Gaffetastic: Rand Paul cancels Sunday "Meet the Press" appearance

I guess he’ll follow the Palin playbook going forward, avoiding hostile media on grounds that they’ll never give him a fair shake. But Palin at least has the good sense to avoid the terrible optics of scheduling a big interview and then pulling the plug after a rough couple of days. Not Paul:

After two days of bruising media coverage about his views on elements of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the campaign of Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul tells me it has canceled the candidate’s upcoming appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” — something the show’s host and producer are currently sounding the alarm about on Twitter.

Yeah, the fact that MTP people are Tweeting about it shows either how unusual this is or how they’re out to get him, depending on your disposition towards Paul. If you’re keeping score, this is, arguably, his third screw-up of the day. The first, which I think he’s getting a bit of a bad rap on, came during his contentious interview with Stephanopoulos this morning when he said the White House’s obnoxious “boot on the neck” rhetoric about BP was “really un-American.” Gabe Malor thinks Paul was calling Obama’s general criticism of business “un-American”; I think Paul was being much more specific than that, but judge for yourself. It comes at 6:22 of the clip below. Even so, “un-American” is a nuke that should be deployed sparingly, even for something as irritating as the “boot” line. And Gabe’s totally right that, with a galaxy of things to hammer The One about, it’s almost singularly stupid to pick a fight that aligns you, however reluctantly, with the people responsible for the oil spill when the headlines about it seem to get worse every day.

The other gaffe isn’t new but, thanks to TPM, it’ll be new for a lot of people who hadn’t heard of Paul until this week. Quote:

Campaigning for his father in Montana back in 2008, Rand Paul spoke out against the NAFTA Superhighway, encouraging Congress to stop the mythical project that would connect Mexico, the U.S., and Canada and, critics say, deal a fatal blow to American sovereignty. Long a bugaboo on some segments of the Right, the NAFTA Superhighway does not actually exist.

“It’s gonna go up through Texas, I guess, all the way to Montana,” said Paul, at an event in Bozeman. “So, it’s a real thing, and when you talk about it, the thing you just have to be aware of is that, if you talk about it like it’s a conspiracy, they’ll paint you as a nut.”

As was amply documented by The Nation a few years back, “There’s no such thing as a proposed NAFTA Superhighway.” It represents, Newsweek put it, “a strange stew of fact and fiction, fired by paranoia” that was popularized by Jerome Corsi, the man who spearheaded the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry in 2004.

I used to goof on the Superhighway nonsense myself, and I wasn’t the only righty who did so. Presumably the TPM story was a contributing factor in Paul’s decision to duck “Meet the Press.” I’m hoping against hope that the left is throwing whatever they have at him now rather than keeping a bunch of stuff in reserve, but (a) given his pedigree, I kind of doubt that this is the limit of it and (b) his chumminess with Alex Jones will surely be an issue sooner or later. His dad’s always gotten a pass on that from the media, but his dad’s just one of 435 and likely can’t be defeated in his district. Rand can. And as Rod Blagojevich said, a Senate seat is a f***ing valuable thing.

What’s most interesting about the Stephanopoulos clip isn’t the “un-American” quote but Paul’s clear irritation at the beginning that the media isn’t playing pattycake with him the way they usually do with Republican-bashing Republicans like his pops. I was surprised at that myself; to see the sort of softballs Rand Paul used to get from the left, check out Dave Weigel’s transcript of questions asked by Rachel Maddow the first time he was on her show. No wonder Paul feels shellshocked. Like Weigel says, this is the end of the left/libertarian romance. Exit question from Powerline: Is this guy ready for primetime?

Update: According to HuffPo, there have been only two other last-minute cancellations in the 62-year history of “Meet the Press.” (The others: Louis Farrakhan and Prince Bandar.) Wasn’t the whole point of this guy’s candidacy, at least for Paulnut true believers, that he’d have the stones to defend his libertarian positions unapologetically? Those other squishy RINOs might say the “safe thing” but the Paul boys don’t run. Well, he’s running. No disappointment?