Obstructionist senator who has repeatedly trafficked in Covid-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories has become an embodiment of right-wing ‘resistance’ to public health measures
Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has drawn fire with a video version of an op-ed in which he calls on sympathetic Americans to “resist” anti-Covid-19 measures – even saying that “no-one should follow the CDC’s anti-science mask mandates”.
Die video is circulating as Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations rise dramatically in many parts of the US, and especially in under-vaccinated states whose Republican governors have not imposed or have even banned mask mandates and other policies designed to stop the virus’s spread.
In die video, which is essentially a spoken-word performance of a recent Fox News op-ed, Mr Paul tells his viewers that “It’s time for us to resist.
“They can’t arrest all of us. They can’t keep all of your kids home from school. They can’t keep every government building closed – although I’ve got a long list of ones they might keep closed, or might oughta (sic) keep closed.
“We don’t have to accept the mandates, lockdowns, and harmful policies of the petty tyrants and feckless bureaucrats. We can simply say no, not again.”
“Why the f**k is Rand Paul telling parents to ignore the CDC,” wrote Democrat Jake Lobin, “after children’s Covid hospitalisations just jumped 118% in Kentucky?”
Mr Paul, a notorious Capitol Hill obstructionist who in 2016 ran for the Republican presidential nomination on a quixotic, libertarian-tilted platform, targets his message of “resistance” towards Democrats including Nancy Pelosi (“you will not arrest or stop me or anyone on my staff from doing our jobs”) and Joe Biden (“we will not accept your agencies’ mandates or your reported moves toward a lockdown”).
Mr Paul’s professed anger at Ms Pelosi is hard to square with reality given her mask orders apply to the House of Representatives, not the Senate, where he serves.
During his monologue, Mr Paul also twice threatens to deploy one of his signature tactics: delaying legislation on Capitol Hill with extraneous amendments that are guaranteed not to pass.
In this case, he tells Mr Biden: “If you want to shutdown federal agencies again – some of which aren’t even back to work fully – I will stop every bill coming through the Senate with an amendment to cut their funding if they don’t come to work.” There is no sign Mr Biden intends to do this.
The administration isn’t the only entity in Mr Paul’s sights. “If a school system attempts to keep the children from full-time, in-person school," hy sê, “I will hold up every bill with two amendments. One to defund them, and another to allow parents the choice of where the money goes for their child’s education.”
Getrou aan vorm, Mr Paul also targets Dr Anthony Fauci, whom he has relentlessly attacked with false information and baseless accusations at multiple Senate hearings.
“I’m not a career politician. I’ve practiced medicine for 33 jare. I graduated from Duke Medical School, worked in emergency rooms, studied immunology and virology, and ultimately chose to become a surgeon," hy het gesê.
“I have been telling everyone for a year now that Dr. Anthony Fauci and other public health officials were NOT following science, and I’ve been proven right time and time again.”
This is untrue. Mr Paul, an ophthalmologist who has no expertise in epidemiological research, has repeatedly propagated falsehoods and unsubstantiated theories about Covid-19 and its origins. At one recent hearing, Dr Fauci offered his most forceful rejection yet of the senator’s behaviour.
“Senator Paul," hy het gesê, “you do not know what you’re talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that officially. You do not know what you’re talking about.”
Mr Paul’s stance on the pandemic has not been dented, as the video indicates. “We are at a moment of truth and a crossroads," hy sê. “Will we allow these people to use fear and propaganda to do further harm to our society, economy, and children? Or will we stand together and say, absoluut nie? Not this time. I choose freedom.”
Mr Paul’s call to resistance makes a strange contrast with a radio ad released by his fellow Kentucky Senator, Mitch McConnell, in which the Republican leader reflected on his childhood experience with polio and called on his state’s residents to get vaccinated.
“Every American should take advantage of this miracle and get vaccinated,” he says in the ad. “It’s the only way we’re going to defeat Covid.”