Rand Paul Opposed Anti-Racial Discrimination Measure in 2002

Rand Paul's campaign has made some efforts to walk back the candidate's statements in opposition to a key tenet of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- the provision prohibiting individual racial discrimination, not just state-sanctioned discrimination. But any effort at damage control was dramatically undermined minutes ago with the report from Dave Weigel that Paul had vocally opposed an anti-discrimination measure as recently as 2002.

In a May 30, 2002, letter to the Bowling Green Daily News, Paul's hometown newspaper, he criticized the paper for endorsing the Fair Housing Act, and explained that "a free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination, even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin." (Hat tip: Page One Kentucky.)

"The Daily News ignores," wrote Paul, "as does the Fair Housing Act, the distinction between private and public property. Should it be prohibited for public, taxpayer-financed institutions such as schools to reject someone based on an individual's beliefs or attributes? Most certainly. Should it be prohibited for private entities such as a church, bed and breakfast or retirement neighborhood that doesn't want noisy children? Absolutely not."

In language similar to the language he's used talking about the Civil Rights Act, Paul criticized racism while defending the right of businesses to discriminate.

"A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination," wrote Paul, "even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin. It is unenlightened and ill-informed to promote discrimination against individuals based on the color of their skin. It is likewise unwise to forget the distinction between public (taxpayer-financed) and private entities."

It's awfully hard to argue, as the Paul campaign has attempted to this afternoon, that the candidate does not support rolling back protections against racial discrimination when, on the same basis as his comments this week, he previously spoke out in favor of "abid[ing] unofficial, private discrimination."

This all reminds me of something I read in Ethan Bronner's outstanding book on the Bork nomination, Battle for Justice. The key turning point in the battle over Robert Bork, Bronner writes, came when white Southerners read of the nominee's backwards writings on the subject of race.

Southerners perceived the nomination as racially divisive and so a threat to their peace and prosperity. No matter what racial resentment many southern whites still harbored, they recoiled at the prospect of reviving the period of intense racial tension.

It's not clear to me that we are already at this point with regards to the Senate candidacy of Ron Paul in the border state of Kentucky -- but it's also not clear that we are all that far away, either. The prospect of relitigating Civil Rights legislation aimed at prohibiting the type of racial discrimination that kept African-Americans out of restaurants and other accommodations cannot sound appealing to Southern voters, even many Southern whites who have in recent years flocked to the GOP. I'm still not sure just how Paul gets out of this pickle.

On Rand Paul and the Civil Rights Act

desmoinesdem has already written a bit about the recently stated views of Kentucky's Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul -- questioning the validity of the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banning discrimination in public accommodations like restaurants. I just had a chance to watch through Paul's interview with Rachel Maddow, which have included below, and wanted to jot down a few thoughts.

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During the interview with Maddow, as well as an earlier interview with NPR's Robert Siegel, Paul made fairly clear that he did not believe it within the bounds of Congress's powers to address issues of private discrimination. In legal parlance, Paul does not believe that Congress's power under Article I, section 8, clause 3 of the Constitution to "regulate Commerce... among the several States" extends to the private actions of the citizens of these states. Instead of Congress addressing the issue of discrimination under this power, Paul apparently believes that it should be left up to private citizens to weed out discrimination. Here's an illustrative exchange from the NPR interview:

SIEGEL: But it's been one of the major developments in American history in the course of your life. I mean, do you think the '64 Civil Rights Act or the ADA for that matter were just overreaches and that business shouldn't be bothered by people with the basis in law to sue them for redress?

Dr. PAUL: Right. I think a lot of things could be handled locally. For example, I think that we should try to do everything we can to allow for people with disabilities and handicaps. You know, we do it in our office with wheelchair ramps and things like that. I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who's handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator. And I think when you get to the solutions like that, the more local the better, and the more common sense the decisions are, rather than having a federal government make those decisions.

