“You have had views on foreign policy in the past that were somewhat unorthodox, but you seem to have changed over the years,” Guthrie told the Kentucky Republican, who was appearing via satellite from Nashua, New Hampshire. “You once said Iran was not a threat, now you say it is. You once proposed ending foreign aid to Israel, now you support it, at least for the time being, and you once offered to drastically cut ... defense spending.”Paul is being accused of mansplaining because he's telling Guthrie how to do her job. That's a valid criticism, though, strictly with regard to GOP primary-season politics, I don't think the apparent gender condescension will hurt Paul -- right-wing women (and men) think feminism means supporting right-wing women exclusively (defending Sarah Palin, yes; defending Sandra Fluke, no), and they think sexism is something only liberals engage in (just as liberals, in their eyes, are America's only racists). So attacking Guthrie is not a near-term problem for Paul.
Paul attempted to speak as Guthrie continued.
“Why don’t we let me explain instead of talking over me, OK?” Paul interjected. “Before we go through a litany of things you say I’ve changed on, why don’t you ask me a question, ‘Have I changed my opinion?’ That would sort of a better way to approach an interview.”
“Is Iran still not a threat?” Guthrie asked in the cross-talk.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Listen, you’ve editorialized,” Paul said. “Let me answer a question. You ask a question, and you say, ‘Have your views changed?’ instead of editorializing and saying my views have changed.”
What is a problem for Paul is what he was saying as he attacked Guthrie. He'd actually be cheered by the right if he lashed out at a female "liberal media" journalist while passionately defending boilerplate conservative positions. But Paul was defending his past assertions that it would be good to phase out all foreign aid, including aid to Israel. (This at a time when the right is absolutely smitten with Israel.) He does say, in the Guthrie interview, that he doesn't want to phase out aid to Israel right away, and he'd rather phase out aid to other, more hostile countries first, and he does point out that Benjamin Netanyahu, in a 1996 speech to Congress, proposed a gradual phaseout of U.S. aid to Israel. But it's nearly twenty years after that speech, and it sure doesn't look as if Netanyahu wants to revisit that idea anytime soon. In the meantime, Rand Paul is still talking favorably about zeroing out aid to Israel. If you're getting into beefs with reporters as part of a campaign to win Republican primaries, this is not what you want to be fighting about.
Nor do you want to be defending the assertion you made a few years ago that Iran wasn't a significant threat to the United States. True conservatives think post-Shah Iran has always been a threat to the United States. (Pay no attention to that Iran-contra action in the Reagan years.) If you're going to draw attention to yourself by getting into a spat, you don't want to do it saying that.
And this is not the only issue on which Paul is critiquing the way reporters are interviewing him. There's also abortion -- and he's getting that wrong, too:
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a newly declared Republican presidential candidate, is dodging a central question about abortion: What exceptions, if any, should be made if the procedure were to be banned?Paul gets testy again, this time with a male reporter (the author of this AP story is Philip Elliott):
In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Paul would not say where, in his view, a pregnant woman's rights begin and those of the fetus end.
"The thing is about abortion -- and about a lot of things -- is that I think people get tied up in all these details of, sort of, you're this or this or that, or you're hard and fast (on) one thing or the other," Paul said.
In the past, Paul has supported legislation that would ban abortion except in cases of rape or incest or to save the mother's life. At other times, he has backed bills seeking a broader abortion ban without those exceptions.
Paul grew testy when pressed in the interview on the question of exceptions. "I gave you about a five-minute answer. Put in my five-minute answer," he said....For a lot of voters -- especially in the deeply evangelical Iowa and South Carolina Republican parties -- that's the wrong answer:
He added, "I've supported both bills with and without (exceptions), you know. In general, I am pro-life. So I will support legislation that advances and shows that life is special and deserves protection."
In Iowa, where Paul will campaign Friday, Rev. Terry Amann of Walnut Creek Community Church near Des Moines said he saw no place for equivocation on the issue.Again, senator: You want to fight with reporters? If your fights highlight your deviations from conservative correct thinking, you're doing it wrong.
"I'm interested in finding a presidential candidate who is ready to die on the hill of pro-life," said Amann, whose endorsement is sought by presidential candidates in the state's opening caucuses. "No exceptions. No ambiguity."
UPDATE: Okay, he's righted (and I do mean righted) the ship. This is Dave Weigel reporting on an early-afternoon Rand Paul appearance in New Hampshire, in which he was asked again about abortion:
"Should there be any exemptions or not?" asked NH1 reporter Paul Steinhauser, citing the DNC attack.And that is exactly what the wingers want to hear on this issue. (Headline at the Right Scoop: "RAND PAUL SCHOOLING THE MEDIA ON ABORTION DEBATE.") Still, he's snappish when he's delivering tailored-to-please right-wing talking points and he's snappish when he isn't. The latter is going to continue to cause him problems.
"What's the DNC say?" asked Paul. That landed like a joke—the room holding the press conference also contained some Paul supporters waiting for photos—but he was serious.
"Here's the deal -- we always seen to have the debate waaaaay over here on what are the exact details of exemptions, or when it starts," said Paul, waving his hands to the left. "Why don’t we ask the DNC: Is it okay to kill a seven-pound baby in the uterus? You go back and you ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she's OK with killing a seven-pound baby that is not born yet. Ask her when life begins, and you ask Debbie when it's okay to protect life. When you get an answer from Debbie, get back to me."
It was the answer social conservatives would have preferred Paul give all along....