Rand Paul’s empathy deficit

Rand Paul, who wants to be President, enjoys laughing at people with permanent, crippling pain.

Of course there is room for legitimate debate about the standards for granting disability payments under Social Security. But Rand Paul’s laughing comments about the problem reflect less a political orientation than a moral failing.

The audio on the tracker tape

is hard to decipher; Michael Hilzik makes it out as:

The thing is that all of these programs, there’s always somebody who’s deserving, everybody in this room knows somebody who’s gaming the system. I tell people that if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting a disability check. Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everyone over 40 has a back pain.

Jeremy Diamond at CNN points out that “over half” is absurdly contrary to the actual numbers: all the psychiatric diagnoses and all the musculosketal disorders added together don’t account for half the Social Security Disability caseload, and anxiety is a small part of the psychiatric caseload while back pain is a small part of the musculoskeletal caseload. Hilzik also shows the sort of anxiety and back disease that qualify for disability payments have nothing to do with routine pre-work jitters or backache.

The definition of disability for Social Security purposes is twofold:

1. The claimant must have a medical condition that severely limits his or her capacity do “basic work activities” including “walking, sitting, and remembering” that will either last more than a year or terminate in death.

2. The impairment must be such that the claimant is unable not only to perform his own job but any other job: a construction worker who loses an arm isn’t “disabled” if, for example, he could work as a call center operator or Wal-Mart greeter.

So the Senator either doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or is simply making stuff up, in the great tradition of Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” story.

But the affect is even scarier than the words. Rand Paul, who would like to have his finger on the nuclear trigger, thinks that people crippled by pain or psychiatric illness are funny. and he manages to get a laugh from the heartless crowd he’s addressing.

Not being a psychiatrist, and not having examined the Senator personally, I’m not qualified to make a diagnosis, but here’s Wikipedia’s definition of narcissistic personality disorder.

People who are diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder are characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance. They have a sense of entitlement and demonstrate grandiosity in their beliefs and behavior. They have a strong need for admiration, but lack feelings of empathy.

 [emphasis added]

Sound like anyone you’ve heard of?

The political game here is obvious. The new Republican rules will forbid the Social Security trustees to make what would otherwise be a routine transfer from the Old Age Insurance fund to the Disability Insurance fund when the latter runs dry next year. The goal is to set up a battle between (richer, whiter) retirees and (poorer, darker) people with disabilities.

In answer to a question asked long ago to another Republican Senator: No. even at long last, Rand Paul has no shame at all.

Footnote Yes, I take this personally. For years I had the sort of back disease (spinal stenosis) which meant I had to decide every day between having a manageable level of pain and being mentally sharp. And that wasn’t nearly the level of problem that would qualify for Social Security disability. So, unlike the Senator from Aynrandistan, I have a bit of a grasp of what the people who are disabled by degenerative spinal disease have to go through. At the risk of sounding like a humorless liberal, it’s not funny.

Rand Paul’s challenge

Paintball guns at 20 paces?

The cheap macho of Red-team politicians is pretty damned funny. The seriously andreia-challenged Rand Paul just challenged Rachel Maddow to a duel.

I think Maddow should accept. As the challenged party, the choice of weapons is hers. Paintball guns at 20 paces?

Of course, she could challenge him to a battle of wits, on her own show, but duelling armed against an unarmed man is unsporting.

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.

Rand Paul, plagiarist

Where do they find these clowns?

UPDATE Paul is a recidvist plagiarist. See below.

This is really too funny for words. Rachel Maddow nails Rand Paul ripping off pieces of an anti-abortion speech he gave at Liberty University in support of Ken Cuccinelli’s dying gubernatorial candidacy from the Wikipedia page from a 20-year-old dud sci-fi movie.

Libertarians are often puzzled why the rest of us have a problem taking their ideology seriously. I dunno, but perhaps there’s a hint in here somewhere. Plagiarism aside, the concatenation of “anti-choice,” “Jerry Falwell,” and “Ken Cuccinelli” with “personal liberty” really doesn’t make much sense.

It’s a measure of the basic lack of self-respect of the contemporary GOP that this probably won’t cost Rand Paul anything if he runs in 2016.

Update Buzzfeed has Rand Paul cold plagiarizing another speech, also from Wikipedia. Paul is still refusing to comment. Red Blogistan is still as silent as the tomb.

Just to clarify: I doubt Paul knew he was plagiarizing in either case. He was just reading the pap put before him by his speechwriters, which is normal for a politician. But of course the speechwriter in each case knew. (It would be interesting to know whether it was the same speechwriter in each case, and whether more cases will emerge.)

What Paul is guilty of is hiring staff without basic morals and creating a culture in his office where people thought this sort of thing was OK. Sorta goes along with calling yourself a “board-certified” physician when you created the “board” yourself.

Cross one more off the list

Rand Paul votes to dishonor the country, wreck its credit, and tank the world economy. Not gonna be President.

Glad to see that Rand Paul, as well as Ted Cruz, voted to dishonor the country, wreck its credit, and tank the world economy. The list of Republicans who might actually get elected President in 2016 continues to shrink. (And that’s leaving aside the delicious but implausible prospect of a Jesse Ventura/Howard Stern third-party ticket.)


Update  Make that two more. Purported grown-up Paul Ryan (who’s always struck me more as a five-year-old wearing her mother’s high heels) also voted for national bankruptcy and disgrace. Since he’s a favorite of the plutocracy, I doubt the Chamber would really withhold its cash were he the nominee. But it seems to me that Hillary could pound him into the ground with it.

The Party of (assassinating) Lincoln

Rand Paul’s social media director and co-author thinks that the bad thing about the murder of Abraham Lincoln was that it made Lincoln a hero, when he was actually not only “the worst President” but “one of the worst figures in American history.”

Rand Paul – not, of course, to be confused with his racist, anti-Semitic, crooked gold bug of a father, but a serious candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016 – hired as a “co-author” (i.e., ghostwriter) and “social media director” a neo-Confederate former shock jock who regards praising Lincoln as equivalent to “worshipping Satan” and who every year toasts John Wilkes Booth’s birthday.

Naturally, the silence from Paul’s libertarian admirers has been deafening.

Update Matt Welch at Reason Hit & Run calls Paul’s co-author on his “weird crap.” (See this earlier Welch post – directed at Ron Paul rather than his slimy son – for the weird history of libertarian flirtation with white-populist resentment.) A commenter points to an earlier post (by a Cato Institute staffer but not on the Cato website) disowning the Paul candidacy based on the new revelations.