Libertarian-leaning Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has announced for president, and the media is locked and loaded. This early warning shot came from Jeremy Peters, on the Paul trail in New Hampshire: "Paul Gets the TV Spotlight and Turns It on Interviewers in Testy Encounters."
Peters, who in February used the vaccine issue to smear conservatives as opposed to "modern science" on the Times' front page, made it clear in Thursday's edition that going after his media colleagues would be an unwise thing for Republican candidates to do, suggesting it played into a stereotype (fostered by those very same media colleagues) of the party as hard-edged and insensitive.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is spending the week trying to introduce himself to Americans as the sensitive, softer-edged face of the Republican Party. He talks about how helping his grandmother as she lost her sight inspired him to become an eye surgeon – and how on a volunteer mission in Guatemala, he enabled a husband and wife to see each other clearly for the first time in years.
But that is not the picture some of his biggest audiences are getting.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, listen,” he chided Savannah Guthrie of NBC News on Wednesday morning after she summarized Mr. Paul’s views on foreign policy in a way he did not like. He then proceeded to lecture Ms. Guthrie on the proper way to conduct an interview.
“You’ve editorialized, let me answer,” he said. “You ask a question and you say, ‘Have your views changed?’ instead of editorializing and saying my views have changed.”
Rand Paul the irascible is rearing his head again, disquieting what should be a week of uncontroversial news after announcing that he would seek the Republican nomination for president.
"A week of uncontroversial news" is what Democratic candidates may be granted by their media allies, but certainly not Republicans who cast their hats into the presidential ring.
Democrats tried on Wednesday to cast Mr. Paul’s peevishness as sexist, given that two of the journalists he went after were women. But the record shows he has been just as impatient with men.
And on Wednesday, Mr. Paul’s patience grew short yet again in an interview with Philip Elliot of The Associated Press about his opposition to abortion rights. When pressed about exceptions if abortion were banned, Mr. Paul instead said: “I gave you about a five-minute answer. Put in my five-minute answer.”
Predictably, Peters failed to put in Paul's later response when asked about his AP interview, where Paul turned the tables on the media's abortion double standard, pressuring Republicans while ignoring the extremism of the Democrat's own position. Matthew Balan on NewsBusters caught Paul's message to the Democratic Party and its media allies: "Why don't we ask the DNC: Is it OK to kill a 7-pound baby in the uterus? You go back and go ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she's OK with killing a 7-pound baby that's just not born yet. Ask her when life begins, and ask Debbie when she's willing to protect life. When you get an answer from Debbie, come back to me."
Back to Peters:
Mr. Paul is fond of using phrases like “Don’t mischaracterize my position,” often when discussing issues like aid to Israel. He used to support a blanket abolition of foreign aid, then came around to a more nuanced -- and, critics said, politically expedient -- view that the United States should still provide aid to Israel.
But to hear him tell it, he is just a control freak.
Of course, Peters placed the accusation of "liberal media" in quotation marks.
Picking fights with the “liberal media” has also helped Mr. Paul energize the party’s conservative base. Right after he formally announced his candidacy on Tuesday, with dozens of journalists from across the country looking on, his Twitter feed showed a diatribe against the news media. “Thankfully, our national media doesn’t get to pick and choose our Republican Party’s presidential nominees,” one post said.
Mr. Paul’s aides point out that he is one of the most accessible of the 2016 hopefuls, noting that he gave a string of interviews and held a news conference on Wednesday.
In the interview on Wednesday, Mr. Paul sounded as if he was tired of questions premised on the idea that he has contradicted himself.
But he realized that it was only the second day of his campaign and that the questions were not going to get any nicer. Didn’t he?
“It may gear ’em up even more if they see it annoys me,” he said.
Liberal journalists on MSNBC quickly scolded Paul for his confrontation with their NBC colleague Savannah Guthrie.
A Wednesday Times editorial, "Can Rand Paul Win With His Principles?" managed to smear the entire GOP, casting Paul's libertarian politics in cynical terms while also bashing the GOP's "intolerant....far right" hue:
At some point in every election cycle since 1992, when the Republican “culture war” helped lead to President George H. W. Bush’s defeat by Bill Clinton, the Republican Party has made a display of talking about expanding its appeal beyond a base of voters that has steadily grown whiter, richer, more intolerant and more right wing.
Cue the token libertarian. For more than two decades, it was Representative Ron Paul. Now it is his son Rand, a senator from Kentucky, and, as of Tuesday, the second announced Republican candidate for president in 2016 (yes, poor reader, the vote is still a long 19 months away).
The Times editorial page has a peculiar view of what constitutes "pandering to the far right," judging by its hysterical reaction to Paul's mainstream Republican view on Iran.
Sometimes Mr. Paul sounds as if he is already pandering to the far right. He proclaimed that he firmly believed that President Obama cannot negotiate a deal with Iran without approval of Congress. And he parroted, ridiculously, the Republican propaganda line that Mr. Obama thinks he “can negotiate from a position of weakness.”