Sending Rand Paul to speak at Howard University was a disaster waiting to happen. First Paul tried (again) to deny that he ever opposed the Civil Rights Act.
Mother Jones reports:
“I’ve never been against the Civil Rights Act, ever,” Paul told a questioner, following what was the first speech by a Republican legislator at the historically black university in decades. “This was on tape,” the questioner responded.
Oops, in fact it’s caught on tape a few times, beginning with his comments during an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal in May, 2010.
In fact, here’s the video. (courtesy of Think Progress):
Transcript (courtesy of Mother Jones)
PAUL: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m all in favor of that.
PAUL: You had to ask me the “but.” I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners—I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant—but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I absolutely think there should be no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding, and that’s most of what I think the Civil Rights Act was about in my mind.
INTERVIEWER: But under your philosophy, it would be okay for Dr. King not to be served at the counter at Woolworths?
PAUL: I would not go to that Woolworths, and I would stand up in my community and say that it is abhorrent, um, but, the hard part—and this is the hard part about believing in freedom—is, if you believe in the First Amendment, for example—you have to, for example, most good defenders of the First Amendment will believe in abhorrent groups standing up and saying awful things and uh, we’re here at the bastion of newspaperdom, I’m sure you believe in the First Amendment so you understand that people can say bad things. It’s the same way with other behaviors. In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people, who have abhorrent behavior, but if we’re civilized people, we publicly criticize that, and don’t belong to those groups, or don’t associate with those people.
This alone discredits Paul’s claim that he “never” opposed the Civil Rights Act. Even the classic GOP “walkback” that he misspoke or chose his words badly during one isolated interview won’t work since Paul repeated essentially the same views during an interview with Rachel Maddow, also in May 2010.
“ I’m not in favor of any discrimination of any form. 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, 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. I think the problem with this debate is by getting muddled down into it, the implication is somehow that I would approve of any racism or discrimination, and I don’t in any form or fashion.”
He also expressed the same views on the Civil Rights Act during third interview during that time period, this time with NPR
Paul’s version of “outreach” went from bad to worse when he told Julian Lewis, a former White House intern under President Obama, that questioning the GOP’s vote suppression laws in 2012 was demeaning to the Civil Rights Movement.
Here’s the exchange, according to The Raw Story:
Lewis: “The Republican Party has been using their state legislators and their governments to prevent African-Americans from voting, because they didn’t want to re-elect President Obama. So I’m asking you, how can we believe what you’re saying in regards to voting rights when we honestly feel, based on our intellectual ability to gauge whether you can connect with us or not, how can you say that, sir?”
Paul: “I think if you liken using a drivers’ license to literacy tests, you demean the horror of what happened in the ’40s and ’50s, maybe probably from 1910 all the way through the 1960s in the South, It was horrific. Nobody is in favor of that. No Republican is in favor of that. But showing your drivers’ license to have an honest election, I think, is not unreasonable. And I think that’s the main thing Republicans have been for.”
Really? So when Doug Priesse said: “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” that was in the name of having an “honest election.”
How about the fact that suppressing the black vote was part of the Florida GOP’s “victory strategy”
If anyone is in a position to compare the GOP’s tactics of today with the days before the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights act, it would be Rep. John Lewis.
“Today it is unbelievable that there are Republican officials still trying to stop some people from voting,” Lewis said. “They are changing the rules, cutting polling hours and imposing requirements intended to suppress the vote. The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania House even bragged that his state’s new voter ID law is ‘gonna allow Gov. Romney to win the state.’ “That’s not right, that’s not fair and that is not just.
Here is video of Lewis’s remarks in their entirety (courtesy of Talking Points Memo):
Today’s GOP effort to suppress the vote is well known, by virtue of admissions by some Republican politicians, court rulings that struck down many such laws and studies proving the results of those laws that survived.
We also know that people on the right, view laws that protect the civil rights of people most likely to face discrimination as favoritism (vs. the favoritism that comes with the white privilege that continues to rule).
In particular, we know a certain Supreme Court Justice believes that the Voting Rights Act is about “racial entitlement” in an allegedly post-racial America. The only people who demean the civil rights movement are the Republicans who have the unmitigated gall to pass laws that they know will suppress votes by racial minorities while claiming it’s about keeping elections honest.
There’s nothing honest about passing laws to suppress votes by minorities and using voter intimidation to intimidate them. Moreover, that demeans the Civil Rights movement, along with the people who fought and died for their vote. It demeans the people who waited in line for several hours because Republicans passed laws to reduce voting hours and days, knowing full well, it would create longer lines and with that discourage people from voting. It wasn’t by coincidence that the people who waited the longest were racial minorities.
It also demeans the rest of us who are disgusted by the racism that is so obviously inherent in the Republican Party. We see it in the racial slurs Republican politicians continue to use. We see it in the right wing media that continues to perpetuate the myth that President Obama won re-election because he’s black. We saw it in some of the GOP’s candidates during the 2012 primaries. We also see it in droves with the persistent effort to deny that Barack Obama is an American citizen by the “birthers” . In the midst of all this, denying the GOP’s racism is at the very least cognitive dissonance.
It’s meaningless to suggest that Republicans like Rand Paul should be ashamed of themselves, because they know no shame. That has been evident in their rhetoric, their policies and their denials. All Rand Paul achieved during his remarks at Howard University was to confirm what we already knew.
Ms. Woodbury has a graduate degree in political science, with a minor in law. She is a qualified expert on political theory with a specific interest in the nexus between political theories and models and human rights.
Based on her interest in human rights and the threats that authoritarian regimes are to them, Ms. Woodbury’s masters thesis examined the influence of politics on the enforcement of international criminal law was cited in several academic studies.
Published work includes case summaries for the War Crimes Research Office.
She has an extensive background doing legal research in international and domestic law.
Ms. Woodbury’s work for politicusUSA includes articles on voting rights, the right to asylum and other civil/human rights.