Rachel Maddow, the talk show hostess, said in May of 2010, “For years I’ve felt that the relationship between Ron Paul supporters and establishment conservatives is one of the most interesting, relatively unexplored dynamics in modern U.S. politics.” (www.gothamist.com/2010/05, “Now Rand Paul Regrets Talking to Rachel Maddow”)
I couldn’t agree with Ms. Maddow more. While covering the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2008 I became aware that Ron Paul’s “Rally for America” was taking place simultaneously in the other twin city’s Target Center.
Fulfilling a promise made to my weblog guru, Phil (a Libertarian enthusiast), I trotted over there and had one of the more surreal experiences of my political reporting life when Tucker Carlson, Ron Paul, Jesse Ventura and Barry Goldwater, Jr. (a dead ringer for his deceased father) took the stage together while Germans around me explained the Libertarian philosophy in great detail.
The energy in the room was palpable. Some of those wandering the halls (who had paid $17 a head to attend) were wearing delegate tags to the “real” GOP convention across town, the one that nominated McCain and Palin. But I remember thinking that if the Republican party could somehow absorb and harness the energy of the much younger and more energetic Libertarians into their midst, the old, stodgy, largely white GOP group might be able to revitalize itself.
I also remember thinking that it was too bad for the Libertarians that Ron Paul, their presidential nominee and standard-bearer, was so old. He had minions of loyal followers, but the man often called “Dr. No” in Congress because he so often cast the lone “no” vote of 434 to 1 in Congress looked over-the-hill and about as virile as Ralph Nader. (The same could have been said, that election year, of the eventual Republican nominee for president, John McCain.) Too bad they can’t clone Dr. Paul, I remember thinking.
As it turns out, they could and did, in the person of his 47-year-old son, Rand Paul, also a doctor (an ophthalmologist), a Republican from Kentucky rather than Texas. Endorsed by Sarah Palin, Paul had no trouble beating the Cheney-endorsed candidate, former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, in the primary. The younger Paul then echoed his liberal counterpart Dr. Howard Dean, adopting phrases like those from Dean’s “Sleepless Summer” in Iowa, “They fear us. We have come to take our government back.”
Rand Paul appeared on NPR on “All Things Considered”, followed by a return appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show, and things fell apart. the center could not hold. Maybe some of it can be attributed to his handlers. One campaign spokesman was Chris Hightower, a part-time death-metal singer whose MySpace page included the remark “LOL!” in response to some “Afro-Americans” who gave him “snarls” for wearing a hoodie adorned with KKK imagery. A friend posted on Hightower’s MySpace page on Martin Luther King Day, “Happy N**** Day!!!”, accompanied by a picture of a lynched corpse. Not an auspicious beginning for Rand’s campaign.
Incidents like this confirmed the fears of mainstream America that the Tea Party, whose standard bearer Rand Paul was becoming, was racist. It didn’t help any when Paul appeared on NPR and/or The Rachel Maddow Show and seemed to object to Title II and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. [To be fair, Rand Paul also opposes the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, wants to eliminate the Department of Education,and would support scrapping agricultural subsidies, bailouts and other corporate welfare. He wants to raise the eligibility age for Social Security, if, indeed, we even have to have it at all. He would like to repeal the recently passed Obama Health Care bill and establish high-deductible insurance plans that would force medical providers to compete on price. Quote, “It sounds funny, but you need to be paying more for your health care,” he says in an August, 2010 Details magazine story entitled “Inside the Fall and Rise of Rand Paul,” by Jonathan Miles.
Were Paul elected, he would favor gutting departments like Commerce and Energy and disbanding the Federal Reserve. He’d like to get rid of regulatory bodies like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Quote: “A government that works under the enumerated powers of the Constitution is a government that balances its budget every year, whose primary function is national defense and the judiciary and the legislative branches, and regulating interstate commerce only so much to keep open borders between the states.” (Details, Aug. 2010, “Inside the Rise and Fall of Rand Paul” by Jonathan Miles)
Months before, in a candidate interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, Rand Paul had expanded on a critique of the 1964 Civil Rights act. (The paper was so disgusted with both candidates that it refused to endorse either one, saying of Paul, “Much of what he stands for is repulsive to people in the mainstream.”)
Paul would argue that the provision that forced private businesses, like Woolworth’s in Nashville during the Civil Rights movement, to desegregate and serve blacks, was an encroachment of a private businessman’s right to serve—or not serve—anyone he chose. Walter Block of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a Libertarian think tank for which Ron Paul serves as a distinguished counselor, defended Rand Paul’s remarks on Rachel Maddow this way: “I thought he was heroic and dead-center on the Libertarian position. What he was talking about is upholding the freedom of association. It means that no one should be forced to interact with anyone against their will. If I have a grocery store, I should have the right to keep blacks out, Jews out, anyone I want out. I only want to admit left-handed redheads into my grocery store, that’s my right. Now, I think that’s kind of silly, but it’s a philosophical point.”
