Jason Zengerle on Rand Paul: GQ
On the road with Aqua Buddha Man.
Just fifteen minutes earlier the candidate whom Paul came out to support was likening the current Speaker of the House to a former Soviet dictator, so I ask if he thinks that’s what the press might be referring to when they say the Tea Party is extreme. He leans forward and smiles. “Well, I think whether or not your analogies are over the top, whether you might extend an analogy farther than others might, is not something to be reviled. It’s just an opinion, you know?”
He pauses for a moment, as if wondering whether he should say more, then gives in to the urge. “But I don’t hear that and say, ‘Oh, he’s absolutely wrong.’ I hear him and say that our country is slipping towards that, and there could be a time when we slip and lose a lot of our freedoms. I’ll say things like that Ben Franklin statement: ‘Those who give up their liberty for security will have neither.’ I worry about a time when we would have chaos in our country and then a strong national leader would come along and say, ‘Give me your liberty and I’ll give you security.’ Not that it’s imminent or happening tomorrow or applies to any particular players on the stage, but there are historical examples.”
Paul pauses again, although this time it’s not out of any hesitation on his part; he’s just making sure we’re still with him. “In 1923, when they destroyed the currency, they elected Hitler. And so they elected somebody who vilified one group of people, but he promised them, ‘I will give you security if you give me your liberty,’ and they voted him in. And that’s not to mean that anybody around is Hitler, but it’s to mean that you don’t want chaos in your country. And we could have chaos, not just because of the Democrats, but because the Democrats and the Republicans have all been spending us into oblivion. And having a massive debt runs the risk of chaos at some point. Not tomorrow, maybe not next week—I mean, I can’t even predict the stock market six months from now. But I think that a country is in danger that spends beyond its means and lives beyond its means. And I don’t ever say it started with President Obama. I think it started long ago.”
It’s an incredible performance, one that begins with a gentle distancing from a loony analogy before reframing the analogy to make it seem less loony, then introducing a new analogy that isn’t just loony, it’s repugnant, but that also, as the analogy gets fleshed out in greater detail, begins to reveal itself as conforming to a certain logic that might be worthy of debate—all before ending on a bipartisan, pox-on-both-their-houses note that makes it clear that no, he was not comparing Obama to Hitler.