Rand Paul's Race Problem (and Other Inherent Flaws)

Rand Paul might have advised to step out of the spotlight -- at Karl Rove's behest -- but that doesn't mean the spotlight has been turned off. Not by a long shot. Over the last week, numerous stories about Rand Paul have continues to come to light. And what has come to light is very ugly.

This is a followup to my posts Meet Dr. Rand Paul, Meet Dr. Rand Paul - Day 2 & Meet the Press v Rand Paul, but before I get into all that, let's look at the latest polling from Research 2000.

Jack Conway has gone from a 25 point deficit -- according to this conservative Rasmussen Poll taken just after the primary before the firestorm Rand Paul created, to a 3-point race.

Research 2000 for Daily Kos. 5/24-26. Likely voters. MoE 4% (5/10-12 results)

Rand Paul (R) 44 (42)
Jack Conway (D) 41 (39)
Undecided 9


Paul 53/33 (56/27)
Conway 48/43 (46/44)

Paul's favorabilities are down among Independents -- from 62-16 to 58-20, and among Democrats -- from 37-45 to 29-57. Lucky for him, railing against the Civil Rights Act plays to his base. Among Republicans, Rand is now up to 79-9, from 76-10.

This race's big battleground will be independent voters -- Paul is currently winning them 42-31, with 27 percent undecided, and Democrats, where Conway is only getting 75 percent to Paul's 7 Percent, with 18 percent undecided. Remember, this is Kentucky, where a significant number of voters who vote Dem in statewide elections vote GOP for federal races. Paul has already consolidated GOP support, winning them 86-6, with just 8 percent undecided.

Hmmm. I wonder what could have caused this uphill battle Conway was facing to turn into a 3-point race?

Rand Paul's White Supremacist Funding: Rand Paul MUST return Neo-Nazi funds NOW and DENOUNCE Stormfront.org:
Stormfront.org, which was founded to support David Duke for senate by another KKK Grand Dragon, Don Black, has been promoting and contributing to Rand Paul's moneybombs. Palling around with WhiteSupremacists much?

That's a tweet from Don Black, head of the white supremacist group Stormfront. Wow.


So, Trey Grayson should reject donations from Republicans who voted for the bailout........but it's okay for Rand Paul to accept donations from Stormfront?


Newsweek: Rand Paul Feeds Suspicions About Tea Party Racism

Try as it might, the Tea Party just can't shake the accusations of racism. As I wrote in an article last month, recent polling seemed to confirm many people's darkest suspicions about the movement—that it was motivated not just by antipathy toward big government but also by racial animus. When confronted with such allegations, Tea Partiers offer a standard response: any evidence of racist sentiment can be chalked up to a tiny minority, and hey, what group doesn't have a freaky fringe?

Rand Paul has just severely compromised that argument. By refusing to say whether he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act and claiming that the federal government has no business fighting discrimination in private establishments, he comes across as an avatar of 1950s thinking on race. And as Kentucky's newly crowned Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, he is anything but fringy. In fact, he's about the closest thing to a national leader that the Tea Party has.

Newsweek's Howard Fineman: Rand Paul and D. W. Griffith
Some of that old-time, race-based attitude—a Kentucky mix of romantic benevolence and cruel disdain (immortalized in D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation)—has seeped into the groundwater of the Tea Party. I attended one of its first rallies, in Louisville more than a year ago, and I saw on the ground some of the anti-busing elements of old there.

If Dr. Rand Paul doesn't immediately apologize for holding his victory rally at a private club—and doesn't abandon his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act—then he will not only pollute the Tea Party, he will severely damage the GOP's chances of winning control of either the House or Senate this fall.

Politics operates serendipitously in America, thank goodness. One little slip can open the door to a wider, even profound discussion. The Tea Party has rocketed to prominence with a seething anti-federal message: that Washington is spending too much, controlling too much, and taxing too much, and is doing it unconstitutionally.

All that might explain this interview Rand did with Russian television....

TPM: Rand Paul Suggests Children Of Illegal Immigrants Should Not Be U.S. Citizens

Paul recently suggested to a Russian TV station that the U.S. should abandon its policy of granting citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants -- even if they're born on U.S. soil.

Paul also said he's discussed instituting an "underground electrical fence" on the border to keep out unwanted elements, though he emphasized that he's "not opposed to letting people come in and work and labor in our country."


He added: "We're the only country that I know that allows people to come in illegally, have a baby, and then that baby becomes a citizen. And I think that should stop also."

The 14th Amendment grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States, regardless of whether or not their parents are U.S. citizens.

