At this point, I am mighty bullish on Sen. Ted Cruz but I very much like several other possible GOP presidential contenders, and I have to say that Republicans can learn a valuable lesson from Sen. Rand Paul's recent handling of the ambush media.
Often when Republicans are ambushed, they fumble around, grow defensive and apologetic, and shrink to a point just short of the fetal position. They just can't seem to take the heat of the accusations that they are bigoted or uncompassionate. Instead of striking back, they raise one arm up in defense, get further bludgeoned and descend into retreat.
We are right on the issues. We are the champions of liberty. We advocate colorblindness and equal treatment under the law. But we end up groveling to people of smaller numbers with bigger megaphones. No wonder we're losing the culture war. Yes, politics rolls downhill from culture to a great extent, but political leaders have a unique opportunity to impact the culture upstream. Sadly, our side usually doesn't even recognize this opportunity.
Rand Paul sat down for interviews just one day after he announced his presidential candidacy. Associated Press reporter Philip Elliott, presumably vying for liberal media ambush champion of the week, asked Paul what exceptions, if any, should be made if abortion were to be banned.
Paul tried to answer honestly: "The thing ... about abortion — and about a lot of things — is that I think people get tied up in all these details of, sort of, you're either this or this or that or you're hard-and-fast one thing or the other. ... In general, I'm pro-life. So I will support legislation that advances and shows that life is special and deserves protection, and that has been both legislation with and without" exceptions.
After the interview, the Democratic National Committee circulated a press memo on the exchange as ammo for the next media ambush competitor lying in wait for Paul. It didn't take long. NH1 reporter Paul Steinhauser, referring to the DNC missive, pointedly asked Paul, "Should there be any exemptions for abortion or not?"
Paul didn't cower. He didn't slink down or fumble around at the podium stalling for time to think of some answer that wouldn't marginalize him and damage his candidacy. Instead, he shot back, "What's the DNC say?" And it got better from there.
Paul continued: "Here's the question: You know, we always seem to have the debate way over here on what are the exact details of exemptions or when (life) starts. Why don't we ask the DNC, 'Is it OK to kill a 7-pound baby in the uterus?' You go back and you ask (Democratic National Chairwoman) Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she's OK with killing a 7-pound baby that is just not ... born yet. Ask her when life begins, and you ask Debbie when she's willing to protect life. When you get an answer from Debbie, come back to it."
That response had to stun the reporter, who is part of a group that believes it has a monopoly on ethics and is used to making the rules. How dare Rand Paul?!
But kudos to Paul for finally turning this issue around and pointing out, through a series of very simple statements, who the real extremists on abortion are. What abject absurdity for liberals to prance around wagging their fingers indignantly at conservatives over questions on which their own positions are so far out there as to be morally indefensible and darn near incoherent.
ABC News' George Stephanopoulos used this gambit on candidate Mitt Romney in an interview following a presidential debate in 2012, asking him, "Do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception? Or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?"
Romney pointed out that it was a ludicrous question, but the Democrats nevertheless used the incident to advance their phony "Republican war on women" meme. The real extremists on that issue, as well, are the Democrats, who subscribe to the contemptible position that the government should subsidize abortifacients and that if you disagree, you hate women.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, by the way, responded to Paul's question. "I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story," she said in an email to CNN. Then she continued with questions back to Paul about exceptions for rape and the like.
Are any reporters pointing out that Schultz dodged the question? That her implicit answer is that she favors abortion on demand up to the point of birth? Are they showcasing her deceit, which surrounds the leftist stance on abortion, that we ought to evaluate abortion only in terms of the extreme situations?
The extremists in this debate are the ones who so casually dismiss the killing of an innocent child in the womb as if it were a piece of lifeless tissue instead of a life, without even addressing the overriding moral issue involved in killing a human being. The pro-lifers, even those who wrestle with the exception questions, are engaged in a serious weighing of moral issues.
Kudos to Rand Paul for providing a free clinic on how you handle the ambush media and a blueprint for how conservatives should begin to reframe issues to bring them back to reality and show who the real extremists are.