I think Rand Paul is a buffoon.

I choose that word carefully. It is the best word.

It’s helpful to read Juan Cole’s assessment of Senator Paul’s foreign policy positions, but there isn’t any consistency there whatsoever, and the reason that nothing adds up is because Rand Paul is not a serious person. He is a ridiculous but amusing person; a clown.

I don’t just want to dish ad hominem attacks, but I truly believe that the starting point for discussing Rand Paul is to understand that he’s a fool.

Once you understand this, you can proceed to analyzing how well he is carrying on the neo-confederate legacy of his father and the family’s legions of fanboys. I know he had to fire the Southern Avenger, but let’s not forget that he hired him in the first place and initially defended him with the vociferousness of Dick Cheney.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Sen. Rand Paul stoutly defended an aide who, as a radio shock jock in South Carolina, praised John Wilkes Booth, heaped scorn on Abraham Lincoln and wore a ski mask emblazoned with the stars and bars of the Confederate Battle Flag.

Paul (R-Ky.) stressed that he opposed such views, many of which have been recanted by the Senate aide, Jack Hunter, who co-wrote Paul’s first book in 2010 and who is now his social media adviser in Washington.

“I’m not a fan of secession,” Paul said. “I think the things he said about John Wilkes Booth are absolutely stupid. I think Lincoln was one of our greatest presidents. Do I think Lincoln was wrong is taking away the freedom of the press and the right of habeas corpus? Yeah.”

This is a pattern with Rand Paul. He gets caught doing something stupid like plagiarizing and then he apologizes, but he does it in a way that makes clear that he’s not really sorry. If he gets caught flip-flopping, he gets testy and wins points with his base by threatening to challenge the media to a duel. If he gets asked a question about exceptions to his “oh-so-libertarian” anti-choice position, he angrily deflects the criticism onto late-term abortion.

It should be blindingly obvious that his most racist supporters know that he can’t espouse white supremacy, so all they’re looking for are some signs that he’s simpatico. Does he let a white supremacist co-author his book and work on his congressional staff? Well, yes. Yes, he does.

The religious nuts who think you can’t get pregnant during a “legitimate rape” know that he can’t say that type of thing without getting Todd-Akined right out of the campaign, so they’re just looking to see if he can stick to their absolutist position or he’ll repudiate it outright.

On foreign policy, Rand Paul tries to have it every which way. The anti-Semites loved it when he said we should cut off all aid to Israel. Don’t think for a moment that they’ve forgotten that nod in their direction. It allows them to forgive him for suddenly becoming Benjamin Netanyahu’s best friend forever. They don’t worry because he doesn’t clap fast enough to be a real pro-Israeli politician.

Rand Paul is against foreign interventions before he is for them, and for them before he is against them. A nuclear Iran is not a threat, until a nuclear Iran is a threat. We spend too much on the military until Rand Paul proposes increasing the Pentagon’s budget.

He tries to be all things to all people, and if you accuse him of anything he can point to an example where he said or did something completely different or opposed to what he normally says or does.

“No, no, no, he’s not a racist because he’s trying so hard to do minority outreach.”

“No, no, no, don’t worry about him giving a speech at Howard University because look how he lectured those coloreds.”

Pick a topic, any topic, and you’ll find that Aqua Buddha has tried out all sides of it. In his hands, libertarianism means nothing or it means everything. In his hands, the libertarianism of someone like, say, former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, is replaced with an exercise in Elmering your Gantry to the religious fundamentalists.

Under the circumstances, I can only laugh when a journalist like Stephen Collinson muses about whether Rand Paul has missed his moment.

Rand Paul is facing a prospect that haunts every politician: missing his moment.

It wasn’t long ago that the Kentucky senator seemed perfectly matched to the times: a Republican who reflected the nation’s reluctance to keep launching wars but clung to a stinging critique of an intrusive, dysfunctional Big Government.

But for Paul, who formally announced his presidential campaign Tuesday, that balancing act may not be enough to build a coalition that can carry him to the White House.

The idea here is that Rand Paul temporarily had his bullshit properly aligned with the zeitgeist of the country. But all he ever does is try to align his bullshit with the zeitgeist. That’s why his record looks like a poorly thought out Jackson Pollack canvas.

He isn’t here strictly to entertain us, and he’s not self-consciously a clown, always crying on the inside. What he is is a trojan horse for the folks who have been with the Paul family for the long-haul.

If Rand Paul were better at this, he’d be very dangerous. But he’s so ridiculous that he’s simply amusing.

[Cross-posted at Progress Pond]

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com