Friday, May 21, 2010

The latest flap over racism - The Rand Paul saga

I thought I’d help Rand Paul out of the trap he’s walking into. He’s been involved in politics for a few years helping his father. But, Poppa Paul, for all his interesting ideas, his humility, his courage and his truly American patriotism, is the perennial deer in the headlights.  While the audience at the debates last year wildly applauded some of Poppa's statements, the other debaters and the media mocked him. He had no spirited comeback and no avenue to make it. His son may not be that good in handling the press either. But, the world has changed a little since then and the elder Dr. Paul’s ideas are now popular at the Tea Party level. I have sympathy with some of them, although others I think are impractical in the real world.

A few years ago I was able to help John McCain out of a similar jam, when he was being reviled by conservatives – his hoped for base – when he led the administrative fight from congress for immigration reform. While I don’t believe it was really amnesty, the legislation attempted to pragmatically get a handle on the immigration problem, and was an attempt at the classic definition of politics as the art of the possible. I was personally against the law (which was not passed) because I do believe we need to stop the border leak first, but then some pragmatic solution is required.

It didn’t work. It was blasted from the right with the one word – amnesty. Having no access to Senator McCain I used the vast power of this blog read by millions of individual cells (making up a few pair of eyes). I wrote a speech for and he seemed to adopt it. It worked. He obviously read my blog and he at least mollified some of his worst critics in his own party.

My more recent open letter to Tiger Woods, urging him to fight his relentless hypocritical critics, was ignored by him, and look what happened. He’s probably getting divorced anyway. And although that will let him enjoy the fruits of his fame with the ladies without the virulent attacks, he lost his family, which was probably important to him too.

Here's my speech for Rand Paul - telling him what he should say in response to this media flap:

“When you enter politics, you give up something – the right to be left alone. This is serious business. When you ask to represent others, you have to accept that you will be targeted by others who disagree with you. That’s one of the things that made America great – the open debate. I welcome that. And, I admit I made a mistake. Because for a minute I ceased to be myself, but became a candidate.

During the 2008 campaign others in my father’s own party mocked him onstage for stating truths and values which were long the standard in conservative and libertarian politics. But, I learned something from my him and his courage in speaking the truth, popular or not. It wasn’t about him and this isn’t about me. It’s about the country.

Last week, I made a mistake. I was asked about a position and instead of just answering it frankly, I hemmed and hawed, even danced around it because for a moment I let it be about me. I shied away from a straight answer because I was afraid of being accused of racism. And, to tell the truth, that is very quick to happen when you don’t go along with the politically correct media in this country. I understand that whatever I say now, that part of the media which opposes decentralization of power from Washington and basic freedom from government intervention will brand me a racist, no matter what I say. But, I am speaking not to the media now, but to Americans and particularly my fellow Kentuckians and those in my party who honored me by choosing me to be their candidate. I won't let concern for my own reputation or candidacy get in the way again. That's a solemn promise.

So, let me clarify some things. First, I am an admirer of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Frankly, some changes made then were a century and a half too late in my mind. Not just the leaders but the pious, courageous, greatly outnumbered men and women who marched in the face of hostility, violence, the snapping teeth or trained dogs, bullets and insidious intimidation, are heroes of mine. They are American heroes and enough can’t be said about them.

I am not in favor of repealing the Civil Rights Act or the Fair Housing Act. I would have voted for them. Anything you hear to the contrary is just a lie. I can’t call it everything else because that is what it is.

But, if you know anything about me and my family, you know that we are deeply interested in freedom. And if my campaign is about any one thing, it is about freedom. That was the dream of the founders, the meaning of the declaration of independence, and it is the message of the tea parties in this country – freedom.

Life is not simple. And sometimes even our beloved constitution can not solve a seemingly insolvable problem. The truth is - neither government or even a constitution can solve real problems. Only people can. Racism in America was one of those problems. Because for all the greatness of our founding fathers, they were neither perfect nor men of the future – they were men of their times and with all the flaws humans have. And, despite the belief of many founders in freedom for all men, there is no doubt this country did not start with an even playing field. The scourge of slavery, in the north and south, dominated politics right through the Civil War.

It didn’t end there. Laws in most states, maybe all of them, continued to be grossly unfair to minorities. They were bad laws. And despite the efforts of great men and women, in one form or another, these laws held on for 150 years.

And in the 1960s an effort, not for the first or last time, was made to rectify some of the truly horrific practices still going on in this great country. I’m proud to say, that although the leadership for those ideas came from the left and the North, Republican conservatives provided the majority of votes to pass these laws.

They were the right laws and should have been passed. But, I am not here to mollify the media or my opponents who will find racism in anything I say any way. There is another side of the coin and that is too often just thrown under the bus in the pursuit of public office. That happens because it is dangerous for a candidate to tell the truth. But, it is more dangerous for our country if the candidates do not do so. Besides, I gave you my word I will tell the truth.

