Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Embarrassment-a-Minute Campaign of Rand Paul

So what does the latest mala-Paul-ism say about KY GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul? That he's every bit the quixotic, individualist rebel that we would expect him to be.

For those who rely entirely on SWNID not just to interpret the news but also to report it: Dr. Paul has not been certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology, the nationally recognized certifier of eye doctors which certifies over 95% of the nation's ophthalmologists, in over a decade. In protest of that organization's post-1992 policy to require recertification of doctors joining after 1992 but grandfathering in those who received lifetime certification under the pre-1992 rules, Paul formed his own organization to certify eye specialists. He's the prez, his wife is the vice prez, and his wife's father is the secretary.

Paul says that his opponent's raising this issue is an attack on Paul's ability to earn a living.

There's the report. Here's the interpretation.

We figure that this has nothing to do with Paul's ability as an eye doctor. He had no record of problems with the ABO before he formed a rival organization, and he's OK with the KY medical board, so that much is probably enough to indicate to voters that he's not a quack. If he were a bad doctor, he'd have a record of litigation that would already be thoroughly exploited by his political opponents, for they are many.

What he is, however, is, like his father, impressed with his individuality and principled propriety. He didn't respond to an ABO policy with which he disagreed by staying engaged with the organization to change it. He just left and set up a rival organization, one that probably counts as members about as many people as one could get at a typical Libertarian Party fundraiser. For Paul, it's more important to take what he fancies a strong personal stand than to actually change something that exists.

SWNID lives in a world parallel to Paul's, as far as certification goes. Accreditation for IHEs is akin to certification for docs: voluntary organizations of practitioners band together to establish and enforce standards of mutual accountability. Because such ventures are voluntary and cooperative, not all agree to the standards and practices. Some disagree because they know they could never meet the standards; others, out of what seems to be principled--the suspicion that the organization has become misguided.

So in higher ed there exist IHEs that do not seek accreditation. Many gravitate to nonstandard accrediting agencies (called "nonstandard" because they aren't widely recognized, though by coincidence many have extremely lax standards). These are largely the institutions that don't measure up. Others declare their principled intention not to seek accreditation, to avoid the interference and entanglements that they allege such relationships produce.

As a practitioner of higher education, SWNID eschews such isolationism. Presently we can't name a recognized accreditor whose standards are unreasonable or whose pattern of practice interferes with an institution's pursuit of its mission, though we might someday modify that judgment. To the very limited degree that such conditions do or might exist, we believe it more important to belong to the organization and thereby influence its direction than refuse the association in order to posture as particularly possessing personal purity. That's why we routinely warn students not to pursue degrees from unaccredited institutions while quietly urging those who on historic principle eschew accreditation to reevaluate based on the facts and opportunities.

Paul is almost certainly of the postured-principled type, not the hiding-inadequacy type. The issue isn't that he's incompetent; it's that he's full of himself.

So here's what KY voters can expect of Senator Paul: lots of individual declaiming about things that no one else cares about, lots of votes against measures supported by 90-plus Senators, lots of talk about introducing measures that won't even be considered by committees, let alone get voted on (e.g., gold standard and dissolution of the Fed), not one bit of significant legislation co-sponsored, let alone written and shepherded through the deliberately arduous process once celebrated by Schoolhouse Rock in the Dave Frishberg classic "I'm Just a Bill."

In sum, they'll get a Senator who will exceed Jim Bunning for irrelevance. And, it should be noted, Bunning did agree to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame without protesting the questionable standards of that organization that has honored so few shortstops.

But, as the informercials say, there's more. This episode also reveals that Paul has an exceptionally thin skin, resembling BHO in that inglorious respect. So someone calls attention to the fact that he has irregular certification in his profession, and Paul calls it an attack on his ability to earn a living (something to which he seems to be insecurely devoted, as he has pre-announced his intention to stay busy as a practitioner while representing his state in the Senate). Hyperbole is hardly the most effective way to respond publicly to something that is personal, and this is hardly personal at all. It's as if Paul is assuming that his patients wouldn't know the significance of certification were Evil Democrats not drawing attention to it. Again, it's all about him, in that odd combination of libertarianism and narcissism typified by someone else named Rand.

Yes, we know that Paul is strong on fiscal sanity, a most needed perspective these days. The problem is that his political modus operandi is more likely to marginalize fiscal restraint than to promote it. He and his dad may be good at getting elected, but they're demonstrably terrible at influencing governance. Idiosyncrasy is highly counterproductive in the social drama we call politics. Posers don't change reality because they don't deal in it. But they look marvelous while being irrelevant.


neil eckstein said...

Regardless of my position, I just wanted to suggest an alternative influence that may or may not be intentional. The Paul's have heavily influenced the non-governing generation--my generation. They created a campaign that is changing people's minds about the way things work. So though they may be 'irrelevant' to or isolated from the current governance, I believe they have began paving the way for the senators-to-be.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

But how many of that tribe will soon enough be disappointed and disillusioned when their champion has none of the influence on the body politic that they so deeply desire and so richly deserve?

Christian said...

There is an additional parallel, the one to which we are probably all familiar. Your description of Paul's response sounds a great deal like what has taken place in many of our churches. My personal response (ever since high school) has been what you suggest: that it is better to remain a part of what is mostly good and help improve it.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Exactly. If you press to extract a "biblical model," it's Stay Engaged Until They Kick You Out.

Bryan D said...

I hope I'm not the only one who will be uncomfortable with that equivalence of the GOP with the Church. The reason you stick with the Church is because it's God's church, not because it's mostly good and probably capable of being better.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Don't take the comparison for more than it is. Limits of analogy, of course!

But who was discussing the GOP? The issue is the American Board of Ophthalmology.

Bryan D said...

It's the supplied rationale of the analogy which I'm taking issue with.

Christian said...


I completely agree that our relationship to God and our theology of the Body/Bride/Church of Christ is foundational to and shapes how we engage in a local congregation. We become a part of the Church because of Christ, but there may be numerous factors for why we are presently involved in the particular church/congregation that we are.

Not only can most of us find numerous denominations (note the lower case "d")surrounding us where we live, but many (at least in the Bible belt) can find multiple congregations of the same denomination within a short drive.

One of the major reasons for this situation and problem that this presents to us today is a culture of "taking my ball and going home." (Or in this case, to another congregation or to start my own church.)