Rand Paul, sleazy liar

Rand Paul ignores the First Rule of Holes: when you’re in one, stop digging!

One of the sleaziest ways to respond when accused of misconduct is to deny something you weren’t accused of. That’s the way Rand Paul has decided to handle the fact (no, not a mere “accusation”) that on at least two occasions he made speeches that quoted verbatim from Wikipedia entries without giving due credit.

The more recent instance involved the movie Gattaca, whose plot he cited as a reason for restricting abortion. Accused of plagiarism from Wikipedia, Paul responds that he gave credit: to the movie. Of course he did. He was talking about the movie. In particular, he was pretending that he’d seen the movie. But instead he simply lifted the description of the plotline from an on-line source, like a seventh grader cribbing a book report from a published review. Of course the book report is going to mention the book; the sin is in concealing the fact that the description of the book is not the pupil’s own work.

The 7th grader, if caught, would probably just get an F on the book report. Try that in college, and a second offense could easily get you suspended for a term with a permanent notation about academic dishonesty going on your transcript. But if you’re a Red-team U.S. Senator running for President, you just get to blame it on Rachel Maddow, and some reporters will, with a straight face, report your “defense” as if it weren’t an insult to the reader’s intelligence.

Is this a minor incident? Of course it is. But, as every novelist knows, sometimes a minor incident can be the best way of showing character. Or its absence.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

40 thoughts on “Rand Paul, sleazy liar”

  1. Paul’s “board certification” tells us all we need to know about his character and honesty. If the media don’t make an issue of that, why woudl they make one of this?

    1. Someplace in one of these threads a commenter asserted (without hyperlinks – and, yes, this is now getting very hearsay) – that the “independent certification board” Rand Paul set up to certify himself closed up shop as soon as Rand Paul had no further need to maintain his board certification. If true, this tells you everything about the legitimacy of the “board”, and therefore the legitimacy of Paul’s practice of medicine.

      1. IIRC, the “independent certification board” was set up by Rand and two colleagues; it wasn’t even a mass movement by ophthalmologists. At that point, I knew that he was a fraud and a con man. When he casually discarded whatever Randian atheism was in the way to his election, that was just more evidence.

      2. I believe that I was the one who asserted that the “independent certification board” that Rand Paul set up to certify himself closed shop as soon as Paul had no further need to maintain his certification. I have downloaded a pdf of the info available from the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office and posted it here: http://bit.ly/1cvi5Px

        It shows that Paul’s “National Board of Ophthalmology, Inc. was formed in 1999. It had its charter revoked once, in 2000, due to the failure to file an annual administrative report and was re-instated about five years later. Finally, the charter was revoked in 2011 for failure to file the 2011 annual report within 60 days after it was due. The decree of administrative dissolution is here: http://bit.ly/1e0K2hO The due date for that report was June 30, 2011.

        So what happened was that he filed his 2010 annual report but once he won election to the Senate in November of that year he simply abandoned the faux “Board.”

        BTW, the cost of filing in 2010 was $4.00. It’s $15.00 now. I don’t know what the cost was in 2011, but I would think that if there were really about 200 members certified by the “Board,” as Paul claims, they could somehow have gotten up the scratch to pay the fee.

        1. One final interesting point. I’ve also posted the articles of incorporation for Paul’s “National Board” here: http://bit.ly/19YdYHj

          The Articles identify the entity as being a 501(c)(3) organization. I checked the IRS website and that entity never obtained 501(c)(3) status. (Except for churches, synagogues, mosques, etc., unlike 501(c)(4) organizations, all entities seeking 501(c)(3) status have to obtain a determination letter from the Service.)

          There may be a simple reason for this: Paul is both stupid and cheap. If he had bothered to check with an attorney before he organized the entity, he would have discovered that the proper tax status was 501(c)(6). Hell, all he had to do was get the organizational documents from the American Board of Ophthalmology. You can see their most recent tax return, a form 990, which clearly shows that this Board, a real Board not a fraud, is a 501(c)(6) organization. See here: http://bit.ly/17yBeOO

  2. We expect politicians to hire speech writers, don’t we? So by academic standards all political speeches are plagiarized. I don’t really care much if someone’s speech writer is a plagiarist, too.

