Rand Paul's rise as a Donald Trump defender shows just how far the GOP has fallen
Fox News/screen grab

In normal times, one of the lead stories of the Trump impeachment trial would be that one of the most psycho senators has become one of the loudest.

That would be Senator Rand Paul, formerly noted mostly as a fringy teabagger whose libertarian views were too conservative even for most Republicans. But now Paul is one of the boys, normalized enough that he took the lead in claiming that the impeachment trial was unconstitutional.

Were it not for Qanon lunatics and other trappings of Trumpism, having an extremist like Paul taking centerstage on behalf of Trump would fit as badly as a Bruce Castor suit. But in a sign of the times -- or perhaps the end of Western Civilization -- Paul has blended in as a regular guy by virtue of not believing that all Democrats are pedophiles.

That obscures what should be two important angles of the Paul story: One, is that politically, for him to present as a Trump acolyte today represents an extraordinary compromise of principle; two, is that if this guy's a face of the Republican Party, a little review of what means is in order.

First, there's the low-hanging fruit, which is to consider some of what Paul had to say about Trump (and vice versa) when they part of the 17-member GOP presidential field that Trump left in the dust in 2016. Paul is hardly the only erstwhile opponent with some colorful clips in the archives, but his are rather direct.

"Donald Trump is a delusional narcissist and an orange-faced windbag," Paul told host Trevor Noah on Comedy Central's the Nightly Show in 2016. Have you ever had a speck of dirt fly into your eye?" he continued, mocking Trump."[It is] annoying, irritating and might even make you cry. "If the dirt doesn't go away, it will keep scratching your cornea until eventually it blinds you with all its filth. A speck of dirt is way more qualified to be president."

For good measure, Paul likened Trump to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. "I'm not sure I'd say Trump is Hitler -- Goebbels maybe," Paul said.

For his part, Trump had ridiculed Paul's appearance, only to deny it by saying "I never attacked him on his look, but he has a lot of material to work with." He called Paul a "fake conservative," and said "he shouldn't be on this stage" at one of the GOP presidential debates.

Five years later, Paul is one of the leading defenders of the orange-faced windbag. In fairness, Paul wasn't asked in 2016 if he would have impeached Goebbels.

Against that backdrop, it's easy to forget just who Rand Paul has been in his rather unorthodox political career. When he ran successfully in 2010 for the Kentucky Senate seat he still holds, Paul had to spend a fair amount of time answering for comments in had made questioning whether government should deny private businesses the right to discriminate based on race.

In 2010, Paul told the Louisville Courier-Journal, "I abhor racism. I think it's a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant — but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership."

He had also written in his hometown Bowling Green KY Daily News that "A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin. It is unenlightened and ill-informed to promote discrimination against individuals based on the color of their skin. It is likewise unwise to forget the distinction between public (taxpayer-financed) and private entities."

As if that wasn't direct enough, Paul also has likened universal health care to slavery. During a 2009 debate over Obamacare, Paul -- an ophthalmologist -- said "if you think you have the right to health care, you are saying basically that I am your slave. I provide health care. My staff and technicians provide it. If you have a right to health care, then you have a right to their labor."

Paul has decried Medicare as socialism and criticized the ADA, saying disability rights should be a local matter. He claimed at a 2008 event that the U. S. had a secret plan to form a European Union-style merger with Canada and Mexico. "I guarantee you it's one of their long-term goals to have one sort of borderless, mass continent."

The list goes on. But for today's purposes one of the most ironic statements Paul has made came in an appearance of Sean Hannity's Fox News show. The two were bashing immigrants, and Paul offered a telling rationale -- one that just must apply to MAGA today, at the end:

"Here's the thing, Sean: I'm not for profiling people on the color of their skin or on their religion. But I would take into account where they've been traveling and perhaps you might indirectly have to take into account whether or not they've been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It wouldn't be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that's really an offense that we should be going after. They should be deported or put in prison.