This country was set up with a dual system of sovereignty. The federal government had some powers set out in the constitution and the states and the people retained all the other powers. The idea was that accept for certain things that only a central government can provide, people would locally control their own destiny and make their own laws. Federal laws were supposed to be few. The reach of the federal government was supposed to be short.

But, it has not stayed that way. The force towards centralization is a powerful one and has many supporters. And, it has won many battles. One of the ways that proponents of federal power won power was by taking a very expansive view of two clauses in the constitution, the commerce clause, which allowed congress to control interstate commerce, and the necessary and proper clause, which allowed congress to pass laws needed to enable them to effectively deal with problems that were within the scope of their powers in the constitution.

Over the years, through judicial decisions, the meaning of those two simple phrases in the constitution has grown to the degree that there is scarcely anything not within congress’s power and reach. A farmer cannot grow food on his own farm to feed his own family if the federal government wanta him to do something else with it. Under interpretations from the Supreme Court in the last century, interstate commerce came to mean vitually all commerce and somethings that weren't commerce at all. Necessary and proper was reduced to meaning if congress wants to, they can do it.

That too is not right. Because freedom from slavery, however important, is not the only freedom. And when congress takes rights from people or states, then they are less free than they have the right to be. 

So, let me be clear. I am against the expansion of the federal government’s power into your lives, your businesses, your bedrooms – even over the way you raise your own children. Because we are and always have been a free people.

In the 1960s the tension between the rights of the people in the southern states to rule themselves rightly or wrongly and the rights of minorities to share freely and fully in the blessing of our country came to a head. Blacks in many southern states didn’t even have the right to vote because the system was manipulated against them. And I am here to say that I believe that after 200 years of a one-sided story, something had to give. And despite my love of state sovereignty, my belief in a small federal government, my desire that people everywhere of all kinds be free to determine their own lives, the outrage against minority groups was so grossly unfair and had been of such longstanding, that it was right and proper for the federal government to step in and level the playing field.

While it seems almost inconceivable to us today that blacks, Indians, Hispanic and other people could be barred from public transportation and public accommodations, they could and that had to be resolved in favor of the freedom and fairness.

We have a much better country because that happened.

The other issue involved was more difficult. Because that included the right of people to decide what to do with their own property. And while there is still prejudice over skin color and ethnicity and it repels me, I do not believe that this repulsion necessarily gives me the right to tell other people – individuals, in their own homes and business what they must do. Or tell them that they must not be prejudiced or have hate in their hearts. I am not convinced that forcing people to give up their biases does not create even greater hatred. I do not believe our gains in this arena have come by force, but mainly by persuasion and good examples.

Yet, part of the changes in the civil rights laws allowed the federal government to tell people that their businesses must accommodate people they didn’t like. That is the only part of the civil rights laws being discussed that I have even questioned on purely legal grounds. And there must always be an open discussion of our rights when the federal government wants to impinge upon them.

Now, here’s the part of my speech my political opponents and some of the media are waiting for – hope for – and I will give it to them, because we must not be afraid to state the truth even when we think it may hurt our chances for elective office. And, I promised to tell the truth.

I do not believe that this portion of the civil rights law – which forbids private businesses to bar people they don’t like because of their color or ethnicity – was constitutional. It was not a power contemplated by the founders when they crafted congress’s powers including the commerce clause and the necessary and proper clause. In fact, all of them I believe – many of whom were slave owners – would have been shocked that the government could tell them what to do with their own property. This is what I was trying to say when this flap started. Probably, because I was hesitant, I didn't say it right. I believe I am rectifying that now.

Yet – and this part those who oppose individual freedom will scrupulously ignore – it was the right thing to do and long overdue. It was the right thing to do because race issues has been the single most destructive problem our country has faced over the course of two centuries – more threatening to us than any foreign power - and there was no other way to address the problem without including that private businesses that engage in interstate commerce must not discriminate in the running of their business.

We are humans, not deities. We cannot claim perfection. In our imperfect system, the Civil Rights Acts of 1965, also imperfect, and in fact unconstitutional, made things better by eradicating a great social injustice. And I say that again, even though I believe if you interpret the constitution as it was written, that law was unconstitutional. And even our most treasured law, the basis of all other law in this country needed to surrender to a principle that it itself had ignored.

And, I think it worked. But, we must understand, it worked because the people – we the people - believed it should work. Because we made it work.  If enough people were against that law, it could not have stood. That was the message of the revolution in 1776. As powerful as England was, it could not force a free people to obey unjust laws. Laws cannot be legitimate without popular support. And, you don’t get popular support when the people don’t have a say or you violate their basic freedoms.

We are not the precisely the same people we were in 1776 or 1860 or 1960 although they were are forebearers and our guides. We are still not perfect, but we are striving to be better. For whatever the level of prejudice in this country is now, it is a much better, fairer place than it was 45 years ago and some of that credit is due to the Civil Rights Act. But, that was a one time violation of the constitution I think we should live with. And it is only because from the beginning the playing field was not level, not remotely fair.

