The RandCam

If you need a good, if not very charitable, laugh today, I strongly recommend Ben Terris’ WaPo article about his experience participating in–well, let him explain it:

In 1996 a woman named Jennifer Ringley decided to put a camera in her apartment and broadcast her entire life over the Internet. Because it was a new and provocative concept, and because, hey, maybe she’d get naked, millions of people tuned in, and “Jennicam” became a national sensation.

OMG, the “Jennicam.” When’s the last time anyone’s heard of that highly ephemeral cultural/technological phenomenon? But I digress:

Two decades later, another relative unknown tried to capitalize on the idea: Struggling GOP presidential contender Rand Paul.

Cynics will see the Kentucky senator’s decision to livestream a day on the campaign trail in Iowa as a desperate gambit to gain traction in the polls; believers will see a transparent politician willing to use technology in a novel way.

I decided to watch as much of it as I could take. I’d wake up in the morning with Rand Paul, and who knows, maybe he’d be the last voice I heard before I went to sleep. Brilliant: A way to experience all the drivel and madness of the campaign trail, but without having to get out of my pajama pants.

What follows is Terris’ hilarious account of a busy or bored Rand Paul slogging through a busy but boring day on the campaign trail, with very regular unexplained blackouts. A sample:

9:27 am: We get our first glimpse of Rand Paul. He’s slouched at a breakfast table in an Iowa hotel, with half-empty orange juice cups and coffee mugs. Paul is schlumpily dressed in a blue vest with a black shirt underneath. Or is it a sweater patterned with both colors? I have all day to figure this out.

He and his tablemates — unidentified campaign staffers, presumably — talk idly about college football and Donald Trump. Someone says “Let’s load up.”

The feed cuts off again: “This channel is off the air.”

9:37 am: When the feed picks up, we’re in the back seat of the car looking up front at Paul. “This is how we roll,” someone says, hitting play on the song “Mercy” by Duffy. Paul turns down the music to take a phone call and complain about whatever airline he just flew in on.

And then, for dessert, there’s this:

3:30 pm: A campaign reporter with a video camera asks Paul why he is even bothering to livestream. “I wish I knew. . .” he says. “I’ve been saying, I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this and now we’re doing this.” He was probably sort of joking, but also probably not.

The reporter asks how he would respond to people who might say this was just a stunt by a flailing politician trying to get attention.

“I would say they’re just jealous and maybe they wish they were in the car with us because it’s so much fun,” he says.

Then he goes up on a stage to complain to another audience about how he got screwed over by an airline on his way to Iowa.

The feed cuts off again.

The pathetic thing is that Paul is phoning it all in so mechanically that he can’t bring himself to take his own campaign stunts seriously. He seems to be waiting for someone to tell him he can stop now, just like the unfortunate people watching the livestream of his day.

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.