The Comeback of Rand Paul
PHILADELPHIA—It’s been almost seven years since the dumbass livestream, a United States senator’s words, not mine.
“The third question, most popular question from Google is: ‘Is Rand Paul still running for president?’” Sen. Paul read out from the campaign trail. “And, I don’t know, I wouldn’t be doing this dumbass livestreaming if I weren’t. So, yes, I still am running for president—get over it.”
It wasn’t the official end of the Rand Paul for president endeavor, but it was for all intents and purposes the true coda. In the swirling months around the livestreaming remark, Senator Paul would be the subject of a debate-stage inquisition at the hands of Donald Trump: Why was he even there? Trump, the Rain Man of polls he is doing well in, argued Paul was really in 11th, not 10th place. I take the future president’s word for it.
Rand Paul 2016, despite the candidate being labeled by Time magazine as “The most interesting man in politics,” just did not go well. And so the players in Washington wrote him off as political roadkill.
But in the years since the last real presidential campaign—Trump thinks 2020 doesn’t count, and as America looks down the barrel of a rematch…apparently the country agrees with him—Senator Paul has quietly focused on his strengths. While his fellow Kentuckian, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, announced a visit to Ukraine this weekend, the Bluegrass State’s junior senator had the temerity to ask: “Wait, what are we doing again?”
As I currently flee eight dollar gas prices in Californian (“The Ocho,” as Golden Staters are calling it; the 2000s really are back), Sen. Paul drives to the heart of the matter.
“No matter how sympathetic the cause, my oath of office is to the national security of the United States of America,” Paul said, announcing a procedural trick to gum up the passage of a $40 billion aid package that no one has read. “We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy.”
Recalling now that I flew out of the Cincinnati airport, which is in Kentucky, last week, I think it’s a reasonable question to ask: What’s the (Good) Matter With Appalachia? “Mitch” notably excepted, the area represented by Paul and now potentially J.D. Vance could be the national cradle of rebellion, as the region historically has been—this time against another 21st-century lobotomy land of endless war.
But it’s not just resisting a boondoggle in Ukraine where Rand Paul has made his mark.
He’s emerged as the Senate’s Anthony Fauci heckler par excellence. A medical doctor (quietly, all the actual doctors in the Senate are Republican), Paul repeatedly defenestrated (so to speak!) the Bad Doctor throughout the pandemic. Meanwhile, Dr. Mehmet Oz out here in Pennsylvania pledges to lead the charge for us all to forget-about-Fauci come next year.
Attacking the Pentagon old guard and human history’s most empowered hypochondriac are perhaps easy targets, but wins are wins, and there is a stunning paucity of folks in D.C. actually doing it. It also jives better with Paul’s more successful “folk libertarianism” portfolio…better that than carping about the minimum wage in an era when We The People feel as oppressed by the corporate state as the actual one. At the height of 2020, it was more than reasonable to ask: Is there even a difference?
So, taking into consideration his legendary father Ron, I’m not clear on what Paul Family revival we’re on.
Like Axl Rose in the mid-2000s, this has a feel of a “Final Comeback,” one in which encores are assured. But writing this here in the historical cradle of American liberty, Philly, it no longer seems absurd that Trump in recent years has listed Paul as a future president.
Paul is noted by associates as a cerebral man above all, not a glad hander in the Willie Stark style. I don’t know Bill Clinton; Bill Clinton is not a friend of mine, but I am confident Rand Paul is no Bill Clinton. Still, it’s the 21st century, not the 20th. Viral online reach is as important now as eye contact once was.
In the influencer age, perhaps it’s time for Sen. Rand Paul to crank up the “dumbass livefeeds” once again.