Jonathan Chait got the ball rolling from the left wing elitists when he attacked Jack Conway's Aqua Buddha ad against Rand Paul when he wrote that he had sympathy for Paul. Many of us objected to this for many reasons, but how does Chait answer the criticisms? He makes shit up. Here's his defense of Paul:
Is Rand Paul misleading the electorate about his religion? Sure. But he's not running on a religious platform. It's Conway who's making religion an issue. I think an atheist, which is what I'm petty sure Paul is, ought to be able to run for office without having his belief system publicly interrogated.
Is he this naive about our current political system? When hasn't a Democrat's religion been question? John Kennedy's Catholicism was a big issue in 1960. The question of his electability because of his religious beliefs was a central question in that election. And since Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed injected religion into our mainstream political discourse beginning in the 1980s, it's only gotten much, much worse.
Chait admits that Rand Paul is probably lying about his belief in religion -- which I might agree with, but then he insists that even an atheist should be allowed to run for office. I agree with that completely -- except for one thing: Republicans don't believe in that assessment. Rand Paul doesn't believe that assessment. Republicans throw religion into every part of their party and into every debate we have, but for some reason others are forbidden to bring up the issue of religious values. Either Chait hasn't been following Baby Paul's campaign or is ignorant about what Rand has publicly stated about his views on religion. Paul did make religion part of the debate after he trumpeted his Christian faith -- evidently in contrast with Conway -- back in May, via Sarah Posner:
Appearing on The Brody File, Rand Paul, who believes that portions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act need "further discussion" and may violate private business owners' First Amendment rights, said that we wouldn't really need laws in this country if everyone were a good Christian:
I'm a Christian. We go to the Presbyterian Church. My wife’s a Deacon there and we’ve gone there ever since we came to town. I see that Christianity and values is the basis of our society. . . . 98% of us won’t murder people, won’t steal, won’t break the law and it helps a society to have that religious underpinning. You still need to have the laws but I think it helps to have a people who believe in law and order and who have a moral compass or a moral basis for their day to day life.
Although Paul attends a mainline Protestant church, in his comments one might hear an echo of Christian Reconstructionism. RD contributor Julie Ingersoll, an expert on Christian Reconstructionism, once described it to me this way: "Reconstructionists claim to have an entirely integrated, logically defensible Christian worldview. Reconstructionism addresses everything you have to think about." In other words, as a society we should follow (preferable) biblical law, and dispense with all but a small handful of civil laws.
Not only is Rand Paul clearly pandering to the Christian right, but he's focused on a very fringe element in that community -- one called Christian Reconstructionism. Just think of Alan Grayson's opponent, Dan Webster. I find it fascinating that the GOP is dominated by the religious right and for the most part and if you don't demonstrate your Christian values you have no chance to even run for office as a Republican or a Tea Party candidate. Why doesn't Chait make the claim that Rand's holier-than-thou attitude towards Conway is just that because Rand Paul is making religion part of his campaign? I myself do agree with him that religion shouldn't be part of our political debate, but Conservatives have ended that notion, and to be that high minded and "above the fray" is a path to political defeat.
By the way, Greg Sargent does some excellent reporting with the Aqua Buddha woman.: Aqua Buddha prank victim: Jack Conway ad is "over the top," but accurate, raises legit questions
"My whole point in sharing [the episode] was that Randy used to be a different person with different views that have radically changed, and he's not acknowledging that," she told me. "That is why I shared it in the first place."
She added that his college years and views should raise questions "as to how genuine he is about his beliefs now. I have a hard time seeing how someone who espouses beliefs that he used to would turn around and become a conservative Christian."
She confirmed the ad's accuracy, and wondered aloud why Paul doesn't just admit what occurred and move on.
"Yes, he was in a secret society, yes, he mocked religion, yes, the whole Aqua Buddha thing happened," she said. "There was a different side to him at one time and he's pretending that it never existed. If he would just acknowledge it, it would all go away and it wouldn't matter anymore."
However, she also said that Conway's ad went too far in depicting college pranks as something frightening, and added that the topic wasn't consequential enough to drive the Senate race.
We'll see how it plays out in the end, but clearly Conway's ad is authentic. The question is, is Rand Paul an authentic man? As far as his political beliefs, I think we know the answer to that already.
UPDATED: Well, well, well...Rand fell in the well. Looks like Baby Paul attacked Trey Grayson during the Republican primary over his association with Bill Clinton 30 years ago. So much for the "It was only a college prank defense" so it shouldn't count.