It didn’t take long for Kentucky Republican Rand Paul to stumble into trouble. Steeped in libertarianism and partly in the conservative anti-establishment tea party movement, his views — particularly those on the Civil Rights Act — have been the subject of much scrutiny and debate since he won the GOP Senate nomination Tuesday night. Last night, Paul’s views burst into the national debate after an interview Paul gave to Rachel Maddow set the Internet alight.
In a nutshell, here’s what he said:
“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,” he told Maddow deep in their 15-minute interview. “One deals with private institutions, and had I been around, I would have tried to modify that.”
Got that? Rand Paul agrees with most of the Civil Rights Act, but not the part that deals with private businesses. And he won’t say whether or not that one part of the bill would have been a deal-breaker if he had been in Congress when the bill was up for a vote.
That’s it, essentially. Paul said many, many times in the interview with Maddow that he is not a racist, and that his motivation for saying what he’s saying about the civil rights act is not race, but rather allowing business owners their right to “free speech,” which in this case is the freedom to discriminate.
“Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we limit racists from speaking?” Paul told Maddow. “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.”
When it comes to spending taxpayer dollars, Paul says he is all for laws requiring equal accommodation for everybody.
“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,” he told Maddow. “And that was ending institutional racism.”
So, there you have it: a libertarian take on government intervention in private lives, focused on a discussion of the civil rights act. Paul says it’s no big deal.
“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,” Paul told Maddow near the end of their long discussion about the Civil Rights Act. “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.”
Paul’s opponent, state Attorney General Jack Conway, has made it clear that Paul’s libertarian stances — which may continue to surprise even his supporters as they are clearly spelled out in the coming months — will be a part of the campaign. Conway told me last night that Kentuckians won’t take to Paul’s message, which Conway asserted was too extreme for the state.
Jillian Rayfield’s succinct video of the Maddow interview in a nutshell:
Click here to watch the whole thing.