Maybe we should parse the meaning of the word ‘kidnapping’

MAYBE WE SHOULD PARSE THE MEANING OF THE WORD ‘KIDNAPPING’…. On Monday, we learned a bit more about Rand Paul, the extremist Republican Senate candidate in Kentucky, and his colorful history. In particular, a GQ profile noted a college incident in which Paul allegedly kidnapped a fellow student, tried to force her to take bong hits, and forced her to participate in a bizarre ritual involving an “Aqua Buddha.”

Soon after, Paul’s campaign threatened to sue GQ, but never quite got around to denying the substance of the anecdote.

Yesterday, the right-wing ophthalmologist appeared on Fox News to help knock the story down. Paul seemed reluctant to talk about the incident in question, and said he couldn’t remember “everything” he did in college. I suppose that’s especially true of his antics while high.

Paul did say, however, “I will categorically deny that I ever kidnapped anyone or forced anybody to use drugs.” He made an almost-identical declaration more than once during the on-air appearance, at one point saying, “I, I think I would remember if I kidnapped something — kidnapped someone — and I don’t remember, and I absolutely deny kidnapping anyone ever.”

Now that’s a winning campaign slogan if I’ve ever heard one.

What’s interesting about this is the specificity of the denial. According to the woman GQ quoted, Paul and a friend came to her home, “blindfolded” her, tied her up, and drove her to their apartment. Paul didn’t say the incident never occurred, or that this story is entirely made up, he’s simply insisting he never kidnapped anyone.

Maybe, in Paul’s mind, this was just a harmless prank? If there was no ransom, and he always intended to take her home unharmed anyway, then it doesn’t really count as literal “kidnapping”?

To be sure, as I said the other day, I don’t really care what Paul, or any other congressional candidates, did in college. If Paul told Neil Cavuto yesterday, “I pulled plenty of stupid stunts as a teenager, many of which I regret, but that was a long time ago and I’ve matured since,” it’d probably end the story. But that’s not what Paul said.

Part of the relevance is also driven by just how little we know about Rand Paul. He’s a leading candidate for the U.S. Senate this year, but all the public really knows is that he’s a strange guy with extremist political beliefs who’s never held public office, created his own medical accreditation board, opposes most of the landmark legislative accomplishments of the last century, and apparently did some bizarre stuff in college.

Voters may not care whether Rand Paul worshiped an “Aqua Buddha” in college, but they may care that he’s an exceedingly weird dude now.