Rand Paul, Stop Trying to Publish So Much

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 5 2013 11:57 AM

Rand Paul, Stop Trying to Publish So Much

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Publish or perish?

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

For the last week, ever since Rachel Maddow pointed out that Rand Paul's references to Gattaca in a speech were ripped directly from Wikipedia, the senator's ouvre has been picked over by the obsessive Andrew Kaczynski. The latest revelation: That Paul's Washington Times column written to oppose mandatory minumum sentencing was word-for-word similiar to a column published a week earlier.

Paul's office, which has helped connect reporters with the people copied by Paul and not really bothered by it (that's still missing from this story), has finally weighed in with "he'll change" response.

"In the thousands of speeches and op-eds Sen. Paul has produced, he has always presented his own ideas, opinions and conclusions," senior adviser Doug Stafford said in a statement. "Sen. Paul also relies on a large number of staff and advisers to provide supporting facts and anecdotes — some of which were not clearly sourced or vetted properly."
Stafford also pointed to failures to properly quote text from other sources that should have been clearly labeled as such.
"There have also been occasions where quotations or typesetting indentations have been left out through errors in our approval process," Stafford said. "From here forward, quoting, footnoting and citing will be more complete."
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And so on—no staffer named, but a promise to do more citation. "Maybe he needs to re-hire Jack Hunter," joked one libertarian scholar to me as we talked about the recent breaks in the story. It was a reference to "The Southern Avenger," the radio host-cum-aide who left Paul's staff after reporter Alana Goodman dug into his rebel-flag-waving audio past. And hey, it's a good point. Hunter, the co-author of Paul's first book, is a fast and sharp writer who's (for now) blacklisted. (He has since reappeared at Paul-o-verse events like the Liberty PAC meeting back in September.) Paul lost a writer, but kept giving constant speeches, writing a regular column for the Washington Times, and running from issue to issue, trying to show as much expertise as he could in a short period.

It was unsustainable. Paul's responded to this story the way he always responds to attacks originating in partisan media: He has blown it off, called the reporters "hacks and haters," and moved only after the mainstream press indicated that he wouldn't be able to shake it. Almost all politicians use ghost-writers, but most of them stick to a couple of topics, on safe ground, citing the same material—usually quoting Ronald Reagan when there's a need to bridge the paragraphs. 

Paul was unique. He got here because he tried, as one of the most famous men in the Senate, to keep an even busier publication schedule than his father did as a back-bench congressman. It was unsustainable.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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