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Bill Straub: Rand Paul continues to attract attention with his curious — and potentially harmful – views


Sen. Rand Paul is laboring furiously these days to attract attention to his consistently curious views. The effort comes at an inconvenient time as President Donald J. Trump, aka Loser, is stealing headlines while further undermining the republic and Paul’s fellow Kentuckian, Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch” McConnell, follows suit.

There’s plenty of competition for the public’s ear but give the Republican from Bowling Green credit – by God he’s in there pitching. Paul’s latest dip into the crazy pool has taken him from your ordinary statewide embarrassment to someone who poses a potential danger to the public he is sworn to protect.

Actually, there’s two issues at hand. The least onerous is his continued support for Trump’s quixotic – or, to be accurate, ridiculous – effort to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election, which found his Orange Eminence falling to Democratic challenger Joe Biden, the former vice president, by better than 6 million votes.


The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com

Now it’s true that a convention of Republicans who have displayed courage in refusing to fall in line behind the Trumpster can be held on the point of a needle. But Paul has gone vocal in support of this obvious canard, raising unwarranted suspicions about the nation’s election security, suspicions that have been knocked down and slain by state and federal courts from Pennsylvania to Georgia to Wisconsin, ad infinitum.

But there’s old Rand, taking to Twitter to raise the possibility of fraud in the results without so much as a verifiable fact to support it.

“Interesting . . . Trump margin of ‘defeat’ in 4 states occurred in 4 data dumps between 1:34-6:31 AM. Statistical anomaly? Fraud? Look at the evidence and decide for yourself. (That is, if Big Tech allows u to read this),” Paul tweeted on Sunday. In an improbable attempt to make his claim sound legitimate, he included a link to a  chart of a “quantitative analysis’’ from who knows where, purportedly establishing “anomalies in vote counts.’’

It is all, of course, so much hooey. The so-called anomalies are attributed to several factors, most notably states that legally permitted the counting of mail-in ballots received by the time polls closed on Nov. 3. Such computations take time to count and some states, Wisconsin for instance, prohibit them from being counted until after the polls are closed. The fact that the process continued throughout the night is no indication of fraud, just good civics.

Trump, it should also be recalled, for some dumb reason, sought to degrade the use of mail-in ballots, nonetheless popular as a means of avoiding crowded polls on Election Day given the dangers presented by COVID-19. Democrats didn’t listen and the lion’s share of those votes, counted late, came in support of the Democrat Biden.

Let’s end this here. There has been no evidence of widespread fraud in the Nov. 3, vote, a fact endorsed by Attorney General William Barr and election officials across the map, many of them, as in Georgia, Republicans.

Yet here is Rand Paul serving as wingman for his sugar daddy Donald Trump, casting aspersions on the most sacred of democratic rights – the vote – and further exacerbating national cynicism about the wherewithal of the nation at a time when at least some attempt at unity is required.

You would think that one responsibility of a duly-elected United States senator would be to instill some faith and confidence in the country. That’s obviously not Rand Paul’s intent and it’s causing harm by egging on Trump supporters who insist their man was falsely cheated out of another four years.

But that, as it turns out, is the least of Paul’s shameful activities. It all pails in comparison to his strange and terrible stance regarding national reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, offering a position that could cost lives.

Paul’s thoughts on COVID-19 have been weird since the onset of the malady that has led to the deaths of more than 270,000 Americans since its onset at the beginning of the year. He has exhibited little if any empathy for the victims or their families and friends, choosing instead to belittle and disparage legitimate attempts to gain control of a chaotic health emergency.

“It’s important to realize that if society meekly submits to an expert and that expert is wrong, a great deal of harm may occur when we allow one man’s policy or one group of small men and women to be foisted on an entire nation,’’ Paul said during a Senate hearing in June.

Specifically, Paul is urging individuals to push back against measures implemented, primarily by state governments, to limit the spread of the disease as much as possible. That includes the closure of businesses, a prohibition against large gatherings and mandatory mask wearing.

The nation got the full Rand treatment during a campaign rally back in October when he dismissed just about every recommended effort to halt the plague, ranging from wearing masks to prohibiting large gatherings.

Paul insisted that cloth masks, those most commonly used in public “don’t work.”

“Ninety-seven percent of viruses go through a cloth mask,” Paul said. “The surgical masks, it’s about 50 percent.”

During a recent appearance on Fox News, Paul asserted, “We have mask mandates in dozens of states and countries and every — without fail, every time we’ve instituted a mandate the actual incidence of the disease has risen. So there is no evidence that these mandates are working and we’re crippling the economy. Maybe we ought to reassess what we’re doing.”
 
Paul did not identify the source of his information. A study by the Beaumont Research Institute, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases last month, determined that masks do, indeed work.

Studying its own health care workers, the institute found that of the 20,614 staff members who participated in the study, 91.2 percent who wore masks were clear despite coming in contact with patients during the initial surge of the pandemic when more than 1,200 COVID-19 inpatients were  admitted to Beaumont facilities.

Rand Paul

Of course he didn’t stop there. Paul himself contracted the virus in March, the first member of the Senate to do so. He thankfully proved asymptomatic but now, because of that, he claims he is immune from contracting it again and therefore, he doesn’t have to wear a mask. He suggests that proprietors of restaurants and bars hire individuals who have already suffered from COVID-19 to assure that patrons remain safe.

“If I own a restaurant, I’d have a whole wing for senior citizens or for anybody who is worried about getting sick, and I would say all my servers have already had it,” he said. “If I had a cruise ship, I’d hire everybody  — no exceptions  — everybody would have had the infection that works on the boat.”

There hasn’t been much research on the immunity question as yet. But there have been instances of re-infection, calling into question the entire immunity claim. And reports indicate the instances of re-occurring are becoming more frequent.

According to Metropolis, which describes itself as TruHealth blog, “There have been multiple cases reported in different parts of the world that people can be infected a second time. Though antibodies may prevent progression to severe illness or re-infection by the same virus, experts don’t know how much protection, or how long it would last. It is also unclear if the reinfected people will be able to spread the infection to others.”

Just because Rand Paul claims immunity doesn’t make it so. And it would be wise regardless to play it safe and not strut around like Superman as if he thought he was immune from kryptonite, whether he really was or not.

There’s probably an inkling in some quarters to believe Paul, evidence to the contrary, because he’s a doctor. But he’s an ophthalmologist, an eye doctor, not an epidemiologist. Rest assured ophthalmology is an honorable and necessary profession. But if you had your druthers you likely wouldn’t want an ophthalmologist to perform brain surgery on you. Nor would you want him or her to describe the potential impact of lethal diseases like COVID-19.

Paul has proved particularly critical of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has championed mask wearing bar closings and various other measures to gain control of the situation.

Fauci, as the public has learned, is a true public servant. Paul, as the same public is learning, is a different breed of animal altogether.


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