No one could have guessed last Sunday that the big political topic of the week would be the winner of the Kentucky Republican Senate Primary. However, one badly botched Rachel Maddow Interview, flippant comment about BP and Patriotism, really unneeded endorsement from John Stossel, and cancellation on Meet The Press later, Rand Paul is all over the news.
Pop Quiz: Who are the only other two people to ever cancel on MTP in its 62 years on the air?
Answer: Saudi Prince Al-Faisel and Louis Farrakhan. Now there’s some company you want to be keeping.
Who is Rand Paul? Over the last few weeks he has referred to himself as a Libertarian and part of the Tea Party movement, and been referred to by some others as a racist and an idiot. He has also proudly stated that he holds “the same belief system” as his father, Congressman Ron Paul, but “expresses it differently.” Since this is a blog, and not a book, I will attempt to ‘take the measure of the man’ using some specific instances and family history. No doubt some will accuse me of taking things out of context. So be it. Feel free to do your own research if you are open-minded to those points you may disagree with. I will do my best to provide context, or at the very least sourcing, where possible.
Since Rand says they share the same belief system, let us take a look at Rand’s dad, Congressman Ron Paul (R – 14th District, Lake Jackson, TX). Unlike Rand, a relative newcomer to the public spotlight, Ron has a long record that gives us insight into that belief system. Ron first served in the House in the late 70s and early 80s (his own house.gov page does not give exact dates), returned to his medical practice as an OB-GYN for most of the 80s and 90s, and then returned to Congress in 1997. He has portrayed himself as the gold standard for libertarianism and strict constitutional construction-ism, proudly boasting that he only votes “Yea” on legislation that is specifically enumerated as falling under congressional mandate in the constitution.
However a close look at the period between his congressional stints reveals a man whom, while out of the political spotlight, freely expressed some horrid beliefs and a very large mean streak. The following are all from newsletters published by Ron Paul during his period away from Congress*:
- On the Rodney King riots: “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.”
- On black males: “As children, they are trained to hate whites, to believe that white oppression is responsible for all black ills, to ‘fight the power,’ to steal and loot as much money from the white enemy as possible.”
- On carjacking: “[the] hip-hop thing to do among the urban youth who play unsuspecting whites like pianos.”
- On race relations: “in my little town of Lake Jackson, Texas, I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming.”
- On a reporter for a gay magazine: “[he] certainly had an axe to grind, and that’s not easy with a limp wrist.”
- On ‘out’ homosexuals: “I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities.”
- On San Franciscans and AIDS: “they enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick.”
All of these newsletters had Ron ‘s name in the masthead, yet he has claimed not to have written any of it and that he had no idea who did. These were published with his money and under his name in the first person without bylines over a thirteen-plus year period, making his attempts to disavow them disingenuous at best. His one attempt to defend himself to CNN was to claim that it was philosophically impossible that he wrote them, because “Libertarians are incapable of being a [sic] racist, because racism is a collectivist idea.”*
Again, these are the ideas expressed by his father, but consider Rand’s own statements about sharing his father’s beliefs and Ron teaching his family how to use a gun because “the animals are coming” when you consider the idea that Rand just might be racist.
Which brings us to the Rachel Maddow interview. The media and the blogosphere have both, for the most part, painted this interview as an epic example of “gotcha” journalism in which Maddow tried to get Rand to admit he held racist views and he desperately tried to hide such views. Who “won” depends on what you read, with by far the most inaccurate reporting coming from The New York Times and those who used it as a source. The Times, in transcribing the interview, turned what was obviously an exasperated “Yeah” confirming that he had heard the question for the umpteenth time into the word “Yes.” This makes it appear that he answered “Yes” to the question of allowing restaurants to refuse service to blacks, when in reality he just ducked the question again. To The Rachel Maddow Show’s credit, it was they who first took The Times to task for this incorrect interpretation the next day – leading to a “funny if it weren’t so tragic” 24 hour cycle in which the right wing blogs SLAMMED the show for putting out what it called a”false transcript” and then turned around and LAUDED the show for pointing out that The Times got it wrong.
This ‘gotcha on the racist thing’ analysis is completely wrong. If you really pay attention to the back and forth, Maddow tried to get Paul to admit that he is a Libertarian, not a racist. The difference is important. There are bigots on the left and the right, and if Maddow truly believed Rand was one of them she would have asked the question much more directly** If you watch her show with any regularity you would know that. However, if she could get him to admit that he believes who sits at the lunch counter is up to the owner of the lunch counter, a libertarian viewpoint based on property ownership rights and not race, she would have shown one of the fundamental flaws of Libertarianism; it opens the door to massive discrimination and segregation regardless of the beliefs of its proponents.
