On May 18, Rand Paul stunned the Republican establishment in the Kentucky senatorial primary by smashing Trey Grayson, the hand-picked choice of Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He was roundly cheered by the tea party activists, whose banner he waves whenever he gets the chance.
Then he immediately came down with an epic case of foot-in-mouth disease. When Robert Siegel of National Public Radio discussed Paul's criticisms of the Americans with Disabilities Act (which Paul sees as an infringement on the rights of businesses), Siegel asked if the same criticism would apply to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. You know - the one that says you can't have "Whites Only" restaurants and drinking fountains.
Now, most of us had regarded that sort of thing as pretty well-settled law. But on Planet Paul, no battle, no matter how ancient or ill-conceived, is ever really over. When Siegel asked if the CRA and the ADA were "just overreaches" by the federal government, Rand replied "Right."
Paul had also insisted in a recent interview with The Louisville Courier-Journal that the right to refuse service to people on the basis of race was a right protected by the First Amendment. See, on Planet Paul, it was the people being set upon by police dogs and blasted by firehoses while demanding basic human dignity who were the real oppressors.
By the end of the week, Paul was reduced to earnestly insisting that he really wasn't going to try to get the Civil Rights Act repealed. Well, that's a relief.
Not to be deterred by that controversy, Paul then went on to take up the cause of another oppressed minority: British Petroleum. You know - the people whose oil spill is killing the entire Gulf of Mexico.
Criticism of BP, and of business in general, Paul said, was "really un-American." We shouldn't be playing the "blame game," Paul said, because "sometimes accidents happen."
For good measure, he included the recent Kentucky mine disaster as one of those things that "just happen," with no one accountable, certainly not the company that owned the mine. This should be a real comfort to the people of the Gulf Coast, not to mention the families of the dead miners and oil rig workers.
See, that's the problem with the whole right-wing agenda. You come to the party for the low taxes and limited government, but then you realize that the deal also includes the government just shrugging and looking the other way if a company discriminates against you, kills or maims you, poisons your air or water, or destroys your livelihood. It's nothing personal, it's just business.
Paul also has another congenital defect of the tea partiers: He's against Big Government, unless Big Government puts money in his personal pocket. According to The Wall street Journal, Paul wants to slash government spending - but not Medicare payments to physicians. The fact that Paul himself is a physician (he's an ophthalmologist who says 50 percent of his patients are on Medicare) is, I'm sure, pure coincidence.
The firestorm finally grew to be too hot for Paul. He canceled an appearance on "Meet the Press," and now he's singing the old familiar tune about how the liberal media have it in for him.
Now, it's entirely possible that Rand Paul will not blow his lead and that he can win this one. We are, after all, talking about a state whose state song contained lyrics about "darkies" until 1986.
But if he doesn't win, there's always another career path he can follow, a path which I like to call "the Palin Track." On the Palin Track, you turn possible victory into crushing defeat for your party by saying one nutty thing after another, get roundly mocked along the way, then go on the lecture circuit, taking a hundred grand an appearance to tell everyone it was a liberal media conspiracy that did you in.
Like Sarah Palin, it looks like Rand Paul is going to be another one of those gifts that just keep on giving. And that was just his first week. What's next? Will Rand Paul compare the government's lawsuit against Goldman Sachs to the Holocaust? Will he start arguing in favor of secession?
Well, we live in hope.