7 ludicrous Rand Paul moments that tell you everything you need to know

Today Rand Paul announces his candidacy for president, so we've compiled a crash course on the Republican senator

By Joanna Rothkopf
Published April 7, 2015 6:15PM (EDT)
Rand Paul                        (AP/Susan Walsh)
Rand Paul (AP/Susan Walsh)

Rand Paul is set to officially announce his presidential campaign in Louisville, Kentucky, Tuesday morning.

For those unfamiliar with Paul, it could prove difficult over the following days to cut through the avalanche of hype surrounding the junior senator from Kentucky: Paul's family pedigree and supposedly libertarian bona fides have all but assured him a place in the 2016 campaign as an unapologetic outsider in the GOP field, willing to stand up to Republican orthodoxy when party brass deviate from the philosophy of limited government that Paul champions.

A video released yesterday by the campaign provides a decent snapshot into the Paul persona, describing the White House hopeful as "a different kind of Republican leader" -- one that can "defeat the Washington machine and unleash the American dream." And, sure, that might be true -- but only if your version of the American dream is a chunky mixture of baldfaced ignorance and craven political opportunism.

To give you a better idea of what Paul is bringing to the 2016 fold, we've collected the following greatest hits collection of the Rand-Pauliest Rand Paul moments from his first few years in the national spotlight.

His (really bad) brush with poetry

At the 2014 "Fancy Farm" picnic, a painfully hokey political event likely designed to distract us from the fact that politicians are humorless lizards in fancy suits, Paul recited a heavy-handed limerick slamming Democratic Senate hopeful Alison Lundergan Grimes. A sample:

To liberals, she whispers, "Coal makes you sick"
In Kentucky, she claims, "Coal makes us tick"
To the liberals, she sells her soul
The same ones who hate Kentucky coal. 

His bonkers anti-vaxx comments

This past February, Paul--an ophthalmologist--was finally forced to weigh in on the national debate concerning whether parents should be compelled to have their children vaccinated. He started off well, affirming that vaccines are "a good thing" -- but then noted that parents "should have some input," regarding their children's healthcare. If he had just stopped talking there, he might have escaped the worst of the trouble, but no -- he followed up with the following ludicrous claim: "I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines." Cool, cool, cool.

That time he shushed a female CNBC anchor on live TV

In the same interview (with CNBC anchor Kelly Evans), Paul spoke about a bill he was co-sponsoring with Sen. Barbara Boxer that would grant companies with assets overseas to bring it to the U.S. with a 6.5 percent "holiday corporate tax rate." As Evans pressed Paul about the specifics of the bill, he became increasingly condescending: "Hey, hey, Kelly? Calm down a bit here, Kelly," he said, before literally shushing her.

His ties to the "Southern Avenger"

In 2013, the Washington Free Beacon broke the news that one of Paul's social media staffers, Jack Hunter, moonlighted as the "Southern Avenger," a Confederate flag-bedecked white-supremacist writer. Paul ultimately didn't have to fire Hunter (which might have had the unfortunate side effect of alienating some of his more paleolithic supporters). Instead, Hunter resigned, allowing Paul to have it both ways: He didn't have to condemn the aggressive racist he had hired, nor did he have to be associated with him.

When he was so irritated that people found out he was plagiarizing.

Also in 2013, news broke that Paul's staff had been plagiarizing a portion of his written material, including lines in speeches that he had taken directly from Wikipedia. Rather than show any contrition, Paul mostly seemed inconvenienced by the haters.

"What we are going to do from here forward, if it will make people leave me the hell alone, is we're going to do them like college papers. We're going to try to put out footnotes," he said. "This is coming from haters to begin with, because they want the implication to be out there that you're dishonest."

No one was implying anything, Rand, they just flat-out said it.

When he whitesplained civil rights to students at the historically black Howard University.

In March of 2013, Paul spoke at Howard University in an effort to reach out to black voters. Instead, he used the speech as an ill-advised opportunity to speak somewhat condescendingly, and largely in error, about the history of Republicans and civil rights. (A number of students noted that the Republican Party was not the same party back then.) He also asked the audience if anyone knew that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had been founded by Republicans. (Yes, everyone knew.)

Oh, and by the way, he would have "tried to modify" the Civil Rights Act, had he been in Congress when it passed.

Back in 2010, Paul came under fire for his objections to the Civil Rights Act, which he would later deflect during an appearance on "The Rachel Maddow Show," by saying that he merely would have "tried to modify" one of the articles of the law, about private institutions. (What this means, by the way, is that Paul felt private institutions should be legally allowed to discriminate based on race.)

In another interview, with the Louisville Courier-Journal's Editorial Board, Paul said:

"I don't like the idea of telling private business owners -- I abhor racism, I think it's a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant, but at the same time I do believe in private ownership... In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior."

Then, in 2014, he told NBC's Kacie Hunt that he had actually never said that. Uh-huh.

Joanna Rothkopf

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