Chris Matthews had Jack Conway on Hardball Monday because he seemed very upset by the above ad. Many lefty pundits are also attacking it. Are you surprised that members of the left-wing punditocracy love to act all high and mighty and attack candidates and writers on our own side? It's quite revealing. Jonathan Chait leads the pack. I imagine they get off trying to show the Beltway media that they're above it all. You know, 'ain't I cool because I attack my own?'
The ugliest, most illiberal political ad of the year may be this one, from Kentucky Democrat Jack Conway. I actually don't doubt the implication of the ad, namely that Rand Paul harbors a private contempt for Christianity. He's a devotee of Ayn Rand, who is a fundamentally anti-Christian thinker. And much of Paul's history, which he is frantically covering up in an attempt to pass himself off as a typical Republican, suggests among other things a deep skepticism about religion.
The trouble with Conway's ad is that it comes perilously close to saying that non-belief in Christianity is a disqualification for public office. That's a pretty sickening premise for a Democratic campaign.
OK, let's clear something up. Conway isn't attacking Paul's religion. He never mentions one word on that subject. All he does is call him out over his actions back at Baylor. I mean, who associates with a whacked-out group like The Noze Brotherhood? And if he didn't do anything, then why did the young woman cut herself off from Paul afterwards? Because it was sick. Here's the original story if you forgot some of the details.
It's also about Paul's hypocrisy. Let's not forget that it was Paul who brought up the subject of personal religious beliefs in the first place by attacking Conway's faith.
Back to Hardball, they promo the segment like this.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asks Kentucky Senate Candidate Jack Conway to defend his “Aqua Buddha” ad, and whether it’s fair to question opponent Rand Paul on his faith and organizations he joined in college.
Jack had to say over and over again that he wasn't attacking his faith and he never did -- he questioned his affiliation with a stupid group and then explained why it's relevant to the campaign. It's because Rand Paul has insane ideas about how America should be governed and has been involved with extreme people like white supremacists and he concocts phony medical boards. Simple, right? Not for the Beltway and not for some liberal pundits. What a shame.
I can see why Chait and other progressives might be a bit upset, as the ad attacks Rand Paul for his irreligious beliefs.
Personally, I see nothing wrong with it. Voters are less concerned with issues than values when casting their ballots, and for many voters, religion speaks to the candidate's values. I may not like it, but it's a democracy, and the notion that the source of a candidate's values are off-limits is patently absurd.
Also, do any of these pundits know Kentucky politics and how they feel about such things? Interestingly, CNN's Paul Begala defended Jack Conway and the ad itself with Anderson Cooper last night and said that indeed voters in KY would relate to the ad itself. Paul is whining the night away. Did you know he was a deeply religious man? I thought he was some offshoot of a Libertarian. Well, in his response ad, that's the direction he takes. "False Witness."
Rand Paul, the pot smoking libertarian Tea Partier is now rending his garments like a typical social conservative Christian and condemning Jack Conway for being insensitive to his religion. (And once again the liberal intelligentsia is abandoning Conway because he's made an ad that they feel in "inappropriate.")
The fact is that Rand Paul, once a hardcore libertarian, condemned religion and certainly didn't believe in social conservatism. Tens of thousands of libertarians sent him money just this year believing that's the kind of Tea Partier he was. Now, like the rest of them he's changed his tune and he's become a Church Lady Bible thumper, excoriating Conway for saying the word "hell" at a political picnic. This is a bullshit game and Conway has every right to call him out as a hypocrite.
This race in Kentucky is a vicious dogfight that very possibly may end up being the only chance the Democrats have to hold the Senate. The Teabaggers and other right wing deviants are running disgusting ads all over the country ripping Democrats to shreds and appealing to basest instincts of the voters. (Check this one out if you want to see something bad --- and he's already winning his race!)...read on
I'd love nothing more than to send Rand Paul back to Poppa Rand's arms and Jack Conway to the US Senate. You can still donate to Blue America's PAC for Jack
And I applaud Theda Skocpol for her response. via TPM:
I have a real problem with all the prissy condemnations coming from liberal commentators about Conway's ad on Rand Paul's youthful playing with contempt for Christianity. People are acting as if it is some kind of political sin to point out to ordinary Kentucky voters the kind of stuff about Paul's extremist libertarian views that everyone in the punditry already knows. This does not amount to saying that Christian belief is a "requirement for public office" as one site huffs. It is a matter of letting regular voters who themselves care deeply about Christian belief know that Paul is basically playing them. No different really than letting folks who care about Social Security and Medicare know that Paul is playing them.
One reason that Dems do not seem to be able to play hardball -- in a viciously hardball political world -- is that Dems often lack conviction or the will to be eloquently honest (for example, on taxes). But an equal problem is that when someone does play hardball, the rest of the prissy liberal Mugwumps tut-tut them about it.
I say, go for it, Jack Conway. Does anyone doubt that Paul and his supporters would have used similar publicly documented material against Conway (or even less material)?
Correction; ( I originally wrote that Josh Marshall said the above quote when it was actually Theda Skocpol. Josh reposted her quote.)