If you're just waking up to Rachel Maddow's interview with Rand Paul yesterday, welcome to epic. Rand Paul, son of libertarian icon Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), is Kentucky's new Republican nominee for Senate.
The younger Paul is a Tea Party Republican, and he set the stage for last night's interview by telling NPR about his views on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 earlier in the day. In sum, Paul said he opposes discrimination but has problems with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it bans businesses from discriminating against customers.
On the show last night, Paul sounded uncomfortable expressing his views about whether private business owners can hang out a "Black People Not Served Here" sign. He left behind the practical question of African-Americans trying to patronize a store or restaurant for the more theoretical turf of the First Amendment.
MADDOW: Do you think that a private business has the right to say we don't serve black people?
PAUL: 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 predicted on the show that Paul would face questions about this for the rest of his campaign. And indeed, it started overnight. The lefty Boston Phoenix wrote "GOP Leaders Must Call For Rand Paul To Withdraw" and a Kansas City Star columnist asked, "Do they have truth serum at Tea Parties?"
After the jump, a couple of key Rand Paul quotes.
Rand Paul tells us he supports nine out of 10 parts, or titles, of the Civil Rights Act. Paul objects to the tenth because it deals with private businesses.
PAUL: I do defend and believe that the government should not be involved with institutional racism or discrimination or segregation in schools, busing, 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?. . .
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.
Paul goes on to say that there's "nothing right now to prevent a lot of re-segregating" and that he's proud of the public desegregation -- think roads, transportation, schools, drinking fountains -- that happened over the past 30 or 40 years. He closed by saying that he's not especially interested in the debate:
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. . . . 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.