Monday, May 31, 2010

Rights

A twenty-three year old Nigerian named Abdul Farouk Mutallab set himself ablaze on a crowded Airbus approaching Detroit on Christmas Day, only to have his planned terrorist attack thwarted by passengers. Six weeks later, Sarah Palin told the National Tea Party Convention

For example, there are questions we would have liked this foreign terrorist to answer because he lawyered up and invoked our U.S. Constitutional right to remain silent…Our U.S. Constitutional rights. Our rights that you sir [PALIN ADDRESSES MALE VETERAN IN AUDIENCE] fought and were willing to die for to protect in our Constitution. The rights that my son, as an infantryman in the United States army is willing to die for. The protections provided—thanks to you sir [PALIN ADDRESSES MALE VETERAN IN AUDIENCE]—we’re going to bestow them on a terrorist who hates our Constitution and wants to destroy our Constitution and our country?

Mutallab did plenty of talking before being "lawyered up"- and the U.S. Constitution does not have one set of Bill of Rights for citizens and another for non-citizens.

No matter. More interesting is that the former Governor invoked "Constitution" or "constitutional" five times in what is actually one very, very long sentence. And that these are "rights that my son as an infantryman in the United States Army is willing to die for." And especially interesting because Mrs. Palin, as the conservative blog hotair.com notes, recently maintained at the "Win America Back" conference (where did it go? has anyone seen it?)

The Constitution, our dear Constitution, did not give us our rights. Our rights came from God and they are inalienable rights. The Constitution created the government to protect our God-given and unalienable rights.

That "dear Consitution," for which, as Palin notes, brave members of our armed forces "were willing to die for" turns out not to be very important in her formulation. Instead, those rights are "God-given and unalienable." (Yes, the Constitution did create a government- one, conservatives take not, which was specifically established to create a strong federal government.)

Give Palin credit for making a crucial distinction- Constitutional rights vs. unalienable rights. Some, including this conservative website, distinguish between unalienable and inalienable rights; Wikipedia English- The Free Encyclopedia seems not to.

For the sake of argument, we'll give Palin the benefit of the doubt and grant that they are synonymous. (When a distinction is made, inalienable rights are seen as the ones which can be revoked by law, which if anything, is the reverse of Palin's implication.) The former governor clearly is asserting that our rights come from God and cannot be taken away.

But if basic rights are from God and cannot be reassigned or rescinded by man, how is it that one has fewer rights because he is from another land- in this case, Nigeria? Further, how is it rights are extensive in some nations- the United States, for example- and virtually non-existent in other nations? Did God intentionally provide citizens in (primarily) the West with substantial freedom- and citizens elsewhere with little freedom?

Sadly, rights don't come from God, though this short fellow from Iran would disagree. It would be nice to think otherwise, but in the real world, they come from men (and occasionally, women)- unless, of course, one wants to suggest that the right to an abortion through most of pregnancy comes from the Almighty.

Notwithstanding the evidence all around us, you may argue otherwise. That would be legitimate, though the huffing and puffing about the importance of our Founding Fathers we get these days from the likes of Palin and Glenn Beck run counter to the rhetoric about unalienable, or inalienable, rights.

This may sound like a mere philosophical argument or one of those discussions legendarily held in college dormitories at 2:00 a.m. But when conservatives try to restrict reproductive freedom, due process, protection from unreasonable search and seizure, or any other rights, they may be doing so because the Constitution is not really the supreme law of the land- God is. Or perhaps when they find rights that aren't really there- such as an unlimited right to bear arms or to contribute to a political candidate- it's because these are God-given rights. Not all conservatives will suggest this reasoning, nor are all conservatives God-fearing (there may be no atheists in foxholes, but there are in both political parties), but Sarah Palin isn't the only one.






Sunday, May 30, 2010

Blase About The Gulf

This is what it has come to- at least for one right-wing radio talk show host. Megyn Kelly, Mark Levine, and Mike Gallagher discussed the oil spill on GOP TV after President Obama's press conference on Thursday, Gallagher remarking

But this was a tragic accident that should not have been laid at the doorstep of either George Bush or Barack Obama, or even BP for that matter! No one wanted this to happen, they did everything they could to respond appropriately, and I think the blame game has just been absolutely appalling. And it's very distressing, and it breaks my heart to see what's happened the past few days.

Perhaps after eight years of a failed President, reckless gambling by bank behemoths with other people's money (bringing the world financial system nearly to its knees), the deaths of 29 miners in West Virginia accompanied by Massey Energy's reckless disregard of safety regulations, and BP's insatiable greed resulting in the worst oil spill in American history, the bar has been set extraordinarily low.

No one wanted this to happen. It's all O.K. because they didn't do it on purpose. It wasn't intentional but a lust for profits (not the sort of lust which appears to exorcise the right) did play a major role, as the Orlando Sentinel reports:

Oil company BP used a cheaper, quicker but potentially less dependable method to complete the drilling of the Deepwater Horizon well, according to several experts and documents.

"There are clear alternatives to the methods BP used that most engineers in the drilling business would consider much more reliable and safer," said F.E. Beck, a Texas A&M University petroleum-engineering professor who testified recently before a Senate committee investigating BP's blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico.

He and other petroleum and drilling engineers who reviewed a log of the Deepwater Horizon's activities described BP's choice of well design as one in which the final phase called for a 13,293-foot length of permanent pipe, called "casing," to be locked in place with a single injection of cement that often can turn out to be problematic.

A different approach more commonly used in the hazardous geology of the Gulf involves installing a section of what the industry calls a "liner," then locking both the liner and a length of casing in place with one or, often, two cement jobs that are less prone to failure.

The BP well "is not a design we would use," said one veteran deep-water engineer who would comment only if not identified because of his high-profile company's prohibition on speaking publicly about the April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon or the oil spill that started when the drilling rig sank two days later.

He estimated that the liner design, used nearly all the time by his company, is more reliable and safer than a casing design by a factor of "tenfold."

But that engineer and several others said that had BP used a liner and casing, it would have taken nearly a week longer for the company to finish the well — with rig costs running at $533,000 a day and additional personnel and equipment costs that might have run the tab up to $1 million daily.


Although the motive was more money quicker, a BP spokesman contended that the casing-only method is "not uncommon." At least, as Bush 43 apologists always claim about the air-borne attack on the World Trade Center, "no one could have known." Except that the company did:

Internal documents from BP show that there were serious problems and safety concerns with the Deepwater Horizon rig far earlier than those the company described to Congress last week.

The problems involved the well casing and the blowout preventer, which are considered critical pieces in the chain of events that led to the disaster on the rig.

The documents show that in March, after several weeks of problems on the rig, BP was struggling with a loss of “well control.” And as far back as 11 months ago, it was concerned about the well casing and the blowout preventer.

On June 22, for example, BP engineers expressed concerns that the metal casing the company wanted to use might collapse under high pressure.

“This would certainly be a worst-case scenario,” Mark E. Hafle, a senior drilling engineer at BP, warned in an internal report. “However, I have seen it happen so know it can occur.”

The company went ahead with the casing, but only after getting special permission from BP colleagues because it violated the company’s safety policies and design standards. The internal reports do not explain why the company allowed for an exception. BP documents released last week to The Times revealed that company officials knew the casing was the riskier of two options.

Though his report indicates that the company was aware of certain risks and that it made the exception, Mr. Hafle, testifying before a panel on Friday in Louisiana about the cause of the rig disaster, rejected the notion that the company had taken risks.