The problem with this view is apparent to just about anyone who lives in a world of reality rather than ideology. It is fine enough to believe that, in theory, individuals' contractual and property rights should not be trampled on by the state, and that, what's more, the market will solve all problems. But the fact is the market did not solve the problem of institutional racism. It took state action, not only in directing state actors but also in directing the practices of private individuals like the ones who owned restaurants. The same can be said about the Americans with Disabilities Act, which like the Civil Rights Act restricted individual action to ensure access for those who otherwise might be denied access. The good acts of individual property owners to accommodate their workers in the ways described by Paul in his NPR interview are important -- but they were not enough. Only when the state stepped in were the rights of the disabled to access restaurants and other accommodations ensured.

This isn't to say that Paul is racist or biased against the disabled. He's not. He holds a principled stance against federal action to regulate private action in these areas. But this stance, when the manifested as the law of the land prior to enactment of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, enabled institutional racism to occur. That's a fact. And that's a problem for Paul because it's hard to imagine many Americans, or Kentuckians specifically, want to go back to a period in which segregated lunch counters, whether on the basis of race or disability, are condoned under the law.

[UPDATE by Jonathan]: Four more questions for Rand Paul considering his apparently limited views of Congress's Commerce Clause powers:

  1. Do you believe the federal minimum wage is constitutional?
  2. Do you believe federal overtime laws are constitutional?
  3. Do you believe the federal government has the power to enact work safety laws and regulations?
  4. Do you believe that federal child labor laws are constitutional?

A "no" answer to any of these questions would presumably be problematic for the Paul campaign considering folks seem to like the minimum wage, laws that stop employers from, say, making their workers use machines that cut off their hands, and laws that prohibit 7 year olds from laboring in coal mines.

UPDATE from desmoinesdem: Paul's campaign issued a statement today on the controversy. He says he supports the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and will not seek to repeal it. "As I have said in previous statements, sections of the Civil Rights Act were debated on Constitutional grounds when the legislation was passed. Those issues have been settled by federal courts in the intervening years."

Live Blog With Senate Candidate Jack Conway

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Col. Andrew Horne joined MyDD for a liveblog session on this thread Friday afternoon. Conway is a candidate for U.S. Senate in the Democratic Primary. As you can see from his April interview with MyDD, he is without a doubt the most ethical and progressive candidate in the race, and a new Rasmussen poll show he's also the most electable, running 5 and 9 points behind the Repubs while Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo loses by 14 and 16. Col. Horne, a retired Marine who served in the Persian Gulf and the Iraq War, was endorsed by Wes Clark and Paul Hackett in a Congressional primary in 2006 and briefly ran against Repub Senator Mitch McConnell in 2008. He has served on the board of VoteVets and once delivered the Democrats' weekly radio address.

Below the fold, two of Conway's latest ads, and in the comments, the Q&A.

There's more...

Federal Criminal Probe of WV Mine Disaster, in Wake of Another Mine Tragedy in KY

Earlier this week, it was saddening and unfortunate to hear of two deaths in a Kentucky coal mine operation.  Two men were found dead in the Dotki Mine, in Hopkins Co, Kentucky. The mine is associated with Alliance Resources and is, yet again, a non-union operating mine.  Tragedy struck when the roof of a portion of the mine collapsed. 

The mine was reported to have had a large fire that caused a lot of damage back in 2004.  

Some may not recall that the Dotiki Mine was the scene of a major fire on Feb. 11, 2004. The blaze caused no injuries, but it took several days to extinguish the fire and several weeks to restore the mine. The effort also demanded considerable resources from MSHA.

source:  MSHA Staffer Kathy Snyder

The rise in mining related deaths in the recent month has prompted President Obama and his administration to take a deeper look at the MSHA organization and increasing mine safety in the U.S.

The Bush Administration did a poor job in improving MSHA and mine safety throughout the country.  Elain Chao, coincidentally Sen. Mitch McConnell's wife, was Secretary of Labor under Bush.

Once Elaine Chao, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell's wife, became Secretary of Labor, which oversees the MSHA, she, according to Jack Spadaro, an MSHA engineer investigating the spill, put on the brakes. Two years later, Massey was assessed a slap-on-the-wrist $5,600 fine. The same year, Massey's PAC donated $100,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which was chaired by McConnell. And Massey's CEO Don Blankenship has personally donated millions to the campaigns of judges and politicians.

Courtesy of Arianna Huffington

Conflict of interest much?  I Shall let you draw your own conclusions.

