She phrases this as a question, of course — are you too thin-skinned, as your critics say? — but it’s clear what her opinion is. Tell me this: Why are we even talking about it? What deeper insight into Rand Paul’s character does his short-temperedness with reporters supposedly reveal? The knock on McCain in 2008 was that his famous temper made him too volatile to wield supreme military power. That was stupid but at least it was part of a narrative about his foreign policy leanings, namely, that the guy was too rash in wanting to confront opponents here and abroad. Paul’s foreign policy is the opposite of that. He may get snippy with Savannah Guthrie but he’s the least likely man in the field to push the button on Iran. And Paul’s right when he says at the end that he’s equal-opportunity when it comes to being short-tempered. He has sharp elbows and likes to throw them around — ask Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, or his pal Ted Cruz — especially when someone accuses him of being disingenuous and opportunistic in responding to foreign crises. (Which he is, by the way.) Those elbows are bound to get sharper now that he’s in direct competition with others for the nomination. Again, though: Who cares? Who, outside the media itself, cares how nice Rand Paul is to the media? Maybe his abrasiveness will turn voters off or maybe they’ll happily tolerate it in the name of seeing more moments like this on the trail. Pressing him on it feels less like asking him about a genuine issue than trying to create one, a vague threat that if he goes on being nasty with journalists, journalists will do their best to convince the public that that’s a very serious offense indeed.
And if this is just a pretext for Kelly to imply that he’s a sexist for being more confrontational with women reporters than male ones, a line of attack being spearheaded by Democrats to taint Paul’s image before voters get to know him, she should have accused him directly. As it is, she ends up not only exonerating Paul but essentially accusing Chuck Todd of sexism for criticizing Paul over how he deals with women reporters. If there’s no merit to the sexism charge and no one thinks President Paul would do something rash because of his temper, why spend any time on this at all?