Rand Paul’s amazing meltdown in his first week as the GOP Senate nominee in Kentucky raises serious questions about media conspiracies – not because the network talking heads decided to ask him tough questions, but because they waited to pose those challenges until after he’d won his primary and the Republicans were stuck with him.
You can’t blame Rachel Maddow or George Stephanopoulos for confronting the candidate about his perplexing past statements on open housing or civil rights legislation but it’s tough to explain why they neglected these issues during Paul’s nomination fight against mainstream conservative Trey Grayson. Had prominent journalists confronted the “Tea Party Insurgent” a month earlier and had Rand Paul responded with the same sort of dodgy, incoherent, embarrassing answers he ineptly offered after his victory, it’s possible that the Republican Primary would have produced a different result, or at least proven much closer.
Could it be that the media establishment wanted Dr. Paul to win and treated him respectfully in order to preserve his chances of victory? For one thing, the eye doctor’s first-time candidacy offered a juicier, more exotic story-line for the political press to cover than the possible triumph of a conventional candidate like Grayson. It’s also possible that Stephanopoulos (former Clinton aide), Maddow (unabashed leftist) and the rest of the liberal-leaning press wanted to nurture Paul’s candidacy in the primary in order to strike a blow against Republican prospects in the general election, knowing that the inexperienced contender with his fringy positions and oddball associations would be easy to defeat and discredit.
There is simply no excuse for Dr. Paul’s appalling (or, one might say, apPauling) handling of these early confrontations with the press. The most devastating moment came at the beginning of his exchange with George Stephanopoulos when the Republican nominee responded to an aggressive question with a long deer-in-the-headlights silence, followed by the plaintive bleat: “Good morning, George, good morning, Robin. When does my honeymoon period start? I had a big victory. I thought I got a honeymoon period from you guys in the media.” The candidate then compounded his problems by canceling a scheduled appearance on Meet the Press--- only the third time in 62 years an announced guest had pulled out of an appearance (the other no-shows were Louis Farrakhan and Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia – a cult leader and a petro-potentate.