Rand Paul to George Stephanopoulos this morning on GMA:
“When does my honeymoon period start? I had a big victory. … I’ve just been trashed up and down and they have been saying things that are untrue. And when they say I’m for repealing the Civil Rights Act, it’s absolutely false. It’s never been my position and something that I basically just think is politics.”
Of course, that is not what “they” are saying or have said:
I think people still aren’t focused enough on the core issue at the heart of the controversy over Rand Paul’s comments about the Civil Rights Act.Specifically: Paul, the darling of the Tea Partyers and one of the highest profile GOP Senate candidates in the country, cannot bring himself to say — clearly and unequivocally — that the Federal government should have the power to prohibit private businesses from discriminating on the basis of skin color, religion, or national origin.
Sure, Paul has now said he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act. And his spokesman has clarified under questioning that, yes, Paul believes the Federal government should have this power.But Paul himself can’t manage to say this. He visibly doesn’t want to say this. It’s remarkable.
In other words, Paul wants to focus the discussion solely on whether he supports repealing these old pieces of legislation — something it’s easy for him to deny. This allows him to cast the criticism as rooted in ancient history — as a political smear. He visibly bristles when being quizzed on the core principles at play here: Whether the Federal goverment should have the power to bar discrimination by private entities.
Because, by all appearances, he doesn’t think it should.
Here’s the thing, too: If Rand Paul does not want the media to “trash” him, he should stop talking trash:
Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the libertarian iconoclast said the castigation of BP’s response to the oil gusher on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico was an attack on business and part of the “blame game,” where tragedy is “always someone’s fault.”
“What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.’ I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business,” he said. “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 sometimes accidents happen.”
He couldn’t stop there, though. He also called the death of 29 miners in last month’s coal mine explosion disaster, a “tragic accident” (emphasis is in original):
… 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.
Over at unbossed.com, smintheus challenges this “accidents happen” view:
As a simple matter of fact, it always is someone’s fault when mining disasters occur. Mines are artificial. When they become deadly, it must be due to human agency. Nearly all deadly mining accidents in recent times are due ultimately to poor adherence to mining regulations, precisely because it costs money to uphold safety standards. No mining deaths are acceptable or excusable. Finding where fault lies in a mine disaster is exactly what the government should be doing, not looking the other way fatalistically.
Many commenters today have focused on Paul’s bizarre defense of BP, while nearly ignoring his even more shocking statement excusing the killing of coal miners. As environmentalists have warned for years, oil spills are a nearly inevitable part of offshore drilling (however badly BP screwed up in this case). It is not inevitable however that coal miners must die – at least not unless profits are put before safety. The notion that it’s a normal cost of business for a certain number of miners to die comes directly from the coal barons themselves. Even more than Paul has drunk deep from the oil companies’ wells, he has most shockingly imbibed the full ideology of the most ruthless coal corporations.
In his ABC comments Paul was trying to exculpate Massey Energy over the horrific disaster recently in one of its West Virginia mines, which took 29 lives. It was caused by methane gas buildup. Methane levels are strictly controlled for a reason. Had Massey wanted to spend the money, it could in fact have prevented any such buildup. The non-unionized Massey has long been notorious for its poor safety record. A single one of its mines in Pike County, Kentucky has been cited by MSHA for more than 3000 violations since 2005. This even though it appears from the immediate aftermath of the West Virginia disaster that inspections of Massey mines have been quite lax (MSHA suddenly began to find all manner of Massey violations that it had overlooked heretofore).
Rand Paul is simply indifferent or oblivious to the facts of the matter. Miners just gotta die because they do. That’s the privilege of the ideologue, to ignore the real world, actual history, and human suffering.
Here are a few more commentaries on the Rand Paul follies:
Dissenting Justice: “Rand Paul is working hard to convince the country that he is not ready for primetime (or daytime, for that matter).”
Bradford Plumer calls Dr. Paul’s excuse-making for BP “the ‘oops’ defense”:
But let’s focus in on Paul’s bit about “I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill.” We now know that the oil company has been wildly lowballing the amount of oil leaking from the well: BP originally claimed 5,000 barrels per day, but that hasn’t survived scrutiny, especially after video of the leaking pipe was made public. And why was the oil giant understating the amount? One possible motivation, as McClatchy reported, is that BP’s low-end estimate “could save the company millions of dollars in damages when the financial impact of the spill is resolved in court.”Note also that BP isn’t fully on the hook for the spill. Under current law, the company is obliged to pay direct cleanup costs, but its liability for indirect damages to wildlife or fisheries or beaches is limited to $75 million—and with the crude slick now lapping at the coastal wetlands of Louisiana and possibly spreading up through Florida, the total costs are surely going to be much higher than that. In essence, the government has socialized the risk BP and other drilling companies face. Surely that would bother a staunch libertarian like Paul, right? And yet Senate Republicans have been blocking attempts to raise the liability cap to $10 billion, and Paul hasn’t said a word on the subject. Odd, that.
n Kentucky, the flower of the Tea Party movement, Rand Paul, isn’t ready for prime time, and probably never will be. He thought it would be a good idea to appear on Rachel Maddow’s show (not ready) and express his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the extent it restricts the freedom of private businesses to discriminate on the basis of race (never will be ready).As a result, Paul is in very hot water, as well he should be. To be sure, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been perverted, post-passage, in some deplorable respects. But Paul apparently was disagreeing with core premises and provisions of the Act as passed, i.e., the view that a restaurant or a hotel cannot deny people service based on their race and that private employers cannot reject job applicants on that basis.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, including its public accommodations and employment provisions, is one of the greatest legislative achievements in American history. It was instrumental in extending to all Americans the promise of our founding, including the basic freedoms and liberties white Americans enjoy.
It isn’t shocking that Rand Paul wants to revisit the wisdom of infringing on the right of racists to deny basic services, and the opportunity to earn a decent living, to African-Americans based on their race. There is a type of libertarian who still wants to fight this battle. What’s shocking is that the Republican party, on the strength of the Tea party movement, has apparently nominated one of them to run for the United States Senate.
I’ve said just about all I want to say about libertarianism here. Short version: The only good ideas in libertarianism are those that are already part and parcel of liberalism. The rest is poppycock. But someone who suffers fools far better than I has written a useful takedown in case you think there’s any there there. The nub:
never, and I mean never, has there been capitalist enterprise that wasn’t ultimately underwritten by the state. This is true at an obvious level that even most libertarians would concede (though maybe not some of the Austrian economists whom Rand Paul adores): for the system to work, you need some kind of bare bones apparatus for enforcing contracts and protecting property. But it’s also true in a more profound, historical sense. To summarize very briefly a long and complicated process, we got capitalism in the first place through a long process of flirtation between governments on the one hand, and bankers and merchants on the other, culminating in the Industrial Revolution. What libertarians revere as an eternal, holy truth is in fact, in the grand scheme of human history, quite young. And if they’d just stop worshiping for a minute, they’d notice the parents hovering in the background.
Libertarians like Paul are walking around with the idea that the world could just snap back to a naturally-occurring benign order if the government stopped interfering. As Paul implied, good people wouldn’t shop at the racist stores, so there wouldn’t be any.
This is the belief system of people who have been the unwitting recipients of massive government backing for their entire lives. To borrow a phrase, they were born on third base, and think they hit a triple. We could fill a library with the details of the state underwriting enjoyed by American business — hell, we could fill a fair chunk of the Internet, if we weren’t using it all on Rand Paul already.
And finally, from the Department of Can’t Take the Heat, Christina Bellantoni at Talking Points Memo reports that Dr. Paul has cancelled a scheduled appearance on Meet the Press.