"Nobody believed there was going to be a safety issue, Hafle testified, no doubt because if there were no accident, no one would have been the wiser- hence, no safety issue.

And so there he was, BP Managing Director Robert Dudley on Sunday's "Meet The Press" declaring of his company's CEO "I think Tony's doing a fantastic job" and asserting that Hayward should stay in his job. But then, as Mike Gallagher would put it, it's only "the blame game" for anyone to assume any responsibility for what some would like us to believe was a mere act of God.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Getting Ugly On The Middle East

Time was, charges of dual loyalty came from the right. Oh, not the Mitch McConnell or even the Rush Limbaugh right, but the far-far right, maybe the John Birch Society or this famous ex-Klansman.

Now, regrettably, it comes from the left. No, not the Nancy Pelosi left or even the Rachel Maddow left, but from that direction.

Ardent Israel supporter and U.S. Senator (D-NY) Charles Schumer criticizes the Obama administration for the pressure it is applying to the Netanyahu government, and Washington Note editor Steve Clemons charges

Schumer's screed gets to the edge of sounding as if he is more a Senator working in the Knesset than working in the United States Senate.

Famed anti-Zionist Stephen Walt, acknowledging that when someone is charged with dual loyalty, it "immediately evokes connotations of betrayal (or even treason)," nonetheless recommends "we frame the issue as one of potential conflicts of interest." Presumably, if an American Jew wants to advocate for Israel, he/she could first convert from Judaism, with the opinion then acquiring legitimacy.

A month ago, Politico's Laura Rozen reported that a "U.S. official" commented of White House Middle East strategist Dennis Ross

He seems to be far more sensitive to Netanyahu's coalition politics than to U.S. interests. And he doesn't seem to understand that this has become bigger than Jerusalem but is rather about the credibility of this administration.

We don't know if this came from someone on the far left but as a member of the Obama Administration, it probably was not an individual on, say, the Jim Demint-right.

And now we have Marcy Winograd, supported by Democracy for America (founded by Howard Dean) who is challenging Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) in the June 8 primary. The incumbent is Jewish and an avid supporter of Israel. In a fundraising letter on Harman's behalf, Represenative Henry Waxman, also of California, wrote "In Marcy Winograd's foreign policy, Israel would cease to exist. In Marcy Winograd's vision, Jews would be at the mercy of those who do not respect democracy or human rights."

Rather harsh, huh?..... No. An interview with Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, who is in the mainstream of liberal thought on the Middle East (Israel must survive as a Jewish state, though it must make reasonable concessions for a peace which would include a separate homeland for the Palestinians), included this transaction:

JG: Let's talk about what Henry Waxman said about you.

MW: I appreciate Henry Waxman, the fact that he pioneered generics, that he's concerned about the environment. However, on foreign policy we have strong differences. I would hope that all of our lawmakers would pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.

JG: Are you saying Waxman isn't loyal?

MW: I don't know. That's a question you have to ask him.


I would hope that all of our lawmakers would pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent. Winograd doesn't hesitate to imply a "betrayal, or even treason" on the part of Waxman. It's a charge of dual loyalty which traditionally is the province of bigots. There is a certain irony when an individual, in this case Winograd, suggests that someone else is betraying the U.S.A. by taking a view which she considers antithetical to the interests of this nation. She sounds an awful lot like some conservatives during the Bush Administration attacking critics of the latter's Iraq policy.

Winograd, sensing a need to inoculate herself against the charge of anti-Semitism, wisely, if heavy-handedly, sets out her Jewish bonafides earlier in the interview. No matter. Anti-Semite or not, bigot or not, Marcy Winograd's perspective on the region is noxious.



Friday, May 28, 2010

Article Of The Week


Roger Shuler’s “Is Sarah Palin Smarter Than Barack Obama?” is only tangentially about the former Alaska governor. Palin has knowingly mimicked Glenn Beck’s “attack dog mindset” in arguing that progressivism is “a damaged brand,” willfully ignoring the its proud legacy, including “Social Security, Medicare, environmental protection, food safety, civil rights, etc.”

The failure of any Democratic President to boast of liberalism’s achievements and conservatism’s failure has dearly cost the Democratic Party and liberalism. Shuler (micro autobiography here) explains:

Our three most recent Democratic presidents--Carter, Clinton, and Obama--have each failed to explain to the American people why conservatism truly is a damaged brand. And why is it damaged? Because of rampant incompetence and corruption.

Nixon had Watergate. Reagan and the first Bush had Iran-Contra and the savings and loan scandals. The second Bush had Iraq, Afghanistan, torture, political prosecutions, the mortgage crisis, an imploding economy . . . well, you get the idea.

Democrats consistently fail to show the American people how modern conservatism results in disastrous governance. Carter failed, Clinton failed, and Obama is on his way to failing.

The single best thing Obama could do for his country is to revisit the past eight years and expose the incompetence and corruption that was at the heart of the Bush II administration. Obama needs to explain why he inherited a godawful mess and how it has hamstrung him--and our country.

He also should lead the effort to hold Bush criminals accountable. (Actually, Obama does not need to be "leading" that effort. He's got other things to do, cleaning up after Bush--and trying to prevent environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But he should encourage Eric Holder, John Conyers, and others to lead the charge.)


President Obama and his Attorney General have chosen to given the scoundrels dominating the Bush 43 Administration a pass. No prosecution, not even an investigation, only an eagerness to, as Shuler puts it, “let Republicans off the hook” because, the President has argued, he wants to “look forward, not backward.” This is self-serving from more than one perspective, but the failure of the uniquely eloquent Barack Obama to condemn the conservatism which dominated the administration prior to his may do even more long-term damage both to his party and to the nation.

Although this failure to describe to the American people the contributions of liberals and liberalism to the strength of the nation nearly assures “the damaged conservative brand will remain in place,” Shuler does not directly address Obama’s motivation. But he does observe

Over the past 80 or so years, Democratic presidents repeatedly have had to clean up messes left by conservatives--Franklin Roosevelt following Coolidge and Hoover, Jimmy Carter following Nixon, Bill Clinton following Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and now Obama following George W. Bush.

Essentially, a Democrat cannot get elected in modern American unless a Republican has screwed things up so badly that people become desperate to put an adult in charge. Two of the most qualified Democrats in modern times--Al Gore and John Kerry--failed to capture the White House. Why? We submit it's because Republican had not yet screwed things up enough to allow a Democrat to be elected.


Shuler not only submits it. It is true- but rarely acknowledged. In the excitement of liberals, Democrats, and the mainstream media upon the election of the first black President, there was apparently little understanding of the proximate causes of the victory. It was easy to get caught up in the election of the first non-white to the presidency, especially given the crowds which were drawn to his every public appearance and the extraordinary attraction of both minorities and young people to his candidacy. So easy, in fact, that we forgot that Barack Obama was elected because a Republican had finally “screwed things up enough to allow a Democrat to be elected.” Or rather, had “screwed things up” so monumentally that hardly anyone could avoid noticing. Unfortunately, even Barack Obama may not understand that his victory was more a function of the destructive impact of conservative governing than of his own appeal.

This is not mere behavioral analysis. On Thursday morning (for the umpteenth time), Glenn Beck said to his radio sidekick “Don’t get me started on George Bush,” which meant, of course, that he wanted to get started on George Bush. It has become an article of faith among many conservatives in the media, and to a larger extent among GOP politicians, that President Bush somehow was not a conservative. And if neither President Obama nor his minions do the heavy lifting of explaining what modern conservatism did to the country during the eight years that preceded his election, Americans will come to the (unjustified) conclusion that it was not conservatism that failed the nation, but rather “government” which failed. And as the party of government, the Democratic Party, and subsequently the nation, will suffer.



Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Most Expedient Idea

Via Digby via Senatus, a blog offering "daily coverage of the United States Senate," via Seesmic, comes this tweet (or perhaps twit):"

Hatch offering amd to make "false statements regarding participation in U.S. combat operations a misdemeanor."

Assuming this is accurate, Hatch presumably is responding to a report that Democratic Senatorial candidate Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut has twice made false statements about his military record. There is little chance he is thinking of George W. Bush, Lindsey Graham, or the late Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Similarly, Hatch, a four-term, very conservative Senator from Utah who periodically works on exacting from Democrats concessions on legislation, no doubt is thinking of Bob Bennett, a three-term, very conservative Senator from Utah who periodically works on exacting from Democrats concessions on legislation and was recently denied renomination by the far right in his state.

Still, it is remarkable. Orrin Hatch was considered by GOP Presidents as Supreme Court Justice timber, though at 76 years of age, his time has passed. As far as is known, he never made a short list, but as a long-time member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and widely acceptable among his colleagues, was thought of as a reasonably sharp legal mind who would easily win confirmation.

The latter part is true, but the former? Probably, though it seems otherwise. Senator Hatch is recommending that making a false statement about oneself be made a criminal offense, if it pertains to service in combat. That would run up against the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, obviously, which probably occurred to Senator Hatch. Such are the ways of GOP politics these days, however, and the importance of the guarantee of free speech is eclipsed by the importance of political survival.

Candidates lie! It appears that would be a startling revelation to the Utah Senator. And Senator Hatch might want to consider a related issue in his proposal. We have elections in this country- elections in which voters sort out issues and claims and make an informed judgment. Sometimes the judgment is not informed, but that's almost incidental; elections are a constitutionally provided and reasonably fair way to determine the will of the people. Senator Hatch ought to have some faith in the electorate or more broadly, the American people, to make a determination about such matters.



Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Conservative Skepticism About America

The hearing began today before the New Jersey Supreme Court.

In an effort begun by RoseAnn Salanitri, a self-described housewife who is a co-founder of Creation Science Alive and edits an annual magazine for the New Jersey Family Policy Council

At issue is whether former Secretary of State Nina Wells was correct in January when she stopped recallers from going forward with a petition drive to oust Menendez. The secretary of state must certify a recall drive before signatures can be collected. Wells decided that the recall would violate the U.S. Constitution.

The New Jersey Recall Amendment to the state's constitution authorizes recall for elected officials- including federal officials. The U.S. Constitution neither explicitly authorizes nor prohibits but establishes six-year terms for Senators and specifies "each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members." No member of Congress has been recalled.

Salanitri contends that she initiated the recall drive when a letter, protesting health care legislation, she wrote New Jersey's senior Senator went unanswered. (Menendez's spokesman maintains a letter was in fact sent in response.) According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the conservative activist states "To me, that was not acceptable. They're supposed to be our servants; they serve at our invitation.' Thus, "I got more involved with the tea party and patriots expressing displeasure with our country."

That quote- "I got more involved with the tea party and patriots expressing displeasure with our country"- appeared in Cynthia Burton's article appearing in Tuesday's Inquirer. By Wednesday, that quote was.... not in any way contested or denied.

Ms. Salanitri may be excused for not being outraged by the federal government, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, or the direction of her country. But no, she is "expressing displeasure with our country."

Occasionally, conservatives revert to wrapping themselves in the American flag, such as when Rush Limbaugh recently discovered a "disconnect between liberalism and Americanism." Increasingly, though, the far right has let down its guard and hinted at its real feelings toward average Americans. Ms. Salanitri, a layperson, is unhappy with our country. But what is Judd Gregg's excuse?

Monday, commenting on a bill to extend the enhanced unemployment insurance system, Pat Garofalo recounted on Think Progress a portion of an interview of that morning of Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) on CNBC (emphasis mine):

Q: Senator Gregg, is there a point, you think, when the government has to sort of end these ever-continuing claims?

Gregg: Yeah, right now. This week, however, we’re going to extend it again. And this has become counterproductive. We’re basically undermining the cyclical event. Because you’re out of the recession, you’re starting to see growth and you’re clearly going to dampen the capacity of that growth if you basically keep an economy that encourages people to, rather than go out and look for work, to stay on unemployment. Yes, it’s important to do that up to a certain level, but at some point you’ve got to acknowledge that we’re not Europe.


Judd Gregg, who probably would have become Commerce Secretary had he not done the nation a favor and pulled out, does not blame "the country" for our ills. But he does believe that a lot of Americans don't want to work, not unlike an Arizona Senator and former presidential nominee who believes Americans would not work picking produce for $50 an hour. What do (some) conservatives have against Americans?




Monday, May 24, 2010

Gingrich Speaks

If a guy writes a book entitled "To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine," you know three things: he has a mighty high opinion of himself, convinced that he can "save America;" he has a fairly low opinion of America (which he believes needs saving); and he's not going to make much sense.

Any Republican with national ambitions nowadays must raise the canard of socialism, and Newt does not disappoint. On May 17, 2010 he gave an interview to Five Thirty Eight's Tom Schaller and was classic Newt, claiming at one point

They just nationalized the student loan program. They designed Obamacare so there’s a backdoor road to socialized medicine because it creates an incentive for companies to drop their employees. There’s evidence that hundreds of companies may drop millions of employees from their health insurance and have them go buy individual insurance. So there’s a lot of different practices that would lead us to believe this is socialist operation.

The reform of the student loan program Gingrich criticizes, as The New York Times reported, "substitutes an expanded direct-lending program by the government for the bank-based program, directing $36 billion over 10 years to Pell grants, for students from low-income families." Socialism triumphant? Maybe not, given that

Although private banks will no longer be allowed to make student loans with federal money, many will continue to earn income by servicing those loans.

Saving the taxpayers $61 billion (much of which will be plowed back into student loans) over ten years is not too popular with Republicans these days. Or maybe because the student loan program fit the GOP's ideal of free enterprise, inasmuch as

Since the bank-based loan program began in 1965, commercial banks like Sallie Mae and Nelnet have received guaranteed federal subsidies to lend money to students, with the government assuming nearly all the risk. Democrats have long denounced the program, saying it fattened the bottom line for banks at the expense of students and taxpayers.

“Why are we paying people to lend the government’s money and then the government guarantees the loan and the government takes back the loan?” said Representative George Miller, Democrat of California and chairman of the Education and Labor Committee.


Good work if you can get it- banks make the profit while the federal government accepts the consequences when there is a default. And every single Republican in the United States Congress voted to maintain this set-up. It's nice to have one of the major political parties snap to attention when your profits are threatened.

But if Gingrich's view of the student loan program runs contrary to the interests of the working and middle classes, his reasoning on health care is, well, convoluted. "Hundreds of companies may drop millions of employees from their health insurance and have them go buy individual insurance," thus pointing the way toward socialism, Newt says.

Just think a moment about this. Newt fears that individuals will lose employee-provided health insurance (certainly an unfortunate event)- for which group rates are obtained- and be exposed to.... the free market. And to Newt Gingrich, the free market is a..... "socialist operation?" Factcheck.org explains:

Employers could still drop coverage under the bill — just as they can now — and, in fact, the CBO estimates that some would. Under the Senate bill, the CBO said that 8 million to 9 million people who would be expected to have employer-sponsored insurance under current law wouldn’t be offered such benefits by 2019. These would mainly be low-income workers, CBO said, who would be eligible for subsidies to buy their own plans. Others would gain coverage through their jobs under the bill, resulting in a net decrease of 4 million people on employer-sponsored insurance.

