I have thought for several months now that Rand Paul has been, if not the superior potential senator, at least the superior candidate. He is smarter, more thoughtful, and more articulate than Trey Grayson. These are nice qualities to have when you are an elected lawmaker. I was even thinking of personally endorsing him here on this blog.
But now we've got a problem.
I was disappointed when Paul did not receive the endorsement of the Kentucky Right to Life Association (KRLA), and pleased when he got it from the Northern Kentucky Right to Life group. I'd like to see him do well.
It appears that the Paul campaign didn't receive the KRLA endorsement at least partly because of an administrative snafu in answering the KRLA survey, which looms large in the group's endorsement process. An administrative error is forgivable, and if that was where it ended, that's something most of us could live with. But now a more important issue has been created, and it appears to have been created by the Paul campaign itself.
Here's what happened:
- The Paul campaign answered the KRLA survey, but left one question (Question #9) blank. It was the question about human cloning and stem cell research.
- Because of the blank question and for several other reasons, KRLA endorsed Grayson over Paul.
- KRLA was asked about the matter, and responded politely that the Paul campaign had not answered Question #9, and therefore could not be said to have answered the survey "100 percent pro-life," as Grayson did. KRLA has the originals on file--and has posted them on its website--for anyone to view.
- In mid-May, KRLA received a phone call informing them that the Paul campaign was claiming that KRLA was "lying" about the survey and that KRLA was "blocking" the Paul campaign's phone calls.
- KRLA then called the Paul campaign and asked that they stop telling people that they had lied and that they were blocking their calls. In fact, according to KRLA, their phone records show no calls being received from the Paul campaign on any of their three lines.
- KRLA executive director Margie Montgomery then received a fundraising letter from the Paul campaign, stating that Paul had answered the survey "100 percent pro-life."
- After KRLA tried to set the record straight with a press release, the Paul campaign posted a screen shot on its website of their questionnaire, completed, including a "yes" next to Question #9--implying that that is what they had sent to KRLA, and continuing to claim that KRLA had, in fact, been less than truthful about what it had received.
- Then, at a debate on April 23rd (and here is what is really disturbing), Rand Paul said “Whatever they have – I don’t know how it became unmarked, but what we have is marked. We sent it to ‘em by certified mail, and they need to stop, also, not telling the truth on this.” "Sent" in that sentence is in the past tense, but, as it turned out the "certified mail" that was "sent" was sent only after Paul made the statement. KRLA has the tracking number. The debate in which Paul made the statement ended at 1:30 p.m. The certified mail was received at the Bowling Green Post office at 2:40 p.m.
The Kentucky Right to Life Association has, in my opinion, been more than polite about this considering that a major U. S. Senate campaign is accusing it of lying. But the gloves are starting to come off. The Paul campaign has been almost picture perfect in getting its message out, but this incident could seriously damage the campaign in its final weeks of the Republican primary.
The thing about all this is that it didn't have to happen. All of this could have been cleared up by a polite phone call from the Paul campaign to KRLA. Instead, in an uncharacteristically clumsy (not to mention dishonest) move, the campaign has alienated an important state conservative political organization, and is on its way to alienating the many conservative Kentuckians who support it and consider themselves pro-life.
Rand Paul has billed himself as the outsider, the enemy of politics as usual. But what is more usual about politics than untruthfulness? Grayson has made himself easy pickings for Paul through the incompetence with which it has conducted its campaign.
Let's hope that Paul doesn't force Republican voters in this state to choose between a candidate who has trouble conducting a campaign and a candidate who has trouble being honest.