Crazy in Kentucky

I don’t know whether Jack Conway’s “Aqua Buddha” attacks on Rand Paul are smart politics or stupid politics. We won’t know until election day, probably. However, I assume Conway knows his state better than I do.

In a rational world, making a campaign issue out of something that sounds like youthful, if stupid, hijinks when there are far more important issues going on would be stupid. For example, Rand Paul is in favor of the unrestricted mountaintop strip mining that has devastated much of eastern Kentucky. He is also for dismantling the mine safety regulations that have no doubt saved the lives of thousands of Kentucky coal miners over the years.

But I take a large percentage of the voters of Kentucky aren’t concerned about the ruined mountains and the lives and health of miners. I don’t know whether these voters don’t know about Paul’s stands on these issues, or whether they’ve bought the libertarian fantasy that mine owners would take loving care of the environment and their employees if only the federal government stopped regulating them.

There are legitimate reasons to be squeamish about making an issue of something that, in a sane world, wouldn’t register as an issue. But we’re not living in a sane world. The fact that certifiable loony tune Sharron Angle and flawed but at least not crazy Harry Reid are tied in Nevada tells us it’s not a sane world. If a candidate could win votes by dancing naked on an elephant while singing “I’m a Little Teapot,” might as well do it.

Nate Silver says Paul is still ahead of Conway in the polls, but also that there has been “a dearth of public polling of late” in Kentucky.

18 thoughts on “Crazy in Kentucky

  1. Conway is trying to undermine the religious vote for Paul. The fundies will not look kindly on someone who, even in college, pulled a stunt like this. The notion of forcing a woman to do this is also more than a little bit ugly, even taking into account that it was a collegiate prank. I agree there are more substantive reasons to oppose Paul, but in a campaign you go after all your opponent’s (potential) vulnerabilities. That’s why so many GOP House candidates are trying like mad to tie their opponents to Speaker Pelosi, and it is why the Demo candidate to replace Ted Kennedy ought to have hammered Scott Brown for his Cosmo photo spread.

  2. I think the Aqua Budda angle is perfectly legitimate, to me it shows that Paul must be slightly disturbed. I did lots of stupid shit and smoked lots of dope in college but I never forced someone to do something against their will. I knew plenty of frat boys who pulled stunts like this, in fact one pulled something similar to a friend of mine and paid the price for his actions. To me it just shows what an unstable dweeb Paul is but hey consider his Genes?

    “The fact that certifiable loony tune Sharron Angle and flawed but at least not crazy Harry Reid are tied in Nevada tells us it’s not a sane world”

    I would argue Reid is quite a bit past flawed. As much as I can’t stand even the sight of Angle I hope she beats Reid, hopefully it will show future senate leaders what not to do with their majority.

  3. I don’t think it shows anything much about whether or not Paul is disturbed. Not everybody does stuff they regret when they’re young but an awful lot do.

    I’m actually more interested in the mention in the post that “[ … ] But I take a large percentage of the voters of Kentucky aren’t concerned about the ruined mountains and the lives and health of miners [ … ]” because I think this is somewhat reflective of a more general problem in the Democratic Party. People in rural areas are freaked out about jobs, and about kids leaving for the city and never coming back, and rising energy costs and declining standards of living and the collapse of small farming in America and all sorts of things that the Democrats are just not addressing very well. There’s something slightly dismissive (maybe a little more than “slightly”) in the way this was phrased. It’s pretty alarming to live in the boondocks and see the Democrats just plain fail to address rural issues (jobs jobs jobs) and then suggest that rural people are somehow backwards and benighted for supporting Republicans.

    I think there’s no question that GOP policies are awful for rural people, and for the poor, and for agriculture, and for building the kind of infrastructure we need for rural economic development. But the Democrats really aren’t doing a whole lot better, and in the meantime at least the GOP isn’t culturally hostile to rural people. We could and should be doing much, much, much better (even a freakin’ rural progressives session at Netroots this year would have been *something*), and maybe being a little more thoughtful about stuff like “Kentuckians don’t care about miners’ health” could be a place to start.

