If you watched cable news at all this morning, you saw that all eyes were trained on Sen. Rand Paul‘s (R-KY) entrance into the 2016 presidential race. But what you might not have expected to hear was all the hoopla about Paul’s father, the libertarian firebrand Ron Paul.
The elder Paul, a former congressman and GOP presidential candidate himself, pioneered the same appeal to young conservatives and libertarian-minded voters for which his son is currently known. While the two differ on policy in many areas, the general message remains the same: Less government, fewer foreign entanglements, criminal justice reform, and an end to NSA surveillance.
Ron will obviously not be irrelevant to Rand — the elder libertarian’s hardcore fan base will be an important asset for the campaign. But unlike his father, the senator is more openly attempting to court traditional conservatives, as indicated by his recent rhetoric about radical Islam, same-sex marriage, and other wedge issues. To be blunt: Rand is not Ron.
And yet the media fixates on their connection, as if Rand isn’t his own person. According to a TVEyes search of Fox News, CNN and MSNBC from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. today, Ron was mentioned 29 times during discussions and reports about his son’s candidacy.
Just today, CNN’s David Gergen said the younger Paul has “daddy issues.” MSNBC’s José Díaz-Balart declared the “shadow” of Ron Paul is “looming large” over his son. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell said Rand was trying to “create distance” between him and his father by staging Ron off to the side, ensuring there is no “hand-raising moment” between father and son at the speaking podium. And CNN’s Dana Bash suggested Rand has to be “more mainstream” than Ron in order to win.
Why is Ron so relevant when reporting or commenting on Rand’s presidential bid? Is it because of the seemingly outlandish things the elder Paul has said of late? Or is it because of his positions on the relevant issues?
Either way, his name comes up in a way that suggests Rand needs to answer for his father.
Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to announce her presidential run, but how often will the media harp on the influence her husband, former President Bill Clinton, might have on her? Will they mention Bill’s potential influence close to 29 times during a six-hour period on the morning of her announcement?
Let’s explore that possibility. Has anyone thus far argued that Hillary has “husband issues”? Or that Bill is “looming large” over Hillary? Would Hillary be at the whims of her husband if she were president? Such rhetoric could be considered “sexist” — and yet, it’s perfectly rational to treat Rand as if he’s not his own person, inseparable from his father’s more radical beliefs and words.
The same goes for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). It wouldn’t be entirely fair for the media to suggest Cruz answer for the things his father, Rafael Cruz, has said. As has been noted in the past, it’s irrational to expect a son to throw his father under the bus. Rand won’t do that to Ron, and Ted won’t do that to Rafael — even when there is a fundamental disagreement.
Rand took the stage in support of his father in 2012. But will Ron do the same for his son? Given the media’s obsession for an influence-peddling narrative in the Paul family, Rand will not allow his father to publicly campaign for him. But if Rand is smart, he will use to his advantage the strong, devoted base of followers his father garnered over the years.
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