Last week Ben Smith at Politico did a story about some material that's been dug up about Rand Paul's college pseudo-fraternity, the "NoZe Brotherhood" - I have a few things to add to the same story today.
First, some background. The "NoZe" was like a fifth-rate Southern wannabe version of George Bush and John Kerry's secret "Skull and Bones" society, a group of wiseass kids from Baylor University (from whence Paul, incidentally, never graduated before heading off to medical school) who got together and smoked herb, pulled dumb pranks and published a very strange newsletter.
GQ already aired out some of the worst of the "pranks," one of which was a bizarro episode with a female student. The GQ piece quotes the female student, a member of Paul's swim team, who was visited by Paul and one of his NoZe brothers:
"He and Randy came to my house, they knocked on my door, and then they blindfolded me, tied me up, and put me in their car. They took me to their apartment and tried to force me to take bong hits. They'd been smoking pot." After the woman refused to smoke with them, Paul and his friend put her back in their car and drove to the countryside outside of Waco, where they stopped near a creek. "They told me their god was 'Aqua Buddha' and that I needed to bow down and worship him," the woman recalls. "They blindfolded me and made me bow down to 'Aqua Buddha' in the creek.
When I was in Kentucky I was mildly amazed by the relative indifference of Kentucky Republicans to this story. The Rand Paul of the GQ story makes a young Gary Hart or Jack Kennedy seem like the Virgin Mary, but Tea Partiers in the state seem not to be bothered by the tale ("Well, I used to use that cologne myself," was the response of one Tea Partier to a question I posed about "Aqua Buddha").
So then Ben Smith at Politico came out with his NoZe story and reported that the NoZe newsletter, The Rope, repeatedly mocked evangelical Christians, which is fine by me but seemingly an uncomfortable skeleton in the closet of any Republican hopeful. The NoZe were at one point banned from the campus on Baylor on the grounds of "sacrilege"; in Smith's piece, he recounts an example of the sort of thing that appeared in The Rope:
One typical article, headed "Fishy Bibles," revealed that one Clement Updike, 83, of Victor, Calif., was in fact that author of the bible.
"I wrote the thing as a lark," Updike says. "I had just read Faulkner's "Intruder in the Dust" where I found the moniker Joe Christmas. I liked the name, but I'm no plagiarist. So, I took part of it and added the name of a friend, Mr. Jesus Gonzales ... For years I ignored the argument between evolution and creationism until I realized this creationism stuff was from my book."
Smith also quotes a former NoZe brother, William John Green. While he couldn't recall what if any contribution Paul might have had, Green said Paul certainly would have been involved in the production of The Rope.
"Randy smoked pot, he made fun of Baptists, none of us ever heard him pontificating about religion," said Green. "Fundamentalists didn't join our group."
So these old NoZe newsletters are making the rounds, and here's what I've got: in addition to having fun at the expense of Christians, The Rope also digs black and Hispanic jokes.
Some of the stuff that's circulating is just stupid and unfunny more than anything else, but for sure it's probably not the kind of thing your future political hopeful would want to be involved with. One Rope article from the same time period of Paul's involvement with NoZe offers a satirical how-to study guide ("The MashuggNoZe Study-Like-A-Fool program") and in that same newsletter there is a series of running stand-alone jokes about penguins, one of which being that "Penguins and minorities tend to do badly on ACT, SAT, and other standardized tests."
So there's that. Then there's another piece that jokes about a chimpanzee giving birth to a "negroid" baby called "Monkey Saw, Monkey Did." The ostensible occasion of the satirical article is the chimp giving birth to a "scrapping [sic] Anglo-Saxon baby":
"Biological history was made last week at the Cen-Tex Zoo when eight year old Fifi, chimpanzee and friend to many, gave a wide birth to a scrapping Anglo-Saxon male."
The piece goes on:
"We were really kind of surprised, we've pulled an occasional negroid, one Shetland pony, and a couple of trout we had to throw back, but this beats the hell out of a two-headed calf.
The dumbest piece of all, though, came in October of 1983, when The Rope covered the problem of Latino culture overwhelming the "Anglo-Saxon" values on the Baylor campus. The Rope description of this phenomenon:
Baylor officials are hard pressed to combat the newest cultural force sweeping the Southwest: Latinoization. First Mexican food, then Mexican dresses, and now Latin lifestyle is overrunning the established, Anglo-Saxon ideals that are fundamental to the Baylor experience. This onslaught is causing concern at all levels. A.A. Hyden, Vice president for student affairs and part time blockmother lamented, 'It's increasingly difficult to get students to class on time. Also there is an apparent relationship between the decreased enrollment in afternoon classes and the number of undergraduates falling asleep in the SUB after 2:00.' This concern over the lack of get-up-and-go on the part of students was echoed in the sentiments of greenman Nick Wilson. 'Ever time you pick up your foot. You 'bout step on somebody.'
Here's the thing about this stuff: though we know for sure that Paul was a member of the NoZe during the time period in question, Paul's name isn't on any of these articles. Paul's camp isn't commenting on any of these pieces, which is not surprising (though what is mildly surprising is that he has yet to deny the essential facts in the "Aqua Buddha" story). None of this proves that Paul is a racist, or that he hates Christians. But it does prove that in his college years, Rand Paul chose to spend his time with a lot of really stupid and unfunny people. There are a lot of things to criticize about Rand Paul, and a lot of liberal critics have focused on his far-out views on the Civil Rights Act and pegged him as a closet racist, but to me that's not the key with this guy. Far more important is that he just seems like an overgrown adolescent and a dick.
One reporter I talked to in Kentucky put it this way: "He's just the prototypical spoiled college douchebag," the reporter said. "He's every rich kid you knew in college who read The Fountainhead once and loved the idea that sharing is immoral."
The hokey comments in The Rope are one thing, but the sneering, intellectually superior tone of Paul's society-brother newsletter is the one thing that to me seems still relevant to Paul's campaign. If you follow Paul enough and go to enough of his events, you won't be able to miss how much smarter he thinks he is than everyone else; he puts even Al Gore to shame in this department. If you ask him to explain some of his old comments, or something from his father's old libertarian newsletters, as I did, he's liable to roll his eyes at you. He apparently finds the whole answering questions and explaining himself thing very tiresome, and seems put out that he even has to bother with it en route to the Senate. If you read these NoZe articles, you might get an idea of where some of this comes from.