    1. You don’t care that someone who wants to be President can’t get the people who work for him to observe basic standards of honest conduct? Srsly?

      1. Imagine the garment-rending and dents in the fainting couch if a “news” channel found out Barry Hussein did that. Especially in a press conference calling for new gun laws after a school shooting.

      2. Those are your own made-up “standards of honest conduct,” not what exists in the real world of political speechmaking. In fact, politicians copy from each others’ speeches all the time. If somebody comes up with a catchy line or a good argument, others feel free to appropriate it. Quite famously, Tony Blair plundered the speeches of Bill Clinton for his own oratory. In the 2008 primary season, Barack Obama got into a little controversy over using the words of Deval Patrick, but it blew over after a couple of days and he won the nomination. The sad tale of Joe Biden repeating the personal anecdotes of Neil Kinnock has been discussed on another thread.

        I don’t think any of those constitute plagiarism, and I don’t think what Rand Paul did was plagiarism, either.

        So, what is plagiarism? According to Black’s Law Dictionary, Abridged Sixth Edition:

        The act of appropriating the literary composition of another, or parts or passages of his writings, or the ideas or language of the same, and passing them off as the product of one’s own mind.

        I think the second element, the passing off of the ideas as one’s own, is missing here. When Tony Blair repeating so much of the stuff from Bill Clinton’s speeches is he claiming that all the ideas and the phrasing are completely original with him and that he never copied anything from anybody else? Does he have to say, “Bill Clinton said this, Bill Clinton said that.”

        Here’s a clip of Barack Obama repeating an applause line from one of Deval Patrick’s speeches. Now, he could have slowed his speech down and said, “My friend Deval Patrick was in a similar situation and this is how he responded.” Was he required to do that in the name of avoiding plagiarism?

        Of course not, because nobody expects that from political speeches.

        Here’s Rand’s speech.

        And here’s the Wikipedia page on Gattaca.

        The speech is 17:40 long, and Mr. Paul spends about four minutes (7:47 through 11:47, if you don’t want to sit through the whole thing) synopsizing the movie. He does follow pretty closely the third paragraph of Wikipedia’s plot summary (not exactly word for word as some are saying) and a couple of other sentences are also pretty close, but he includes details that Wikipedia leaves out and he omits details that they leave in. And of course, he does a little sermonizing. Other than those five or six sentences, his recounting of the tale is much different from what Wikipedia gives us.

        Elsewhere in the speech, he cites his sources: George Orwell, Albert Einstein, Ray Bradbury, Michelangelo, and some guy I’m unfamiliar with named Os Guinness.

        I think this whole Gattaca thing can be attributed to an underling being lazy and sloppy, and not of some nefarious attempt to present somebody else’s ideas as one’s own.

        Mr. Paul’s answers to queries about the matter were not directly responsive, but if that’s a disqualifier to public office, then we wouldn’t have anybody left to vote for.

        1. This passage from Mark’s link agrees with you rachelrachel:

          Bronwyn Williams, director of the University of Louisville’s Writing Center, said that technically Paul is guilty of plagiarism because he didn’t quote Wikipedia as his source but that “when people give speeches, the rules of attribution get a little more flexible.” He doesn’t see it as a big deal. “If there’s a message from this, it’s that we should be careful because it’s important that people be credited for their work. … I do think there is a difference in intending to deceive and being careless. … This looks like sloppy.”

          So okay… lazy and sloppy it is if you want it to be.

          But then, does blaming the dustup on your “political opponents” rather than your own laziness makes you a “sleazy liar” or just a typical glibertarian?

          1. We could use a convention that when the text of a speech is published on a politician’s website, the statements of fact and quotations are sourced. Paul Krugman and George Monbiot (to name just two high-profile pundits) do this routinely for their op-ed columns in the NYT and The Guardian. It should be standard practice.