    • Melinda — to you and also to Badtux — I am from a tiny mining town in the beautiful Ozark Mountains, which are like the poor annex of Appalachia, and my Dad and both grandfathers worked for the mining company, so I have some appreciation for what people in small, isolated mining towns think about things. And they are not as insensitive to the destruction of the environment around them as you seem to think. Granted, they can put up with a lot of destruction if the money is good. But they also see that once the mountain is stripped, it stays stripped, and is of little commercial use. The libertarians will babble that the stripped mountains are ready to be “developed,” but in sparsely populated areas there’s not a lot of demand for that much development. And the locals, if not the libertarians, know that.

      Further, coal mining is a treacherous business under the best of circumstances, and non-Union mines run by unscrupulous mine owners, which are most of them, can be death traps. Owners would rather take chances with the lives of miners than take a few pennies out of profits to make the mines safer. And don’t think the miners don’t know that.

      So, the question is, why would someone like Rand Paul who so obviously has his head shoved up his ass regarding mine safety be winning in the state of Kentucky? And the only answers I can think of are (1) most Kentuckians aren’t aware of Paul’s ideas about mine regulation, or (2) a whopping large percentage of Kentuckians, most of whom do not live in coal mining areas, don’t give a hoohaw about mine safety.

      Remember, not all of Kentucky is coal mining. The strip mining is going on in the eastern part of the state. People living in the western half of the state may never even have met a coal miner or otherwise be directly affected by the strip mines.

      Of course, it’s also true that mining towns tend to be company towns, and without the mining company the whole town might be boarded up and abandoned. I’ve seen this. And so it may be the mineworkers and their families will support the devil they know (the mining company) before they trust “foreigners” like Union organizers or progressives telling them it doesn’t have to be this way.

      And I agree that progressives, and Democrats generally, have not done a good job communicating to the rural poor. This is a point we discussed here awhile back, actually. But kindly do take your attitude that I am insensitive to the rural poor and shove it up your collective butts. I am not in the mood for it now.

  4. I have no qualms with pointing out shameless religious opportunism and a fake adherence to Christianity; many of our politicians have it and don’t get called on it nearly enough.

    The second section, the Aqua Buddha incident, seems all too preposterous; but Rand himself can’t seem to find the words “that never happened”, “that’s an outright lie”, “the depictions of this event brought by the press are wholly false”. What candidates should understand is that past events are part of what made them who they are today. When they don’t disavow or disown the action(s) in question, nor apologize or make amends for it, then there’s little reason for the public to think that the person standing before them today is any different from the past.

    It’s actually the third point of Conway’s ad that bothers me more than anything else. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to defund the Federal faith-based initiatives programs. They have done very little, and taken a lot of money to do it. As to religious-based charities, somehow I doubt Rand would have any real impact on them. Even if he did want to revoke all special status for religious charities, I don’t mind. There’s no good evidence that religious charities provide better services than secular charities, and giving the vast majority of state subsidies to just one religion comes too close to breaching proper separation of church and state for my liking.

  5. When I read of Conway’s stunt, I concluded that it was either incredibly stupid/desperate or a completely brilliant play to provoke Rand Paul, and drive the fundies against him. Only in the bible belt would large populations care about the kind of youthful nonsense “Aqua Buddha” represents, over significant present day issues like ruined mountains/valleys and the lives of coal miners. Short of waiting for election day, if there are pollsters willing to probe KY, I suppose we’ll soon find out how well Conway’s move succeeded.

  6. I think the idea behind this — besides the above reasons given by commenters — is to soften up the electorate so they’re more likely to read about or really hear the other problems with Rand Paul.

  7. But of course, the criticisms of the ad are out there. It’s not a fair ad, they say. Why? Because it’s a Democrat that’s attacking?
    I’m tired of Democrats being held to a standard where they have to play fair, but the so called “adult’s,” alway put some racist, or sexist ads on every medium they can find.
    F*ck them!
    Hell, I’d turn the “Aqua Buddha” reference from some kind of kindly, pot influenced, ‘Water God’ that he was ‘worshipping,’ into a ‘Satanic, surfing, gay, elitist, Coastal Nymph.’ *

    Sorry to use Buddha’s name in vain, maha.

  8. Conway worked out that he’s seeking to represent a state full of parochial religious bigots, and is pitching his message accordingly.

  9. Paul worked out that he’s seeking to represent a state full of parochial religious bigots, and has pitched his message accordingly for the last 8 months. Conway is just pointing out that he’s a phony.

