Mention his name to most Washington, D.C., insiders and plenty of his GOP colleagues, and you will hear everything from "frustrating" to "crazy." But Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky might be just conventionally unconventional enough to stun his party and the nation in 2016.
A cleverly written op-ed piece in The New York Times had the unintended effect of convincing me that Paul may well be both the GOP Establishment and left-of-center Democrats' worst nightmare.
In his Times piece, columnist Frank Bruni does a very good job of reciting what he considers fatal past remarks by Paul. And I must admit, at first blush he makes a convincing case. He jabs at Paul's verbal "erroneous" assault on the Clean Water Act's impact on toilets, as well as Paul's irritation with the "nanny state" and its seat belt laws.
OK, I get it. Rand Paul is a nut who would destroy the GOP were he to win his party's nomination in 2016. But the column began to lose just a little credibility when Bruni ended it with numerous comparisons to cooking and food. That reminded me that this columnist is likely no political expert. Instead, he is a gifted journalist whose accomplishments range from books that jab at George W. Bush and the Catholic Church to a stint as the paper's chief restaurant critic.
That said, let's consider a more "in the trenches" look at Paul. He is indeed a man riddled with seemingly contradictory statements and positions. And he will forever carry the surname of Paul, as in Ron Paul, as in the seemingly curmudgeon-type presidential candidate. The guy who would always make so much sense in GOP primary debates until he took things one step too far and seemed -- well, a little too out there.
But to assess any son in light of his father is usually a huge error. The big picture with regard to the son is that he has captured the "less government" essence of the father, but mixed it with the more pragmatic side of practical politics.
If any left-of-center types think Paul's recent filibuster in the Senate, the essence of which questioned the use of drones, is somehow unpopular with the public, they are completely out of touch. Most Americans don't even understand what a drone is or how it operates, but when they do learn, they start to worry about a proliferation of them and an invasion of their own privacy and safety by them.
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