Brothers Juan and Andres Hernandez traveled more than four hours here by bus for the chance to reunite with the man they call “Dr. Pablo.”
Fifteen years ago, they were flown to Bowling Green, Ky., to be examined by an ophthalmologist named Rand Paul. Fifteen years ago, Paul had no political aide or press secretary. There had been no 13-hour filibuster, and there was no talk of a possible presidential campaign. No bodyguard named Axel.
Since operating on the Hernandez brothers in 1999, Paul has become the junior senator from Kentucky and a prospective Republican presidential candidate.
He came face to face again with the brothers this week at a local hospital, in front of a chalkboard where someone had written “Bien vinedos” when they meant to write “Bienvenidos.” The doctor and his patients greeted each other beneath the gaze of three television cameras, three photographers, six reporters, a political aide, two press secretaries, conservative activist David Bossie — and Axel, watching closely.
Paul started speaking Spanish, which he had learned as a kid growing up in Texas. Taking out a pencil light, he examined the brothers’ eyes.
“Mire la luz,” he said — look at the light. Paul handed Juan his glasses and asked him to try them on. He asked him: Is your vision better or the same with the glasses?
“No difference,” Hernandez said in Spanish. After a few moments, Paul said he wanted the brothers to visit a nearby clinic for a thorough exam. Then he asked them to pose for a picture.
“Smile!” someone shouted. The brothers stared ahead, seemingly unable to comprehend the political implications of their photo.
Announced a few months ago, Paul’s trip to Guatemala came at a time when other Republicans considering presidential campaigns, includingRep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), are talking more openly about a “compassion agenda,” finding ways to help the poor and less fortunate. Here, before the cameras in Salama, Paul was on that terrain — but a world away from the rest of a GOP presidential field dominated by career politicians. . .