At the start of the day, it looked Rand Paul's most negative story to handle was an info-dump about his father's campaign. The Iowa Republican obtained e-mails from the end of the Iowa caucuses, the period when State Sen. Kent Sorenson jumped from the imploded Michele Bachmann campaign to the Paul campaign he was probably meant to be with in the first place. Bachmann claimed that Sorenson was bought off. Sorenson and the Paul campaign denied it. The Paul campaign can still deny it -- there's no record of the money changing hands, as the Bachmann campaign's money previously had with Sorenson -- but it's problematic.
Or it would be, if the younger Paul didn't talk to John Harwood. In a radio interview about libertarianism in the GOP, Paul demonstrated just how little he (and his supporters) care about the associations game. With only fifteen minutes on the clock, Paul teed up Harwood by saying "it was awful what happened to black Americans during the Jim Crow years." Harwood pivoted to Paul's departed social media adviser Jack Hunter.
"What conclusion should people draw from the presence of that former shock jock on your staff?" asked Harwood.
"He's no longer on my staff," said Paul.
"But you had a pretty strong association with him," said Harwood, truthfully -- Hunter co-wrote Paul's first book.
"I think some of the things he wrote, or many were stupid, and I don't agree with," started Paul, without getting specific. After he cleared his name, he took a moment to defend Hunter. "I do think he was unfairly treated by the media, and he was put up as target practice for people to say he's a racist, and none of that was true. If you look at his writings, I think there are a lot of problems and a lot of disagreements and none of it do I support. But none of it was racist. He got along with everyone in the office, treated everyone fairly without regards to race or religion."
By definition, since Hunter was nice to non-whites, he didn't fit Paul's idea of a "racist." This is how the Paul movement views the question. It won't accept the framework of "societal racism." Liberals can't be allowed to define what is racist. Racism is what's observable: Personal bias against non-whites. And on that count, Paul considers himself not just spotless but exemplary.
"There is no greater defender, truly, of minority rights, if you consider minorities to be the color of your skin or the color of your ideology, than myself," he told Harwood. "I will stand up there with the most progressive members of the caucus."
Harwood attempted to pivot by reading a critique of the libertarian movement's right from The Economist. Paul shut him down: "Don't you have something better to read than a bunch of crap from people who don't like me?" When Harwood tried again, Paul suggested he ask something about his philosopy, not anything written by anyone else.
"Let's talk about transportation," said Harwood. And so ended a pretty good day for Paul 2016.