Let’s imagine the junior senator from Kentucky were a woman. Not just any woman — let’s call her Randi — but, for the sake of this argument, a beautiful woman. The “men want to sleep with her — women want to be her” echelon of physical attractiveness. Everything else is identical: self-certified eye doctor, first-term senator, and she got the job with a boost from her father.
While the Republican Party is taking a nosedive in popularity, she says: “Does anybody remember Charlie Sheen when he was kind of going crazy … And he was going around, jumping around saying ‘Winning, winning, we’re winning’? Well I kind of feel like that, we are winning. And I’m not on any drugs.”
People snicker about how dumb she is. Twitter erupts into sarcastic hashtags: #RandiLulz, #CandywithRandi and #RandiLogic. She’s considered a ditz — the Senate’s reliable airhead. Still, Randi gets ratings!
People tune in to her media appearances just waiting for her to say something stupid. It’s like NASCAR—part fandom, part hoping for a crash. It’s self-perpetuating: Because she’s shameless and not too bright, she becomes fascinating at a Real Housewives level. Her profile grows, and soon the conventional wisdom is that she’s very popular. Pundits deem her a kingmaker. “People find her very compelling,” liberal talking heads concede. Conservatives say Randi is Everywoman, the voice for mothers and career women alike. “And look, we’re talking about her again!” they all agree.
But Randi has a problem with the facts. They seem to elude her. She repeatedly says we have a trillion-dollar deficit when, according to the CBO, it’s only $378 billion. Plus she mixes up deficit and debt when she tries to show off her political philosophy. The Beltway press diligently points this out with a smirk. She’s “ambitious”—a word her detractors say with a snarl. “But easy on the eyes,” her supporters counter. The debate becomes Pretty vs. Pretty Dumb.
Randi tries to position herself as above this fray. “The fact-checking is not fact-checking. These are people with a bias. It’s purely an opinion. The stuff is so ludicrous I don’t even read it,” she says of her critics.
The headline is: “Randi Admits She Doesn’t Read!” The Internet breaks out in a rash of mansplaining. She’s dubbed Bluegrass Barbie.
Then an interview with Businessweek comes out. Asked specifically for a “nondead” ideal Fed Chairman, Randi answers, “Friedman would probably be pretty good, too, and he’s not an Austrian, but he would be better than what we have.” Milton Friedman died in 2006. The next two news cycles are guffawing about Madam President’s zombie cabinet: Paul of the Dead.
“Hacks and haters!” decries Randi.
The media hangs on her every word. They use her lack of civics knowledge as a peg to write explainers. On Syria, Randi says: “I think the failure of the Obama Administration has been we haven’t engaged the Russians enough or the Chinese enough on this, and I think they were engaged.” And because it’s the Drone Bimbo, we’d have weeks of blog posts about Cold War proxy battlefields pointing out how Russia is not on the same side as the U.S. in Syria.
Randi inspires a genre of columns: Ms. Paul said this, what she doesn’t understand is this.
Next come the serious think pieces asking whether Randi Paul is smart enough to be president. “Ms. Paul has drive and voter appeal but her grasp of basic economic and foreign policy issues makes even her most ardent supporters pause,” pundits write. They all entertain the idea that sexism plays a role in how the media treat her, but solemnly insist that doesn’t negate her basic lack of competency when it came to policy issues.
“If I were their journalism teacher in college, I would fail them,” Randi says in response to being caught plagiarizing a couple of speeches, an op-ed and a a few pages of her book. She had no credibility to lose. She was already a national punch line. A meme. A joke. A shiny distraction. And now she’s also a proven plagiarist. She’s referred to as “silly.” A silly airhead.
There’s a collective condescending chuckle at the thought of a girl like her in the Oval Office. Right?
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Tina Dupuy is a nationally syndicated op-ed columnist, investigative journalist, award-winning writer, stand-up comic, on-air commentator and wedge issue fan. Tina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.