Back when Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was just a young pup, yet to search for a political bone, he was an ophthalmologist.
Well, he will tell you he was an ophthalmologist, as well as a couple dozen of his friends. But others will disagree with that, including the actual National Board of Opthalmology.
That's because when Paul was an up-and-coming "doctor," he decided he didn't like the new certification test that was so unfairly forced upon young ophthalmologists by a board whose job is partly to ensure patients aren't being done over by unqualified professionals.
How dare they.
So he stood up and created his own board, certified himself and 50 or 60 other rebellious young ophthalmologists and was never recognized by the actual authorities. But if Paul's current politics are anything to go by, he seems more like the "we don't need no certification" type.
Now Paul has taken a similar fight to the Patriot Act, particularly the NSA's ability to take data from our phones. Normally, I would be a fan; but the fact that self-certified Paul is leading this charge makes me nervous.
Let's face it: the NSA's ability to collect huge stashes of cell phone data, which it lost after a few Patriot Act provisions expired on Sunday night, really didn't do much. A nonprofit group called the New America Foundation that deals with technology in politics said as much last year based on analysis of 225 terrorism cases since 2001.
While I don't really have anything to hide, this is actually welcome news since the process of obtaining warrants for bulk data collection was too secretive in the first place. The Senate attempted to plug some NSA gaps with a USA Freedom Act passed by the House, but even that was held up by Paul.
This bothers me, because Paul is basically a rebel without a cause. No surprise, but his whole self-certification thing didn't work out for the 50 or so doctors who signed on.
Paul is the type of politician who likes to get people so riled up that they can't see straight. On the surface, his effort sounds right because he uses words like "unconstitutional" and "invasion of privacy."
Dig a little bit, and you'll find out just how little he understands. For example, his response to the Patriot Act provisions expiring was to simply hire 1,000 new FBI agents.
It would have been more appropriate for Paul to attack the way the NSA obtains some of its abilities through secret courts and secret judges. Instead, he went after the entire operation, which is actually kind of valuable.
Clearly, extremist sleeper cells are not around every corner; but, they are there. The ability to infiltrate and act at the right time does keep us safe, though it should become more transparent.
Just as Paul tried to take down the opthalmology establishment by undercutting its certification process, he's making a run at a prime example of "big government" to establish himself in the Republican presidential nomination race. It's all politics, as was made clear when he played the victim card and said in the Senate that people now wanted a terrorist attack to occur so they could blame it on him.
Maybe over the next few days, Paul will set up his own method of identifying terrorists that involves some sort of human super-eye. After all, he is an "ophthalmologist."