A spokesman for Rand Paul clarified on Friday that while his campaign website has long touted a proposal to build an underground electrical fence along the border to deter immigration, the Kentucky Republican Senate candidate himself has never endorsed that specific idea.
Jesse Benton, who declined repeated attempts for comment from the Huffington Post (which first reported on Paul's plan for an underground electrical fence), told the Plum Line's Greg Sargent that Paul actually doesn't believe a fence should be built below ground. Rather, the fence he envisions would be constructed above ground while still carrying an electric current, explained Benton.
"That's a stupid word that was put in by whoever is writing for our Web site and we need to remove it," Benton said, of the "underground" description.
At best, this explanation pins the blame on an underling (in this case, some unknown Web hand). At worst, it's a lie. Certainly it's misleading. Paul has been videotaped on multiple occasions talking very specifically about building a fence underground. In May 2009, he spoke about the need to bury the fence because anything constructed above ground would create a Berlin-Wall-like symbolism that might offend Hispanic voters.
"I don't like the symbolism of a 15-foot fence going the whole border. It's extraordinarily expensive, and it reminds me of the Berlin Wall which was built to keep people in and from fleeing to the West," Paul said. "I think you could actually put in an electronic fence under the whole border for probably $10 or $15 million, which sounds like a lot to us but that's peanuts. And you could probably have helicopter stations in maybe five different locations, and I think you could have any breach of the border could be stopped at any point and we send them back."
Then there was the infamous interview he gave to a Russian television station shortly after winning the Republican Senate primary, in which he was asked the following question: "You also talk about an underground electrical fence, what is that about?"
Paul didn't dismiss the questioner as ill-informed about his position. Instead, he said:
"I think that would be one way. And I've recently been talking also more about satellite observation... so I think you can also monitor your border with satellites and then you have to have some means of intercepting people who come in illegally. You can have helicopter stations positioned every couple hundred miles."
Clearly, Paul believed at one point in time that an underground electric fence was cost-effective, more humane to Hispanics and a valuable way to stem illegal immigration. That his campaign distanced himself from the idea is a reflection of just how politically unpalatable it is, even in a conservative non-border state like Kentucky.
Jesse Benton, not surprisingly, did not immediately return a request for comment.