Friday, August 22, 2014


There's a story in The Washington Post today about Rand Paul's trip to Guatemala to do eye surgery for indigent patients. Although the story notes the partly self-serving nature of the trip -- Paul is accompanied by, among others, his top political aide, David Bossie of Citizens United, two politcal admakers, and someone obtaining releases so that Paul can later use footage of the Guatemalans for (presumably) electoral ends -- it's largely a positive write-up. Paul Waldman responds by describing the senator as a "press management wizard":
How does Rand Paul do it? He's not someone who can give a speech that'll make you cry, like Barack Obama can, and he's not someone who lights up a room like Bill Clinton. He's never written a law, let alone an important one that improved people's lives. Nobody thinks he's some kind of super-genius.... And yet he gets way more attention than anybody else running for president.... So how does he do it?

... in the end, just because this is a story about Rand Paul doing charitable work on his August vacation, the reader unavoidably comes away thinking, "Isn't that Rand Paul a nice fellow?"

This is yet another demonstration of just how good Paul is at working the press. As the article says, this trip was planned months ago, and it's convenient ... because that's when congressional reporters have nothing else to write about. It can be hard to come up with things to fill your news pages about in August.
Except that it's not particularly hard to come up with things to fill up news pages this August. ISIS? Ebola? Ferguson? I'd say it's quite a newsy summer. So that's not it.

I don't think Paul is a "press management wizard." Yes, he gets good press, even when he's not doing charitable work. But there's a simple reason for that: He's a Republican, and he sometimes seems like a non-traditional Republican. The mainstream press is desperate for a Republican to love.

The press hates President Obama now, and is sick of the Clintons. The press regards Joe Biden as a joke and thinks the alleged Democratic up-and-comers (O'Malley, Castro, Gillibrand) are nonentities. Eliabeth Warren is okay, but she's a favorite of (ick!) ideologically committed progressives. Plus, she's an old lady! So there's a limit to her appeal to the boys on the bus. (The press is interested in her only to the extent that she might vanquish an even older lady, Hillary Clinton.) The boys fell for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama when they were young and had New Democrat bro appeal, but those days are long gone.

The political press really, really wants to love a Republican, though it can't just be any Republican. The members of the press corps are fairly urbane, so they don't want to embrace a Republicans who's anti-gay or who doesn't believe in climate change or who favor suppression of the black vote or who questions evolution. Of course, that's pretty much all Republicans. But the desire to love a Republican is strong, so any time one seems to deviate from the GOP norm, he looks really dreamy to the press corps.

Rand Paul does that a bit more than most -- he questions vote suppression and war (sometimes) and drug laws (to some extent) -- so he gives the press a tingle. But the press always feels a tingle when a Republican seems not quite Republican. Look, Paul Ryan put out a poverty plan! Marco Rubio talked about the poor, too! And Mitt Romney acted like a human being in that documentary about his campaign! Swoon, swoon!

It's Bush 2000 all over again. And if the press gets one of these guys elected president, it's going to end the same way.


Ken_L said...

Given we will have these kinds of staged events from all candidates of both parties, I have to say I prefer Paul's style to having to endure a steely-eyed John McCain meeting freedom fighters in some far-off land, flanked by Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman, hectoring us about the latest bit of the globe that needs to be bombed. At least eye surgery is useful. And he's taking on the "waddabout the poor Americans who need eye surgery?" yobbos, which even suggests a smidgeon of principle.

Yastreblyansky said...

I think it's at least partly that the boys (so many of them are boys) on the politics beat can't stand any discussion of policy, and the GOP caters to their anxieties better by sticking to polished sound bites and then moving on to other topics, like who's winning or who was mean to whom. They're not so much partisan as just crappy at their jobs in a way that it's easy for Republicans to take advantage of.

Victor said...

I hope that afterwards, the parents took those kids to a real eye surgeon, after the self-certified one got done with them.

And if our MSM does succeed in getting a Republican elected President, that person will be worse than W.

Nixon was bad - Watergate.
Reagan & Bush I were worse - Iran-Contra.
W was even worse than them - for reasons you already know, and I'm too lazy to write.

Rand, that mop-topped fop, seems amiable, and doesn't snarl all of the time like Ted Cruz, so, yeah, our MSM "reporters" and pundits - who are wired for Republicans - will project onto that fairly empty slate, all of their hopes and dreams for a Republican savior.

marieburns said...

Perhaps the press's desperation to find lovable Republicans is a product of its need to continue writing those formulaic he-said/she-said stories. It's hard, for instance, to write a story about climate change policy when the "she-said" side consists of climate change deniers like Sen. Marco I'm-Not-a-Scientist Rubio (R-Fla.). He-said/she-said stories are the practical applications of a theoretical journalistic standard of objectivity. In adhering to this model, the reporter is prohibited from writing, "Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said blah-blah. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) retorted blah-blah, which is a laughably ignorant crock."

Uncle Mike said...

Is this Rand Paul doing eye surgeries the same Rand Paul who couldn't get certified by the local AMA-approved opthomological board and instead helped create his own non-AMA-approved board to get certified?

THAT Rand Paul?