UPDATE - As speculated below, did this whole thing stem from a prosaic property argument between estranged neighbors? Politics may have been an aggravating factor, but this doesn't look like it was primarily about partisan rancor. On the other hand, maybe this is the framing the assailant's lawyers and allies would prefer, given that the alternative could place the suspect in deeper legal jeopardy. In any case, here's the latest:
Two Kentuckians tell me Rand’s neighborhood fracas stemmed from a dispute over some sort of planting or flora issue around the properties— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) November 6, 2017
*** Original Post ***
Word seeped out over the weekend that Sen. Rand Paul had been the victim of some sort of assault at his home in Kentucky. The news bulletin was jarring, because physical attacks against elected officials are still -- thankfully -- a rare phenomenon in America, but initial reporting suggested the confrontation may have been a minor dust-up. The Senator's staff seemed to somewhat downplay the incident at first, too. But as Christine noted yesterday, the extent of Paul's injuries indicate that this was more serious, and more violent, than originally understood. The lawmaker was blindsided by a "high velocity severe force blow" to the torso -- via the Bowling Green Daily News:
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has five rib fractures and lung contusions as a result of an apparent assault Friday by a neighbor at Paul's home in Bowling Green, a spokesman for Kentucky's junior senator said Sunday. Senior adviser Doug Stafford said Paul's injuries cause pain that could persist for weeks, perhaps even months, but that the Republican plans to return to the U.S. Senate soon. “Senator Paul has five rib fractures including 3 displaced fractures," Stafford said in a statement emailed to the Daily News by Paul's staff. "This type of injury is caused by high velocity severe force. It is not clear exactly how soon he will return to work, as the pain is considerable as is the difficulty in getting around, including flying"...The arrest warrant in the case indicates that Paul told police that his neighbor came onto his property and tackled him from behind, forcing him to the ground and causing pain. According to the warrant for Boucher's arrest, Paul had injuries to his face and had trouble breathing due to a rib injury.
The Associated Press story described how injuries like this "can lead to life-threatening injuries," with pain lingering for "weeks or months." Why did so many of the early reports minimize Paul's injuries as "minor," if he actually had five ribs cracked and suffered lung contusions? Perhaps because the suspect was charged with misdemeanor "fourth degree assault and causing a minor injury." My thoughts exactly:
How the heck is this fourth degree assault?? https://t.co/atHrzrtrm0— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) November 5, 2017
Sneaking up on a sitting Senator, leveling him from behind, and breaking several of his ribs (and causing facial and internal contusions) does not seem like a slap-on-the-wrist, low-level assault. The FBI is now on the case, which may be standard operating procedure for any crime committed against a member of Congress, but could also be a precursor to more severe charges being filed. The suspect is a local doctor who lives in Paul's neighborhood. Were his actions politically motivated? Based on what we know so far, that theory of the crime seems plausible: "Jim Bullington, a former member of the city commission, knows both men. He said Sunday that Boucher is divorced and lives alone. Burlington described [Dr. Rene] Boucher as a socialist," the Washington Post reports. Boucher is a registered Democrat.
“'He’s pretty much the opposite of Rand Paul in every way,' Bullington said in an interview. The neighbors had been known to have 'heated discussions' about health care, Bullington said, adding that Boucher is an advocate of a national health system." If these descriptions are accurate, several ironies jump out: Paul's assailant is a left-wing socialist who lives in an upscale gated community and once hawked a medical device he invented on QVC. Thus, he's a healthcare innovator who supports an unaffordable and callous single-payer system that, among other things, stifles innovation. His social media postings include rabidly anti-Trump memes, pro-Bernie Sanders content, and comments that such as, "may Robert Mueller fry Trump's gonads," and "SUB-ZERO: The intelligence level or [sic] Trump supporters." Sounds delightful. He also shared a story about a Republican Congressional candidate who body-slammed a reporter on the eve of a contested special Congressional election in Montana this past spring. Perhaps Boucher was taking notes.
On the other hand, a neighbor told a local news outlet that the two men were involved in an 'ongoing' feud: "Senator Paul and Boucher have had ongoing problems. Senator Paul and Boucher share a corner adjacent to their homes." So this could have been a petty neighborhood spat that boiled over into heat-of-the-moment violence (which might explain why Paul seemed inclined to downplay the whole thing), as opposed to a political attack -- although the two men's history of "heated discussions about healthcare" definitely seems relevant Until we have more facts, Ed Morrissey's advice is solid: "If the political polarities were reversed, I believe people on the Right would react in outrage over being painted with a broad brush over a neighborhood dispute, especially without all of the facts in hand. And…we’d be correct. Let’s wait for the rest of the story before we reach conclusions, and pray for Rand Paul’s recovery." I'll leave you with the observations of a pair of non-conservative politicos who believe recent violent attacks against elected Republicans haven't received the degree of media coverage that such stories should merit:
I know we got limited news attention/scope, but I think this Rand Paul attack should be a big story...— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) November 6, 2017
Agree with Harry. The baseball-practice shooting of Steve Scalise and other members of Congress in June was also under-covered IMO. https://t.co/m3NRrvhP2P— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) November 6, 2017
Some commenters objected to Silver's point, pretending as though he claimed the attempted massacre went uncovered. No, he said under-covered, which strikes me as exactly correct, based on both comparative data and direct observations. Relatedly, it's been a harrowing few months for Sen. Paul, who was on that Virginia baseball practice field with his fellow Republicans when a deranged leftist opened fire, gravely wounding Rep. Steve Scalise.