Although I'm extremely excited for the 2016 election even without having a particular GOP candidate in mind as my hoped-for annihilator of Hillary Rodham, Rand Paul really ticked me off this week. I mean REALLY ticked me off.
It looks like he is not going to play ball with the press. And that's a huge mistake.
So what happened?
He tussled with Savannah Guthrie, the 'Today' host, over her editorializing rather than simply questioning him. She was pressing him on whether or not he'd changed opinions on foreign aid to Israel and he not only objected to her talking over him and rendering an opinion in the process, he also gave her a suggestion as to how better to interview him.
He also had a couple of irritation-revealing interactions with journalists over questions about abortion. In both cases, the journalists were unhappy with the way Paul responded and Paul was even more unhappy with their reactions to that.
He even had the temerity to question the assumptions behind the interviewer's abortion question, saying:
“Here’s the deal — we always seem to have the debate waaaaay over here on what are the exact details of exemptions, or when it starts. Why don’t we ask the DNC: Is it okay to kill a seven-pound baby in the uterus? You go back and you ask Debbie Wasserman-Schultz if she’s okay with killing a seven-pound baby that is not born yet. Ask her when life begins, and you ask Debbie when it’s okay to protect life. When you get an answer from Debbie, get back to me.”
It was as if he didn't even respect their importance and influence enough to respond the way they wanted. How in the world can he expect to win their approval that way?
He attempted to explain himself several times, firstly to Wolf Blitzer in a television interview on CNN, then to Megyn Kelly on Fox News, and finally on Mark Levin's radio show, by acknowledging that he does get short-tempered and doesn't like it when simple direct questions aren't asked of him. He even went further on Levin's show, stating that he (and other conservatives) get tough questions whereas people like Hillary get asked how their vacations were or if they recalled being at a party together in the Hamptons.
What a strategic error he is making.
Doesn't he understand that pleasing the media should be his number one priority? Being someone they like and with whom they agree is the way to get the "What's your favorite color?" questions. Maintaining principle and attempting to dictate the rules of the game may please the masses and scratch an itch conservatives have had for years, but it certainly won't win friends and influence MSNBC people. And how else will he win their votes?
There are lessons that can be learned from the past and he'd do very well to study them.
Imagine, for a moment, had Mitt Romney spent time wooing and gaining the approval of Candy Crowley. Would she have been so energetic in her defense of President Obama during their debate? Perhaps she'd not have incorrectly opined in the middle of their discussion and that could've made a difference in the election.
Consider if John McCain had made a sufficient impression on Chris Matthews so that even an inspiring speech by Barack Obama wouldn't have sent a thrill up his leg. Would Matthews have spent so many countless hours beating the drum in support of the President had Republicans spent more time being what Matthews wanted them to be? It might be a completely different political world.
One might consider thinking it would be wise to directly fight to the media. But that would require recognizing they're as much of a political opposition to conservatives as are liberals and Democrats. Before going down that lonely road, it would have to be realized that such an approach won't get you invited to Andrea Mitchell's cocktail party or a big thumbs up from Rachel Maddow. And that would be a tragedy, wouldn't it?