Magazine | May 4, 2015, Issue

Rand’s Riposte

Hillary is running for president, a turn of events so shocking you could knock me over with a feather or a dossier of her Senate accomplishments. Expect the press to revive the “war on women” plot by asking a male GOP rival whether he feels he’s thwarting progress by opposing the first female prez.

If the candidate has any fortitude, he’ll say, “Really, this nonsense again? Conservatives don’t have a problem with women. We have a problem with leftists who won’t be happy until wizened nuns are required by law to perform abortions, that’s what.” So you hope. You fear he’ll say: “Well, the good thing about a female commander-in-chief, we’d only have to pay her 77 cents on the dollar.” If he said that before the debate he might as well refer to her as Madam President for the rest of the campaign.

The trouble-with-women meme reappeared in April when Rand Paul was insufficiently respectful to a reporter. He shushed her. She was talking and he shushed her. When Rand Paul tells a female reporter to shush, people hear different things.

1. Liberals think he’s saying “You shut your whore mouth.”

2. Conservatives think he’s finally doing what candidates need to do, which is treat the media like glossy-coated jackals who lap up whatever half-digested opinions the New York Times barfed up that morn. After all, this is how the interviews usually go:

“Thank you for appearing on the show today. There’s been some controversy over statements you’ve made in the last 35 years, and some say you’ve flip-flopped on some key issues, like Iran, abortion, butter as a preferable spread to margarine, Chinese trade, the latter Darren on Bewitched vs. the former, and, perhaps most troublesome as far as women voters are concerned, your opposition to a bill that would have reduced federal penalties for increasing state penalties on local penalties with regard to the Healthy Baby Act of 1975, leading many to wonder why you have chosen this time to oppose healthy, cute, smiling babies whose open faces and wide innocent smiles are almost a universal sign of hope.”

Most GOP candidates respond with the hideous grin of a car salesman given 50,000 volts of electricity through a catheter, then say, “Well, the issue isn’t healthy children, Susan; we’re all for those, and I have three lovely ones myself. The issue is what kind of future we leave them, and that’s why I’m about to use words like ‘deficit’ and ‘opportunity,’ because they focus-tested well with six Iowa farmers who showed up at the diner wearing hats covered with campaign buttons.”

Annnnd he’s dead. Because people heard “flip-flop,” which is bad; it implies someone doesn’t have any principles. (Note: Adherence to principles over the course of a long career is regarded as “ideological inflexibility,” unless the issue is abortion rights, taxation, the environment, public schools, or corporate regulation, in which case one is a “tireless champion.”) People heard “troublesome” and “oppose” in close proximity, which is sad because politics are so negative these days, with all the opposing. And what’s this about vetoing Healthy Babies? The monster!

The Rand Paul approach derails the 40-car freight train and shoots the engineer in the cab for good measure. It’s like the Gingrich Method for dealing with loaded questions: refuse to accept the premise and eviscerate the reporter with acidic wit. Watching Newt work with a hostile press was like watching a porcupine do jumping jacks in a room full of balloons. And that’s why he’s president! People eat that stuff up.

Well, no. People who regard the D.C. media as inbred overclass mouthpieces devoted to the rule of smothering statists might cheer, but people who like those nice good-looking young folk on TV think the candidate is just being rude. And he didn’t answer the question about voting against Healthy Babies.

Let’s say the candidate does answer the last point in the litany. It usually goes like this:

“Well, Susan, that’s a long list, but I’ll take the last one. I voted for the Baby Wellness Initiative, which was a House version of the Healthy Babies Act, which as you know replaced the Infant Mortality Abatement Directive of 1974 due to sunset in fiscal year 2016. What I voted against was an amended bill that included money for drones that performed abortions in rural areas, which didn’t seem to have anything to do with wellness — ”

“But many have pointed out the lack of access to reproductive health care in the Heartland.”

“And many have pointed out the lack of nose hairs in George Washington on Mount Rushmore, so what — sorry. It was a procedural vote, and — ”

“Well, we’re out of time, but we thank you for coming by today.”

“My pleasure.”

Rand Paul did something different: He told the interviewer to go ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she supports aborting a seven-pound fetus, and then they’d talk. Bravo. More please. You want to talk about gay rights? Ask Hillary if a grandma florist should be jailed because she didn’t make a bouquet for a transgender-polygamist commitment ceremony. You want to talk about women’s reproductive health? Ask Hillary if she thinks the abortion rate in African-American communities is too high, too low, or just Goldilocks right. You want to talk about money in politics? Ask Hillary if taking money from the Koch brothers is worse than taking it from robed Saudi creeps who beat women for leaving the house without a hall pass.

Can’t miss! Except you know what the media’s takeaway would be, don’t you?

“Candidate’s questions revive the debate about whether using Clinton’s first name is condescending — or just sexist.”

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

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