Democrats and the Republicans have all been spending us into oblivion. And having a massive debt runs the risk of chaos at some point. Not tomorrow, maybe not next week—I mean, I can't even predict the stock market six months from now. But I think that a country is in danger that spends beyond its means and lives beyond its means. And I don't ever say it started with President Obama. I think it started long ago."

It's an incredible performance, one that begins with a gentle distancing from a loony analogy before reframing the analogy to make it seem less loony, then introducing a new analogy that isn't just loony, it's repugnant, but that also, as the analogy gets fleshed out in greater detail, begins to reveal itself as conforming to a certain logic that might be worthy of debate—all before ending on a bipartisan, pox-on-both-their-houses note that makes it clear that no, he was not comparing Obama to Hitler.

Unlike some of the prominent Tea Party leaders he's routinely lumped in with, Paul is not an idiot. When I asked a friend of his to characterize Paul's conversations with Sarah Palin, who provided him with an early endorsement, the friend replied: "Brief." Paul doesn't avoid the press because, like Sharron Angle, he's afraid of revealing his ignorance; rather, he does so because he's afraid he'll be unable to resist the temptation to prove how smart he is.

This is why I think the GOP insiders who believe Paul can be tamed are ultimately wrong. The guy can't help himself--he's just dying to let you know what he thinks. And, if he wins, there will be too many opportunities/ temptations to say so. In fact, it's not even clear he can make it to Election Day before letting it rip.

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posted in: jonathan chait, midterm elections, politics, hitler, rand paul

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