It would be nice if a genuine, rational libertarian candidate could be part of the national political debate. The problem is that there are no genuine, rational libertarians. To be genuine, a libertarian has to decide on his or her policy positions based on the dictates of the ideology, which is backwards: as a leader, rather than a professor or theorist, one must figure out what is going to work, and what you wish would work or what a pre-determined formula says should work are not germane to the issue. For proof of the flaw in the latter approach, all we have to do is consider the past seven years.
Thus libertarians are prone to saying things like, “The United States should never have entered World War II.” This has been a staple of Rand Paul’s deluded father, Ron Paul, and properly places pure libertarianism with pacifism, also known as Cloud Cuckoo Land. The Berrigans used to say the same thing, you know. I believe it was Philip who said that nobody tried passive resistance to defeat Hitler, so we’ll never know if it would have worked. When you say things like this for public consumption, you forfeit the privilege of being taken seriously. It is signature significance: your judgment can’t be trusted.
For me, Rand Paul’s libertarian moment of signature significance was when he questioned the need for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, essentially saying that the nation would have been just fine allowing people like Lester Maddox to chase African-Americans out of his restaurant with an axe handle, or bus drivers to force Rosa Parks to sit in the back of the bus until change occurred naturally, you know, like after the race war. Such statements are not isolated instances of momentary madness; they are markers of serious ethical and cognitive problems, and it was inevitable that the source of that opinion would have more of the same, and perhaps worse.
“I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.”
Thus did Paul designate himself as the Michele Bachmann of the 2016 Presisential race, and in case you missed some or all of Bachmann’s forays into lunacy, that’s not who you want your candidate to emulate. To refresh your recall, Bachmann made news in one of the GOP presidential wannabe debates when she attacked Gov. Perry’s executive order to make HPV vaccinations mandatory for young girls in Texas. As she explained to Fox News:
“The problem is, is it comes with some very significant consequences. There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine. There are very dangerous consequences.”
No, there really aren’t. The dangerous consequences are in not being vaccinated. Now, Bachmann is a lawyer and, uh, interesting, so her belief in the urban legend about vaccinations rendering healthy children into drooling vegetables is a bit more understandable than this kind of nonsense coming from Paul, who is a doctor. Paul’s statement is also infinitely more damaging coming from an MD, who people reasonably assume wouldn’t spout the conclusions of debunked studies and the theories of hysterical celebrities unless they had some validity. Wrong.
Paul has also said that “most vaccines” should be “voluntary.” “The state doesn’t own your children,” Paul said in an interview with CNBC’s “Closing Bell.” “Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom and public health.” This raises a different problem. If Paul is asserting that the state never should be able to tell parents how to care for their children, why “most vaccines” and not all of them? Does he believe the state has any role to play in protecting children from parental neglect, no matter how well-intentioned? Can the state tell parents to feed, clothe, and educate kids, and not keep them chained to a post in the back yard? If so, why isn’t it proper for the state to require parents to take reasonable measures that will both protect the child from deadly diseases and protect the community as well?
As he has done before, Paul bristled when he was asked to reconcile his assertions with such inconveniences as logic, medical studies and the English language, and immediately complained that he was being picked on. Saying that the media was biased against him, Paul said,
“You end up having interviews like this where the interview is so slanted and full of distortions that you don’t get useful information. I think this is what is bad about TV sometimes. Frankly, I think if we do this again, you need to start out with a little more objectivity going into the interview.”