A few weeks ago, in the midst of the avalanche of Obama Administration scandals, a close friend possessed of sound political judgment suggested to me that Rand Paul’s stock as a presidential candidate was rising every day as a result of developments in Washington.

As a static analysis, I thought he was probably right. With every new piece of news from HHS or the NSA, you could feel a growing sense on the right of, “Oh, to hell with it. Let’s just burn the whole thing down.”

Rand’s the potential candidate who matches that impulse. Remember when Barack Obama used to talk about cutting the budget with a scalpel rather than a hatchet? The Rand Paul version of that metaphor starts, “First, I’m going to down a six-pack. Then I’m going to fire up a chainsaw…”

I’m not complaining about that, by the way. I’d happily buy the blade and the beer (and if there was a place you could get both at the same time, I’d probably inquire as to whether they were hiring).

In response to my friend, however, I suggested that presidential campaigns rest on a lot more than who feels instinctively appealing at the time. There’s also the matter of vetting. And it was entirely plausible to imagine Rand Paul being undone by the network of bizarre associations accumulated by his father. You can argue about how culpable Paul pere was on a case-by-case basis, but the existence of such stories is often more important (in political terms) than the details.

According to a story in today’s Washington Free Beacon, it seems that I had the analysis right, but was off by one degree of separation.

A close aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) who co-wrote the senator’s 2011 book spent years working as a pro-secessionist radio pundit and neo-Confederate activist, raising questions about whether Paul will be able to transcend the same fringe-figure associations that dogged his father’s political career.

Paul hired Jack Hunter, 39, to help write his book The Tea Party Goes to Washington during his 2010 Senate run. Hunter joined Paul’s office as his social media director in August 2012.

From 1999 to 2012, Hunter was a South Carolina radio shock jock known as the “Southern Avenger.” He has weighed in on issues such as racial pride and Hispanic immigration, and stated his support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

During public appearances, Hunter often wore a mask on which was printed a Confederate flag.

Prior to his radio career, while in his 20s, Hunter was a chairman in the League of the South, which “advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic.”

There’s always a tendency to process these kind of stories purely through the headlines, so you should read the full piece to make up your own mind. Some of the remarks are worse than others (raising an annual toast to John Wilkes Booth and comparing Hiroshima and Nagasaki to 9/11 — not great Fourth of July material). None of them are the kinds of things you want to be litigating on the campaign trail.

Of course, you can only be held so culpable for someone else’s beliefs, even if they’re on your payroll. What’s perhaps most interesting is what Hunter has publicly stated about the actual ideological bearings of Paul fils:

Since becoming Paul’s social media director, Hunter has publicly vouched for the senator’s non-interventionist bona fides.

When libertarians and paleoconservatives balked at Paul’s remark last January that “any attack on Israel will be treated as an attack on the United States,” Hunter downplayed the comment as a “little rhetorical concession” and said the senator was “play[ing] the game.”

“For every questionable action—support for Mitt Romney, comments about the U.S.’s relationship with Israel … these things do not diminish the overall record of the most libertarian senator since the Founding era,” wrote Hunter on the Southern Avenger website. “Not making these certain diplomatic statements or gestures on occasion, also makes taking these ideas into the mainstream much, much harder. A little rhetorical concession goes a long way.”

“Some say Rand is not Ron because he is ‘willing to play them game,’” Hunter continued. “That’s exactly right. That’s the point—to play it, influence it, and win it as much as you can. The neoconservatives certainly do, to their advantage.”

Hunter has also said that Rand Paul holds the same foreign policy views as his father, Ron Paul.

“The philosophy hasn’t substantively changed [from Ron Paul to Rand Paul]. The methods and style most certainly have.”

What do you make of this news? Does it in any way change your views on Paul as a presidential candidate? How much stock do you put in guilt by association when it comes to political candidates?

There are 41 comments.

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  1. Member

    Are some views anathema? Can we get a definitive list put together? Also, consider the audience that was being pandered to.

    • #1
    • July 10, 2013 at 3:31 am
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  2. Member

    It doesn’t change my view because I never thought he would be a viable candidate. He can possibly be influential, though.

    • #2
    • July 10, 2013 at 3:39 am
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  3. Inactive

    I didn’t really have any views. I’m gravitating toward evaluating a candidate on the single issue/characteristic of whether he or she will fight, and fight hard.

    If Paul ends up running, and the MSM starts tarring him with wacky views of associates, will he be willing to fight? Will he refuse the premise of questions? Will he take the time to think through coherent answers and flip the question to a question about likely or actual Democrat opponents.