Immigration talk comes in at around the 8:30 mark:

The American Prospect: Is Rand Paul Good For Civil Liberties?
Yesterday on Twitter, Radley Balko warned liberals, "Lefties: Before you start fringe-baiting [Kentucky Senate Nominee] Rand Paul, note that he's better on civil liberties than most Democratic senators. And Obama." I responded that Paul was indistinguishable from the rest of the GOP on national security issues, but that's not totally accurate.


It should be said that Paul appears to have a fairly consistent -- if nativist -- constitutional philosophy: The Constitution grants certain inalienable rights to Americans but not to foreigners. That shouldn't be mistaken for Constitutional fidelity, the Constitution distinguishes between "citizens" and "persons" for a reason, and foreigners charged with crimes in the U.S. have always been given the same due process rights as anyone else, precisely because freedom is as much about what government is allowed to do to you as much as it is about what you are allowed to do.

So is Paul better than "most Democratic Senators" or Obama? Outside the PATRIOT Act, he seems to be your average Republican. If he wins his Senate race and teams up with Russ Feingold to reform the PATRIOT Act, I wouldn't be disappointed -- but I'm not hoping for anything more from him.

Salon's Joe Conason: The roots of Rand Paul's civil rights resentment (h/t America Blog):
The last time that anyone examined the details of the Paul family's gamy history was back in 2008, when the New Republic dug up copies of newsletters sent out under Ron's name to raise money, and found that they were replete with ugly references to blacks, Martin Luther King, homosexuals and other targets of the racist far right. At the time, Reason magazine, a libertarian magazine that opposed the "paleo" deviation, gave the most revealing account of its movement's degenerate element in a long article by Julian Sanchez and David Weigel.


According to Sanchez and Weigel, the tone of Paul's newsletters shifted to reflect his political circumstances. Between his first presidential campaign and his return to Congress in 1996 as a Republican, they were filled with slurs against blacks generally and Martin Luther King Jr. in particular, including the accusation that the civil rights leader "seduced underage girls and boys." Rothbard hated King deeply, describing him in November 1994 as "a socialist, egalitarian, coercive integrationist, and vicious opponent of private-property rights ... who was long under close Communist Party control," and concluding that "there is one excellent litmus test which can set up a clear dividing line between genuine conservatives and neoconservatives, and between paleolibertarians and what we can now call 'left-libertarians.' And that test is where one stands on 'Doctor' King." (Then again, he hated Lincoln too, whom he disparaged in the same essay as "one of the major despots of American history.")


No wonder Sanchez and Weigel concluded with a forthright condemnation of Ron Paul's dishonesty on race. "Ron Paul may not be a racist," they wrote, "but he became complicit in a strategy of pandering to racists." The same polite formulation could be applied to the hard-line activists behind the Goldwater campaign in 1964, or the "Southern strategists" of the Nixon White House, or the "populist conservatives" of the George Wallace campaign, many of whom still remain active on the right today.
Jack Conway To TPM: Paul Civil Rights Comments 'Relevant' To General Election Campaign

[...] Conway told me this afternoon he will make sure voters know about Paul's remarks, especially about his views on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"What does that say to our disabled veterans coming back from two wars," Conway said.

At the same time, Conway said his own campaign would focus on the distinctions between the candidates on the economy and the need for "robust" financial reform, and I asked him how the Civil Rights Act comments come into those policy issues. "It's certainly relevant," Conway said. "People fought and bled for the ability to be served in a non-discriminatory fashion. It's problematic and abhorrent that he'd say in 2010 the government would not have a role ... I'm happy to have that discussion."

Wonkroom: What Does Rand Paul’s America Look Like?

First, Paul believes that the federal government has minimal power to regulate how private property owners use their property, or how private business owners manage their businesses or employees. In Paul’s interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, he explains that he opposes the ban on whites-only lunch counters because he “believe[]s in private ownership.” During his lengthy interview with Rachel Maddow, Paul explained that he supports the parts of the Civil Right Act of 1964 that limit government discrimination, but that he rejects the “one title” of the Act that limits private activities (for the record, there are at least two titles of the original Civil Rights Act that limit private actors. Title II prohibits discrimination by restaurants, hotels and other public accommodations; Title VII forbids employment discrimination). Similarly, in his interview with NPR, Paul explains that his shield surrounding private businesses extends well beyond the civil rights context. When asked how he feels about “the degree of oversight of the mining and oil-drilling industries,” Paul responded “I think that most manufacturing and mining should be under the purview of state authorities.”