And it’s a flashpoint in terms of the backlash Rand Paul has experienced nationwide. (With only 7% African-Americans in Kentucky, it might not make much difference come election day in the Blue Grass state.)
Michael Steele, the African-American Chairman of the GOP, said Paul’s ideas were “misplaced in these times” and that his ideology had “gotten in the way of reality.” Steele, although much maligned for his comments about the war in Iraq, as an African-American would naturally find the comments above reprehensible.
Rand Paul, when appearing for the second time on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” somehow shot himself in the foot with his tongue when he engaged in a discussion of public and private property as delineated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title II. As Maddow herself said later, “For the record, the interview did not go at all as I had expected. I had other stuff to ask Rand Paul last night, but we ended up stuck on that issue for 20 minutes. I wasn’t able to get a definitive answer from him on it.” (www.mediate.com, 5/21/2010 by Frances Martel, “Rachel Maddow/Rand Paul Civil Rights Act Revoked?”)
Although some of the positions that Rand Paul shares with his better-known father would be popular with a majority of Americans, such as closing down most of the 750+ military installations maintained around the globe and pulling out of places like Iraq permanently, his version of a revised federal code, as Jonathan Miles said in his article “might yield fewer rules than the game of Yahtzee.”
I remember Ron Paul railing on about the gold standard in this country and being one of the few GOP candidates onstage during the televised presidential debates who (sometimes) seemed to make perfect sense, when he talked about staying out of unnecessary wars. But, for every step forward, Ron Paul the elder would take a giant step backward by espousing legalizing hemp or any of a number of other causes that the mainstream portrayed as crackpot causes.
However, both Ron and Rand would agree with this statement by the younger Paul: “There’s a day of reckoning coming, and it’s close. Nobody can predict things like this exactly, but there’s a sense in our country, and a sense in the Tea Party Movement, that this day of reckoning is nearer than it’s ever been.” [Shades of a fear-mongering Apocalyptic doomsday soothsayer.]
So, how did Rand Paul eventually extricate himself from the sticky wicket that Rachel Maddow wielded on her show of May 19, 2010? Here is his response — or non-response — .to Ms. Maddow regarding his true feelings about Title II and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. First, he tried to duck the question, saying it had been “settled when I was 2.” Then he seemed to whine about the question this way: “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.” (Jonathan Miles in Details, Aug. 2010.)
Then, on the advice of Karl Rove and others, the curtain descended on Rand Paul’s national celebrity just as quickly as it had ascended. He is still running, and he still has the backing of Sarah Palin, who warned him about “gotcha” press moments, but you don’t hear much about Rand Paul these days.
Most Libertarians view his appearances on both the NPR radio show and on Rachel Maddow’s show as unfortunate campaign decisions. One of those is Lee Edwards, a Libertarian devotee, who said, “As a result of National Review’s above-the-fray philosophizing and Barry Goldwater’s vote, on constitutional grounds, against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the albatross of racism was hung around the neck of American conservatives and remained there for decades and even to the present.” The question that could be asked of Edwards, “And your point would be?” From attending Tea Party rallies where Obama was compared to Hitler (and pictured as such, complete with mustache), I have to wonder if the charge doesn’t have merit.
In Iowa recently, a set of billboards was put up. then taken down, that compared Obama, our sitting president, to Hitler. Outside the Iowa City, Iowa Fieldhouse, on the campus of the University of Iowa, where Obama announced the Health Care Reform Bill, Tea Partiers seemed to be reveling in shouting radical remarks through a bullhorn, as documented in the pictures I took that day. So, as the old saying goes, if the shoe fits, wear it.
Of that fateful May, 2010 interview, Rand Paul himself said later, “It was a poor political decision, and probably won’t be happening again any time in the near future.” (gothamist.com/2010/05, “Now Rand Paul Regrets Talking to Rachel Maddow.”)
(SOURCES: Details magazine, Aug., 2010, “Inside the Fall and Rise of Rand Paul,” by Jonathan Miles; Salon, www.salon.com/news, May 19, 2010 Rachel Maddow interview with Rand Paul; maddowblog.msnbc.ms.com/May 20, 2010, “Rand Paul on Maddow: Fallout Begins”; www.huffingtonpost.com, 5/20/2010, “Rand Paul on Maddow Defends Criticism of Civil Rights Act, Says He Would Have Worked to Change Bill”; www.mediate.com, 5/21/2010, “Rachel Maddow/Rand Paul: Civil Rights Act Revoked?” by Frances Martel; voices.washingtonpost.com/rights/now, “Rand Paul Telling the Truth”; gothamist.com/2010/05, “Now Rand Paul Regrest Talking to Rachel Maddow”; www.seminal.Firedoglake.com/diary/49590, NAACP statement by Benjamin Jealous.)