George Graham

A Duel, Rand Paul? Really?

You might think Rand Paul was joking when he told a TV interviewer he would like to fight a duel with the journalists who caught him plagiarizing.

He seemed especially eager to get it on with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who has been having fun with his filching of Wikipedia text and other internet material for his speeches and his book.

I thought Rachel was rather good-natured about Paul’s plagiarism. As I recall, the media were a lot less lighthearted back in the 1980s when Joe Biden was caught lifting other people’s stuff for his speeches.

But Paul isn’t laughing off his latest gaffe. And he isn’t being graciously apologetic. No, he is fighting mad.

How dare these journalists catch him cheating? Who do they think they are to impugn the honor of a Southern gentleman?

If Paul were a Texan, he would have invited Rachel to go for her gun. But he is a scion of a Blue Grass dynasty, don’t you know. And these folks fight duels when their honor is impugned. Or, at least they used to – a long, long time ago.

In an interview on ABC’s Latino-focused network Fusion, Paul declared that “if dueling were legal in Kentucky, if they keep it up, you know, it would be a duel challenge.”

I saw the show and he certainly was not joking. He was dead serious. Mad as hell, in fact.

What was this screwball senator thinking? Of course dueling is not legal in Kentucky! This is 2013, not the 1800s. Does he suppose dueling might still be legal in some other state? Mississippi perhaps? Or Alabama?

Is he caught in a time warp where cotillions are the highlight of the social season and uniformed (black, of course) footmen attend the carriages of arriving guests?

It sure looks like it.

As Salon’s Joan Walsh observes in her column today:

Paul’s assumption that normal people will hear his reference to fighting a duel and say, “Hell yeah!” betrays his permanent residency on the American fringe. He lives in a world where it’s always the 19th century South, and troubles are best handled with guns and guts, not government.

Ms. Walsh went on to remind readers that:

I saw the same thing in his under-covered response to the revelation that his aide Jack Hunter was a neo-Confederate racist who’d written a column headlined “John Wilkes Booth was right,” defending the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Paul, of course, came out against assassination – but then he went on to describe Lincoln the way neo-Confederates do, as a tyrannical racist hypocrite who fought the Civil War not to end slavery but to consolidate Northern power.

You have to wonder about the state of today’s Republican Party when you realize that this guy is being touted as a sane alternative to crazy Ted Cruz for the presidential nomination in 2016.

Click for the Salon column.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for