Here is President Obama's statement after the Kentucky mine tragedy

I am deeply saddened by the loss of two miners in Kentucky, and my thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones they left behind. As I said after the tragedy in West Virginia, I refuse to accept any number of miner deaths as simply the cost of mining. It is the responsibility of all of us, from mine operators to the federal government, to prevent such tragedies from happening again. That is why my administration is taking steps to demand accountability for safety violations and strengthen mine safety so that all of our miners are protected.

Thanks to the Charleston Gazette, and everyone at Coal Tattoo, for the ongoing news and coverage of anything mine related in Appalachia.

Another source of information from Coal Tattoo is in regard to Massey Energy.  A federal criminal probe is currently underway after the Upper Big Branch mine disaster earlier in April that killed 29 miners in Raleigh County West Virginia.  

A federal law enforcement official says the FBI has interviewed nearly two dozen current and former employees of Massey Energy in a criminal probe of the West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 men.The official says in the interviews over recent days the FBI has been looking for any evidence that the company engaged in criminal negligence.

Several other sources, besides this report from AP, are also commenting on the investigation including Reuters and NPR.  NPR aired news that there is an investigation going on involving bribery of federal MSHA officials, but according to sources at Coal Tattoo this is wrong/has not been confirmed. 

More updates to come I'm sure.

Opposition to Civil Rights and Support for Big Banks in KY-SEN

The Senate primaries in Kentucky grow stranger and stranger by the day. In the Repub primary, Dr. Rand “Ron’s Son” Paul has said that he opposes all civil rights legislation, and in the Democratic primary, you have to wonder if Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo would have been only the second Democrat to oppose Wall Street reform in yesterday’s cloture vote.

In an editorial refusing to endorse either candidate in the Repub primary, the Louisville Courier Journal wrote of Paul and secretary of state Trey Grayson (emphasis my own):

[Grayson] is positioning himself to be a loyal foot soldier in Mr. McConnell's destructive, dishonest effort to undermine virtually every initiative from the Obama administration. The trouble with Dr. Paul is that despite his independent thinking, much of what he stands for is repulsive to people in the mainstream. For instance, he holds an unacceptable view of civil rights, saying that while the federal government can enforce integration of government jobs and facilities, private business people should be able to decide whether they want to serve black people, or gays, or any other minority group. He quickly emphasizes that he personally would not agree with any form of discrimination, but he just doesn't think it should be legislated…

Mr. Grayson seems to have been blindsided by [Paul’s insurgent success]. He seems physically and mentally dazed, and uncomfortable in his own skin as he responds by rolling out extreme right-wing positions. His rapid movement to the far right leaves many wondering what he really stands for.

One of the two Democratic candidates isn’t much better. Yesterday, Nebraska’s Ben Nelson was the only Democrat to oppose Wall Street reform, but if Mongiardo were a sitting Senator he might have been the second. At a recent forum, Mongiardo said that “too-big-to-fail” isn’t a problem: “These banks and these insurance companies didn't fail because they got too big; they failed because they deregulated. Regulations had been in place for decades and generations.” His Democratic opponent, however, state Attorney General Jack Conway, has shown a sharper understanding of the problem: “Some of those companies got too big and it's because they had these silly derivatives that they hid from the public.” To be fair, the scandal-plagued Mongiardo has called on fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell to stop blocking regulatory reform, but he was awful silent while McConnell was lying up a storm about the bill’s substance, and has virtually echoed the Repub leader’s language on health care reform.

Thankfully, polls show that this race can be a bright spot for Democrats in an otherwise dark year – but it won’t be worth it if we nominate Mongiardo. He might be a little better than the two Repubs, but who cares when the guy’s already to the right of Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln? If he’s this conservative now, how much worse will he get outside of a Democratic primary?

Conway has picked up a lot of momentum lately, including support from the Kentucky Professional Firefighters Association, Steelworkers Local 14581, Teamsters Local Union No. 651, Daily Kos, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and the Northern Kentucky Enquirer. He’s closed the gap in the polls against Mongiardo, and can win the primary on May 18 – but only if the Netroots put him over the top. Please, help a progressive brother out and donate to the Conway campaign.

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