In Bureaucracy, Politics on May 26, 2010 at 11:04 am

In his May 24 column, “Rand Paul’s Amazing Meltdown,” conservative columnist Michael Medved poses the question: “Could it be that the media establishment wanted [Rand] Paul to win and treated him respectfully in order to preserve his chances of victory?”

Specifically, he states: “Rand Paul’s amazing meltdown in his first week as the GOP Senate nominee in Kentucky raises serious questions about media conspiracies–not because the network talking heads decided to ask him tough questions, but because they waited to pose those challenges until after he’d won his primary and the Republicans were stuck with him.”

It’s easy to make a conspiratorial argument for anything. And such thinking has huge appeal for both the Left and Right. For almost 50 years, liberals like Mark Lane and Oliver Stone have lived well off the contention that JFK died at the hands of a conspiracy.

On the Right are those who believe that members of the Nixon Administration deliberately sabotaged the President by sending burglars into the Watergate Hotel to be arrested in the act.

Indulging in such conspiracy theories is easier than accepting the brutal truth that Kennedy died at the hands of a malcontented loner, and that Nixon was brought down by his own criminality rather than traitors within the Republican party.

Both sides conveniently forget this truism to be found in Niccolo Machiavelli’s classic work on the gaining and holding of power, The Prince:

Experience shows that there have been very many conspiracies, but few have turned out well. For whoever conspires cannot act alone, and cannot find companions except among those who are discontented. And as soon as you have disclosed your intention to a malcontent, you give him the means of satisfying himself.

Medved, too, has apparently forgotten this. Medved cites the media’s respectful treating of Paul as evidence of a conspiracy to sabotage not just him but the Republican party’s chances of victory in the Kentucky Senate race.

But what if the media had not treated Paul respectfully? It’s a sure bet that Medved and his fellow conservatives would have then accused the media of publicly trying to derail his candidacy.

Since the media treated Paul with the same respect they showed the other candidates in the race, Republicans like Medved must shop for a new theory for Paul’s “meltdown.”

That is, they must find a way to explain his remarks that while he opposes racial discrimination, he also opposes laws–such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964–that ban it. They must also put a spin in his more recent comment attacking President Obama as “really un-American in his criticism of business” by demanding that BP be held accountable for the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s certainly easier to attack the media as conspirators than to accept that one’s party has cast its lot with a man who says things that outrage a great many voters.

Consider, for example, his positions–as listed on his own website–on:

ABORTION: “I believe we may be able to save millions of lives in the near future by allowing states to pass their own anti-abortion laws….I would strongly support legislation restricting federal courts from hearing cases like Roe v. Wade. Such legislation would only require a majority vote, making it more likely to pass than a pro-life constitutional amendment.” In short, Big Government should not intrude into the lives of its citizens–unless a woman wants to control her own body.

ENERGY: “Our energy crisis stems from too much government intervention. The solution requires allowing businesses and ideas to compete.” If you like the way BP has handled the ever-spreading oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll love Paul’s attitude that “What’s good for BP is good for the country.”

HEALTH CARE: “Like other areas of the economy where the federal government wields its heavy hand, health care is over-regulated and in need of serious market reforms. As Senator, I would ensure that real free market principles are applied to fix this problem.” In short, if 31 million Americans don’t have health care, that’s their tough luck. It’s not the role of the Federal Government to protect its citizens from life-threatening illness just because they can’t afford extortionate medical fees.

For more than 50 years, Republicans have portrayed themselves as the only party worthy of trust. They have repeatedly accused their Democratic opponents of not simply being wrong, but of being traitors–of lusting for the chance to “sell out” America to whichever group seemed most frightening at the moment: Communists, criminals, terrorists or “tax-and-spend” liberals.

Those who believe themselves charged with a sacred mission are prone to see evil conspiracies at work when they slam into a roadblock–especially if that roadblock is of their own making.

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