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Hours after winning Kentucky's Republican Senate primary, Rand Paul met his first big-time controversy. Interviewers, including MSNBC's Rachael Maddow, grilled the libertarian opthamologist on his suggestion that he wouldn't have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act because the law forces private businesses to serve people of all races. Paul, while eschewing racism, made a case that business owners should be allowed to make their own mistakes. Is Paul's argument "crazy," or is he taking a principled stand for the Constitution?
He's "absolutely out of his mind": "I believe Paul when he says he’s not a racist," says Mark Kleiman in The Reality-Based Community. He is, in fact, a "completely consistent libertarian: consistent to, and past, the point of lunacy." We can only hope that his take on private discrimination stays "well outside the mainstream of public discourse."
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Paul makes a compelling case: It may be unpopular, but "I'd be with Paul" on the merits of his argument, says Doug Mataconis in Below the Beltway. The Constitution really doesn't give Congress the right to "regulate purely private behavior," as it does in Titles II and VII of the Civil Right Act, even if that means a business can discriminate based on race. Still, "the left will try to pin Paul as a racist, which is absurd."
He's a nut — but will the GOP back his lunacy? It is "painful to fathom" that a Republican candidate for Senate in 2010 would come out against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. "We all casually throw around words like 'crazy' and 'fringe' ... but once in a while, developments like Rand Paul's candidacy come along, and the need to reevaluate the blurred lines between Republican politics and sheer madness becomes apparent." GOP leaders need to be pressed on whether they agree with him.
Paul can't win now: What we learned from the "opening act" of the "Rand Paul circus," says Dan Riehl in Riehl World View, is that "Paul doesn't have the good political sense to stop fighting" a constitutional battle that was lost 50 years ago. And it may be unfair, but if he backs down now, he'll be "labeled a liar and a hypocrite." Welcome to big-time politics, Rand.
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