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Rand Paul hedges on support for 1964 Civil Rights Act

By David Edwards and John Byrne
Thursday, May 20, 2010 9:10 EDT
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Update: Paul says it was ‘poor decision’ to do Maddow show, slams ‘loony left’ for making civil rights fuss

2nd update on bottom: ‘I unequivocally state that I will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964…we are sure to hear more wild, dishonest smears during this campaign,’ Paul campaign statement says

Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul, fresh off his primary victory in Kentucky, defended his criticism of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Wednesday night.

Paul said that while he supported the overall goals of the Civil Rights Act — a monumental measure that outlawed discrimination against African Americans in various forms after a decades-long struggle for equality — he opposed a provision that banned private businesses from discriminating based on race.

“Do you think that a private business has a right to say that ‘We don’t serve black people?’” Maddow asked.

“I’m not in favor of any discrimination of any form,” Paul replied. “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.

“I think what’s important in this debate is not getting into any specific “gotcha” on this, but asking the question ‘What about freedom of speech?’” Paul countered. “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 that freedom requires is that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized, but that doesn’t mean we approve of it.”

“How about desegregating lunch counters?” Maddow later asked.

“Well what it gets into then is 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?’” Paul replied. “Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant? These are important philosophical debates but not a very practical discussion.”

“Well, it was pretty practical to the people who had the life nearly beaten out of them trying to desegregate Walgreen’s lunch counters despite these esoteric debates about what it means about ownership,” Maddow responded. “This is not a hypothetical, Dr. Paul.”

Rand Paul says it was ‘poor decision’ to do Maddow show, slams ‘loony left’ for making civil rights fuss

At Huffington Post, Sam Stein reports, “The morning after he declined to endorse the totality of the Civil Rights Act in his much-discussed appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show, Dr. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) copped to feeling regret — not over his comments, but rather his decision to be interviewed by Maddow in the first place.”

“Why the heck would you go on the Rachel Maddow Show?” Ingraham asked Paul. “What do you think you’re going to get when you go on Rachel Maddow’s show?”

“It was a poor political decision and probably won’t be happening anytime in the near future,” the Tea Party endorsed Senate candidate said on the Laura Ingraham show on Thursday morning. “Because, yeah, they can play things and want to say, ‘Oh you believed in beating up people that were trying to sit in restaurants in the 1960s.’ And that is such a ridiculous notion and something that no rational person is in favor of. [But] she went on and on about that.”

Blaming the messenger is a tactic often used by politicians when the message itself is to blame. And Paul’s appearance on the Maddow show on Wednesday night was anything but bland. For 15 minutes, he and the host went back and forth in debating where there should be limits to government efforts to desegregate private institutions (Paul was skeptical that the government should play any role at all). But the notion that the MSNBC host was somehow unloading liberal hostilities on him doesn’t jibe with the fact that Paul got the same type of treatment during an NPR interview earlier that morning — or, for that matter, that a conservative voice on MSNBC, Joe Scarborough, seemed aghast at his answers. “He needs to come up with an answer today, or Kentucky will be Arizona: a battleground for ugly, racial politics,” Scarborough said. “He has 24 hours.”

Stein adds, “Paul, in fact, chose Maddow’s show to initially launch his Senate candidacy a year prior to last night’s appearance.”

“I’ve never really favored any change in the Civil Rights Act,” Paul told Ingraham. “They seem to have unleashed some of the loony left on me.”

At Politico, Ben Smith adds, “Paul called the Civil Rights Act ‘settled’ but suggested he does view federal regulation of private business on matters of racial discrimination as fundamentally unconstitutional.”

“The problem with Rachel and most people from the left is they want to make this an issue about you supporting abhorrent practices which I don’t support,” he said, again pronouncing himself a foe of “institutional racism.”

“There was a need for federal intervention to say we can’t have segregation,” Paul told Ingraham, referring to the elements of segregation that were linked to government services and federal funding.

This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast May 19, 2010.

Rand Paul’s campaign released the following statement on Thursday afternoon, as noted by Real Clear Politics.

“I believe we should work to end all racism in American society and staunchly defend the inherent rights of every person. I have clearly stated in prior interviews that I abhor racial discrimination and would have worked to end segregation. Even though this matter was settled when I was 2, and no serious people are seeking to revisit it except to score cheap political points, I unequivocally state that I will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

“Let me be clear: I support the Civil Rights Act because I overwhelmingly agree with the intent of the legislation, which was to stop discrimination in the public sphere and halt the abhorrent practice of segregation and Jim Crow laws.”

“As I have said in previous statements, sections of the Civil Rights Act were debated on Constitutional grounds when the legislation was passed. Those issues have been settled by federal courts in the intervening years.”

“My opponent’s statement on MSNBC Wednesday that I favor repeal of the Civil Rights Act was irresponsible and knowingly false. I hope he will correct the record and retract his claims.”

“The issue of civil rights is one with a tortured history in this country. We have made great strides, but there is still work to be done to ensure the great promise of Liberty is granted to all Americans.”

“This much is clear: The federal government has far overreached in its power grabs. Just look at the recent national healthcare schemes, which my opponent supports. The federal government, for the first time ever, is mandating that individuals purchase a product. The federal government is out of control, and those who love liberty and value individual and state’s rights must stand up to it.”

“These attacks prove one thing for certain: the liberal establishment is desperate to keep leaders like me out of office, and we are sure to hear more wild, dishonest smears during this campaign.”

The Redding News Review reports, “Rev. Jesse Jackson today assailed Rand Paul, the newly elected Republican nominee for Senate in Kentucky, for comments about the Civil Rights Act.”

“He is playing with fire you can’t have it both ways,” Jackson the Democrat told MSNBC.

….

Still, Jackson said that Paul is trying to cover ground that a portion of the Fair Housing Act as already resolved.

“He is arguing backwards,” Jackson said. “It is a narrow view of American rights….we all deserve better.”

 
 
 
 
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