        2. Is it at all relevant to anyone else that Senator Paul’s speechwriter chose to quote (without attribution) a source as notoriously flaky as Wikipedia? Wikipedia is fine for use as a memory jogger, that is to say, if at least one of the following is true:

          1. The occasion is of no import at all; or,
          2. You are an expert in the field who will recognize when Wikipedia is wrong; or,
          3. You are using Wikipedia to get a quick overview of the topic and do follow-up research in some depth.

          I sometimes use Wikipedia as a memory refresher. I would never rely on it to make any sort of important decision. To do so would be akin to relying on “facts” acquired from Borges’s Library of Babel or Lasswitz’s Universal Library.

          1. All that was quoted was a summary of the movie’s plot, anybody who has watched the movie is an “expert” in the sense that they can recognize when Wikipedia is wrong. I am going to assume that both Senator Paul and his writer have watched the film, so it’s not like they are relying on it for information.

  3. Rand Paul has co-written (supposedly) a book called The Tea Party Goes to Washington. According to Paul, anything he’s written in that book about publicly available information (say a presidential debate on Youtube) can be quoted directly without attribution.

    He’s also provided notice that anything he says in the future about generally known events may not be his own analysis but possibly lifted word for word from somebody else.

    Good to know.

    1. Weak tea, Brett.

      How, even in your universe, does that compare to a physician claiming to be “board certified,” a significant credential, when he isn’t?

      Your endless supply of tu quoque arguments is really getting tiresome. Find some new web sites to read.

      1. I can’t wait for the week to be over so I can hear the new disingenuous talking point. This one is particularly lame, having been disseminated shortly after the country was held hostage to reverse BarryCare.

      2. Your tea is homeopathic at best.

        Paul was “board certified” in 1995 by the American Board of Ophthalmology. If this had happened three years earlier, he would have been grandfathered in as “board certified” for life, when that board decided to require periodic re-certification. So, essentially, your complaint boils down to his certification being too recent, as he’d still be certified by them if he’d gotten his certification a few years earlier.

        Subsequent to that, there was a schism within the Ophthalmologist community over certification practices, and Paul did have a major role in the creation of a competing certification board. Having done that, is he supposed to go back to the old board to get re-certified?

        And are we supposed to be impressed by the fact that the “American” board voted against recognizing it’s competitor?

        Really, what’s more significant, an argument among ophthalmologists about certification practices, or pro-bono eye surgery during his ‘vacations’?

        1. Rand Paul decided that recertification was a pain in the ass and he should not have to do it because he could have been grandfathered in if his board certification had occurred a few years earlier. Recertification is something that everyone else now has to live with, but here we have a man who thinks that he should be able to make his own rules.

          That is a core belief of libertarianism. It has many adherents, few of whom are evil, but all of whom overestimate the autonomy of individuals and treat it as a supreme value which trumps all other values.

          Rand Paul should therefore not preside over a republic founded on a document which binds states and individuals to laws which they have a voice in making, but which they cannot make themselves. That is the most pertinent implication of the board certification which he created for himself.

        2. The “schism” was engineered by Paul. And it wasn’t much a schism, since only a very few ophthamologists And if he wanted to drop his certification as a protest that would have been OK. Indeed,

          But to establish a rival goup, headed by himself, headquartered in a post office box, and claim that he was certified because that group certified him, is ridiculous. Apparently, for all Paul’s outrage over standards, his group, the NBO, hasn’t published its standards for certification.

  4. I would love to jump on board here because Mr. Paul gives me the heeby jeebies, but I have dismissed the talking points of the Republican Party and the coverage style of the news media many times by telling myself that the misbehavior of an underling should not damn an executive. Have you ever been involved in a group project before? This sort of thing is cosmic and probably has nothing to do with Mr. Paul.

    Brett, as usual, I give you a 10/10.

    1. “Nothing to do with Mr. Paul” except that it was done by people working for him, and he’s now said he doesn’t think it was wrong.

      Of all the characteristics I don’t want in a President, indifference to moral lapses by people working for him would have to rank near the top.