But, do not make the mistake of thinking that I am now in favor of unlimited government power. I am not. I voraciously oppose it. Do not make the mistake of thinking I am in favor of every law that might help minorities when it corrodes the rights of all free Americans, including minorities. I am manifestly against that. Do not think I am in favor of laws that favor minorities over the majority. I am certainly not. In fact, some laws that might seem to help minorities hurts them, in fact hurt all of us.

I believe we have the strength and wisdom to freely choose to make all our lives better, not by letting the federal government tell us what we have to do. Let us leave it to free people in free states to continue to do so. We no longer have the federal government’s nose in the tent. In some cases, they own the whole tent. It has expanded and grown and now crushes us economically under its boot.  If I am sent to the senate by the people of Kentucky, it will be to help them rectify it and put us back on the right course.

I am for individuals raising their own families as they see fit. I am for local government to determine local matters. I am for the federal government to live within its means and the scope of its powers and not to drain us of our money and our property to try and create a utopian government that is too big and must fail.

Many years ago, the most revered figure in American history along with George Washington wrote that the leading object of government is “to elevate the condition of men—to lift artificial weights from all shoulders—to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all—to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life.”

That was Abraham Lincoln. He was born and raised in Kentucky. I’ve chosen Kentucky as my home. But, the comparisons have to stop there. Because I can’t compare myself to him without drawing laughs and jeers, which would be deserved. But, I can listen to his words and aspire to follow his meaning in fighting for the greatest experiment in the history of the world – that of self government.

I am here to help the people of Kentucky take their government back – to clear the paths and lift off those artificial weights from their shoulders. I am against congress picking winners and losers. I am against the changing of our laws, especially our constitution, when it doesn’t suit congress’s whims or their patrons are in trouble. I am against the regulatory mindset that says congress knows better than we do how to run our lives and businesses. I am against the principles of victimization, the demonization of business and oppose those who tell us that they are here to help us when they are here to control us.

With me or without me, I solemnly believe we will take our government back because the American people are determined to do it. That is the promise I give to the people of Kentucky if they honor me by sending me to Washington. To help them fight for their freedom so they will never have to worry about the heavy boot of the government on their throats and they can pursue their dreams."

Obviously, I put my own thoughts and words into Mr. Paul’s mouth. I think he believes something like the way I do, but I'm sure there are differences, maybe big ones.  I doubt I am nearly as anti-regulatory as he likely is and I don’t really know if there is a political difference the width of a credit card between his father and he. I need to learn more about him and expect him to win. If it was me making the speech, I would be less dramatic too. But, I'm not a politician.

On the other hand, I meant what I wrote. I do believe the part of the Civil Rights Act which requires private citizens operating a business solely within a state and not involved in true interstate commerce to serve and contract with people they do not want there because of their color, however stupid and obnoxious that might be, was unconstitutional. I doubt Mr. Paul will ever explain it well unless he reads this post. Of course, the chances of that happening are about the same as when I wrote the speeches for McCain and Woods. None to far less than none. Their problem, not mine. I just write them.

However, I also believe that this law, in combination with the public accommodation/transportation laws, was among the best laws ever passed by the federal government. I’m glad they passed them and enforced them. We are now a much better country and I believe a much better people than we were. Our constitution is not perfect and I have long said here that I believe we have an unwritten constitution as well as a written one. But, I also believe, although probably not to the degree Mr. Paul does, that our federal government has run amok and it needs to be scaled back. Actually, I believe that of the state governments too.

I am also against demonization in politics. The worst part of the Obama campaign was the repeated refrain that those who opposed them were racist – even some people with a long pro-civil rights history. It is a fiction of the left that anyone who opposes laws designed to give minorities a benefit at the cost of freedom or parity are racist, just as it is a fiction of the right that anyone who wants some government regulation is against freedom. However, there is a balance and we are, with this administration and congress, tilting too far left right now.

Of course, I’m not running for office which means I can just say what I want without fear or repurcussions. Besides, running for office would interfere with my kayaking time and that’s my pursuit of happiness. And, in the long run, I believe it will all work out, all of the crazy economic troubles we are in for notwithstanding, and they don’t really need me to clean up the mess.


  1. Whoever would have thought that McCain and Paul would use the same speech writer!! Anmazing.

    You are spot on with this one as far as politics goes.
    However had I known how much overreaching the adoption of these federal statutes have fostered I would have voted against the acts.

    PS I wrote a comment to last week's blog and it didn't appear. Did you delete it??

  2. That's a fair point. But, should we not (as congressmen) vote for what we think is right and let the overreaching take care of itself. That is one of the biggest arguments against the Arizona law. Opponents can't find anything really wrong with it so they say it is vague (not) and will lead to overreaching, which is, of course, possible. With both laws, you try and do the right thing and worry about the next thing when it happens. Otherwise, nothing happens.

    Your comment last week never came to me. Send it again if you can remember - I can't even remember the topic.


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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .