Jonah Goldberg

Rand Paul is the most interesting contender for the Republican nomination. And when I say interesting, I mean that in the broadest sense.

A case in point: Last week, the Kentucky senator hit some turbulence when the Washington Free Beacon reported that Jack Hunter, Paul's aide and the coauthor of his book, "The Tea Party Goes to Washington," was once the Southern Avenger.

Who's that? Starting in the 1990s, as a radio shock jock, Hunter would wear a wrestling mask made from a Confederate flag, while making jokes about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and having the South re-secede.

"Although Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth's heart was in the right place, the Southern Avenger does regret that Lincoln's murder ... turned him into a martyr," Turner said in 2004. Maybe the humor is all in the delivery?

Hunter's defenders, including my Fox News colleague, Andrew Napolitano, think the reaction against Hunter has been cranked up by neocon "hawks, whose ideology is ... being discredited every day." According to Napolitano, "Jack's sin in their eyes was having spoken favorably of states' rights, and negatively of Lincoln."

"Negatively of Lincoln" is a curious understatement, given that Hunter -- who admits to giving a "personal toast" to Booth on his birthday -- once suggested Lincoln would have had an amorous relationship with Adolf Hitler.

Meanwhile, Hunter says he has matured and is embarrassed by much of what he said in the past. Moreover, he says that for all the theatrics and bombast, he's never said, believed or done anything racist. "I abhor racism," he wrote at his site, Southernavenger.com, "and have always treated everyone I've met with dignity and respect."

Such controversies are hardly new to Paulworld. Most famously, Rand's father, former Rep. Ron Paul, the three-time presidential candidate (for whom Hunter worked in 2012) published newsletters bearing his name that brimmed with bigoted bile. When his writing became controversial, the elder Paul insisted he hadn't known what was in his own newsletters (though in 1996 he took responsibility for them).


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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