There’s been a fairly major political dust-up in the Kentucky Senate race as state attorney general Jack Conway, the Democrat contender for the seat being vacated by Senator Bunning, is running a particularly nasty ad calling into question Republican candidate Rand Paul’s Christian “bonafides.” Watch the ad below and you’ll see what I mean when I say “nasty”:
The Fix describes the ad and adds context:
A new ad being run by state Attorney General Jack Conway (D) against ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R) in the Kentucky Senate race using several college-era incidents to raise questions about the Republican’s character has created a national firestorm.
“Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that called the Holy Bible a ‘hoax’,” asks the ad’s narrator. “Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol and say his god was ‘Aqua Buddha’.”
The ad’s charges both can be traced back to Paul’s collegiate years.
In the “Aqua Buddha” incident — and, no, we never thought we would write those words (at least not together) in this blog — Paul vehemently denied being involved in any kidnapping, saying only that he went along with a college prank. (The woman involved told Greg Sargent, who writes the “Plum Line” blog, that the “whole thing has been blown out of proportion.”)
The “anti-Christian” charge comes from Paul’s membership in a secret society while at Baylor University that published mocking statements regarding the Bible in newsletters.
“This is an ad about things he did,” said Conway campaign manager John Collins of the allegations in the ad. “He has failed to deny any of these charges.”
Paul, for his part, struck back with an ad own his own in which a narrator says he keeps “Christ in his heart” and attacks Conway for bearing “false witness”.
It’s so bad that after a Sunday debate between Paul – a pro-life Christian, and Conway, Paul refused to shake Conway’s hand. There’s even a rumor floating around that Paul is reconsidering whether he will attend their next debate, which is ridiculous. He needs to “man up” and tackle Conway’s accusations head on – again and again, if necessary.
First things first, I’m not a big fan of Rand Paul, for reasons mentioned here (scroll) but I will step in and defend him, and call outrageous outrageous when I see it, and this is one of those times. As Doug Mataconis points out here, this ad is eerily similar to a disgraceful ad former Senator Elizabeth Dole ran against Democrat Kay Hagan in 2008 in which Dole questioned Hagan’s Christian faith.
Hagan is an elder at her church and was a Sunday school teacher at the time. The ad was a move that smacked of desperation in an anti-Republican/pro-Obama year. It was roundly condemned on both sides of the aisle, but as far as I know it was never pulled even though Kagan filed a cease and desist order demanding it be taken off the air. And as we all know now, Dole lost her bid to serve a second term in the Senate.
In any event, that ad not only represented a low point in the otherwise distinguished career of Elizabeth Dole, but also a low point when it came to the issue of faith in politics. The same can be said for the Conway ad, which seriously implies that because Paul’s Christian bonafides are supposedly “questionable” then he shouldn’t hold political office. Really? Even some prominent liberal pundits/bloggers – like admitted Bush hater Jon Chait – have an issue with that:
The trouble with Conway’s ad is that it comes perilously close to saying that non-belief in Christianity is a disqualification for public office. That’s a pretty sickening premise for a Democratic campaign.
And just imagine for five seconds if this had been a conservative or Republican running a similar ad against Keith Ellison and his Islamic “faith”? We’d never hear the end of it – Democrats would be lining up to expresss their outrage, and President Obama would be calling for “tolerance” and another Beer Summit, etc etc. Even though in reality there are a LOT more questions about Keith Ellison’s “faith” than there are about Rand Paul’s. Bill Jacobson sees a similar parallel with President Obama’s faith:
Democrat Jack Conway’s advertisement asserting that there are “questions” about Republican Rand Paul’s Christianity, raises in interesting issue.
Substitute Barack Obama for Rand Paul, tweak a few of the allegations, and you would have an advertisement as to which the mainstream media and left-wing blogosphere would scream “Racist!!!” and “Islamophobic!!!”
Frankly, I find the “who’s the bigger and better Christian” debate during political campaigns to be real yawners, because sometimes the one who has the more “solid” Christian bonafides won’t always make the best representative for office. If a candidate wants to talk about his or her faith, fine – and if that candidate has demonstrated that they have walked and continue to walk a Christian path, even better. That candidate will have my attention. But first and foremost: Tell me where you stand on the issues and let me decide whether or not you being a Christian will just be the icing on the top. What Jack Conway, on the other hand, is saying is that if you (allegedly) aren’t Christian enough then you should be disqualified from serving in government. That’s bogus.
As far as the most ridiculous defense of the ad you’ll ever see, take it away, Think Progress’ Matt Yglesias:
This ad has the virtue—not that common in politics—of being accurate. It also has the virtue of raising actual policy issues about the consequences of Paul’s position on tax reform. It’s true that the implication that unorthodox religious belief should disqualify one from office is ugly, but it’s an implication that I think is extremely common in American politics. Joe Lieberman ran around the country 10 years ago slandering atheists and Mitt Romney did much the same in his effort to make Mormonism acceptable to the GOP’s Christian base voters.
Let’s just assume for last that those last two lines are true. What Yglesias is saying here is: “If it’s ‘ok’ for y’all to do it, it’s ok for us to do it. All is fair in love and war and politics. Yada yada.” Except he doesn’t mention that when Lieberman did his alleged atheist “slandering,” the former candidate for veep was (drum roll) a Democrat. As far as Romney goes, I seem to remember him downplaying his Mormonism after questions from people of other faiths as to how devout a Mormon he was.
Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised that Yglesias is ok with the Conway ad, considering that is the same liberal pundit who recently advocated lying about your political opponent:
Liberal blogger Matt Yglesias likes to call his political opponents “dishonest,” but in a revealing exchange on the website Twitter Friday he advocated lying for political purposes.
“Fighting dishonesty with dishonesty is sometimes the right thing for advocates to do, yes,” said Yglesias.
The exchange, with Washington Examiner writer Mark Hemingway, came on the heels of a debate between the two on transportation policy.
Yglesias pressed his point with another conservative writer, saying, “Do you really think deception is immoral in all circumstances?”
In an interview, Yglesias said he was not referring to his own conduct as a blogger for the nonpartisan think tank, the Center for American Progress, in advocating dishonesty.
Asked who he meant by “advocates,” Yglesias said, “Politicians, things like that.” Not bloggers? “Not me. No I don’t think that’s conducive to what I do. I’m trying to inform people, so I try to present them with accurate information,” Yglesias said.
“What I write on my blog is honest,” Yglesias said.
Uh huh …