According to Nightline anchors Terry Moran and Bill Weir, new Republican Senator Rand Paul is "radical," "controversial" and longs to take a chainsaw to the Department of Education. Using hyperbolic language, Weir profiled Paul for Wednesday's program.
Co-anchor Moran previewed the segment by attempting to isolate the Kentucky politician: "Up next, even the most conservative Republicans balk at his proposals for slashing government." As a cartoon graphic of a crazed-looking Paul appeared onscreen wielding a chainsaw, Weir hyperventilated, "So, while the President argues for a budget scalpel, Rand Paul would use a chainsaw, shutting down the Departments of Energy and education."
The journalist continued, "He would kill the Consumer Product Safety Commission, shrink the Pentagon and cut off all foreign aid." Dismissing Paul's call for spending restraint, the ABC anchor challenged, "Does the richest nation in the history of nations have a responsibility to take care of its weakest?"
[See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Continuing the apocalyptic tone, Weir warned, "But a government shutdown is not Little League. And the cuts he's proposing have the potential to make those Wisconsin protests look like a church social."
In contrast, on January 20, 2009, Weir enthused about Barack Obama's inauguration: "...From above, even the seagulls must have been awed by the blanket of humanity.”
While co-anchor Moran deemed Paul "radical," he fawned over Barack Obama during a November 06, 2006 Nightline profile: "He inspires the party faithful and many others, like no one else on the scene today...And the question you can sense on everyone’s mind, as they listen so intently to him, is he the one?"
A transcript of the February 23 Nightline, which aired at 11:46pm EST, follows:
TERRY MORAN: Senator No Surrender. He's the most controversial newcomer to Capitol Hill with a radical pedigree. But, can Rand Paul's high ideals survive the Senate? We've got the Nightline interview.
MORAN: Up next, even the most conservative Republicans balk at his proposals for slashing government. We sit down with the newly minted Senator, Rand Paul.
TERRY MORAN: If Republicans and Democrats can't find a way to compromise on spending, the federal government will shut down on March 4th. But what do you think the chances for compromise would be if Senator Rand Paul, the fiery Tea Party newcomer who wants to abolish the Departments of Education and Energy and lots more, what if he was running the show? Well, tonight, my co-anchor Bill Weir sits down with the senator for the "Nightline" interview.
WEIR: It is lunchtime on Capitol Hill and America's most controversial new senator is on his way to the one place he knows his ideas are always welcome. The office of America's most controversial representative, also known as dad. I was just so curious about how the roommate situation is working out.
REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL: We're not to talk about that in public.
BILL WEIR: Oh really? It's that bad?
RON PAUL: Actually it's very good.
WEIR: Yes, Rand and Ron Paul are DC roomies these days and they share a lot more than rent.
SENATOR RON PAUL [At CPAC]: I'm glad to see the revolution is continuing.
WEIR: Because the son grew up worshiping his father, as the doctor turned philosopher statesman was mocked and praised for his ideals. He was there when he ran for president, with promises to gut big government, end wars and legalize drugs. And now, the libertarian lion has a blood ally.
BILL WEIR: Did he have any sage advice, first day in the halls of power?
RAND PAUL: Yeah, he said just be real quiet and don't try to stir up any trouble.
WEIR: Right, right.
RON PAUL: No controversial votes.
RAND PAUL: That's right.
RON PAUL: We don't believe in that.
WEIR: That is the epitome of sarcasm, of course. And when it comes to stirring things up, Rand Paul has made poppa proud from the moment he left his ophthalmology office to run for this one.
RAND PAUL: There were times when I'd come home and my wife was crying about the things they were saying about me and we thought, is it worth it?
WEIR: As a Tea Party candidate, Paul had to beat both Kentucky's Democrat and Republican machines while surviving potentially devastating controversies.
RAND PAUL: I abhor racism. I think it's a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant. But at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.
WEIR: One firestorm erupted after he argued in an editorial meeting with "The Louisville Courier Journal" that by ordering restaurants to serve African Americans, the Civil Rights Act gave too much power to government. And then, there was the anonymous former classmate who told "GQ" that during a pot-fueled college escapade, Paul tied her up and made her worship a pagan water god called Aqua Buddha. He denied it and she later clarified it wasn't kidnapping, but a harmless prank. What was the lowest point of the campaign for you?
RAND PAUL: Uh, I think probably being called an idol worshipper. Being accused of-
WEIR: Aqua Buddah.
Rand PAUL: Being accused of kidnapping. You know, now we can look back and my wife and I can laugh at it a little bit.
WEIR: But as he describes in his new book, "The Tea Party Goes to Washington," he shrugged off attacks from the, quote, left wing media and was spurred on by disgust over rampant spending by both parties, especially Republicans like Mitch McConnell. You're wearing your elephant tie today. But I wonder how- what's your relationship with Mitch McConnell now?
RAND PAUL: I think good. I think the entire Republican caucus on the Senate side is for a balanced budget amendment. And I say that's good. That means we are philosophically in tune. But I say, you have to cut spending and-
WEIR: You're miles apart from what they want to cut.
RAND PAUL: Yeah, well that's what I mean.
WEIR: [Graphic of Paul with a chainsaw cutting through the Department of Education.] So, while the President argues for a budget scalpel, Rand Paul would use a chainsaw, shutting down the Departments of Energy and education. He would kill the Consumer Product Safety Commission, shrink the Pentagon and cut off all foreign aid. And while the most fiscally conservative Republicans were proposing $50 billion in cuts, he wanted to slash $500 billion.
RAND PAUL: I'd go to a rally and I'd say, I'm not here to bring you a brand new shiny building. I'm not here to bring you any federal money. There is no money left.
WEIR: Does the richest nation in the history of nations have a responsibility to take care of its weakest?
RAND PAUL: Yes. As a Christian, we are our brother's keeper. And we do have a moral obligation to take care of those. The question you have to ask is, is the federal government equipped to do it?
WEIR: And for proof of his hatred of government regulation, consider the bill making it a federal crime to shine a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft in flight. It passed 96-1. Who was the one?
RAND PAUL: Can you imagine-
WEIR: It was you. Explain that.
PAUL: Well a 14-year-old kid is standing outside the airport and he's shining his laser light at the cockpit. I don't want that. But I think the local sheriff can take care of that. Laws are best done at the local level.
WEIR: But at the federal level, there is the real possibility the government could grind to a halt if both sides can't agree on a budget. What are the chances, you think that this is all going to shut down in March?
PAUL: Um, I hope it doesn't. I hope we can find a compromise. The other side wants the dynamic of blaming Republicans for shutting things down. But this happens at every level of government. For example, in my little town if they don't pass a budget, you know what the first thing they do? They turn the lights off at the Little League park and say no more Little League games because they want everybody up in arms.
WEIR: But a government shutdown is not Little League. And the cuts he's proposing have the potential to make those Wisconsin protests look like a church social. But Rand Paul has promised his Tea Party faithful there will be very little compromise in his tenure. And they'll be watching to see if he becomes senatized [?].
WEIR: Are you a burr under the saddle of Republicans?
RAND PAUL: Sometimes. And I do think I am able to agitate. Everything up here is fixable. But you have to have people who aren't afraid to talk about it. I'm not afraid to talk about it. I'm not afraid not to be elected.
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.