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Commentary: Rand Paul Takes His Libertarianism A Bit Too Far

rand paul
Carolyn Kaster

You really have to wonder what, for crying out loud, was Sen. Rand Paul, the Republican from Kentucky, thinking?

Waltzing around the D.C. area, free as a bird, for six days after being voluntarily tested for the novel coronavirus – coming into contact with scores of people, including most of his Senate colleagues, before finding out Sunday that he had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

If you are a Kentuckian looking to your state's junior U.S. senator as a role model in this crisis, look elsewhere.

This is a textbook case of exactly what not to do if you suspect you have been exposed to the virus.

Here's a laundry list of what this great advocate of freedom and individual liberty was doing while he awaited the results of his test:

  • He cast votes on the floor of the U.S. Senate
  • He made a speech about the flaws he saw in a coronavirus aid bill
  • He met with fellow Republican senators in a strategy session
  • He got in a round of golf at a prestigious Northern Virginia private golf club

And, finally, he was splashing around the swimming pool at the Senators-only gym on Capitol Hill.
It was right after his dip in the pool that he found out the results of his test – positive.

It was then, and only then, that the junior senator from Kentucky put himself in self-quarantine.

This, senator, was taking your libertarianism a bit too far.

As you might imagine, Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle were furious at him.

Both of Utah's Republican senators – Mike Lee and Mitt Romney – went into self-quarantine when they heard the news about Paul – not because they had any symptoms, but they were afraid of spreading a potential virus to family members and others.

One of the newest senators, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, blasted Paul in a tweet that called what he did "absolutely irresponsible."

"You cannot be near other people while waiting for coronavirus test results,'' Sinema said in her tweet. "It endangers others and likely means the spread of the virus."

Duh. You might think that Paul, who carries the initials "M.D." behind his name, might be aware of this.

Paul has changed his story on why he sought a coronavirus test – which was not done by the Senate doctor, who will only do the test if someone is showing symptoms of the virus.

At first, he said it was because he was at a large gathering at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, where three attendees later tested positive for the virus. No one, including Paul, is aware of him actually having contact with those three persons.

Then, on Monday, Paul said he was concerned because of his extensive travels and the fact that he has a damaged lung from a famous 2017 incident where a neighbor beat him up and broke six of the senator's ribs in a dispute over landscaping.

Nonetheless, the asymptomatic senator had the test done – a test that millions of Americans would like to have but don't have access to.

"For those who want to criticize me for lack of quarantine, realize that if the rules on testing had been followed to a T, I would never have been tested and would still be walking around the halls of the Capitol,'' Paul said in a statement from his Senate office.

"It was my extra precaution, out of concern for my damaged lung, that led me to get tested,'' Paul said.

Ohio's junior senator, Republican Rob Portman, teamed up with Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois Sunday to introduce a resolution calling for remote voting on legislation by the Senate.

Portman didn't get in Paul's face about what he did, but it is clear that he doesn’t approve of what the Kentucky senator did.

Portman spoke about it on the floor of the Senate Sunday.

"We have responsibilities here,'' Portman told his Senate colleagues. "This is our duty. And yet, if we cannot be here, we should still be able to (vote) remotely.

"I think what's happened in the last several hours as we've learned about our colleagues who are self-quarantining, one who tested positive as I understand it, it's very important that we have that ability,'' Portman said.

If passed by the Senate, the Portman-Durbin resolution would have to be renewed every 30 days until it is deemed no longer necessary.

Portman and Durbin are talking sense.

Meanwhile, Paul still seems oblivious to what all the fuss is about. He's in self-quarantine and apparently has no symptoms. Yet.

It reminds me of what my grandma, a very practical woman from West (By God!) Virginia, used to say when exasperated by someone:

That fellow doesn't have the sense God gave a goat.

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Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

Read more "Politically Speaking" here.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.