  5. PhD, now working outside academia. To anyone who hasn’t done a stint in academia (or journalism or publishing, where the issues are similar but different), making a big deal of this is absurd. To the man in the street, plagiarism means cheating on term papers by submitting stuff you didn’t write – and it is a violation of a taboo of the foreign cultrue that is academia, not a malum in se thing. Acadamics are ultra-zealous about this because citations are the currency of the academic prestige economy, so using someones ideas without citing them is stealing. In the rest of the world, people care more about what the idea is and whether it is good or not, not who came up with it – which is why political speeches don’t have bibliographies. I would be surprised if Paul understands why some people think this is a big deal.

    Rand Paul wasn’t submitting his speech for academic credit, and the audience don’t care whether the ideas he is pushing are his original work or not (in fact, given the nature of ideological political movements, they almost certainly assume that the ideas are not original). So unless it rises to the level of an actionable copyright violation (and FWIW the general public don’t regard non-commercial copyright violations as malum in se crimes either) there isn’t any wrongdoing here.

    Using science fiction movies to make a political point – BAD
    Using science fiction movies you haven’t watched to make a political point – WORSE (if Rand Paul has indeed not watched Gattaca)
    Holding Rand Paul’s political views – REALLY REALLY BAD, LIKE HE SHOULD BE DRUMMED OUT OF PUBLIC LIFE BAD.
    This – Looks like academic inside baseball being applied to the outside world by propellorheads.

    1. That’s basically my take.

      The “plagarism” claim is silly. Paul’s message should be the story. It’s ridiculous.

      1. I think you don’t grasp what’s going on here.

        Liberal positions aren’t just right and good, that would subject them to demands that they be demonstrated to be right and good, which is a real pain, such demonstrations frequently fail to persuade. (That opposing views are ridiculous suffers from the same problem…) They’re obviously right and good, which means they don’t have to be proven to be either.

        This implies that anyone who disagrees with them is either an idiot or evil, or possibly both.

        Paul is a surgeon, which makes dismissing him as an idiot somewhat problematic, so he has to be evil.

        But he goes around on his breaks performing pro bono eye surgery for the poor. This makes simply dismissing him as evil a bit difficult, too.

        What’s going on here is an effort to resolve the cognative dissonance by determining that Paul is a quack eye surgeon. Thus you can square the pro bono surgery with his being evil. That’s the importance of the whole “uncertified” business.

        1. No.

          What’s going on here is an effort to point out that he is making what is, essentially, a false claim about being board-certified. What is also going on, among his defenders on this point, is an effort to evade that issue by addressing a criticism that has not been made. Your comment is a good example.

          An individual who falsely claims to hold a Ph.D. in engineering is lying, no matter how superb an engineer that person may be, or how philanthropic or otherwise generous and self-sacrificing.

        2. Brett:

          Does it ever occur to you that by creating such patently bizarre stereotypes about your political opponents that you end up saying more about yourself than you do about the point you’re trying to make?

          For heavens’ sake, every once in a great while you actually have an interesting and thoughtful point to make. But you bury it under such a pile of venom that it’s rarely worth the effort to read you unless I’m looking for a boost to my blood pressure.

        3. Just because he is a surgeon, it doesn’t mean he can’t also be an idiot. A doctor (or engineer, or etc.) is trained in the ways certain mechanical and biological systems act, and the rules that govern their behavior. Learning and applying these rules takes a certain form and level of study and intelligence, and years of schooling. But if none of the schooling is dedicated to studying the humanities, sociology, and economics, the person ill have a fairly weak understanding of those fields. If they have a parent dedicated to fringe ideas / religions / ideologies, especially ones that have no general impact on medical diagnosis or study, they can hold tight to those fringe sociological ideas and still be a good doctor. An eye doctor can be an absolute, stone cold sexist and racist, but as long as he thinks the eyes of all humans generally operate the same, he’ll have no problem delivering the appropriate treatment. He can disagree with evolution, and claim that God made the eye exactly as it is 5000 years ago – and still deliver the appropriate treatment. He could be a Royalist, a Marxist, or a Fascist, and still be a good eye doctor.
          Specialized technical knowledge does not imply enlightened wisdom. Paul amply demonstrates that. It appears that due to the ideology he has drank deeply from his whole life, he is blinded to certain facets of the world. At times, he is indeed an idiot.

