First the inane junior senator from Kentucky grandstands to insist that our current epidemic of accidental and intentional gunshot wounds isn't a public-health issue, then he rushes to defend Putin just as the Kremlin has ordered a sudden military exercise that seems designed to rattle the fragile situation in Ukraine.

For a refresher on how the Kremlin has been trying to undermine the protests in Ukraine and support its on-the-run President Viktor Yanukovych, see this dispatch over the weekend from Our Man in Ukraine:

The pro-Kremlin press has tried to make it sound like Ukraine is a breeding ground for neo-Nazis and fascists, but that simply isn't the case. These groups by and large have less to do with anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, etc. and more to do with fear of imperialism from Russia (political scientist Anton Shekhovtsov has written extensively about this).

People remember the atrocities carried out by Stalin against Ukrainians very vividly, and to some extent Ukrainians feel like they are fighting to maintain their independence. The other day, there were reports that Ukraine's chief rabbi had warned Jews to flee the country. But that was inaccurate. It was not the chief rabbi, but another Kremlin supporter. (See the correction in Haaretz.) Even my Jewish friends here think it's ridiculous.

The next coming months will be difficult.

And Putin, with an imperialist glimmer in his eye, is making it more difficult. Cut back to Rand Paul:

If you didn’t think Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) comments refusing to rule out containment on Iran were sufficient to disqualify him for serious consideration as president, this should do it: “Some on our side are so stuck in the Cold War era that they want to tweak Russia all the time and I don’t think that is a good idea.”

It is not the only time Paul has come running to the defense of a despot. Paul defended Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the grounds that he is good for Christians.

Apparently this was a poorly timed stab at establishing Paul's libertarian, isolationist bona fides, which one House aide described as, "the perfect foreign policy for the Victorian era. We’ve tried hiding behind two big oceans in the past. That doesn’t do you a lick of good in the fiber optic era."

And others, left, right, and center are getting on the scold train.

A foreign policy guru at a centrist think tank expressed disgust. “This is pretty irresponsible, under the circumstances. If he were president and made statements like that, implying that Ukraine is somehow rightfully part of Russia, I think it would send a very green light to Putin, who just happens, as Paul speaks, to be holding impromptu emergency military exercises on Ukraine’s border.”

... Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), head of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Sunday, “The United States should do everything possible to ensure Ukraine remains one country and that their territorial and political integrity is maintained, allowing them the freedom to choose a future within Europe.”

I wish the GOP would run him for president. Can you imagine how much fun the Clinton/Paul debates would be?