A Libertarian is defined as “One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state. One who believes in free will.”*** Sounds great, doesn’t it? Who could argue with that? It is very easy to see how many of the hippies of the 60s, 70s and even 80s have been Libertarians since the 90s. However, like many great ideas it does not translate well into practice. Any time you substitute strict adherence to ideology for personal morality you cross the line from altruism to zealotry, and Libertarian zealotry is just as dangerous as most zealotry, and more so than some. A quick visit to the Libertarian Party website^ reveals a mostly reasonable platform. It is once you start digging through the “Issues” links and see how they would achieve their goals that one has reason to be concerned. I may someday decide to write about why I think the end result of a truly Libertarian society would resemble Lord Of The Flies, but that is for another time. The question here is not about the “right” or “wrong” of Libertarianism, but rather if Rand Paul is the Libertarian he claims to be.
In his primary victory speech Rand used the words “Tea Party” or “Tea Party movement” in describing his own beliefs 12 times. Rand says he is a Libertarian, then Rand says he is a Tea Partier, then Rand says he is both. Is one a subset of the other? Do their belief systems intersect more than they diverge?
No, and therein lies the problem. Basic tenets of both movements make them mutually exclusive. I have no doubt that there are those who believe themselves to be both, but they most likely also believe that Obama is a Kenyan sleeper agent and robots programmed by Dick Cheney attacked us on 9/11.
Returning to the end of the Maddow interview I mentioned earlier – except this time let us look at the deflection:
MADDOW: And should [the] Woolworth lunch counter … have been allowed to stay segregated? Sir, just yes or no.
PAUL: What I think would happen — what I’m saying is … is that I don’t believe in any discrimination. I don’t believe in [sic] any private property should discriminate either. And I wouldn’t attend, wouldn’t support, wouldn’t go to. But what you have to answer when you answer this point of view, which is an abstract, obscure conversation from 1964 that you want to bring up. But if you want to answer, you have to say then that you decide the rules for all restaurants and then you decide that you want to allow them to carry weapons into restaurants.^^
So, from a Libertarian viewpoint the decision whether to allow people to come onto property armed should belong to the property owner. However, from the Tea Party viewpoint the right to bear arms cannot be regulated. In other words, the decision whether or not to come onto property armed should belong to the individual entering the property.
In poll after poll those who strongly identify themselves as ‘part of the Tea Party movement” are overwhelmingly a) for overturning Roe V Wade, while the Libertarian Party actually supports a woman’s right to choose – her body being her property and b) support the Patriot Act, which Libertarians see as a huge intrusion into property rights.
All of which leads us back to the subject at hand: Who is Rand Paul; a Racist, a Libertarian, a Tea Partier, or just an idiot? Let’s take a look at Rand Paul’s official website“ and see what we can conclude. The main page of this website has the following statement on abortion:
“I am 100% pro life. I believe abortion is taking the life of an innocent human being. I believe life begins at conception and it is the duty of our government to protect this life.”
So much for Libertarian.
However, if you click through to Issues:Privacy & Liberty you get this:
‘Whether it’s passing the 315 page Patriot Act without a single member of Congress ever reading the bill, proposing a National ID Card, establishing FISA courts and utilizing warrantless searches, or betraying the medical privacy of ordinary citizens, the Federal Government has overstepped its limited powers as stipulated in the Constitution.’
So much for Tea Partier.
Is it a bad thing that he does not appear married to an ideology to the extent that his father is? No, of course not. The problem is that he claims two contradictory ideologies and either does not see or is incapable of articulating the contradictions. That is what was at the heart of the Maddow interview. The interview did not reveal him as a racist (I for one see no evidence that that he is), or a Libertarian (since the opening for him to argue for libertarianism was a race question, he ducked it, showing no courage for his convictions), or a Tea Partier (Maddow focused on getting him to acknowledge that Libertarianism opens the door to racial discrimination to the exclusion of all else).
But wait! The man still has a chance to redeem himself. The BP/TransOcean/Halliburton oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is perfect fodder for a discussion of government vs. corporate rights and responsibilities. The drilling spot is leased to BP by the government, but BP owns or leases all the items used to get at the oil. Okay Rand – you go on Good Morning America and wow us with your analysis as to what the proper rights and rolls are here:
“No, the thing is … is that drilling right now and the problem we’re having now is in international waters and I think there needs to be regulation of that and always has been regulation. What I don’t like from the President’s administration is this sort of, you know, “I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.” I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault. Instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen. I mean, we had a mining accident that was very tragic and I’ve met a lot of these miners and their families. They’re very brave people to do a dangerous job. But then we come in and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen.”
Ouch. That would be great except that the accident happened in U.S. waters, which is what gave the government the right to lease the spot in the first place, BP has been clear that it will meet it’s liability which is capped by law at $75,000,000 and far from the entire costs or even close to them, AND there is a criminal investigation open into the mining ‘accident’ as evidence mounts of a phenomenal history of safety violations, including 52 in the month leading up to the explosion.
* First 4 bullets and ‘collectivist’ quote: http://www.cnn.com/2008
Last 3 bullets: http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/angry-white-man
** If you are a leftist and just thought to yourself “there is no such thing as a leftist bigot” I suggest you do some serious soul searching. Now.
*** libertarian. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved May 22, 2010, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/libertarian
^^ http://www.theliberaloc.com/2010/05/20/ Normally I do not use other blogs as sources, but this is the only place I was able to find the actual transcript.