Sometimes a “no comment” tells you all you need to know. Such is the case with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) who, as chairman of the NRSC, is responsible for getting Rand Paul—critic of the Civil Right’s Act—a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Just off the Senate floor this afternoon, I asked Cornyn for his response to Paul’s lengthy comments on MSNBC last night. He demurred: “I haven’t heard it, so I’m really not in a position to comment.”
I explained Paul’s stated view that, while morally wrong, private businesses should be permitted by law to discriminate based on race, sexual orientation, or disability. Once again, no comment.
“Since I didn’t hear—I’m not suggesting that you’re not giving it your best effort—but I’m not going to comment on it unless I had a chance to hear it myself,” Cornyn said.
It’s very difficult to believe that Cornyn is unaware of Paul’s comments, which have caused a major stir, and prompted Paul himself to volunteer a statement declaring that he “will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” In fact, one of Cornyn’s spokesmen at the NRSC has already issued a statement in response. Rather, Paul’s comments are so politically toxic that a “no comment” does less damage to the GOP and to Paul himself than does any effort to explain or excuse what he said.
Defending the principle, though not the practice, of segregation in private establishments, Paul insisted “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.”
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.