    So Jack Hunter toasted John Wilkes Booth (which I find utterly despicable). Would anyone assert that there’s nothing sketchy about Hillary Clinton? Of course there is plenty sketchy about her. Will Paul hammer in on it, and skip the praise GOP candidates oblige themselves to heap on their opponents (“wonderful secretary of state, esteemed senate colleague, etc.”)?

    • #3
    • July 10, 2013 at 3:41 am
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  4. Member

    wild duplicate

    • #4
    • July 10, 2013 at 3:41 am
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  5. Member

    I thought Paul the Elder got way too much of a pass on these associations and his newsletter.

    Paul the Younger needs to do some clean up fast.

    • #5
    • July 10, 2013 at 3:41 am
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  6. Member
    • #6
    • July 10, 2013 at 3:41 am
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  7. Member
    • #7
    • July 10, 2013 at 3:41 am
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  8. Member


    • #8
    • July 10, 2013 at 3:41 am
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  9. Member

    Umm how did that happen?

    • #9
    • July 10, 2013 at 3:42 am
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  10. Thatcher

    There’s a guy who was elected President recently who found Jesus through the preaching of a race-baiting anti-semite in whose church he sat for most of his adult life. He launched his political career with a fundraiser at the home of an unrepentent bomber who still believes that Bobby Kennedy’s killing was justified because he voted to sell military jets to Israel and who, to this day, describes himself as a revolutionary communist. I think we’ve entered a whole different world when it comes to what’s survivable for a candidate (and, for the record, I don’t like Rand).

    • #10
    • July 10, 2013 at 3:44 am
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  11. Inactive

    For now I’m willing to overlook Hunter, although maybe I’ve just become too inured to the sight of the stars and bars plastered on everything. But I’m not the one we should be worried about, here. The bigger issue is, in KP’s words, “the audience that was being pandered to.” Romney was ruined because he killed a woman by giving her cancer then hauled her body around in a binder secured in a crate on the roof of his car. How much more difficult will the Southern Avenger make things for Paul?

    • #11
    • July 10, 2013 at 3:45 am
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  12. Inactive

    It doesn’t change my view. He is earning place in the 2016 primaries and will ultimately be judged there.

    2-3 years in politics is forever. A lot can change between now and then.

    If the story is true and this guy on Sen. Paul’s staff is celebrating President Lincoln’s assassination then that guy needs to go. As far as the secessionist rhetoric, at the rate we are declining that isn’t going to sound very fringe in 2 years.

    • #12
    • July 10, 2013 at 3:46 am
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  13. Inactive
    Mark: There’s a guy who was elected President recently who found Jesus through the preaching of a race-baiting anti-semite in whose church he sat for most of his adult life. He launched his political career with a fundraiser at the home of an unrepentent bomber who still believes that Bobby Kennedy’s killing was justified because he voted to sell military jets to Israel and who, to this day, describes himself as a revolutionary communist. I think we’ve entered a whole different world when it comes to what’s survivable for a candidate (and, for the record, I don’t like Rand). · 2 minutes ago

    True, but the gentleman you speak of also ran as a member of the people’s democratic party of the press.

    • #13
    • July 10, 2013 at 3:48 am
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  14. Inactive

    Randmind/Cruzmissile 2016

    • #14
    • July 10, 2013 at 4:00 am
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  15. Member

    It’s interesting that Ms. Goodman leaves out Hunter’s extensive work history with Jim Demint and the SC GOP. Still, the lack of vetting is a little troubling, especially given Ron Paul’s crazy connections. Rand needs to usher this dude out the door.

    • #15
    • July 10, 2013 at 4:01 am
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  16. Inactive

    Now we know why Rick Perry sees an opening.

    • #16
    • July 10, 2013 at 4:28 am
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  17. Contributor

    Guilt by association is a dangerous card to play. Mostly because it can so easily be turned around.

    Who among us can’t be tried directly or indirectly to unsavory people?

    • #17
    • July 10, 2013 at 4:29 am
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  18. Inactive

    He might have a future with Lucha Libre.

    • #18
    • July 10, 2013 at 4:32 am
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  19. Member
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.


    I know Rand Paul’s foreign policy views are terrifying to some neocons. Likewise, I find their desire to have us engaged in 18 more wars also terrifying. But I’d like it if those on the right played more fairly. · 7 hours ago

    Self-awareness alert, Mollie. In one breath: A) The right should “play fair” and B) “neocons” want us in “18 more wars”.

    One can be concerned (not “terrified” necessarily, but concerned) about Paul’s foreign policy views and his associations with his father’s motley coalition without being a warmonger — or even a “neocon”. 

    • #19
    • July 10, 2013 at 5:07 am
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  20. Contributor

    I was very disappointed in the WFB piece. And I generally enjoy the Free Beacon. But to write something like that without mentioning, oh, this piece by Hunter this year is beneath them.

