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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tempest in a Tea Party

So Rand Paul, you just won the Republican nomination for the Senate in Kentucky as a card-carrying member of the Tea Party. What are you going to do?

"I'm going to cram booth feet in my mouth and awkwardly remove them."

The ophthalmologist son of libertarian hero Ron Paul made quite a debut on the national stage, telling Rachel Maddow that while he was fine with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provisions related to public accommodations, he did have trouble with it applying to private entities.

Asked by Ms. Maddow if a private business had the right to refuse to serve black people, Mr. Paul replied, “Yes.”

“I’m not in favor of any discrimination of any form,” Mr. Paul continued. “I would never belong to any club that excluded anybody for race. We still do have private clubs in America that can discriminate based on race. But I think what’s important about this debate is not written into any specific ‘gotcha’ on this, but asking the question: what about freedom of speech? Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we limit racists from speaking?”

“I don’t want to be associated with those people,” he said, “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.”

Quite a difference from the folks with the tri-cornered hats who carry Obama is Hitler signs.But troubling nonetheless.

One reason is the shelter this libertarian reasoning provides to outright racists, who won't get past his support of closing lunch counters. The other is the total lack of mouth-brain coordination that one requires from elected officials.

Why in the world would you choose to open up a settled piece of 46-year-old legislation, one that was helped to life by another Kentucky Republican who helped break a Senate filibuster? On a TV yak show hosted by one of the visible and outspoken liberals in the nation?

Toss in Paul's support for a higher Social Security retirement age (not a bad idea by the way) and unravel the New Deal (almost 80 years of settled practice) and you have a candidate who spouts ideas unpleasant to both liberals and the tea partiers who think everything would be fine if government just took its hands off their Social Security and Medicare.

I believe Paul is not a racist. But I do believe he provided them with aid and comfort. And in 2010, the question is why any elected official would do so, wittingly or through careless exposition of a political philosophy.

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