Sen. Rand Paul, the offspring of father Rep. Ron Paul and a particularly flamboyant fundraising list, makes a show of being a mavericky libertarian type while bucking his party as little as possible. This primarily manifests itself in sporadic episodes of crackpottery, episodes where you're never quite sure if Rand Paul is really upset about the things he announces he is upset about, or is just funning with his audience, a wee little skit for the day to shore up his crank credentials.
So of course he's going to weigh in on a Senate Health Committee deliberation over childhood vaccinations, even as measles outbreaks continue to pop up in unvaccinated communities. Oh, and he's going to go full Founding Fathers on us on this one, so buckle up.
“As we contemplate forcing parents to choose this or that vaccine, I think it’s important to remember that force is not consistent with the American story, nor is force consistent with the liberty our forefathers sought when they came to America,” said Paul, reading off a paper. “I don't think you have to have one or the other, though. I'm not here to say don’t vaccinate your kids. If this hearing is for persuasion I’m all for the persuasion. I’ve vaccinated myself and I’ve vaccinated my kids. For myself and my children I believe that the benefits of vaccines greatly [outweigh] the risks, but I still don’t favor giving up on liberty for a false sense of security.”
The liberty to possibly spread deadly diseases to other Americans because you read something blatantly untrue on a con artist's email list is a seldom-heralded right, but given our current interpretation of the Second Amendment, you can't say it comes out of nowhere. The idea that vaccinations provide a "false" sense of security is, for a man who often relies on his self-certified medical credentials, more dodgy. Vaccines in fact provide a great deal of real security, as is demonstrated by the noticeable lack of audience members dying from smallpox or polio as Rand Paul holds forth on the subject.
Indeed, the benefit of vaccinations is so real that for nearly any communicable disease you can name, from the common cold to the flu virus to HIV to take-your-pick, finding a vaccine against that disease is considered the Holy Grail for disease researchers.
What Rand Paul tends to do on these things is attempt an all-sidesism thorough enough that a listener can presume whatever they want to from his statements. He is personally pro-vaccination, but also pro-"liberty" and pro-miniature-American-flag-waving. He recognizes the importance of vaccinations, up until the odd trailing phrase that suggests the man actually does not have a high opinion of them at all. Oh, and maybe the entire medical community just happens to be wrong because reasons:
“Now proponents of mandatory government vaccination argue that parents who refuse to vaccinate their children risk spreading these diseases to immunocompromised community,” he declared. “There doesn't seem to be enough evidence of this happening to be recorded as a statistic.”
That's a curious statement. The prevalence of immunosuppressed individuals (cancer patients, those with autoimmune diseases, infants, etc.) is considered a key factor in modeling the likely death rates of future infectious disease outbreaks; there is similarly no argument to be made against the fact that current disease outbreaks have spread primarily to and from unvaccinated individuals. For Dr. Rand Paul to express sudden skepticism that such disease transmission is possible or significant is … surprising.
It was up to Democratic Sen. Bill Cassidy to take Paul to task on his nonsense, that apparently being the prime governmental responsibility of Democratic officials in these days when the Rand Pauls of the world are forever casually wondering, through a haze of invisible pot smoke, whether the last two hundred years’ worth of scientific discoveries can match up to their own gut feelings on these things.
But this is basically Rand Paul's whole routine, and the current Republican routine in general. Say something about liberty; mutter a few lines establishing your reasonableness; and then lurch from that into something that sounds very suspiciously like it's been cribbed, word for word, from a conspiracy theory website.
Intersperse that with regular fundraising requests, and you've got yourself a lifelong career in conservative politics.