Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Individual Rights by Rand Paul

Rand Paul responded to the recent manufactured controversy over his Civil Rights comments with the following article in the Bowling Green Daily:

Kundera writes of a balcony scene in the winter snow of 1948 Prague. Clementis offers his fur cap to the new leader Gottwald. Later Clementis is purged by the Communists and airbrushed from all the photos. All that remains of Clementis is the fur cap on Gottwald’s head.

In the end, all that remains of any of us is our reputation. Mine has been sullied over the past week by lies and innuendo.

I’ve spent the past 14 months traveling around the commonwealth, giving more than 400 speeches, and talking to thousands of Kentuckians.

Throughout these speeches, I never once had reason to discuss the Civil Rights Act of 1964, much less call for the repeal of this settled law 46 years later.

So you can imagine my shock when my wife called the day after the election to tell me that Jack Conway was on MSNBC saying - outright lying - claiming that I had called for the repeal of the Civil Rights Act. Even though these lies were evident by watching the video footage, commentators on MSNBC and elsewhere have been repeating it as fact for more than a week now.

If you watch any of my interviews, you’ll see I never stated that I did not support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and I certainly never called for its repeal.

I was asked if I supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I stated that “I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m all in favor of that.” In response, the interviewer asked me about private domains, and I did what typical candidates don’t - I discussed some philosophical issues with government mandating rules on private businesses. I think the federal government has often gone too far in regulating private citizens and businesses.

I made comparisons to the First Amendment and how it allows people in a free society to say things that may be abhorrent, but that is a challenge of a free society. I was speaking abstractly, not to any piece of legislation, since in general my political views are rooted in the rights of the individual over the state.

The interviewer then brought me back to the literal world of life in 1964, saying, “But it’s different with race, because much of the discrimination based on race was codified into law.” In the video you’ll see me agree with her, ending the discussion by saying, “Exactly, it was institutionalized. And that’s why we had to end all institutional racism and I’m completely in favor of that.”

I think that statement is very clear. This did not stop my opponent and the liberal media from implying that I meant the opposite.

I am unlike many folks who run for office. I am an idealist. When I read history I side with abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglas who fought for 30 years to end slavery and to integrate public transportation in the free North in the 1840s. I see our failure to end slavery for decade after decade as a failure of weak-kneed politicians.

I cheer the abolitionist Lysander Spooner, who argued that slavery was unconstitutional 20 years before the Civil War. I cheer Lerone Bennet when he argues that the right of habeas corpus guaranteed in the Constitution should have derailed slavery long before the Civil War.

Only when the brave idealists, the abolitionists, finally provoked the weak-kneed politicians into action, did the emancipation proclamation come about. Our body politic has enough pragmatists, we need a few idealists.

Segregation ended only after a great and momentous uprising by idealists like Martin Luther King Jr., who provoked weak-kneed politicians to action.

In 2010, there are battles that need to be fought, and they have nothing to do with race or discrimination, but rather the rights of people to be free from a nanny state.

For example, I am opposed to the government telling restaurant owners that they cannot allow smoking in their establishments. I believe we as consumers can choose whether to patronize a smoke-filled restaurant or do business with a smoke-free option.

Think about it - this overreach is now extending to mandates about fat and calorie counts in menus. Do we really need the government managing all of these decisions for us?

My overriding principle is this: I believe in the natural right of all individuals to have their God-given liberty protected. And that’s why I believe the Civil Rights Act was necessary, and that I would have voted for it.

I have long been a fan of what Martin Luther King wrote, “That an unjust law is any code that a numerical majority enforces on a minority but not make binding on itself.”

Now the media is twisting my small government message, making me out to be a crusader for repeal of the Americans for Disabilities Act and The Fair Housing Act. Again, this is patently untrue. I have simply pointed out areas within these broad federal laws that have financially burdened many smaller businesses.

For example, should a small business in a two-story building have to put in a costly elevator, even if it threatens their economic viability? Wouldn’t it be better to allow that business to give a handicapped employee a ground floor office? We need more businesses and jobs, not fewer.

This much is clear: the federal government has overreached in its power grabs. Just look at the national health care schemes, which my opponent supports. Look at the out of control EPA, trying to make law by overreaching regulations that will harm Kentucky coal.

Our country faces a difficult financial future. I see issues not in terms of party but in terms of principles and I will do my very best to deserve the honor that has been bestowed upon me to run for office.

Editor’s note: Rand Paul of Bowling Green is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.

Another good article is one in the Wall Street Journal, which points out the hypocrisy and unprofessionalism of the attacks by left-leaning media figures like Salon's Joan Walsh on Rand Paul:

Rand Paul and Civil Rights

A rookie mistake feeds a left-wing smear.


Rand Paul was 1 when Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now 47, he is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from Kentucky, his first ever foray into politics. To his evident surprise, the hypothetical question of how he would have voted in 1964 has been drawing a lot of attention.

