Rand Paul has long been a laughable lightweight – at Senate hearings, Dr. Fauci beats him up on a regular basis – but now he has outperformed even himself.
Republicans like him always equate “big government” with “socialism” and routinely condemn it as a matter of principle – until catastrophe hits their own back yard, and then suddenly, without even a scintilla of embarrassment, they dump their doltish boilerplate and plead for big government socialist money to rescue them.
Look, the tornado victims in Kentucky deserve all the help that President Biden can provide, and he’s already doing it. But we can still take a moment to laugh ourselves silly at the letter Paul sent to the president, where be begged for federal assistance and asked Biden to “move expeditiously to approve the appropriate resources for our state.”
Isn’t it amazing how all the idiot talk about the evils of “socialism” gets blown away as soon as killer weather comes calling?
If memory serves, Paul is the purportedly principled “libertarian” who voted in 2013 not to send billions in federal relief aid to the New Jersey victims of Hurricane Sandy, who voted in 2017 not to send billions in relief to the Texas victims of Hurricane Harvey, who voted in 2017 not to send relief money to the Puerto Rico victims of Hurricane Maria, and who voted in 2019 not to appropriate billions in relief money to several federal agencies.
As he once explained, “This (relief spending) has to stop. We spend too much. We owe too much. We cannot keep spending money we do not have.”
But now that his state has been hit hard, he wants to spend as much as possible. In the past he always insisted that if the feds wanted to hike disaster spending, they should offset those costs by cutting the budget somewhere else. But lo and behold, you can read the entire letter that Paul sent to Biden and not once is there any insistence that Kentucky should be helped only if the federal budget is cut elsewhere.
No amount of air freshener can erase that stench of hypocrisy.
Actually, that’s standard Republican behavior. Mick Mulvaney, the Trump budget director, was a congressman who voted in 2013 not to send money to New Jersey, insisting that Sandy relief should happen only if budget cuts were made elsewhere. But in 2015, when his state of South Carolina was flooded by a killer storm, he pleaded for federal money: “There will be a time for a discussion about aid and how to pay for it, but that time is not now.”
The state’s senior senator, Lindsey Graham, did the same thing. He’d voted no on the Sandy package, but suddenly, after his flood, he declared: “Rather than put a price tag on it, let’s just get through this, and whatever it costs, it costs.”
There’s much more. Tom Cotton, the Arkansas senator, voted no on the Sandy package, but pleaded for expeditious federal money a few years later after Arkansas was hit by floods. Four House Republicans from Colorado voted no on the Sandy package, but pleaded for help a few months later when Colorado was hit by floods. In 2011, the two Republican senators from Oklahoma voted no on the Sandy package and in 2011 they tried to cut the Federal Emergency Management Agency budget – only to pull a miracle switcheroo in 2013 when Oklahoma was hit by tornadoes.
One of those senators, Tom Coburn, told his constituents: “As the ranking member of the committee that oversees FEMA, I can assure Oklahomans that any and all available aid will be delivered without delay.”
So Paul is merely one rotten egg in the basket of deplorables. Nevertheless, he was still a committed scrooge as recently as last month. When Biden’s infrastructure package reached the Senate floor – with its $47 billion outlay to combat climate change; with its $6.8 billion for FEMA – Paul again voted no. How fortunate for his benighted citizens of Kentucky that he was powerless to stop its historic passage.
And how fortunate Kentuckians are that Paul’s hypocrisy has been trumped by Biden’s sense of responsibility. The president has already approved massive federal relief aid with all deliberate speed – without fuming that the state’s red electorate had voted against him, without ranting that the state’s two red senators were horrible people or whatever, without offering to throw paper towels, without telling Kentuckians that maybe the tornadoes would’ve never happened if they’d bothered to rake their forests.
That’s called governing.
Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia, writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org