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Bill Straub: Rand Paul objects to Trump’s Gestapo and wants Dr. Fauci to be more optimistic

In The Sound of Music, that wholesome hash of low-brow entertainment produced on both stage and screen, a waddle of nuns is heard crooning the tune, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?:

In Kentucky, the song might be improved if Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics could be edited to ask, “How do you solve a problem like Rand Paul?”

The Republican senator from Bowling Green often comes across as the political version of the Scarlett Pimpernel – they seek him here, they seek him there. There’s never any telling which version, good or bad, is going to appear.

Assessing the Commonwealth’s junior senator nine years into his job is like trying to nail Jello to the wall. He obviously has proved to be an embarrassment – a dangerous one at that – when it comes to the federal government’s handling of COVID-19. If he were to have his way, it’s almost sure the plague upon us would prove even worse.

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

At the same time, Paul has displayed a willingness to rush in where angels fear to tread. While most of his Republican colleagues are playing Marcel Marceau when it comes to President Donald J. Trump, aka President Extremely Stable Genius, aka President Great and Unmatched Wisdom, he will occasionally offer an expression of something beyond annoyance.

Most recently Paul weighed in on Trump’s decision to deploy brown shirts, Pinochet-style secret police, to Portland, OR, to stymie protesters who have taken to the streets over George Floyd, an African-American killed at the hands of police in Minneapolis, an event that understandably lit a match under the Black Lives Matter movement.

Trump’s Gestapo, heavily armed and wearing camouflage outfits to apparently convince one and all that they’re real men, have displayed a propensity for randomly picking individuals up off the street, shoving them into unmarked vans and then holding them in custody for no apparent reason prior to release, all supposedly to protect federal property in the great state of Oregon.

The American Stasi, identified only by the word “Police’’ somewhere on their uniforms with no further details, has also seen fit to tear gas a group of mothers, arms linked, voluntarily standing between the secret police and protesters, whose numbers have mounted since the Gestapo was dispatched.

In other words, under Trump, the United States of America is showing signs of devolving into East Germany. And now he’s talking about sending his minions into other American cities, like Chicago and Philadelphia. Most Republicans are twiddling their thumbs or changing the subject. Paul, to his credit, is not.

Writing in Reason magazine, the Bible of the Libertarian movement, Paul said, “While I respect the determination to preserve law and order, sending in federal forces to quell civil unrest in Portland further distorts the boundaries, results in more aggression (including pepper-spraying and repeatedly striking a Navy veteran whose injured hand will need surgery), and has led to reports we should never hear in a free country: federal officials, dressed in camouflage, snatching protesters away in unmarked vehicles.

“Sending the feds into Chicago won’t make the situation there any better, either.”

In a free society, Paul added, “citizens should be able to easily distinguish between civilian law enforcement tasked with keeping the peace in our communities and the armed forces tasked with protecting our country from foreign adversaries.”

Trying to find other Republican lawmakers who find Trump’s secret police appalling is like trying to find a cold Budweiser in the middle of the Sahara. Do you think Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch’’ McConnell, of Louisville, is going to cross America’s Mussolini on this issue? Oh come now. With re-election staring him in the puss, Mitch will stay mum until he figures out which side is politically advantageous and then act, picking the popular side.

It should be said that is something that Paul rarely does. Some of his decisions are, well, curious, and that’s a very kind way to put it. At his worst, and it’s been on view on occasion, he’ll make your skin crawl as if you’ve been doused with hydrochloric acid.

Right now the celebrated libertarian is trying to deep six the next legislative effort to supply additional relief for those suffering from the economic impact of Covid-19.

The measure is still under development and there are plenty of reasons to believe it’s not going to provide the sort of help the nation needs. McConnell and other Republicans don’t like the $600 per week bonus provided to unemployed workers and they’re seeking protections against lawsuits for businesses where workers contract the coronavirus while in the job. But the package will likely result in $1 trillion being circulated during hard times.

Paul wants none of it. He claims “we’re losing the country’’ and that adding trillions of dollars to the nation’s deficit is “absurd, it’s obscene.”

“The majority of Republicans are now no different than socialist Democrats when it comes to debt,” Paul said on Twitter. “They simply don’t care about debt and are preparing to add at least another trillion dollars in debt this month, combined with the trillions from earlier this summer.”

Paul said it would be a mistake for the federal government to borrow money – despite record low interest rates – to stimulate the economy.

“I don’t think we should throw out good sense and believe in something the opposite of what we believe in because of this virus,” Paul told Fox News. “I think it’s a foolhardy notion to think you can just create money out of thin air, give it to people and that creates wealth.”

The only way to “survive and recover,” Paul said, is to “re-open the economy.”

Paul, who hasn’t covered himself in glory during the COVID-19 crisis, seems unable to come to grips with just how significant the problem is. Adding $5 trillion in debt during a relatively short period of time isn’t particularly desirable. But more than 140,000 Americans have died as a result of the virus. The number of cases nationwide is rising – a 30 percent increase over a 14-day period ending on July 21, with 65,274 new cases reported that same day.

Kentucky, in fact, is one of the states where incidence is climbing. As of Wednesday, 24,694 cases have been reported, resulting in 697 deaths. And 660 new cases were reported July 21.

Until a vaccine or some other way to fight the spread appears the only way to address the crisis is to shut things down. States like Florida and Georgia jumped the gun, leading to chaos and a rise in incidence that has overwhelmed the medical establishment. And only the federal government has the wherewithal to make sure those who are no longer getting a steady paycheck for reasons beyond their control make it through to the other side of this mess.

Re-opening things at this juncture will lead to more fatalities. The nation already is on the road to 200,000 deaths. Do you really want more?

To this point, Paul’s major contribution to the coronavirus debate – besides catching the disease and failing to quarantine himself as he waited for the test results – has been to insult Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has spent the last few months warning about the spread.

Paul told him to display more optimism.

More than 140,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19.

How’s that for optimism?

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