        4. You insert the word ‘quack’ where none have said it. Do you want your browser to trust every self-signed certificate when you visit https://bonkofamerica.com/ (sic)? Not saying that Bonk Of America is fraudulently pretending to be Bank Of America, but … having a self signed certificate does not engender trust for me.

        5. Francis has made a reasonable point. The words “quack” and “evil” are not being applied to the Senator. Not all “liberals” think that he is an evil quack. My argument is that self-certification is the act of a man who likes to live by his own rules, and that this defines libertarianism as succinctly as any other feature of a man’s character. He should not be the chief executive of a republic whose founding document gives states and citizens a say in making the laws but not the right to make their own. The “evil quack” straw man will not stand here.

          Before the Framers met in Philadelphia to draft the Constitution, a group of farmers in rural Massachusetts were being unfairly taxed, and rose up in revolt against the state which was taxing them. Sam Adams, the leader of the actual Boston Tea Party, thought that the lot of them should be hanged, since they had been represented in the legislature which duly enacted the tax. They did not like it, but Adams thought that they were bound by it nevertheless. He was the original Tea Partier, and that was his blunt opinion.

          Americans admire mavericks who say “to hell with the idiots who make the rules,” but they are not likely to elect one to the highest office in the land. Today’s so-called “Tea Party” political philosophy is not suited to governing a twenty-first century advanced society. Sen. Paul will remain in the Senate as long as the people of Kentucky will have him. He will go no further, and I hope that his influence will diminish over the rest of his term.

          Any of this make sense?

        6. Brett, No one said he was a quack, nor an idiot, nor evil.

          What we said was that he is a dishonest lying plagiarist. Which is demonstrably true given his verifiable actions.

          Rand Paul is a dishonest lying plagiarist. I can prove it, and you cannot disprove it.

        7. Sorry Brett, the issue of Paul’s board certification is more serious than you admit. In order to perform surgery at a hospital, generally a physician must have had board certification or be board eligible. Here’s the portion of the site for the American Board of Ophthalmology pertaining to certification and the maintenance of same. http://abop.org/maintain-certification/

          Basically,Paul lied to the hospitals wherein he had privileges (hospital privileges have to be regularly renewed) because he claimed that he had board certification, but, as we know, his “board” was nothing more than a scam. I am not certain, but I strongly suspect that a non-staff physician has to be board certified to obtain Medicare and/or Medicaid reimbursement.

          One can only hope that Paul’s scam is more closely examined in 2016 regardless of the office he runs for in that year.

    2. Jonathan’s comment is very helpful and makes distinctions which are relevant to this discussion. Academia and politics are different activities. Perhaps applying practice standards for academic citation to political argument is like expecting veterinarians to take the Hippocratic oath. These are two different domains of endeavor. Violations in one are not necessarily violations in another. Veterinarians have professional standards of conduct, but no one expects its rules for euthanasia to apply to medicine.

      An additional consideration by which to judge Paul’s fitness for high office is noted elsewhere:

      Wanting to make your own rules—OK for some private conduct; NOT OK for governing a republic.

  6. The plagiarism is a venal sin. But denying the plagiarism…

    He could have just said, “yep, my speechwriter had read the wikipedia entry and may have unthinkingly used some of the same wording” or something like that. But instead he chose to lie about what he was being accused of.

    I call GattaGate.

    1. I think you mean “venial.” If so, let me know and I’ll edit.
      “Venal” means something else: Ron Paul’s investment-newsletter scam, for example.

      1. Nope, he meant “venal.” That’s why he followed with “But denying the plagiarism…”

        That’s lying. Lying is a mortal sin.

  7. This may seem like a big deal to academics and professional writers, who make their living based on what they write, and who, I gather, make up a disproportionate share of this blogs reader and writership. For the rest of us, we don’t really give a shit. There’s an article on Wikipedia that was heavily edited by me, and if somebody chose to plagiarize that article, I would be beyond apathetic.

    I say this as someone who thinks very little of Rand Paul and his daddy.

  8. Rand Paul responds by saying he’d like to “duel” anyone who accuses him of being a dishonest, lying plagiarist. What a weird, half-sane response.

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