At the end of the Rand Paul-Jack Conway debate the other night, the two were asked to identify the Kentucky legislator they admired most. The question struck me as a set-up to enable Conway to praise Wendell Ford, a popular ex-Democrat for whom Conway once worked, and to bait Paul into praising the far less revered Sen. Jim Bunning. Paul certainly wasn’t about to cite Sen. Mitch McConnell, the model of a Washington insider, who endorsed his primary opponent. And the questioner had already mentioned Henry Clay who, in any event, was probably too much the Whig nationalist for Paul’s taste.
As Conway worked his way through his corny tribute to Wendell Ford, I found myself hoping that Paul would “man-up” and praise Bunning.
And that’s what Paul did. He cited Bunning’s unwillingness to go along with the TARP legislation. “Many people can come later and say they would have opposed it, but he stood up and on principle voted the way he thought was right for Kentucky and I’m proud of him for that,” Paul explained.
That’s a good point. I can’t help wondering how many of the outsider politicians who now rail against TARP would have voted against it at the time, with the Secretary of the Treasury and the head of the Federal Reserve telling them that the banking system would collapse without this legislation. Neither, apparently, can Rand Paul
Bunning isn’t my model Senator, nor was he viewed as a strong candidate this year. In fact, the conventional wisdom was that the Republicans needed to push him aside in order to hold the seat. The plan, though, didn’t contemplate Rand Paul, not my model Senator either, as Bunning’s replacement.
Nonetheless, Paul appears poised to keep the seat Republican and, in this year of the Tea Party movement, Bunning’s reputation is on the rise. My guess is that Bunning would have held the seat against Conway.
In any event, and whatever my reservations about Paul — most of which have to do with foreign policy — I found perverse pleasure in the fact that he took the questioner’s bait and stood up for the old right-handed war horse, instead of giving what might have been a more politic answer. Bunning will soon be gone, but some of his feisty, no-nonsense conservative spirit will live on in his successor and a few other new Senators of that mindset.
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