Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Rand Paul, the “Southern Avenger,” and the End of the Benefit of the Doubt

Rand Paul’s political career got off to a rough start. Almost immediately after winning the GOP Senate primary in 2010, and thus becoming the odds-on favorite to win the general election to be Kentucky’s junior senator, he was asked by Rachel Maddow a question he had been asked many times before about the Civil Rights Act. Maddow asked him the question because he has always given a long and winding response to it–something that would crater on a political talk show designed for sound bites regardless of the topic but was particularly egregious given the subject.

Paul’s answer left unforgivably unclear whether he would actually have supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act, leading to days of press speculation and inquiries as to where the senator-to-be stood on the landmark piece of civil rights legislation. (He began future answers by stating clearly he would have voted for it.) But this was more than just a case of a rookie politico mishandling a sensitive question from a hostile host; it went to the very heart of whether libertarians could shed an image that is in many cases unfair and exaggerated but continues to put a ceiling of popular support over their heads.

And that image owes much not to libertarians’ political rivals but to their own political figures, like former Congressman Ron Paul, in whose name a racist newsletter was published and whose followers spewed baldly anti-Semitic chants at American politicians. (The politicians in question weren’t Jewish, but no one ever accused the snarling bigots of adhering to logic and reasoning.) Ron Paul, who proclaimed America to blame for the terrorism perpetrated on its soil and elsewhere, is also Rand Paul’s father.

It may be unfair to brand the son with the sins of the father. But as our former COMMENTARY colleague Alana Goodman reveals over at the Free Beacon, the son is undermining any argument in favor of giving him the benefit of the doubt:

A close aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) who co-wrote the senator’s 2011 book spent years working as a pro-secessionist radio pundit and neo-Confederate activist, raising questions about whether Paul will be able to transcend the same fringe-figure associations that dogged his father’s political career.

Paul hired Jack Hunter, 39, to help write his book The Tea Party Goes to Washington during his 2010 Senate run. Hunter joined Paul’s office as his social media director in August 2012.

From 1999 to 2012, Hunter was a South Carolina radio shock jock known as the “Southern Avenger.” He has weighed in on issues such as racial pride and Hispanic immigration, and stated his support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

During public appearances, Hunter often wore a mask on which was printed a Confederate flag.

Prior to his radio career, while in his 20s, Hunter was a chairman in the League of the South, which “advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic.”

There is much more at the link, including comments from Hunter himself in an interview with the Beacon.

During the George W. Bush years, one surefire way to tell someone had a conspiratorial view of foreign policy was if they would whine wild-eyed about the Jewish “neocons” who supposedly steered American foreign policy according to Israel’s wishes. The far left and Ron Paul’s followers on the right were particularly obsessed with this idea, and they retained this psychosis long after Bush left office. The inane among them still talk this way, and apparently that category includes Hunter–the man who speaks for Rand Paul’s social media apparatus:

randpaultweet

It should go without saying that this is a silly way for a United States senator to talk, not least because Americans would like to believe their representatives are above this sort of thing. But I suppose it’s nice to know at least that the voice behind this asininity is Hunter’s, not Paul’s. But if the best thing you can say about Paul in this regard is that he hired a dim neoconfederate clown to speak for him, that doesn’t reflect all too well on Paul, does it?

Rand Paul seems to surround himself with the same sort of people you had the unfortunate experience of encountering around Ron Paul. And according to Goodman’s article on Hunter, Rand Paul’s staff are under the impression that Rand agrees with Ron on policy, but is just willing to “play the game” (i.e. mislead the public) better than Paul the elder. Perhaps that means it’s time for Rand Paul to make perfectly clear where he stands on all these issues, rather than issuing vague pronouncements and letting the public guess.

Rand Paul is widely respected even by those with whom he often disagrees as being a straight-talking man of principle. But his close advisor and sometime spokesman suggests Rand is really just a less honest version of Ron. If Rand thinks he’s worthy not just of a Senate seat but of the Oval Office, he’s going to have to do a hell of a lot better than that.