Not ready for prime time — or Sunday morning

NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME — OR SUNDAY MORNING…. After Rand Paul won Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary this week, he was invited to appear on “Meet the Press.” The right-wing ophthalmologist agreed. Why not try to capitalize on a victory that drew national attention?

Of course, that was before the media took notice of Paul’s extremist ideology — and before Republicans noticed that Paul’s media appearances seemed to make things worse. Yesterday afternoon, the GOP candidate broke his commitment and backed out of the interview.

After a series of interviews on national TV that stirred an uproar over his views on civil rights and other issues, Rand Paul, the Republican nominee for Senate in Kentucky, has canceled a scheduled appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program on Sunday.

Betsy Fischer, the producer for the news program, said that Mr. Paul’s press secretary, Jesse Benton, had notified them a few hours ago that he would not be appearing on the show. She said Mr. Paul’s campaign had committed to the show on Wednesday, but that his aide said he was tired after a long week.

It’s only the third time in the show’s history that a guest agreed to appear on the program, and then backed out — Louis Farrakhan and Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia were the other two. “Meet the Press” could have invited Paul’s opponent, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (D) — who, incidentally, received 20,000 more votes than Paul did on Tuesday — but the producers decided not to.

In terms of an explanation for breaking the candidate’s commitment, Paul aides gave conflicting accounts. By one account, Paul cancelled because he’s “had a long week,” and “he’s tired.” Around the same time, the campaign suggested the cancellation has less to do with fatigue and more to do with message: “Rand did Good Morning America today, set the record straight, and now we are done talking about it. No more national interviews on the topic.”

Neither explanation is compelling. The former sounds weak — he needs more than 48 hours to recuperate after an interview on “Good Morning America”? If Paul is so exhausted, why didn’t he also cancel his campaign event in Frankfurt this morning?

But it’s the latter justification that’s especially odd. Indeed, I’m not sure what “no more national interviews on the topic” even means. If Rand Paul talks to a national news outlet again sometime over the next six months, his radical worldview is likely to come up. Will the Republican campaign try to come up with ground rules for journalists? You can interview the Senate candidate, just so long as you don’t ask about his views on government?

I have no idea how voters in Kentucky will respond to developments like these, but from a distance, the entire fiasco appears humiliating — for Paul, the Tea Party “movement,” and the Republican Party of Kentucky.

As for my favorite headline, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this gem from my friend John Cole: “And I Rand, I Rand So Far Away.”