In a statement that strained our sense of amazement to the point it snapped in half, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said the attack on the embassy in Benghazi that took the life of four Americans was the "greatest tragedy since 9/11."
While we’re picking up our dropped jaws from the floors, we’ll let others say for us what we might write in response.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.: "I think if some people on this committee want to call the tragedy in Benghazi the worst since 9/11, it misunderstands the nature of 4,000 Americans-plus lost over 10 years of war in Iraq fought under false pretenses."
"Without diminishing the significance of the Benghazi attack or the four lives that were lost there, it should be immediately clear that this is nonsense," wrote Robert Golan-Vilella, an assistant editor at The National Interest. "Consider, for example, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, in which roughly a quarter million people were killed. Or, if we want to limit ourselves to American examples, consider the Iraq War or Hurricane Katrina, both of which had death tolls that outstripped Benghazi by orders of magnitude. Or Fort Hood, Aurora or Newtown -- the list could go on and on. The point is simply that, assuming Paul was being serious and not just trying to score political points, his claim is both wildly inaccurate and represents the worst kind of Mad Libs-style thinking when it comes to foreign policy."
Paul’s history of sound bites is more than just Mad Libs, however.
According to the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake, it’s relatively apparent that he’s already positioning himself for a run for the presidency in 2016, and he’s been hitting all the talking points.
He voted against the three-month debt ceiling extension, saying afterward "I saw the speaker on TV handing the newly sworn-in president a flag. I am afraid it was the white flag of surrender."
Last week, he went on the offense, attacking New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has been mentioned by moderate Republicans (yes, they still exist) as a possible 2016 contender.
"I think criticizing the Second Amendment movement and the over-the-top ‘give me my money’ stuff -- ‘I want all 60 billion now or I’ll throw a tantrum’ -- I don’t think that’s going to play well in the Republican primary," Paul said of Christie.
Paul’s comment at Wednesday’s hearing -- "Had I been president at the time, and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it’s inexcusable." -- are not mistakes, wrote Blake.
"He’s clearly interested in running for president and happy to be a part of the 2016 dialogue."
He’s got a long uphill climb, though, and that might be why he’s starting his unacknowledged campaign just days after Pres. Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term.
"A December poll taken by Public Policy Polling found Clinton beating Paul by 5 points in a hypothetical matchup in his own redder-than-red home state of Kentucky," wrote Liz Marlantes for the Christian Science Monitor. "But after Wednesday’s performance, one conclusion seems inescapable: Paul certainly appears to be eyeing a run. And as one of the most unpredictable, attention-getting forces to hit the Senate in some time, it’s impossible to know how Paul might shake up the race.
A lot could happen in the next four years, and Rand Paul could shake out to be the top contender on the Republican ticket. But we pine for the days when we could take a step back from the presidential campaigns. Now, as with the 24/7 news cycle, it appears we are subject to a never-ending campaign cycle in which potential candidates keep their hats spinning in the air, ready to toss them into the ring at a moment’s notice.
It’s not only distressing, but it’s also annoying. Can we at least take a few minutes to catch our breath from the last campaign?
Not if politicians like Rand Paul have their way.