Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Jim Newell argues at Salon that it's a bad idea for Democrats to attack Scott Walker for not having a college degree. As I said last week, I agree -- it comes off as elitist and condescending, in a country where most people don't have a boatload of degrees from fancy schools and aren't quite sure what they think about people who do. I think many voters who hear attacks like this will feel they're being personally insulted. It's a bad move.

And now we have this, from Olivia Nuzzi at the Daily Beast, and I really hope no Democrat tries to follow up:
Rand Paul Has Passport, Won’t Travel

... Since entering the Senate in January 2011, Paul has spent much of his time focused on reimagining America’s role in the world, but he apparently doesn't have much interest in traveling to many of the places he talks about.

In his capacity as a federal lawmaker, Paul has traveled abroad just once: to Israel and Jordan in 2013 for a privately funded tour that was described as an “information gathering trip.”

Paul met with King Abdullah and swam in the Dead Sea, clad in flower-printed swim trunks.

Beyond that jaunt to the Middle East, Senator Paul’s feet have remained firmly on American soil, according to Senate records.

Being a foreign policy expert who never goes anywhere foreign is not necessarily hypocritical, though it is a little unusual, especially because Paul has served on the Foreign Relations Committee since 2013....
Just as most Americans don't have an elite education, most Americans haven't been to a large number of countries (and if they have traveled, they may have gone swimming in flower-printed swim trunks). So if you attack Paul for this, once again, ordinary Americans are going to feel attacked.

Beyond that, as Nuzzi notes, Paul does leave the country on a regular basis, for a reason most Americans would find admirable:
Paul’s aides respond to questions about the senator’s lack of international travel by noting that in his role as a doctor -- he is an ophthalmologist by trade -- Paul visited Guatemala in August to perform eye surgery on the poor. Sergio Gor, his spokesman, also said in an email that Paul “plans another trip this summer to a yet to be announced nation.”

(It’s actually not such a big secret. In a January interview in Las Vegas, Paul told me, “I’ll be in Haiti in August doing surgery.”)
Yeah, go ahead -- try telling the average American that this doesn't really count as a worthwhile overseas trip.

We've been here before, of course. In 2000, this line of attack was used against George W. Bush:
The Republican nominee for president of the United States could be called the quintessential nowhere man, having gone fewer places and gained less world experience than any candidate for president in modern American history.

Outside of trips to Mexico, the country bordering Texas, Bush is claiming only three overseas trips. His longest was a month-long stay in China in 1975 when his father was U.S. envoy.

The New York Times cited this trip in an article about Bush’s surprising ambition to be president, noting his “overseas experience was pretty much limited to trying to date Chinese women (unsuccessfully) during a visit to Beijing in 1975.” [NYT, Oct. 29, 2000]

Another overseas trip was with a delegation of state governors to the Middle East in 1998, Bush's campaign said. En route, Bush stopped in Italy to see one of his daughters, apparently Bush’s only time in Europe.

The third overseas trip was a visit to the African country of Gambia as part of a U.S. delegation commemorating Gambia’s independence. [NYT, Oct. 30, 2000]

Those three trips leave out vast areas of the world and suggest a lack of curiosity about people and history outside American borders.
The public didn't care.

On the other hand, I'm not sure what -- or, rather, who -- inspired Nuzzi to write her story. The story smells like opposition research fed to a journalist -- but by whom? It could be the Clinton campaign, but it could just as easily be the campaign of a better-traveled Republican, or it could be an organization on the right that's determined to prevent the insufficiently hawkish Paul from winning the nomination. Nuzzi's story certainly lists a lot of travel by a number of Paul's likely primary competitors:
According to his travel disclosures, Senator Ted Cruz has traveled three times as a part of a congressional delegation, including one trip led by then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, to Israel, Afghanistan and Italy in January 2013.

Senator Marco Rubio has been on several foreign trips as a member of the Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee. In 2011, he visited Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom. And in 2014, he jetted off to Japan, the Philippines and South Korea.

Several GOP governors, who have less of a responsibility to travel abroad than a federal lawmaker who oversees American foreign policy, have been far more interested in seeing the world than Paul....
At this point, we're told that recent junkets by Rick Perry, Chris Christie, and Scott Walker add up to more impressive travel resumes than Paul's. Yeah, I think this story came from some right-wing outfit or other.

Dems, let the Republicans talk this way. Don't join in.


Nefer said...

What you are saying makes sense, part of my brain says. On the other hand, this country has suffered greatly in recent decades catering to the notion that contempt for education, knowledge, science, and familiarity with the world outside our borders is an all-American good thing.

You want to be president of a country of over 300,000,000 people claiming to be the number one superpower on the planet? You had better show me that you have the background, intelligence, education, and open-mindedness to be able to handle the job. If you acquired those credentials outside of a university setting, or without traveling outside our borders, fine, you are qualified.

It is the people that think you not only don't need travel, you don't need to know or care anything about other countries ("Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan) that worry me.

Or the ones that not only don't know anything about the economy on a national or global scale, but proudly insist it is no different than keeping a personal checkbook balanced.

Why can't we insist on a candidate who may not have a college education or foreign travel, but who has through their own all-American grit, hard work, determination and perseverance acquired the knowledge and background needed for the job?

Can or should someone without a college education or foreign travel be an effective president? Yes.

Can or should someone without demonstrated intelligence or intellectual curiosity about this country, the world, and history be president? No.

There is a difference, and candidates should be questioned about their qualifications for the job.


Victor said...


No sense in helping out!

Let the Republicans try out their attack meme's, and the Democrats can sit back, and see what sticks and what doesn't.

Ten Bears said...

In the circles I travel outside these musty halls Paul isn't known to be a doctor, he is someone who claims to be a doctor.

I gained my education , BS, MS, late in life, after twenty years of logging - of cutting down trees to supply you peoples' insatiable appetite for shitty wood houses miles from schools, shops and services - and in retrospect as a career move it was pretty much a waste of money I'll never repay. Never-the-less, I would prefer someone running the show that's smater than a fucking fence post. Sadly, Walker is a pretty accurate representation of the majority of "Americans": ignorant shit-eaters willfully drunk on Kool-Aid blindly following a bloodthirsty religion to suicide and dragging the rest of us wiyt them.