Rand Paul open to misinterpretation

was rand paul calling fellow tea partier a loser?

Herald-leader columnistJuly 25, 2010 

LOUISVILLE — Two weeks and a couple of days out from the pork, mutton, chicken, fresh veggies, homemade deserts, bingo, political theatrics, jeering, cheering and hot air (climate-wise and bombast-wise) of the 130th Fancy Farm Picnic, U.S. Senate candidates Jack Conway and Rand Paul honed their spiels before a smaller and less rambunctious audience Thursday — the Kentucky Farm Bureau board of directors and a standing-room-only crowd of state and national media.

Little news was made, unless you consider this rare but ongoing display of national interest in the politics of little ol' Kentucky news.

I just find it worrisome, for a strictly personal reason. My concern is that hordes of national media tourists will descend on Fancy Farm, devour all those veggies before I get to them and get in the way of us local yokels of the press who melt there on an annual basis. Should that happen, particularly the veggies part, I fear the picnic's new ban on profanity might be violated.

If any news was made Thursday, it came from the darling of the Tea Party movement and Republican Senate nominee, Rand Paul.

During the Farm Bureau forum, he said unequivocally, "I'm going up there and vote for Mitch McConnell to be leader." At a later press conference, though, Paul semi-unmade that news by sounding, well, a bit dodgy about his support for the Senate minority leader.

Paul's tendency to explain himself one way today and a slightly or significantly different way later today may be the reason he felt compelled to say at one point during the forum, "I see we'll probably have to clarify some misinterpretations of my positions." Sometimes, positions get misinterpreted because they're in a constant state of flux.

On the other hand, it isn't paranoia if they really are out to get you. And Conway fed that belief by telling the Farm Bureau board Paul has said he wants to get rid of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Paul has hinted at harboring such feelings, even strongly hinted at it. But no one yet has found a record of him expressing those feelings out loud.

Farm subsidies are another matter. Paul repeatedly has called for a rollback of farm subsidies, and I give him credit for sticking to that position in answering the Farm Bureau board's questions.

What perked my ears up most during the forum's give and take was Paul's repeated — frequently repeated — assertion that, if elected, the first vote Conway would cast "is going to be for (current Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid."

I have doubts that Paul gave full consideration to the implications of this comment before he made it — over and over — because it amounts to a concession speech for Reid's Republican opponent, Sharron Angle, another darling of the Tea Party movement.

Conway can't vote for Reid if Reid isn't in the Senate come January, and Reid can't return to the Senate without defeating Angle in November. So, Paul's comment represents a resounding vote of confidence in Reid's ability to do that and an equally resounding vote of no confidence in Angle.

Bet that really went over well with national Republican leaders and members of Nevada's Tea Party movement.

It will be interesting to see how Paul clarifies my digital recorder's misinterpretation of his words.

As a preview of what we might expect these two to throw at each other during the Fancy Farm oratory, Thursday's forum suggests Paul may just lead Republican picnickers in a chant of "Obama, Reid, Pelosi and Conway. Obama, Reid, Pelosi and Conway."

Conway will portray Paul as "risky" and "radical" and maybe someone who will form an "obscure caucus" to sit around and talk about obscure things ...

Hey, wait a minute. Didn't Paul mention Sharron Angle as a potential member of the Tea Party caucus he wants to form with South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and others? Guess that was before he decided she's a loser.

Reach Larry Dale Keeling at (859) 231-3249, 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3249 or lkeeling@herald-leader.com.

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