  10. Regarding the mountain topping and safety regulations, the mine owners claim that if they aren’t allowed to top mountains and run unsafe mines, they’ll just have to close down and move their mines to, err, wherever else there’s coal and there isn’t such regulations. I.e., Rand Paul is actually playing to his audience there, they want jobs, and the coal companies are saying “If you don’t let us kill you with unsafe mines, we’ll go elsewhere, bwahahaha!” and the people just bend over and take it and say “Yes, master, I’ll work in an unsafe mine and drink water contaminated by mountain topping debris as long as you deign to give me an oh-so-precious job.” Sheep. Just sayin’. And Rand Paul knows his audience there.

    – Badtux the Sheep-observin’ Penguin

  11. Maybe Jack Ripper was half right. Fluoride in the water didn’t sap and impurify all our precious bodily fluids, but it did sap and impurify the precious fluids circulating in our brains.

    Fore instance, during Obama’s campaign some nut-job righties declared Obama to be the anti-Christ because Illinois’ winning lottery number happened to come up ‘666.’ (And we mustn’t forget that global warming is an atheist conspiracy.)

    When it’s this kind of stuff that rouses the American public, that activates the electorate to get involved, it’s no wonder that today’s campaigns, and candidates, are as they are.

  12. “It’s pretty alarming to live in the boondocks and see the Democrats just plain fail to address rural issues (jobs jobs jobs) and then suggest that rural people are somehow backwards and benighted for supporting Republicans”

    Melinda you don’t have a clue. The jobs jobs jobs jobs have all gone to China, shipped there by big business under trade agreements and deregulation bought and paid for by the chamber of commerce. I suggest you look and see who is supporting the democrats this year. Hint: it aint the Chamber. Anyone who makes less than a million a year and supports republicants is backward whether from the boondocks or not, wake up!

  13. Say wha? Erm, if anybody was insensitive to the rural poor it was me. But I was pointing out a real reality. Demonstrations against mountain-topping and unsafe mining conditions are regularly broken up by miners wielding baseball bats, who are utterly convinced that without these practices, they’ll be jobless. Mine owners no longer need to call in the Pinkertons to beat in the heads of people who protest their practices, they just tell their workers, “get rid of these environmental pinkos or I’ll have to shut down the mine and fire all of you.” And the workers do it.

    It didn’t used to be that way. But that’s how it is now. That’s reality. That’s the reality Rand Paul is working in. That’s why his mountain-topping and safety practices policies aren’t a big deal amongst the people in the eastern part of his state. They’re scared for their jobs, and if the mine owners say that’s the only way they’ll have jobs… well, thank you sir and give me more, please!

  14. Pandering to the fundies is just as bad as being one. What’s Conway trying to say? That he truly loves Jesus, and Rand doesn’t? Both of them are sick if they think getting Jesus in their corner is the thing they want to do. Jockeying for Jesus!

  15. Swami – you make perfect sense about pandering to fundies. However, being rational doesn’t count for a lot. The people who are riled up enough to vote, aren’t voting with their brains. Some of us are emotionally voting left – and our votes are canceled by emotional voters to the far right. The ‘moderate’ center is voting out of a reactionary panic. They aren’t voting FOR anything – they are voting AGAINST everything. So Conway is plugging into an emotional theme that might resonate emotionally rather than the cranial issues that ought to dictate.

  16. “So Conway is plugging into an emotional theme that might resonate emotionally rather than the cranial issues that ought to dictate”

    I suspect you are right and I say what ever he has to do to keep that nut job out of the senate is fine by me!

  17. Here’s my idea of a Conway ad:


    Open with picture of Aqua Buddha, and a female voice singing, “There’s something about an Aqua Buddha man…”

    Then Conway’s voice.”My opponent, Rand Paul, did a stupid stunt when he was in college. Well, that might be all right; lots of people do stupid things when they’re in college; but do they keep doing stupid things long after college?”

    Run clip of Rand Paul saying something asinine. [about civil rights or social security or some such]

    Conway: “Is Rand Paul still doing stupid stunts?”

    Woman’s voice, singing, “There’s something about an Aqua Buddha man…”


    The point of this is to briefly reference the absurd scandal, and use it to point out RP’s real absurdities. Since RP has said many absurd things, this ad could be an entire series.

    I hope the Aqua Velva people don’t mind copying their ad jingle.

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