The gloss on Rand Paul has been that he is one of those lunatic libertarians who allow themselves to be hypnotized by their least-government-is-always-best principles into embracing some truly ridiculous and even some clearly reprehensible positions. The most glaring example of this is his view that America would be better off if businesses were allowed to practice racism on their business premises, since said premises constitute private property, and government has no business telling free Americans what they are and aren’t free to do on their own private property.
According to this view, the Paul is genuinely befuddled. He’s a man we have to respect at some level because even if he professes truly strange beliefs, those beliefs are genuine, and they spring from principles he believes in deeply. In effect, he believes not wisely but too well.
But there’s an ugly side to Rand Paul too, a side where beliefs and moral principles count for nothing before blind ambition and the be-all and end-all of getting himself elected at all costs. And this is the side that was on display after a group of Rand Paul supporters brutally attacked Lauren Valle, a female MoveOn activist, on Monday night, outside the venue of a Rand Paul-Jack Conway debate:
A group of Rand Paul supporters held down and stomped the head of a female MoveOn member just before tonight’s debate. Not ‘assault’ in the BS sense we’ve seen both sides alleging when someone nudges a video tracker, but the real thing.
Late Update: Paul supporters seem to be putting out the word that the woman fell or tripped. But look at the video. It’s hard to reconcile the ‘fell’ storyline with the two or three guys shoving her, the one guy holding her down/attempting a headlock and the other guy stomping on her head.
There is really no way to spin the attack, even though that didn’t stop supporters of the Paul from trying. Five big guys deliberately attacked a woman, attempting to intimidate her with violence, and one of them stomped on her head while she lay defenseless on the ground (with another of these big brave men holding her down while she was stomped).
The stomper was identified in short order as one Tim Profitt:
Profitt is not, it appears, a random campaign volunteer. Almost immediately after admitting his role, a picture of him and Paul surfaced.
The local blog Barefoot and Progressive also noted that the Paul campaign once touted Profitt’s endorsement in a newspaper ad.
So, confronted with this act of violent political intimidation by a man whose political support the Paul has trumpeted in the past, how did the honorable, principled candidate respond? He could only work up barely enough outrage to issue a vague and tepid statement of disapproval, a statement so vague and tepid, it’s not even remotely clear what he’s actually disapproving of:
We want everybody to be civil; we want the campaign to be about issues. I will tell you that when we arrived, there was enormous passion on both sides and it really was something where you walked into a daze of lights flashing, people yelling and screaming, bumping up. There was a bit of a crowd control problem.
I don’t want anybody, though, to be involved in things that aren’t civil. I think it should always be about the issues. It is an unusual situation to have so many people, so passionate on both sides, jockeying back and forth and it wasn’t something that I liked or anybody liked about that situation. So I hope in the future it’s going to be better.
“A bit of a crowd control problem” was a truly unfortunate choice of words. “Crowd control” was, apparently, the euphemism of choice for the five big brave men who set out to physically intimidate Lauren Valle. This is Valle’s account of the incident:
I have been at a bunch of events before, the previous debate, and the Rand Paul campaign knows me and they have expressed their distastes for my work before. What happened last night was that about five minutes before Rand Paul’s car arrived they identified me and my partner, Alex, who was with me. They surrounded me. There was five of them. They motioned to each other and got behind me. My partner Alex heard them say ‘We are here to do crowd control we might have to take someone out.’
When Rand Paul’s car arrived a couple of them stepped in front of me so I stepped off the curb to get around them to get back out front. At that point they started grabbing for me and I ran all the way around the car with them in pursuit. The footage is after I’ve run all the way around the car and I’m in front of the car and that is when they took me down. One or two people twisted my arms behind my back and took me down… It was about two-to-three second after that that another person stomped on my head. And I lay there for 20 seconds or so and my partner Alex came and got me up and that’s the point where there is the media clip of me speaking.
But it’s not just that unfortunate choice of words. Paul’s statement is kind of disapproving, vaguely condemnatory. But what exactly does he condemn? Five of his supporters ganging up to engage in physical violence on a female political opponent? Really hard to tell, isn’t it? Something happened that the Paul thinks wasn’t “civil”, but the only thing that the Paul condemns (and in such strong words too; it wasn’t something that he liked or anybody liked about that situation!) is the unusual situation of having so many people, so passionate on both sides, jockeying back and forth.
It looks very much like Rand Paul was afraid to actually condemn a clear act of totally unacceptable violence by a gang of his political supporters, doesn’t it? Afraid because it might alienate some of the crazies whose votes he’s counting on next Tuesday? And this is a man whose election is so precariously poised that Nate Silver reckons his probability of winning at only 95.8%.
And this is Rand Paul’s second pass at condemning the incident:
The Paul for Senate campaign is extremely disappointed in, and condemns the actions of a supporter last night outside the KET debate. Whatever the perceived provocation, any level of aggression or violence is deplorable, and will not be tolerated by our campaign. The Paul campaign has disassociated itself from the volunteer who took part in this incident, and once again urges all activists — on both sides — to remember that their political passions should never manifest themselves in physical altercations of any kind.
Funny, I could have sworn there were five men involved. The only part of the attack that Paul finds unacceptable is the head-stomping. Everything else — chasing Valle round the car, wrestling her to the ground, holding her there — sits just fine with him. (That must be the Southern gentleman in Rand Paul speaking.) I imagine that’s because Valle started it all, by some discreetly unspecified act of provocation.
Let’s hope the Paul will keep trying till he gets it right.