Tough Crowd

All of the rightward forces in the Republican Party have a not-so-secret and powerful ally: the Iowa Caucuses, which have increasingly served as a crucible for presidential candidates who (unless they take the great risk of skipping it) must spend months in the state trouping around Pizza Farm outlets and responding to the demands of one of the most conservative (and spoiled) “activist bases” outside the Deep South.

So it’s with interest that I noted a piece in The Iowa Republican suggesting that Rand Paul has gotten himself in hot water with “personhood” advocates for his recently introduced “personhood” bill in the Senate. TIR’s Kevin Hall reports:

Iowa’s most prominent supporters of Personhood legislation applaud the Life at Conception bill Rand Paul introduced in the U.S. Senate last week. However, they feel the possible presidential contender undermined his own legislation during a CNN interview earlier this week.

“That’s exactly how I see it,” said State Rep. Tom Shaw (R-Laurens).

Shaw has introduced a Personhood bill in the Iowa House, which defines life beginning at conception and provides equal protection to all human beings, including babies in the womb. Rand Paul’s bill does the same. However, during an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, Paul repeatedly talked about exceptions to his legislation.

“What I would say is that there are thousands of exceptions,” Paul said. “You know, I’m a physician and every individual case is going to be different, and everything is going to be particular to that individual case and what’s going on with that mother and the medical circumstances of that mother.”

Tom Shaw believes equal protection for all leaves no room for exceptions.

“It’s a little disconcerting to see Rand Paul make the statement that there can be thousands of exceptions,” Shaw said. “Personhood is the belief that at the moment of conception, there is a distinct individual. You can’t claim Personhood and then go on and say that there are times that you can go on and kill that person.”

Keep in mind before you read further that we are talking about zygotes here, and that the obvious purpose of “personhood” initiatives is to go far beyond abortion bans to prohibit IV fertilization clinics, IUDs and Plan B contraceptives, and in some interpretations, the standard “pill” used by many tens of millions of Americans. You’d think the “personhood” lobby would be happy to have a pol with Rand Paul’s current star power more or less in their camp. But oh no:

Cindy Anders is the executive director of Iowa Pro-Life Action, a group that adamantly supports Personhood legislation. She criticized Senator Paul on Facebook.

“God did not give the sword to the parents or individuals. He gave it to the state and for the sole purpose of punishing crime,” Anders wrote. “Senator Paul, I hope we get an opportunity to talk about this in Cedar Rapids because I’m beginning to think that D.C. has corrupted you. You are beginning to think you are God. I believe you are treading on very dangerous grounds and as a principled voter with a conscience bound only by my Savior, I could not give you my vote if the election were today. I wonder what your father thinks about this interview, but then again, it is true, you are certainly not your father for he understands the Constitution and the issue of murder.”

Paul needs to get his story straight pretty soon. Anders’ reference to “Cedar Rapids” alluded to the Kentuckian’s headliner speech at the state party’s Lincoln Day dinner on May 10. It will be a tough and demanding crowd athwart any Republican’s path to the 2016 presidential nomination.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.