Second, Paul would drastically reduce–if not eliminate altogether–federal agencies’ power to regulate business. In a January interview with Fox Business, Paul called for drastic regulatory rollbacks, stating that we should “get rid of regulation. Get the EPA out of our coal business down here. Get OSHA out of our small businesses.”

Third, although Paul leaves no doubt about his opposition to virtually all government regulation of private business, he does name one exception to this rule in his Rachel Maddow interview. When asked about his views on supporters of whites-only lunch counters who resorted to violence against civil rights activists, Paul replied that people who engage in “violence” should go to jail. There are any number of federal laws restricting mining companies, the oil industry and other private businesses which do not actually prohibit acts of violence, however, and Rand Paul has not clarified how he views these laws.

The Atlantic's Joshua Green: Explaining the Rand Paul Disaster
The second point, which gets directly to why Rand Paul is suddenly flailing, is that the local Kentucky media--in particular the newspapers, and especially the flagship Louisville Courier-Journal--has been decimated by job cuts, as has happened across the country. This came up several times in discussions with Kentucky politicos and local journalists. The reason it matters is that because there is no longer a healthy, aggressive press corps--and no David Yepsen-type dean of political journalists--candidates don't run the same kind of gauntlet they once did. They're not challenged by journalists. And since voters aren't as well informed as they once were (many are "informed" in the sense of having strongly held views about all manner of things--they're just not "well informed"), they can't challenge the candidates either.

Thus, when Rand Paul appeared on "Maddow" and the other shows, I expect he was prepared to offer the same sermon I heard on the trail. Problem is, he was encountering an aggressive, experienced press corps that appropriately had its own agenda and was eager to challenge Paul to elaborate on his views.
Also from Newsweek's Howard Fineman: Rand Paul: No Babe in the Woods

If McConnell is to have an outside chance of becoming majority leader (the GOP would have to pick up 10 Senate seats), he has to make peace with Paul and do everything he can to help him defeat Democrat Jack Conway. But if Paul doesn’t tone down his more extreme views, Democrats will use the Kentucky campaign to frighten independent voters, in Kentucky and (more important) across the country, about the risks of a GOP takeover in Congress. Then again, if GOP handlers stifle Paul—unlikely as that is—that too will become a story, and stoke the anger of his Tea Party followers.


Paul’s views are stark, and some are problematic. His purist laissez-faire economics are inspiring to some, but can sound shocking. The West Virginia mine disaster was lamentable, he said, but sometimes “accidents happen.” He sounded like a shill for BP when he complained that the administration’s harshly worded rebuke of the oil company was “un-American.”

Paul also opposes farm subsidies; wants to abolish the Fed, the original act that founded it, and the currency-reserve system; wants to abolish the departments of education, energy, and commerce; opposes U.S. involvement in the United Nations; opposes the Patriot Act; wants to vastly reduce Pentagon spending; is strictly anti-abortion; and favors legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. If properly framed, some of those positions could be sold to Kentucky voters at least; others need to be “reframed” into oblivion.


A senior Republican in Washington, who spoke to me only if I promised not to use his name, said that Paul could not afford to make more mistakes like the one he made on civil rights—even though Kentucky has a tiny African-American population and voted overwhelmingly in 2008 for Sen. John McCain. “Look, it’s still early, this is Kentucky, and this is 2010,” the senior Republican said. “Rand Paul hasn’t blown himself up—yet. But he can’t afford to keep making mistakes.”
Macon.com: Kentucky GOP urges Rand Paul to avoid national spotlight

Paul is facing a firestorm of criticism by the very national media that just a few short days ago rushed to book him for appearances. He and his supporters blamed the Democrats for painting comments as incendiary and the mainstream media for fanning the flames.

Democrats say they have no need to twist Paul's words - he does a fine job of that himself.

Political analysts say it's too early to tell exactly how Paul's statements and libertarian, limited-government philosophy will affect the outcome of November's general election. But one thing is certain: The more Paul talks about topics other than the economy and the national deficit, the more fodder he provides for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, his Democratic opponent in the fall.

Conway's camp wouldn't say Friday how it planned to use some of Paul's beliefs or stances in its campaign. However, campaign manager Jonathan Drobis sent a letter to supporters Friday afternoon saying, "You and I both know Rand Paul is out of touch with most Kentuckians. His worldview is so narrow and outside of the mainstream, he opposes even the most fundamental protections for citizens. As Jack said - it's up to us to stop him."

