It wasn’t that long ago when Time magazine was proclaiming Rand Paul the most interesting politician in America.
Rand was by far the mainstream media’s favorite idea of a Republican: a man speaking out about the poor and disenfranchised; who spoke in Berkeley and at Howard University; a saner version of his old man, Libertarian folk hero Ron Paul.
But Rand has always had a few ghosts in his background, and in some cases, they’re not very flattering.
On Sunday the Washington Post reported on how Paul, an ophthalmologist, was so opposed to being required to take a test to become board certified in Kentucky that he led “an eye doctors’ rebellion.” It’s funny and a bit bizarre. Paul says he stands by his decade-long fight for ophthalmologists to be re-certified, regardless of age. Even though he was the only person to actually join his rebellion.
That was a decade ago. Now Paul is veering further off than some of his GOP presidential brethren when it comes to the issue of vaccinations. The issue is back in the news with the breakout in measles that originated in California and has now spread to 13 other states.
Speaking with talk-show host Laura Ingraham on Monday, Paul said, “I’m not anti-vaccine at all, but particularly, most of them ought to be voluntary. What happens if you have somebody not wanting to take the smallpox vaccine and it ruins it for everybody else? I think there are times in which there can be some rules, but for the first part it ought to be voluntary.” He then doubled down on CNBC later in the day, saying, “I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines. I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing. But I think the parents should have some input.”
Chris Christie also got caught up in the shrapnel of this story Monday as well, but no one has stood out against the accepted conventional wisdom on vaccines more than Senator Paul. Or should I say Dr. Paul?
He’s not out on an island on this: Some polls show as many as 30 percent of Americans say they like to have the choice of whether or not to give vaccination shots to their children. And Paul has said he believes that vaccinations are necessary for the measles.
But how far can you take the whole iconoclasm thing before it moves outside of the mainstream? Paul’s attitudes on foreign policy and civil liberties appeal to millions of Americans, because they don’t hear that many lawmakers, particularly Republican presidential candidates, talking about those things — ever. But there is a stream of extreme libertarianism that he espouses that seems like it will hurt more than help him as he tries to find a path to the GOP nomination next year.
In other news …
Ray Chiaramonte has been a very involved guy in Hillsborough County planning issues for decades. Now he’s moving from head of the Hillsborough County MPO and Planning Commission to take charge of TBARTA, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority.
Hillsborough County Commission Chairwoman Sandy Murman is definitely running for re-election next year.
WUSF All Things Considered anchor Craig Kopp is the new station manager at WMNF radio.
And Florida Republicans do not want Marco Rubio running for president: Jeb Bush is their man.