In the first week of August, I traveled from southern Florida to central and western Kentucky in hopes of seeing just how high the political insanity in the Bluegrass State had grown. The day before my visit to Calvert City, while in Rand Paul’s hometown of Bowling Green, I’d miraculously reached his press secretary, Ryan Hogan, by cell phone. Hogan was instantly eager to get off the call, but I managed to politely ask him what the heck his candidate was getting at with his Civil Rights Act comments. “He doesn’t want to do anything with the Civil Rights Act,” Hogan told me, then added: “He’s a big proponent of private property.”
I wanted to make sure I understood clearly, so I asked Hogan if Paul was concerned about curbing racial discrimination lawsuits against private corporations, or what exactly. “If you have a private business, it’s a private business,” Hogan replied. “But if it’s the federal government, there should be no type of discrimination.”
Soon enough, I’m over at the little civic center, enjoying the air conditioning with a room full of very nice people who believe Barack Obama is really a socialist. After one hell of a wait, GOP candidates for local and statewide seats take turns giving speeches to a crowd of about 150. Before long, the civic center air takes on a tinge of bigotry when a Republican state senate candidate pledges to push for an Arizona-style anti-immigrant law in Kentucky. The audience applauds enthusiastically. Paul has supported the idea of empowering Kentucky police to hunt for new immigrants. But tonight he’ll hew mostly to his basic stump speech, railing about the federal deficit, bashing the President and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the health care reform bill, and ragging on Obama’s Supreme Court appointees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan for backing certain gun control laws. “They just approved Elizabeth [sic] Kagan 63 to 37. I think Elizabeth [sic] Kagan will be a duplicate copy of Sotomayor,” Paul continues. “The danger is the longer the President stays in power, there’s going to be a tip in balance. Most of the time it’s 5-4 in favor of states’ rights and limited government. When it becomes 5-4 the other way, Katy, bar the door.” He strikes another of his favorite themes: that he’s a victim of the big, bad, liberal media. “Every day I look on the Internet and in the newspapers and I find that, yes, I still do have a target on my back or a ‘Kick Me’ sign. But you know what? The wind is at our back,” Paul declares. “And I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, they can call me any name in the book, they can make up stuff about me, but there is a huge movement going on in our country, and they can’t stop us.” The crowd bursts into applause, and several men whoop. “One of the reasons I’m vilified is because I’m not a shrinking violet. I will speak my mind. I’m unlike many politicians in that I’m candid, I’ll tell you what I believe, and that’s the way I’m going to vote,” he says. That kind of bugged me, since just a short while earlier he’d refused to take even a couple of questions I tried to ask him. And right after his speech, Paul and Hogan scoot to the candidate’s SUV to avoid reporters.
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