    Why Gay Marriage Isn’t the ’60s Civil Rights Fight What black Americans suffered is without parallel in our history—a fact all sides of the SSM debate should recognize.

    The 20-something me would consider the 30-something me a bleeding-heart liberal. Though I still hate political correctness, I no longer find it valuable to attack PC by charging off in the opposite direction, making insensitive remarks that even if right in fact were so wrong in form. I’m not the first political pundit to use excessive hyperbole. I might be one of the few to admit being embarrassed about it.

    • #20
    • July 10, 2013 at 5:08 am
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  21. Member

    My views on Rand Paul are what they’ve always been: We have to be very careful with this guy.

    Toppling the Republicans’ three-legged stool would be political suicide — not to mention bad for the country — and Paul is the one Republican leader who could pull it off.

    • #21
    • July 10, 2013 at 5:11 am
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  22. Inactive

    Didn’t we field a squeaky clean candidate last time? Look how well that worked out.

    • #22
    • July 10, 2013 at 5:25 am
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  23. Inactive

    Doesn’t bother me one bit.

    • #23
    • July 10, 2013 at 5:50 am
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  24. Coolidge

    While Rand Paul’s politics are the opposite of Obama’s, he doesn’t have much more experience than the anointed one did. True, he did actually accomplish something by becoming a doctor and practicing medicine but that doesn’t necessarily make him a great leader or manager. The office of POTUS generally isn’t kind to novices.

    That being said, I would have no problem pulling the voting lever for him in 2016

    • #24
    • July 10, 2013 at 5:53 am
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  25. Inactive
    The King Prawn: Are some views anathema? Can we get a definitive list put together?

    I don’t have a list, but if I did it might start like this:

    This Wednesday, April 14th, is the 139th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Although Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth’s heart was in the right place, the Southern Avenger does regret that Lincoln’s murder automatically turned him into a martyr.

    Even if Americans were generally inclined to revisit the utility of the Civil War (Hint: we aren’t) this type of rhetoric wouldn’t help lead to that outcome. Associating with folks who write such things is, at the least, a massive political liability.

    Whatever the merits of assassins may be, they don’t practice a particularly sympathetic profession. And actors are worse.

    • #25
    • July 10, 2013 at 6:02 am
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  26. Contributor

    After some sleep …

    The WFB doesn’t like Paul because of his foreign policy views. Totally legitimate. And they’re most likely worried because, unlike his father, his candidacy for president might go somewhere.

    For what it’s worth, the feeling is probably mutual from the other side. I’ve heard less-interventionist types make extroardinary claims about the motivations of the WFB types.

    At the very least, there are two camps on the right and we have differing views on foreign policy.

    I’d prefer if we actually talked about those differing foreign policy views instead of waging these proxy fights (which both sides do) about affiliations and allegiances.

    It would save us time, it would be more fair, and it might actually resolve some differences.

    • #26
    • July 10, 2013 at 6:03 am
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  27. Member

    I am sure the establishment GOP hopes this sinks Paul (and will actively help the DNC make sure it does). 

    That way we can get another electoral champion like Dole, McCain, or Romney, who also appeals to moderates and Hispanics.

    • #27
    • July 10, 2013 at 6:06 am
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  28. Inactive

    It’s worth pointing out that this is yet another ‘career-ending revelation’ that would be an overblown non-story if Paul had a ‘D’ after his name.

    • #28
    • July 10, 2013 at 6:26 am
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  29. Member

    Sadly, you must have received your letter from Karl Rove with your daily talking points regarding our new standard bearers in Congress. You know…the ones who are stirring up citizens and asking them to ask questions of their RINO leaders. Yesterday, Rove bashed Amash and today it’s Rand’s turn.

    Why are Republicans or Republican-Libertarian (such as Rand) only held to the highest standards of conduct and relationships (past and current) in government, media and apparently real-life?

    The only people who ever decline to run or are forced to resign are conservatives. No one else gets the same scrutiny.

    Not Ted Kennedy, not Barack Obama, not Alec Baldwin…

    However, if you are a white woman from the South (and regardless if you are a Democrat and gave a sizable donation to Obama) and you cook with butter, you lose everything.

    I don’t care if Rand Paul knows Jack Hunter. I care about how he might govern, which at this point HAS to be better than what we have now or would be with some RINO in office who wouldn’t be much different than our current President.

    • #29
    • July 10, 2013 at 6:28 am
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  30. Contributor

    Why didn’t the story mention that Hunter has also written for DeMint?

    Or contributes to Daily Caller and Fox News?

    Why did it just link him to Rand Paul?

    • #30
    • July 10, 2013 at 6:34 am
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