SHEESH, John, this would be considered an anemic money shot on the set of Geezers and Pleezers IV: Back Porch Swingin':
Democrats are pressing Paul so hard for several reasons. It's not just that they want to win his seat. They want to make every Republican defend Paul. Democrats need African-American turnout to be high this election. Getting into a debate about civil rights would help that. But they'll also try to keep Republicans responding to Paul's other non-establishment views—such as the need to abolish much of the federal government, including the Federal Reserve and Social Security Administration.
Parties always try to do this with extreme figures: They impute their views to the party as a whole. Long after she stopped being a politician and became a political celebrity, Democrats are still trying to make Republicans answer for Sarah Palin. They'll have an easier time with Paul because before today's moving away, Republican officials were rushing toward him.
"Parties always try to do this." I spent about five minutes trying to figure out why this wasn't your entire column, before I glanced up and saw "Slate."
Now, first, maybe I got this wrong, but my recollection is that Sarah Palin was the unanimous VP choice of the Republican National Convention less than two years ago, a move which may have been de rigueur, or pro forma, or abusus non tollit usum, but was noted at the time for its having energized the base; if her subsequent mid-term resignation and second career as an itinerant Mom Someone Else Would Like To Fuck and Dan Quayle impressionist is supposed to exempt her from political criticism or being held up as a paragon for the views she makes so much money off, kindly inform the party which is still running against Jimmy Carter thirty years after he became a house painter. Second, the fact that you, sir, or your Slate ilk, tend to take Republicatoonianism seriously, and would not have it sullied by the likes of Mrs. Malaprop of the Tundra, is beside the point.
But on to Dr. Paul: doesn't the concept of "Tarring with the same brush" require, or at least imply, that some of the people getting coated are innocent? Or at least somehow distinct? There may be some Republicans out there who aren't dyed-in-the-wool Teabaggers, but they sure take some effort to spot; the party's been in the thrall of high-volume Free Marketeers since 1980. Just because the party now admits it has a little PR problem with its fringiest religious nutjobs doesn't mean it's having an ongoing internal debate about Friedmanomics.
Maddow spent about 20 minutes last night quizzing Paul about his views on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and he and the Republican Party have spent the last 24 hours cleaning up the mess. Paul said he believed that the federal government should not tell private businesses whether they could discriminate. He hated racism as much as anyone, he said, but believes that businesses that discriminate should be forced to change through private action: speaking out, boycotts, and the like.
As a practical matter, that ignores history and the human behavior of the time. But as a political matter, this just isn't something a candidate says out loud—even if he believes it. At worst, it makes him seem to take racism lightly, and at best, it's distracting. Before lunch, Paul had put out a statement that he would not support the repeal of the law.
Hold up. The man's a 47-year-old afflicted with congenital libertarianism; this means, at the very least, that his treatment was his own responsibility. Enough, already, with the "he's not a savvy politician, or he would have kept his mouth shut" routine. He's a guy with The Answer. That's his point. Why then can't he just answer a simple question, and one which not only goes to the heart of his, you should pardon the expression, philosophy, but one which he couldn't possibly have avoided answering already if that philosophy is come by honestly? Why th' hell would ducking, or side-stepping, the question have been preferable to affirming that his core beliefs include the idea that laissez-faire property rights trump personal rights, even in the most egregious cases? In a perfect world this wouldn't even be a story; it would be old news.
Truth is, the guy got himself hauled up onto the national stage--hell, onto MSNBC--and suddenly The Answer runs into actual questions. And, in response, it tries to reshape the story, blames the liberal media for yelling Racist in a crowded time slot, and vows it's learned its lesson: never go on the Rachel Maddox Show again. That's not a shortcoming to be exploited; it's a long-overdue demonstration of basic principles.