The Strengths and Weaknesses of Rand Paul, In One Interview [Updated]

This interview with CNBC’s Kelly Evans sums up Rand Paul’s strengths and weaknesses as a presidential candidate nicely. Start with this observation: when a journalist or television presenter interviews a Democratic politician, the implicit assumption is that the interviewer is honored to have the privilege of tossing a few softball questions. When the interviewee is a Republican politician, the implicit assumption is that the interviewer is wiser and more knowledgeable than the Republican, whose role is to be schooled or chastened. Senator Paul does a great job of refusing to accept the interviewer’s premises and pushing back against unfair or ill-informed questions. The interview is one more reminder that Paul is extremely smart and extremely articulate.

That’s the plus side. Unfortunately, the interview also reflects Paul’s weaknesses. First, he goes too far, and many viewers will wind up feeling sympathy for the pretty, young and relatively unknown CNBC anchor. Paul is a brilliant guy, but not a natural politician. Second, the Achilles’ heel of Paul’s Libertarianism–its occasional lack of common sense–turns up again, with his suggestion that vaccinations should be “voluntary.” This is not a shocking position, by any means. Vaccinations are currently voluntary in a number of states, including California. But with measles epidemics breaking out in the wake of the ebola scare, this is not the time to wax philosophical. It would be easy, especially for a physician, to deliver a spiel about how important it is that all children who can be vaccinated, are. This is no time to allow Democrats to create a diversion by trying to pin what has always been an overwhelmingly liberal delusion on us conservatives.

Anyway, here it is. Enjoy:

UPDATE: Paul has already done a mea culpa on his reference to children experiencing “profound mental disorders” after being vaccinated:

Paul says he noted that they were “temporally related,” or connected by time. The senator says he “did not allege causation.”

He adds that he believes vaccines have saved lives and should be administered to children. He also tweeted a photograph of himself receiving a booster vaccination Tuesday for the immunizations he received last year.