I've had to ratchet down my blogging considerably, so I missed the heights of the "Paulapalooza" regarding Rand Paul's statements a week and a half ago about his support for (or opposition to) desegregation of public accommodations. I write this short diary today because the media has been asking the wrong question about Rand Paul's position -- and thereby giving him the chance for "plausible deniability" regarding his position. This ambiguity should be eliminated.
Simply put: we don't need to know how Rand Paul says (unconvincingly) that he would have voted on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We need to know whether, right now, he supports Title II of that Act. Ask him the wrong question and you get an answer that doesn't quite say whether he currently favors repealing the government's barring discrimination by private actors in public accommodations.
Paul's final statement on this issue was that he supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Text at the link; useful Wikipedia summary here.) Specifically, he said that he "will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964." With due respect, that's not the precise question to be asked.
The Act had ten "titles"; one could reasonably decide to repeal only one title of the Civil Rights Act, which is not the same as "repealing the Civil Rights Act." Sen. Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act based solely on his opposition to Title II, which mandated desegregation in public accommodations. That's the same Title that Rand Paul raise. We need to know specifically whether Paul favors, or favors repealing, Title II.
Here: I'll make it easier for reporters:
Mr. Paul, you've said previously that you would have supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Would you have specifically, however, have favored a proposal to eliminate Title II from that Act? Would you favor a proposal to repeal specifically Title II of the Civil Rights Act in 2011?
Of course, we could simply address Rand Paul's assertion at face value. Republicans, in the wake of the Paul blow-up, blamed Democrats for opposing the Civil Rights Act, something that they do from time to time; here's an example from 2000. So there is another way to put this question. Along with Barry Goldwater, 21 out of the 22 Senators from the 11 states of the old Confederacy opposed the Civil Rights Act. The exception was the saintly Sen. Ralph Yarborough of Texas, who was attacked for that vote by his 1964 General Election opponent for the Senate seat, some guy named George H. W. Bush. Here is the list of the other 21 "Old Southern" Senators, all except John Tower of Texas being Democrats, who all opposed the Civil Rights Act.
John J. Sparkman
Joseph Lister Hill
J. William Fulbright
John Little McClellan
Herman E. Talmadge
Richard Brevard Russell
Allen Joseph Ellender
Russell B. Long
John C. Stennis
James O. Eastland
B. Everett Jordan
Olin D. Johnston
Albert A. Gore Sr.
Herbert S. Walters
Harry Flood Byrd
Absalom Willis Robertson
Some of those on this list (such as Senators Fulbright and Gore) reformed their ways over time; others (such as Senator Ervin) made contributions elsewhere. But Strom Thurmond switched parties less than three months after that vote and Willis Robertson was Pat Robertson's father. Does Rand Paul really ask us to believe that he would have stood with Sen. Ralph Yarborough against those on this list? If so, he's such a liar that even the "objective" media ought to be willing to call him on it.
In researching this diary, I came across a quote from almost-federal Judge and ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee Jeff Sessions that made my eyes roll:
"My view is that issue has been settled – the courts have ruled on it," Sessions said. "If you open a restaurant, a hotel to the public then you can’t discriminate on who you allow to come in and out, I think that’s settled. I think America is better off that the segregation views are over, and that played a role in it."
I hate to break it to Mr. Sessions, for fear of giving him ideas, but no it is not the case that "the issue has been settled." The courts did not rule in Heart of Atlanta Motel that people had a constitutional right not to be discriminated against in public accommodations. They ruled that Congress had a right to regulate whether private actors could discriminate in public accommodations -- in other words, they rules that the Civil Rights Act was a constitutional exercise of Congressional power. This is a statutory, not a Constitutional right; it therefore requires what Thomas Jefferson reminded us is "eternal vigilance," because what is granted by statute can be repealed by statute. So, unfortunately, it is not settled and Rand Paul could lead an effort to repeal Title II if he chose.
That, Senator Sessions, is one reason why Rand Paul is so dangerous. Frankly, if you don't understand the difference between a right embedded in the Constitution and one guaranteed by statute, you don't belong on the Judiciary Committee.