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—


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

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—


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?


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.


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 --


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.


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

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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