In the space of a few hours today, Rand Paul first hedged, then reversed, then, finally, repudiated his previously stated opposition to a key section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
It began with the Kentucky senate candidate issuing a statement saying he would not favor repeal of the Civil Rights Act. But the statement fell short of supporting the power of the government to ban racial discrimination by private businesses.
Then, a couple hours later, his campaign issued a statement (via Greg Sargent) saying that Paul does in fact support the power of the federal government “to insure that private businesses don’t discriminate based on race.”
That was a walk back of Paul’s comment on Rachel Maddow Wednesday night that, referring to the section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that bars private institutions from race-based discrimination, “had I been around, I would have tried to modify that.”
Said Paul spokesman Jesse Benton (who, by the way, was also a spokesman for Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign):
“Civil Rights legislation that has been affirmed by our courts gives the Federal government the right to insure that private businesses don’t discriminate based on race. Dr. Paul supports those powers.”
Finally, Paul went on CNN late this afternoon and told Wolf Blitzer of the Civil Rights Act: “I would have voted yes … There was a need for federal intervention.”
So, by our reckoning, here’s Paul’s progression on the issue over the past 24 hours:
Paul on Maddow, circa 9 p.m. Wednesday: I don’t agree with the Civil Rights Act, but I don’t believe in racism.
Paul statement, noon Thursday: I wouldn’t support repealing the law.
Paul campaign statement, 2 p.m. Thursday: I support the law and the government’s power to enforce it.
Paul on CNN, 5 p.m. Thursday: “I would have voted yes” for the law. “There was a need for federal intervention.”
(This post has been updated since it was published.)