Some employers will drop their health care coverage, at which point employees would be required to buy their own health insurance in the private market- with help from the federal government, which should help keep prices, and profits, high for private insurers. And that would be a.... "socialist operation?"

With a bias in favor of huge financial institutions and against the middle class, as well as seriously distorted reasoning, this man is a serious threat to be the next GOP presidential nominee.




Parsing An Apology

Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler has spent the better part of the last week flogging media figures and others whom he believes jumped to conclusions to condemn Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal for misrepresenting his military service. According to the original story, printed in The New York Times on May 17, Blumenthal, who served stateside in the Marine Reserves during the Vietnam War, routinely left audiences with the impression that he had faced combat in Vietnam.

Reporter Raymond Hernandez maintains there were at least eight instances from 2003 to 2009 in which Connecticut newspapers referred to Blumenthal as having served in the war and that the future law clerk to the great Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun obtained five deferments to avoid service in southeast Asia.

Presumably, these contentions all are true. But as Somerby has noted- and noted and noted and noted- there appear to have been only two instances in which Blumenthal actually claimed to have served in Vietnam, suggesting that critics such as George F. Will and Joe Scarborough probably should have put the matter in better perspective. And that I, when referring to it as "fairly appalling," was probably more accurate with the adverb than the adjective.

The uproar appears to have had little effect on Blumenthal's effort to replace Chris Dodd in the United States Senate, in which he probably would be far superior to his either of his likely candidates or his predecessor. Nonetheless, on Sunday Blumenthal's spokesman sent to the Hartford Courant an e-mail in which the A.G. wrote (in whole or in part- the story isn't clear):

At times when I have sought to honor veterans, I have not been as clear or precise as I should have been about my service in the Marine Corps Reserves. I have firmly and clearly expressed regret and taken responsibility for my words.
I have made mistakes and I am sorry. I truly regret offending anyone. I will always champion the cause of Connecticut's and our nation's veterans.


How close to a real apology is this? It's impossible to determine contemporaneously how sincere an apology is; those who believe they can are merely flattering themselves. Obviously, the major purpose of an "apology" is a strategic one, to limit the amount of damage to the speaker. With that in mind, here is one pretentious person's opinion, evaluating each portion of the statement separately on a scale of -1 (self-serving) to 5 (a genuine apology):

1) At times when I have sought to honor veterans, I have not been as clear or precise as I should have been about my service in the Marine Corps Reserves.

Places blame on himself in stating "I have not been as clear or precise as I should have been." Disingenous when noting "My service in the Marine Corps Reserves"- this is not about his service in the Marine Corps Reserves but about service in the active forces, abroad. Completely truthful but self-serving when he notes "when I have sought to honor veterans." Grade: 2

2) I have firmly and clearly expressed regret and taken responsibility for my words.

Again, Blumenthal, using the pronoun "I," appropriately places blame upon himself. Further, he recognizes that the problem is "his words" (see 3b)). But stating that one has "expressed regret and taken responsibility" is not in itself expressing regret or taking responsibility. (That's counter-intuitive but think about it.) Grade: 3

3) I have made mistakes and I am sorry. I truly regret offending anyone. The best part of this apology- or, rather, the most apologetic part is "I have made mistakes and I am sorry." This part would have been perfect if Blumenthal had specified what "mistakes" he is referring to (or, failing that, to have used the singular "mistake" rather than the more vague, plural "mistakes.") Still, rather good. But "I truly regret offending anyone" is awful. Rather than assuming responsibility here for "my words," the candidate is doing the reverse, stating that he is sorry for the offense someone took. This is classic apologia for a public figure, politician, actor, or whomever. The problem is not that of others; it is his; he is the one who intentionally misled people. And who is "anyone?" Would that be individuals who served in Vietnam- or the voters of Connecticut, for whom he is eliciting support in his race? Or is it perhaps all the people of Connecticut, whom he is serving as Attorney General? Grade: 3

There you have it- the good, the bad, and the ugly as seen by someone who never has met Richard J. Blumenthal, doesn't live in Connecticut, and has no formal qualifications for evaluating a statement of regret.



An Open Invitation

On Tuesday, May 11, Chris Matthews issued a challenge to professional Republicans (repeated two days later, video below):

And, going forward, HARDBALL invites any and all current, former and aspiring elected Republicans—by the way, you staffers on Capitol Hill, take note—who want to denounce El Rushbo‘s radical rhetoric. Just go ahead. You got an open invitation on HARDBALL. Come on the show and say you disagree with Rush Limbaugh on anything. “Mother Jones” Washington bureau chief David Corn is here to talk about Rush‘s rule. I think it is a Rush Limbaugh regime, in fact.

As of Friday, May 21st- Day 8 of the challenge, not including weekends- no one had stepped up to appear on Hardball, hari-kari having gone out of fashion decades ago. Yet, one must ask: why not? It’s not as if a Republican has to renounce conservatism, even in its extreme form, in order to denounce Rush Limbaugh’s rhetoric. Just in the last week, Rush made these startling (if from almost anyone else) remarks:

Monday, on New York City’s decision to trim a budget gap by closing numerous parks and historic sites:

No, we’re going to close the parks. We’re going to tell people how bad it is and next it’s going to be the cops, and next it’s going to be the teachers, and next it’s going to be the firemen.

It’s delightful to hear a conservative complain daily about huge deficits and the need to cut spending and government, and then shudder at the possibility of police officers, teachers, and firemen being laid off. If only Rush weren’t a critic of the economic stimulus and cheerleader for tax cuts for the wealthy, he might have noticed that closing city-owned facilities and laying off municipal workers is all the rage these days, prompted by those breaks for the rich he applauds. (And by the way, an allusion to Nazi Germany is always helpful.)

Tuesday, on Elena Kagan:

This is what they want. This is what happened in the old Soviet Union. People went to their bathrooms where they were pretty sure they weren't bugged, they went to their bathrooms to tell each other what they really thought. They were afraid to speak out anywhere else. So once again, this administration nominates people to high positions and, in doing so, acknowledges that it is much closer to oppressive totalitarian regimes in our past than to great American traditions and institutions, which have defined our greatness.

A political party aiming to bring the President down, a communications arm of that party masquerading as a 24-hour news channel, and a talk show host from Missouri, transplanted to southern Florida, who has accused that President of being a “racist”- yep, exactly like the old Soviet Union.

Wednesday, on the “disconnect between Americanism and liberalism:”

Now, we’ve been told here that the hearings for the Socialist Elena Kagan for the U.S. Supreme Court….

Rush, remarkably, has discerned what others haven’t,- that Elena Kagan is a supporter of nationalization of the financial services industry, the oil industry, the insurance, pharmaceutical and patient care industries, and of industrial production.

Thursday, on the federal government’s response to British Petroleum’s torrential release of oil into the Gulf of Mexico:

They are willing to destroy (or stand by and watch) the private sector of this country be destroyed if it will lead to more further power for themselves.

If being destroyed means making $6.1 billion (BP) in the first quarter of 2010 , more than twice that of a year earlier; $3.5 billion (Goldman Sachs) in profits in the first quarter of 2010, a 90% jump from the previous quarter; or $4.53 billion (Johnson and Johnson) in the first quarter of 2010, up 29%, I’ll gladly be destroyed
.

Friday, on “Obama governing against the will of the people:”

If I were Obama and I was looking at this, "In a year and a half I've caused this much damage and I've still got two and a half years to go. In four years I could bring this country down to size after it took 200-plus years to build it into the greatest superpower in history, and I can tear it down and make sure it doesn't recover for decades." In four years? I'd be very happy with myself.

Yes, because Barack Obama ran for President with a secret plan to destroy the nation he leads and in which he and his friends live and in which he’s raising his two children. Because surely that would be in the best interest of his legacy and reserve for himself a spot on Mount Rushmore.

Big cities face no financial dilemma, a Supreme Court nominee is a secret Socialist, and President Obama is trying to destroy the private sector, eliminate First Amendment freedoms, turn this country into the Soviet Union. That’s only in one week. And only a few among his “greatest hits.” And still no Republican has had the courage to go on national television and say the guy is wrong- about many things, a few things, or even one thing. Not even to question Rush’s apparent support, expressed Monday, for big government and avoiding the tough decisions facing the nation’s mayors. Nor for calling the President of their country an egomaniac, a Socialist, or a racist. Or for openly wishing that the leader of the free world fails. Or for ridiculing unemployed Americans who have to rely on unemployment compensation.

A media not tilted toward the GOP would be asking a simple question: why not?









Sunday, May 23, 2010

Extrapolating Newt

Think Progress reports on two exchanges between Republican politicians and the media: the first, from the May 15 Fox News Sunday with host Chris Wallace and former House Minority, then Majority, Leader Newt Gingrich; the second, with HLN host (and "The View" co-host) Joy Behar and former U.S. Representative Susan Molinari of Staten Island, NY two days later.

WALLACE: You also write this, and let’s put it up on the screen. “The secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.” Mr. Speaker, respectfully, isn’t that wildly over the top?

GINGRICH: No, not if by America you mean the historic contract we’ve had which says your rights come from your creator, they’re unalienable, you’re allowed to pursue happiness. I mean, just listen to President Obama’s language.
************************************************************************
BEHAR: Susan, when Bush was called a Nazi, the right wing went berserk on him. And yet, Gingrich just throws the word around as if it’s nothing. What is up with him? What is he, losing his marbles?

MOLINARI: This has always been — let me distance myself from that remark first of all in all seriousness. To compare anything that is going on in this country to the atrocities of Nazi Germany in any way, shape or form is just crazy. And you know that Newt was so smart. He got the Republican majority back in a generation, contract with America. And then, you know, moved quickly into a government shutdown and complained about his seat on President Clinton’s plane.

This is Newt. He can be really smart sometimes and sometimes he can just say some absolutely outrageous things. I would be like to be in that corner of saying that is outrageous.

Later in the show, Molinari tried to change the subject, saying, “let’s just take Newt off the table because that’s just not even worth talking about.” “Let’s put him under the table,” replied Behar. “Right. Exactly. Thank you,” responded Molinari.


***********************************************************************************
Molinari deserves a lot of credit for taking on Gingrich for comparing his country (does he consider it his country?) for comparing it to Nazi Germany, or at least to Weimar Germany. Newt's criticism is not limited to Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi. To suggest that any administration (or "regime" as Rush Limbaugh terms it) as presenting a Nazi-like threat to the U.S.A. implies something dark and disturbing to the nation and its people as they are.

But this is low-hanging fruit, criticizing the reactionary former Georgia congressman for trying to make a connection between the President of the United States and Nazism. Not low-hanging fruit for Molinari, given that these days Republicans have to fear being written out of their party if they veer too far from the far-right orthodoxy; but for the rest of us, for whom comparing our president to Adolf Hitler is slightly invidious. In a less controversial vein, though, Gingrich argued

by America you mean the historic contract we’ve had which says your rights come from your creator, they’re unalienable, you’re allowed to pursue happiness.

Here Newt obviously was referring to that great and important preamble

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Except for one thing. Alert the tea partiers! And alert much of the Republican right, for whom wrapping oneself up in the Constitution, without elaboration or explanation or appropriate context, is much in vogue.

This preamble comes not from the United States Constitution- the supreme law of the land- but from the Declaration of Independence, an act of defiance against the British crown. At first glance, Newt merely was inferring that our rights come from the Declaration of Independence, an eccentric point of view, but one which puts him, not coincidentally, on the right side of God (to the American people; God may choose to render a different verdict after Newt's ultimate demise). The preamble of the United States Constitution less conveniently reads

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Newt presumably was referring to the portion, italicized above, of the Declaration's preamble. But he may have had another intent.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.

Could it be that Gingrich was making a cryptic reference to the invitation to "the People to alter or to abolish" Barack Obama's administration "and to institute new Government?" (Note the upper case "G" in the original.) Perhaps this is making too much of his statement but it would be consistent with some of the rhetoric emanating from the Tea Party movement and others on the extreme of the Republican Party.

Or, in line with Occam's Razor, perhaps Newt Gingrich was merely doing what so many in his party do these days: thoughtfully or otherwise, accurately or otherwise, throwing some red meat at the wall and seeing what sticks. At least on one day, in one venue, Susan Molinari was having none of it.



Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rush Limbaugh On The Economy

Would someone please wake Rush Limbaugh up?

Friday, Limbaugh remarked

They're never going to run out! Now, I have to ask a question again. We're a year and a half in for all intents and purposes. We've spent $700 billion on TARP, the Toxic Asset Relief Program. We've purchased General Motors and Chrysler. We have spent close to a trillion dollars "creating jobs." None of it has worked, from our perspective. There is no good economic news.

He must have slept through the early part of this week when General Motors

posted its first quarterly profit in three years, and it's not exactly chump change. The General just announced it managed to rake in a net income of $865 million during the first quarter of 2010. According to The Detroit News, the change in direction is thanks largely to GM's rebound here in North America. The company's domestic operation pulled down a $1.2 billion profit for the first three months of the year thanks to a slimmer debt load and the sale of Saab to Spyker. During the fourth-quarter of 2009, GM posted a $3.4 billion loss.

Likewise, things are looking up internationally. The Detroit-based automaker also returned a $1.2 billion profit from its global efforts as well. That marks a $500 million increase compared to the fourth quarter of 2009. This is all good news for those eying when the fresh-from-bankruptcy manufacturer will start selling stock once again.


But then, Rush may have slept through the entire year, inasmuch as

CBO estimates the Recovery Act is responsible for between 800,000 and 2.4 million jobs through the end of 2009. The White House Council of Economic Advisers, meanwhile, puts the number of direct, indirect and induced jobs at 1.5 million to 2 million. Those figures are drawn from a macroeconomic model based upon the percentage of funds spent.

Private economists seem to agree that the stimulus package stimulated jobs, as CNN reported in April:

President Obama's stimulus package saved jobs — but the government still needs to do more to breathe life into the economy, according to USA TODAY's quarterly survey of 50 economists.

Unemployment would have hit 10.8% — higher than December's 10% rate — without Obama's $787 billion stimulus program, according to the economists' median estimate. The difference would translate into another 1.2 million lost jobs
.

Given the positive effect upon employment of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 and the good news from General Motors, Limbaugh obviously lied when he claimed "there is no good economic news." But more importantly, he stated "none of it has worked, from our perspective."

And it has not. This is the same host who immediately prior to his earlier comment claimed

By the way, this happens to extend these unemployment benefits through the election. "Through the end of the year" means "through the election." We know that this does nothing to inspire people to go out and look for work. We've read you the sad stories of people who say, "You know what? I'm not going to take that job. Why go to the trouble of heading it up and drive to work and pay parking and all? No, I'll just sit here and accept my unemployment checks. Yeah, call back in six weeks. Maybe when the benefits run out at some point for me then maybe I'll be interested but I'm not going to start looking for a job until my unemployment benefits run out." The problem is when they run out, here comes Obama to the rescue.

In Rush's world, they're all lazy, the unemployed. They're not rich, they don't own businesses, most of them don't play golf, and some don't even vote Republican. They "just sit here and accept unemployment checks." Why do some Republicans such as Rush (who has compared the President of the United States to Adolph Hitler) hate Americans so? Given the contempt Limbaugh holds for most of the citizens who have lost their jobs in this extraordinary recession largely created by the financial industry he pimps for, none of it really has worked from his perspective.




Friday, May 21, 2010

The Libertarian Impulse

Agreeing to take Rand Paul "at his word that he's not a racist," Salon's Joan Walsh on Thursday followed her post of Wednesday by reasoning

I'm coming to regret using the term "racist" about the Tea Party. "Racist" is a personal insult, and it's almost as impossible to prove it as to disprove it. It's not a terribly illuminating term, either: If you call me a racist, you haven't really described anything I've done that's objectionable. You've just somehow designated me, and my so-far unchallenged arguments, outside the pale, so to speak.

"Racist" has come to be synonymous with a belief in black inferiority, and with holding other noxious stereotypes about black people, or other minorities. Someone could conceivably not be "racist" in that sense, and still hold political views that will ultimately perpetuate the second-class citizenship of people who aren't white; in most cases, African-Americans. I think they could. I accept that it's possible.


That's well stated and insightful as far as it goes. Rand's libertarian political views would not "ultimately perpetuate the second-class citizenship of people who aren't white." It would perpetuate the third-class (if that's semantically possible) citizenship of non-whites and the second-class citizenship of most of the rest of us.

And to an extent, they already have, given the deregulation of the financial industry by Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and Bush 43 (curiously, all elected to second terms). Salon film critic Andrew O'Hehir writes of a film he has seen at the Cannes Film Festival:

Charles Ferguson is here to tell the world that the crisis that wiped out trillions of dollars in wealth, threw millions of people out of their homes and out of work, and further widened the gulf between rich and poor was no accident. It was a crime. Ferguson, a former software entrepreneur and policy-wonk scholar turned filmmaker, is definitely no left-wing bomb-thrower or closet Marxist. But he plays one in the movies, you might say. His new documentary, "Inside Job" -- arguably the smash hit of Cannes so far -- offers a lucid and devastating history of how the crash happened, who caused it and how they got away with it.

Furthermore, Ferguson argues, if we don't stop those people -- preferably by removing them from power, arresting them and sending them to prison -- they will certainly do it again. "Inside Job" is as elegant, penetrating and well researched as Ferguson's Iraq war film, "No End in Sight," but it's a hell of a lot angrier. To the discomfiture of some antiwar viewers, Ferguson struck a nuanced position on the war itself: It might have been a reasonable idea, in theory, and might have worked out if it hadn't been managed by a coalition of ideologues, incompetents and idiots.

This story is quite different. There was nothing reasonable or decent or redeemable about the world of high finance, in Ferguson's judgment, by the time the 21st-century bubble reached its peak around 2006. As he illustrates with a damning parade of interviews, images and public testimony, the financial industry had ridden 20-plus years of manic free-market deregulation and neoliberal fiscal policy from one crisis to the next, surfing a rising tide of greed and corruption. (There are several people in this movie, prominent among them former George W. Bush advisor Glenn Hubbard and Harvard economics chairman John Y. Campbell, who will rue the day they agreed to talk to Ferguson.)


This "manic free-market deregulation and neoliberal fiscal policy," though arguably resulting as much from the greed of politicians eager for money from the industry as much as ideological conviction, is really only a variant of libertarianism. As Gabriel Winant notes in a devastating take at the same site (it's Salon day here), "Libertarians like Paul are walking around with the idea that the world could just snap back to a naturally-occurring benign order if the government stopped interfering."

We went that route the past few decades and have seen the result- in coal mining, off-shore oil drilling, and most of all, in the financial services industry. For racial equality, the impact has been- or was- similarly depraved, as Winant notes in a concise explanation of libertarianism:

Libertarians like Paul are walking around with the idea that the world could just snap back to a naturally-occurring benign order if the government stopped interfering. As Paul implied, good people wouldn't shop at the racist stores, so there wouldn't be any.

How has that worked out with the banks, six of them now in control of 63% of the nation's GDP? In an interview O'Hehir conducted with filmmaker Ferguson, the latter recounted an explanation given him by former New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer of the difference between two industries:

Look, high technology is an industry where you create money by doing something different. In contrast, finance is really kind of zero-sum. It's a trading game, it's a gambling game. There's a relatively fixed pool of money, but there's a lot of money and the way you make more, as a banker, is by making sure that someone else makes less. It's really hard to keep that industry ethical without appropriate legal and regulatory controls. If Intel made microprocessors that blew up the computers they're in, Intel would go out of business. The same is not true for financial services. It was a very sobering moment, actually.

It is, obviously, in the financial industry that the impact of a libertarian governing ethos has had its greatest impact on American society. Spitzer points out that most money in finance is made when "someone else makes less." Allowing human nature to take its course, as Paul's philosophy would have us do, is naive, foolish and as Winant more elegantly explains (and Joan Walsh would understand)

that's why the best rap on libertarians isn't that they're racist, or selfish. (Though some of them are those things, and their beliefs encourage both bad behaviors, even if accidentally.) It's that they're thoroughly out of touch with reality.



Correction: (May 29, 2010): The link to a "devastating take" should have been not to Joan Walsh's item, but to Gabriel Winant's piece, "The lesson of Rand Paul: libertarianism is juvenile."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rand Paul, Misinformed

Fresh off his victory in the Republican senatorial primary in Kentucky, Rand Paul was questioned on The Rachel Maddow Show about his implication (expressed in a series of interviews) that he would have voted against the portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination by private businesses serving the public.

Salon's Joan Walsh implores "you've got to watch the whole interview." And so here (in two parts) it is.

And here is the transcript of this extraordinary interview. (You can get the video almost anywhere; but where else but but on this site can you be bored reading the transcript?)

Joining us now is the candidate himself. He can very ably speak for
himself, Dr. Rand Paul.

Dr. Paul, thank you so much for coming back on the show and
congratulations on your big victory last night.

PAUL: Thank you, Rachel, and thank you for that wonderful intro
piece, quite a collection.

MADDOW: I know this must feel like frying pan and into the fire here,
so soon after the election with really being the focus of this national
storm right now. Everybody is trying to figure out what you meant by these

things. But let‘s talk about it.

PAUL: Yes.

MADDOW: Was “The Courier-Journal” right? Do you believe that private
business people should be able to decide whether they want to serve black
people or gays or any other minority group, as they said?

PAUL: Well, I think to put things in perspective, when “The Courier-
Journal” does not endorse a Republican, that‘s not something very unusual
in our state. They typically don‘t endorse Republicans, and it‘s a very
Democratic paper.

But with regard to racism, I don‘t believe in any racism. I don‘t
think we should have any government racism, any institutional form of
racism. You know, one interesting historical tidbit, one of my favorite
historical characters is William Lloyd Garrison. And one of the
interesting things about desegregation and putting people together, do you
know when it happened in Boston?

MADDOW: What do you mean, the desegregation? In general?

PAUL: You know when we got—you know, when we got rid of the Jim
Crow laws and when we got rid of segregation and a lot of the abhorrent
practices in the South, do you know when we got rid of it in Boston?

MADDOW: I—why don‘t you tell me what you‘re getting at?

PAUL: Well, it was in 1840. So I think it is sort of a stain on the
history of America that 120 years to desegregate the South.

But William Lloyd Garrison was a champion and abolitionist who wrote
about freeing the slaves back in the 1810s, ‘20s and ‘30s and labored in
obscurity (ph) to do this. He was flagged, put in jails. He was with
Frederick Douglass being thrown off trains.

But, you know, they desegregated transportation in Boston in 1840, and
I think that was an impressive and amazing thing. But also points out the
sadness that it took us 120 years to desegregate the South. And a lot of
that was institutional racism was absolutely wrong and something that I
absolutely oppose.

MADDOW: In terms of legal remedies for persistent discrimination,
though, if there was a private business, say, in Louisville, say, somewhere
in your home state, that wanted to not serve black patrons and wanted to
not serve gay patrons, or somebody else on the basis of their—on the
basis of a characteristic that they decided they didn‘t like as a private
business owner—would you think they had a legal right to do so, to put
up a “blacks not served here” sign?

PAUL: Well, the interesting thing is, you know, you look back to the
1950s and 1960s at the problems we faced. There were incredible problems.
You know, the problems had to do with mostly voting, they had to do with
schools, they had to do with public housing. And so, this is what the
civil rights largely addressed, and all things that I largely agree with.

MADDOW: But what about private businesses? I mean, I hate to—I
don‘t want to be badgering you on this, but I do want an answer.

PAUL: I‘m not—I‘m not—

MADDOW: Do you think that a private business has the right to say we
don‘t serve black people?

PAUL: Yes. I‘m not in favor of any discrimination of any form. I
would never belong to any club that excluded anybody for race. We still do
have private clubs in America that can discriminate based on race.
But I think what‘s important about this debate is not written into any
specific “gotcha” on this, but asking the question: what about freedom of
speech? Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we
limit racists from speaking?

I don‘t want to be associated with those people, but I also don‘t want
to limit their speech in any way in the sense that we tolerate boorish and
uncivilized behavior because that‘s one of the things freedom requires is
that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized, but that doesn‘t mean
we approve of it. I think the problem with this debate is by getting
muddled down into it, the implication is somehow that I would approve of
any racism or discrimination, and I don‘t in any form or fashion.

MADDOW: But isn‘t being in favor of civil rights but against the
Civil Rights Act a little like saying you‘re against high cholesterol but
you‘re in favor of fried cheese?

PAUL: But I‘m not against --

MADDOW: I mean, the Civil Rights Act was the federal government
stepping in to protect civil rights because they weren‘t otherwise being
protected. It wasn‘t a hypothetical. There were businesses that were
saying black people cannot be served here and the federal government
stepped in and said, no, you actually don‘t have that choice to make. The
federal government is coming in and saying you can‘t make that choice as a
business owner.

Which side of that debate would you put yourself on?

PAUL: In the totality of it, I‘m in favor of the federal government
being involved in civil rights and that‘s, you know, mostly what the Civil
Rights Act was about. And that was ending institutional racism.

MADDOW: When you—

PAUL: And I‘m in favor of—I‘m opposed to any form of governmental
racism or discrimination or segregation, all of the things we fought in the
South, in fact, like I say, I think it‘s a stain on our history that we
went 120 years from when the North desegregated and when those battles were
fought in the North. And I like to think that, you know, even though I was
a year old at the time, that I would have marched with Martin Luther King
because I believed in what he was doing.

MADDOW: But if you were in the—

(CROSSTALK)

PAUL: But, you know, most of the things he was fighting—most of the
things he—

MADDOW: I‘m sorry to interrupt you. Go on, sir.

PAUL: Most of the things he were fighting—most of the things that
he was fighting were laws. He was fighting Jim Crow laws. He was fighting
legalized and institutional racism. And I‘d be right there with him.

MADDOW: But maybe voting against the Civil Rights Act which wasn‘t
just about governmental discrimination but public accommodations, the idea
that people who provided services that were open to the public had to do so
in a nondiscriminatory fashion.

Let me ask you a specific so we don‘t get into the esoteric
hypotheticals here.

PAUL: Well, there‘s 10 -- there‘s 10 different—there‘s 10
different titles, you know, to the Civil Rights Act, and nine out of 10
deal with public institutions. And I‘m absolutely in favor of one deals
with private institutions, and had I been around, I would have tried to
modify that.

But you know, the other thing about legislation—and this is why
it‘s a little hard to say exactly where you are sometimes, is that when you
support nine out of 10 things in a good piece of legislation, do you vote
for it or against it? And I think, sometimes, those are difficult
situations.

What I was asked by “The Courier-Journal” and I stick by it is that I
do defend and believe that the government should not be involved with
institutional racism or discrimination or segregation in schools, bussing,
all those things. But had I been there, there would have been some
discussion over one of the titles of the civil rights.

And I think that‘s a valid point, and still a valid discussion,
because the thing is, is if we want to harbor in on private businesses and
their policies, then you have to have the discussion about: do you want to
abridge the First Amendment as well. Do you want to say that because
people say abhorrent things—you know, we still have this. We‘re having
all this debate over hate speech and this and that. Can you have a
newspaper and say abhorrent things? Can you march in a parade and believe
in abhorrent things, you know?

So, I think it‘s an important debate but should be intellectual one.
It‘s really tough to have an intellectual debate in the political sense
because what happens is it gets dumbed down. It will get dumb down to
three words and they‘ll try to run on this entire issue, and it‘s being
brought up as a political issue.

I think if you listen to me, I think you should understand that—I
think you do, I think you‘re an intelligent person. I like being on your
show. But I think that what is the totality of what I‘m saying—am I a
bad person? Do I believe in awful things? No.

I really think that discrimination and racism is a horrible thing.
And I don‘t want any form of it in our government, in our public sphere.

MADDOW: The reason that this is something that I‘m not letting go
even though I now realize it would make the conversation more comfortable
to move on to other things and I think this is going to be a focus for
national attention on you, I guess until there‘s at least clarity on it, is
that issue of the tenth, not the nine, but the tenth out of the 10 portions
proportions of the—the tenth of the Civil Rights Act that you would
want to have discussions about. As I understand it, what you‘re saying,
that‘s the portion of the Civil Rights Act that said you can‘t actually
have segregated lunch counters here at your private business.
I mean, when Bob Jones University in the year 2000 --

PAUL: Well, it‘s interesting. Actually, it‘s even—

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: Hold on just one second. Until the year 2000, Bob Jones
University, a private institution, had a ban on interracial dating at their
school, their private institution. If Bob Jones University wanted to bring
that back now, would you support their right to do so?

PAUL: Well, I think it‘s interesting because the debate involves more
than just that, because the debate also involves a lot of court cases with
regard to the commerce clause. For example, right now, many states and
many gun organizations are saying they have a right to carry a gun in a
public restaurant because a public restaurant is not a private restaurant.
Therefore, they have a right to carry their gun in there and that the
restaurant has no right to have rules to their restaurant.
So, you see how this could be turned on many liberal observers who
want to excoriate me on this. Then to be consistent, they‘d have to say,
oh, well, yes, absolutely, you‘ve got your right to carry your gun anywhere
because it‘s a public place.

So, you see, when you blur the distinction between public and private,
there are problems. When you blur the distinction between public and
private ownership, there really is a problem. A lot of this was settled a
long time ago and isn‘t being debated anymore.

MADDOW: But it could be brought up at any moment. I mean, if there -
let‘s say there‘s a town right now and the owner of the town‘s swimming
club says we‘re not going to allow black kids at our pool, and the owner of
the bowling alley in town says, we‘re not actually going to allow black
patrons, and the owner of the skating rink in town says, we‘re not going to
allow black people to skate here.

And you may think that‘s abhorrent and you may think that‘s bad
business. But unless it‘s illegal, there‘s nothing to stop that—there‘s
nothing under your world view to stop the country from re-segregating like
we were before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 --

PAUL: Right.

MADDOW: -- which you‘re saying you‘ve got some issues with.

PAUL: Well, the interesting thing is, is that there‘s nothing right
now to prevent a lot of re-segregating. We had a lot of it over the last
30 or 40 years.

What I would say is that we did some very important things in the ‘60s
that I‘m all in favor of and that was desegregating the schools,
desegregating public transportation, use public roads and public
monopolies, desegregating public water fountains.

MADDOW: How about desegregating lunch counters? Lunch counters.
Walgreen‘s lunch counters, were you in favor of that? Possibly? Because
the government got involved?

(CROSSTALK)

PAUL: Right. Well, what it gets into is, is that then if you decide
that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you
say that you should have the right to bring your gun into a restaurant,
even though the owner of the restaurant says, well, no, we don‘t want to
have guns in here.

The bar says we don‘t want to have guns in here, because people might
drink and start fighting and shoot each other. Does the owner of the
restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant?
These are important philosophical debates but not very practical
discussion. And I think we can make something out of this—

MADDOW: Well, it‘s pretty practical to people who were—had their
life nearly beaten out of them trying to desegregate Walgreen‘s lunch
counters despite these esoteric debates about gun ownership. This is not a
hypothetical, Dr. Paul.

PAUL: Yes, but I—yes. Well, but I think what you‘re doing,
Rachel, is you‘re conflating the issue.

MADDOW: No.

PAUL: You‘re saying that somehow this abstract discussion of private
property has any bit of condoning for violence. This—there‘s nothing in
what I‘m saying that condones any violence and any kind of violence like
that deserves to be put—people like that deserve to be put in jail. So
nobody‘s condoning any of that.

MADDOW: Well, I understand that you‘re not condoning violence, but
the people who were beating for trying to desegregate Woolworth‘s lunch
counters weren‘t asking to beaten. They‘re asking—

PAUL: Those people should have gone --

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: -- for private businesses to be desegregated by the
government. You‘re saying those people should have gone to different
places? Left them segregated?

PAUL: People who commit—people who commit violence on other
individuals should go to prison and go to jail. And there‘s nothing we
should ever do to condone violence on other individuals.

MADDOW: And should Woolworth lunch counter should have been allowed
to stay segregated? Sir, just yes or no.

PAUL: What I think would happen—what I‘m saying is, is that I
don‘t believe in any discrimination. I don‘t believe in any private
property should discriminate either. And I wouldn‘t attend, wouldn‘t
support, wouldn‘t go to.

But what you have to answer when you answer this point of view, which
is an abstract, obscure conversation from 1964 that you want to bring up.
But if you want to answer, you have to say then that you decide the rules
for all restaurants and then you decide that you want to allow them to
carry weapons into restaurants.

MADDOW: I can—we could have a fight about the Second Amendment.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: But I think wanting to allow private industry—private
businesses—

PAUL: It‘s the same fight. It‘s the same fight.

MADDOW: -- to discriminate along the basis of race because of
property rights is an extreme view and I think that‘s going to be the focus
nationally on your candidacy now and you‘re going to have a lot more
debates like this. So, I hope you don‘t hold it against me for bringing it
up. I think this is going to be a continuing discussion for a long time,
Dr. Paul.

PAUL: Well, I think what you‘ve done is you bring up something that
really is not an issue, nothing I‘ve ever spoken about or have any
indication that I‘m interested in any legislation concerning. So, what you
bring up is sort of a red herring or something that you want to pit. It‘s
a political ploy. I mean, it‘s brought up as an attack weapon from the
other side, and that‘s the way it will be used.

But, you know, I think a lot of times these attacks fall back on
themselves, and I don‘t think it will have any effect because the thing is,
is that every fiber of my being doesn‘t believe in discrimination, doesn‘t
believe that we should have that in our society. And to imply otherwise is
just dishonest.

MADDOW: Dr. Rand Paul, Republican nominee for the United States
Senate in Kentucky, where he‘ll be representing not only his own views
about how to live but what kind of laws we should have in America, sir, I
enjoy talking with these things about you. I couldn‘t disagree with you
more about this issue, but I do respect you for coming on the show, and for
being able to have this civil discussion about it. Thank you

PAUL: Thank you, Rachel.


Walsh, in a post entitled "Rachel Maddow demolishes Rand Paul," warns her readers not to view the video "if you can't stand to see a politician sweat." Really, though, you should, anyway.

Salon's editor-in-chief wrote that the Tea Party favorite "implied the First Amendment gave business owners the right to be racist" and in fact Paul did make a tortured analogy with the Amendment's guarantee of free speech. Digby, who has been blogging for months about the danger represented by Paul, and for longer about the even greater dangers of libertarianism, referred to "the crude racism" of the candidate's now former campaign manager and the "obnoxious racist views" of his father, Ron Paul.

It's hard to tell if the GOP nominee is truly bigoted. He claims that he would have marched with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., though that may be only a crude attempt to shield himself from criticism and, a little more credibly, maintains "every fiber of my being doesn‘t believe in discrimination, doesn‘t believe that we should have that in our society."

It doesn't matter. Former President GW Bush would claim purity and innocence "in my heart," yet, while not a racist, successfully destroyed faith in government. However, Paul, like Bush, is a public citizen, with the former aiming to become one of a select group of 100 legislators for the United States of America. Of far greater significance than Paul's heart, or his intent, is his legislative philosophy.

And of that he has left no doubt. As a libertarian, Paul believes in the right to discriminate. He remarked

Well, there‘s 10 -- there‘s 10 different—there‘s 10
different titles, you know, to the Civil Rights Act, and nine out of 10
deal with public institutions. And I‘m absolutely in favor of one deals
with private institutions, and had I been around, I would have tried to
modify that.


It's swell that Rand Paul opposes a government discrimination. As a conservative and libertarian, he presumably has little use for the public sector, anyway, unless it benefits him personally. Permitting discrimination in the private sector, though, is more than an enormous loophole.

As Taylor Marsh notes, Paul's views about the benevolence of the private sector, unencumbered by government regulation, reflect naivete and a "lack of experience in the real world." Evidence that Ron Paul is a bigot is limited, largely irrelevant, alienates individuals of similar views, and unhelpfully diverts our attention to the greater threat. Paul apparently believes that if he talks enough about his love for Martin Luther King, his opposition to institutional racism and Jim Crow laws, and support for free speech, we won't notice his political shell game. But we must keep our eye on the ball because libertarianism, as Digby notes

inexorably leads to a society in which racism is normal and tolerated and where those who have the social power and economic clout are able to rig the game in their favor. You know --- the America of 40 years ago before the Civil Rights Act. It's not like we never gave Rand's libertarianism a chance to work.















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