May 23, 2010

Note to Rand: this IS your honeymoon

In less than a week, Rand Paul, Tea Party darling and instant political celebrity, has become to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell what the Deepwater Horizon-Gulf oil disaster is to British Petroleum.

To me, the similarities are striking. Both Paul and the undersea oil volcano were fantastic natural discoveries that promised big yields (more mega-profits for BP; street cred for Tea Partiers who propelled Paul to Kentucky's Republican Senate nomination) despite big, easily-identified risks ("What if we have major drilling problem a mile down? What about Paul's inexperience and wacky Libertarian ideas?") that experts warned about way ahead of time.

Yet in both cases, what-could-possibly-go-wrong hubris trumped are-you-sure-this-is-smart reasoned analysis.  Sudden disaster ensued, and toxic material is now spreading unchecked across the environmental and political landscapes.

To further torture the analogy, neither BP's hapless scientists, who seem to be making it up as they go, nor McConnell -- the nation's top Republican and Kentucky's senior senator, who is obliged to back Paul -- seem to have any clue about how to plug their respective gushers and contain the irreversible damage. The relatively sudden, intense scrutiny now on him has led Paul to complain that he hasn't gotten the "honeymoon" he expected from the national media.

Dude: man up, or shut up.

It seems fitting, therefore, that, after stumbling through a manure-filled political pasture when he criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Paul fell face-first into a fresh, steaming cow patty late last week when he slammed President Obama for criticizing BP.  I'll let the man speak for himself:

So many layers of insanity, so little time.

The federal government deserves its share of the blame here, but going after the president who harshed on an oil corporation whose appalling safety shortcuts cost 11 men their lives -- and unleashed what will probably end up as the nation's largest environmental disaster -- is arrogant, short-sighted, and politically tone-deaf. Not to mention just plain stupid.

Yet in my opinion, Paul could be doing the nation a huge favor by revealing his Libertarian, free-market views well ahead of the election, and in turn exposing the myth of Tea Party grassroots populism.  Those emperor-has-no-clothes revelations could be the first significant crack in the TP facade,  turning off mainstream independent voters and creating a firewall for nervous Democrats.

Indeed, if Paul's seemingly unstoppable gaffery does, as some pundits are tentatively predicting, sink his Senate campaign and the Dems pick up Kentucky -- a state that hasn't sent a Democrat to Washington in decades -- it could provide a boost to the party and create momentum that might enable them to protect their majorities in both houses of Congress.

And if you think Paul is giving McConnell Excedrin-sized headaches now, wait until the Washington punditocracy gets a good strong whiff of how he feels about pot.

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