Rand Paul Probably Isn't Racist--Or Libertarian
After winning Kentucky's Republican primary, the last thing the Tea Party darling needed was a fight over Civil Rights.
For every voter offended by Paul's comments, there's another one who will be offended by the backlash. Liberals would serve themselves and the electorate better if they forced Paul to discuss and debate his economic policy positions—and if they came up with a more cohesive economic message of their own. While Maddow spent 20 minutes of air Wednesday night throwing another log on the national conversation on race, her cable news rival, Bill O'Reilly, was asking Paul about Iran, TARP and budget deficits. And that's actually where Paul looked shakier, taking decidedly anti-libertarian positions across the board.
He didn't have any problem infringing on a woman's right to choose on abortion. He left military force on the table as a possible response to an Iranian nuclear threat. He fudged on what he'd do to solve the banking crisis, coming in with a stale diagnosis of "zero-interest loans" as the culprit for the financial sector collapse.
In other words, he didn't say anything that you wouldn't hear from the Democrats or Republicans in Congress from whom he's ''taking government back.'' Contrast Paul with his father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), the Libertarian Party's 1988 presidential nominee, who only needs two minutes in any interview to scold the Fed, trash the Euro, and argue that Iran is arming itself in response to U.S. imperialism. The younger Paul's willingness to go down swinging with a self-immolating, ''pure'' libertarian stance on civil rights while hedging his bets on defense and fiscal policy is "Bush" league. It's a poor reflection on him and his beliefs.
This is the debate liberals, conservatives and those in the middle should want to have—not the civil rights sideshow. Are ''small government'' Republicans like Paul pitching small-''L'' libertarianism—cutting taxes and spending—or are they just repackaging mainline conservatism with tax cuts, corporate handouts, and bankrolling wars on credit? Apparently, we're going to have to wait a little longer to find out.
It's a let-down for the entire process. Paul's amateur hour means we didn't learn anything about how he and other self-styled Tea Party candidates would deal with the economy, shrink the national debt, or wind down the wars. Instead, we're arguing whether a guy we would've never heard of if his name was ''Paul Rand'' supports a 46-year-old law. Knowing Rand Paul's thoughts about The Civil Rights Act is useful, but not surprising. He doesn't sound like a racist. But he doesn't sound like much of a libertarian, either.
David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.