Two U.S. Senators -- one Republican, the other a socialist who votes with the Democrats -- are outside candidates for president. Both were profiled in Monday's New York Times, but with quite different results. While libertarian Republican Rand Paul's anti-surveillance crusade was caricatured as cynical "sloganeering," socialist Bernie Sanders' modest Iowa crowds were hailed as a liberal insurrection.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor Sunday night to successfully block a vote to extend NSA surveillance authority that the government has used since 9-11, defying what he called the "eye roll" caucus of Republicans hawks like Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsay Graham, whose actual eye-roll during Rand's remarks was caught on C-Span.
The snarky coverage Paul has received in the Times has been a bit "eye-rolling" as well, especially compared to the kind coverage of his fellow Sen. Bernie Sanders on the very next page of Monday's edition.
Right in the lead, reporter Jonathan Weisman reduced Paul's libertarian advocacy in squashing the NSA's bulk information collection program to a desperate, cynical campaign ploy:
With his presidential campaign flagging, Senator Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican known for a strong libertarian bent and a penchant for dramatics, understood on Sunday that he had to make good on his “Stand With Rand” sloganeering.
He needed to block a vote on the Senate floor to extend the vast surveillance authority the government has used since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It was a task he performed with relish, and he succeeded, at least temporarily.
The week leading up to the clash on the Senate floor was not good for Mr. Paul. The Republican establishment seemingly rose as one in umbrage after he faulted Republican hawks for the birth of the radical Islamic State, or ISIS. C-Span cameras caught one of those hawks, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, rolling his eyes mockingly on the Senate floor as Mr. Paul denounced the post-9/11 national security state.
A Quinnipiac University poll released last week showed Mr. Paul leading a second tier of Republican candidates. He trailed five early front-runners -- including long shots like former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and the retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson -- by a narrow margin.
So it came as no surprise when Mr. Paul took to the floor on Sunday evening to fulfill his promise to use his power as a single senator to try to ensure that the section of the Patriot Act used by the National Security Agency to vacuum up reams of telephone data would expire at midnight.
For more than a week, the senator’s official business and campaign imperatives have aligned seamlessly. When he gave a 10-and-a-half-hour talkathon on the Senate floor Wednesday to delay consideration of a Patriot Act extension, his campaign’s emails and Twitter feed urged supporters to post pictures of themselves in front of screens showing the senator’s performance on C-Span. All the while, the campaign hawked T-shirts and bumper stickers.
(Paul was also accused of "hawking" merchandise by Jennifer Steinhauer on May 24.)
For a seasoned political reporter, Weisman's definition of a libertarian is pretty grainy, and condescending as well.
Mr. Paul’s protest of the surveillance program has no doubt solidified his position with the libertarian wing of his party that stood with his father, Ron Paul, during his own presidential campaign in 2012. The libertarians are a demanding lot, even when their position runs contrary to the rest of the Republican Party and the nation as a whole. They believe in as little government as possible, one that provides for defense and not much else.
Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-proclaimed socialist who usually votes with the Democrats, is also running a long-shot presidential campaign. But he got the soft-soap treatment from the Times, hailed as a liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton by Trip Gabriel and Patrick Healy in "Size of Crowds for Sanders Gets Attention of Iowa’s Democratic Leaders."
The Times trumpeted Sanders' still-modest turnouts on the early campaign trail in Iowa, and marveled at the "contact high" he got from the size of his crowds. Meanwhile his recent embarrassment involving the unearthing of an essay he wrote on women's sexual fantasies was apparently only covered by the paper's political blog, according to a nytimes.com search.
A mere 240 people live in the rural northeast Iowa town of Kensett, so when more than 300 crowded into the community center on Saturday night to hear Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, many driving 50 miles, the cellphones of Democratic leaders statewide began to buzz.
Kurt Meyer, the county party chairman who organized the event, sent a text message to Troy Price, the Iowa political director for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mr. Price called back immediately.
“Objects in your rearview mirror are closer than they appear,” Mr. Meyer said he had told Mr. Price about Mr. Sanders. “Mrs. Clinton had better get out here.”
The first evidence that Mrs. Clinton could face a credible challenge in the Iowa presidential caucuses appeared late last week in the form of overflow crowds at Mr. Sanders’s first swing through that state since declaring his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. He drew 700 people to an event on Thursday night in Davenport, for instance -- the largest rally in the state for any single candidate this campaign season, and far more than the 50 people who attended a rally there on Saturday with former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland.
The Times at least accurately described Sanders' ideology between pumping up his rally figures and gushing that "Mr. Sanders seemed to be experiencing a contact high from the size of his crowds."
Mr. Sanders is considered the Senate’s most left-wing member, and he has been inspiring fervor among the Democratic base at recent rallies and town-hall-style meetings, including on Wednesday in the first presidential primary state, New Hampshire.
Even before Mr. Sanders drew unexpected levels of support at his Iowa events, advisers to Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign were emphasizing that they expected the caucuses to be competitive.
Mr. Sanders’s stop at a brewery in Ames on Saturday was so mobbed that more than 100 people who could not fit inside peered through the windows.
Along with a picture of the scene he posted on Twitter, Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University who teaches a course on the caucuses, wrote, “Hillary should worry.”
The next day, in Muscatine, Iowa, after a rally at a community college drew twice the expected audience of 50, Mr. Sanders seemed to be experiencing a contact high from the size of his crowds. He sat on a picnic table outside for a short interview.
“Be amazed at what you saw here,” he said, adding, “I want to win this.”