Maddow vs. Paul | Bleader

Friday, May 21, 2010

Maddow vs. Paul

Posted By on 05.21.10 at 08:30 AM

I've just been watching Rachel Maddow grill Rand Paul, the new Republican Senate nominee in Kentucky, on the subject of civil rights versus property rights. Here's a link to the Wednesday night interview on Maddow's MSNBC show, embedded in a discussion of it by AOL's Steve Pendlebury that puts the exchange into a political context but otherwise doesn't do it justice.

For the first half of the conversation, Maddow has Paul on the run. He sounds otherworldly, a categorical opponent of discrimination who applauds the goals of the 1964 Civil Rights Act yet won't say he would have voted for it because it told private business owners what to do. Who owns the restaurants Washington wanted to desegregate, Paul wonders, the owners or Washington? If the same restaurant owner wants to serve rotten meat should he be allowed to, Maddow might have asked him, he being the one true owner? Does government "own" the restaurant by enforcing standards?

"Thoughtful" conservatives made it clear back in the day that no one abhorred Jim Crow more than they did. But their first loyalty was to the Constitution and they had no intention of abridging some rights to advance others. They defended the status quo as a matter of highest principle. So Maddow might have put the question to him bluntly: Grownups have to make hard choices—your choice is between an intrusive act and the results of that intrusion, or no act and no results. Which is it?

But Paul got his second wind. He had been going off on tangents but he began to hone his argument. He got the idea across, to viewers like me if not to Maddow, that the 1964 Civil Rights Act is almost half a century old and an absurd basis for a discussion of the rights of Americans in 2010. The clock is not about to roll back as soon as Washington eases up.

Paul sounded like someone with one big idea that he'd forgotten how to express, but then it came to him. He threw the Second Amendment at Maddow. Americans are now allowed to carry firearms, he said—should the owner of a restaurant have the right to say, "This is my place and I don't permit guns"? He clearly assumed Maddow's answer to that question—if she were willing to give it—would be "Of course." He wanted to tell her—or perhaps just us—that she couldn't have it both ways.

Wall Street Journal blogger Susan Davis had this to say about Paul's performance on Maddow's show: "Paul had contended the legislation was correct in ending racial discrimination, but turned the question into a philosophical one over whether or not the federal government should be able to intrude on how a private business conducts itself. That may work well in the classroom, but it's a tricky position to take as a political candidate on national television."

Maybe so, but Paul picked the right forum. Maddow is someone philosophical arguments aren't wasted on. She recognizes them, she understands them, and when she wants to she can engage in them. Not this time. "We can have a fight about the Second Amendment," she said, "but I think wanting to allow private businesses to discriminate along the basis of race because of property rights is an extreme view." She was doing a show and had a clock to watch, of course, but at the end of Paul's visit she's the one who sounded as if she wanted out.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
July 15
Bitchin Bajas Constellation
July 23

The Bleader Archive

Popular Stories