Politico's Ben Smith characterizes as "evasive" this response Paul gave when asked the question by National Public Radio (we've corrected Smith's transcription errors):

"What I've always said is, I'm opposed to institutional racism, and I would have--if I was alive at the time, I think--had the courage to march with Martin Luther King to overturn institutional racism, and I see no place in our society for institutional racism," he said in response to a first question about the act.

"You would have marched with Martin Luther King but voted with Barry Goldwater?" asked an interviewer.

"I think it's confusing in a lot of cases in what's actually in the Civil Rights Case (sic)," Paul replied. "A lot of things that were actually in the bill I'm actually in favor of. I'm in favor of--everything with regards to ending institutional racism. So I think there's a lot to be desired in the Civil Rights--and indeed the truth is, I haven't read all through it, because it was passed 40 years ago and hadn't been a real pressing issue on the campaign on whether I'm going to vote for the Civil Rights Act."

In an update to his post, Smith notes that it wasn't the first time Paul was asked the question:

Paul articulated his view on the Civil Rights Act in an interview with the editorial board of the Louisville Courier-Journal. . . .

Paul explained that he backed the portion of the Civil Rights Act banning discrimination in public places and institutions, but that he thinks private businesses should be permitted to discriminate by race.

"I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I'm all in favor of that," he said. "I don't like the idea of telling private business owners. . . ."

Smith is not the only commentator to accuse Paul of being "evasive" or refusing to give a "straight answer." This criticism is absurd. The politically wise answer would have been "yes"--a straight answer in form, but an evasive one in substance. Answering the way he did was a rookie mistake--or, to put it more charitably, a demonstration that Paul is not a professional politician.

Taken at face value, the question itself--How would you have voted if you had been in the Senate as an infant?--is silly. It is a reasonable question only if it is understood more broadly, as an inquiry into Paul's political philosophy. The question within the question is: How uncompromising are you in your adherence to small-government principles?

Paul gave his answer: Pretty darn uncompromising--uncompromising enough to take a position that is not only politically embarrassing but morally dubious by his own lights, as evidenced by this transcript from the Courier-Journal interview, provided by the left-wing site

Interviewer: But under your philosophy, it would be OK for Dr. King not to be served at the counter at Woolworths?

Paul: I would not go to that Woolworths, and I would stand up in my community and say that it is abhorrent, um, but, the hard part--and this is the hard part about believing in freedom--is, if you believe in the First Amendment, for example--you have too, for example, most good defenders of the First Amendment will believe in abhorrent groups standing up and saying awful things. . . . It's the same way with other behaviors. In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people, who have abhorrent behavior.

Again, Paul could have given a "straight" answer to the question--a flat "no"--that made clear his personal disapproval of discrimination while evading what was really a question about his political philosophy. Far from being evasive, Paul has shown himself to be both candid and principled to a fault.

We do mean to a fault. In this matter, Paul seems to us to be overly ideological and insufficiently mindful of the contingencies of history. Although we are in accord with his general view that government involvement in private business should be kept to a minimum, in our view the Civil Rights Act's restrictions on private discrimination were necessary in order to break down a culture of inequality that was only partly a matter of oppressive state laws. On the other hand, he seeks merely to be one vote of 100 in the Senate. An ideologically hardheaded libertarian in the Senate surely would do the country more good than harm.

It's possible, though, that Paul's eccentric views on civil rights will harm the Republican Party by feeding the left's claims that America is a racist country and the GOP is a racist party. Certainly that's what Salon's Joan Walsh is hoping. Here are her comments on a Rand interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow:

You've got to watch the whole interview. At the end, Paul seemed to understand that he's going to be explaining his benighted civil rights views for a long, long time--but he seemed to blame Maddow. "You bring up something that is really not an issue . . . a red herring, it's a political ploy . . . and that's the way it will be used," he complained at the end of the interview. Whether the Civil Rights Act should have applied to private businesses--"not really an issue," says Tea Party hero Rand Paul.

It's going to become increasingly clear that the Tea Party movement wants to revoke the Great Society, the New Deal and the laws that were the result of the civil rights movement. Paul may be right that his views are "not really an issue" with his Tea Party supporters, although I have to think some of them won't enjoy watching him look like a slippery politician as he fails, over and over, to answer Maddow's questions directly.

When Paul says this "is really not an issue," he is speaking in the present tense. It is quite clear that he means that the Civil Rights Act, which has been the law for nearly 46 years, is politically settled; there is no movement to revoke it. In this, he is correct. Walsh's assertion that this is what the tea-party movement seeks is either a fantasy or a lie.

It's a curious role reversal: Rand Paul is a politician; Joan Walsh is a journalist. He is honest, perhaps too honest for his own good. She is playing the part of the dishonest demagogue.