Political analysts say Conway will have to poke truck-sized holes in Paul's conservative armor to win in a state that voted overwhelmingly for John McCain in 2008 and where Obama remains unpopular.

"Rand Paul has to be the issue," said Danny Briscoe, a former Kentucky Democratic Party chair and a campaign consultant. "Conway has to show that these beliefs are emblematic of a group of ideas that could be dangerous to the people of Kentucky."

Time: Rand and Ron

His outsider success is hardly unique in Republican circles this campaign season, after all. In Arizona, former Congressman J.D. Hayworth is mounting a strong, Tea Party–backed challenge to his party's last presidential nominee, Senator John McCain. Tea Party power forced Florida's moderate governor, Charlie Crist, to flee a Senate primary fight with young conservative star Marco Rubio and try an independent bid. And less than two weeks before Paul knocked off his opponent, Kentucky's secretary of state Trey Grayson, activists at a Utah GOP convention dumped three-term Senator Bob Bennett, long a reliable conservative vote, for such sins as flirting with compromise on Obama's health care plan and supporting the 2008 Wall Street bailout.

Rand may be the talk of Washington at the moment, but his meek-mannered 74-year-old father Ron is in many ways the improbable godfather of the Tea Party movement. In a GOP lacking for compelling leaders, he may be the man with the most potential influence as the 2012 campaign approaches.

Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign, with its message of limited government and its anti-Establishment ethos, created a kind of do-it-yourself model for the current activism shaking up politics around the country. The Paul campaign even inspired the first modern-day tea party that anyone can remember: a December 2007 antitax protest re-enacting the original Boston Tea Party on its 234th anniversary. (On that same day, Paul's fervent supporters raised an astounding $6 million online, a single-day record.) The message then, as now, was a revolt against government taxes and spending and what his supporters called "tyranny." "Dr. Paul was pushing for fiscal responsibility and limited government long before the Tea Party moniker was slapped on it," says John O'Hara, author of the book A New American Tea Party.

WaPos' Eugene Robinson: Rand Paul's Libertarian La-La Land

Republican crisis managers wisely didn't allow Paul to stray within range of the Sunday talk shows, but they can't keep him hidden away in some Kentucky cave until November. Sooner or later, the Senate candidate is going to have to answer a direct question: Was he being untruthful on the occasions when he said the federal government has no authority to outlaw racial discrimination in private businesses such as restaurants? Or is he being untruthful now in claiming he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Actually, there are quite a few direct questions that Paul will be asked. Does he still believe it ought to be permissible to deny Americans access to housing because of the color of their skin, as he argued a few years ago? I have a personal stake in this one, since I live in a neighborhood where a legal covenant once kept African Americans out. Is this sort of thing cool with him?

I'd also like to know whether Paul really believes in a conspiracy among the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments to turn North America into a "borderless, mass continent" bisected by a 10-lane superhighway. Because that's what he said in 2008.


Now that he is running for the Senate as a card-carrying Republican, Paul is going to have to abandon, or pretend to abandon, many of his loopy beliefs. This won't be easy, as illustrated by the hemming and hawing he did before finally endorsing the Civil Rights Act. Even then, he suggested that the law was justified only by the prevailing situation in the South. As soon as Paul is allowed out of his cave, someone should ask him whether the landmark legislation properly applies to the rest of the country.

Sarah Palin accused reporters of practicing "gotcha" journalism in seeking to elicit Paul's views. As we know from the 2008 campaign, Palin's definition of a "gotcha" interview is one in which actual questions are asked. But think about it: Did anyone imagine that the Republican Party could field a candidate who makes Sarah Barracuda sound like the voice of reason?

Atlanta Journal Constitution: How Rand Paul's libertarian streak ran afoul of history

Some of you may remember the famous Jesse Helms ad of 1990 in his race against Democrat Harvey Gantt, a black man. It featured a pair of white hands angrily crumpling up a letter, while the announcer explained that the man had just been informed that he didn’t get a job because a less qualified minority did. (The ad was written and produced by Alex Castellanos, now a regular on CNN).

Until this week, when I ran across the political flyer to the right from the 1964 campaign, I didn’t fully appreciate the rich political heritage behind the Helms ad, or why it drew such a strong reaction. In ‘64, in the wake of the signing of the Civil Rights Act by President Johnson, Barry Goldwater and his advisers had decided that their best chance was to play to white Southern resentment by pitting white against black on economic terms. (To be fair, it was an age-old tactic that southern Democrats had been using at the state and local levels for decades to keep themselves in power.)

(Rand Paul picture at top right corner of this post via The Pink Flamingo)

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