Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., walks to the Senate floor for a vote on the energy bill, at the Capitol in Washington, May 12, 2014.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

‘The honest discussion’

MSNBC’s Ari Melber hosted a great discussion yesterday with Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who recently teamed up to introduce a good bill on sentencing reforms. Their appearance on “The Cycle” was the first joint interview, and if you missed it, the whole segment is online.
 
But there was one portion of the interview that struck me as especially interesting. Ari noted that the issue of restoring civil rights here naturally leads to questions about Rand Paul’s stated concerns about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Republican senator rejected the notion that he’s “evolved” on anti-discrimination rules for private businesses.
“What I would say is that – to be fair to myself because I like to be fair to myself – is that I’ve always been in favor of the Civil Rights Act. So people need to get over themselves writing all this stuff that I’ve changed my mind on the Civil Rights Act. Have I ever had a philosophical discussion about all aspects of it?  Yeah and I learned my lesson. To come on msnbc and have a philosophical discussion, the liberals will come out of the woodwork and they will go crazy and say you’re against the Civil Rights Act and you’re some terrible racist. 
 
“And I take great objection to that because in Congress I think there is nobody else trying harder to get people back their voting rights, to get people back and make the criminal justice system fair. So I take great offence to people who want to portray me as something that I’m not.”
Ari, who knows the truth, followed up, noting that Paul raised objections to key provisions of the law. The senator wouldn’t budge, adding, “I never was opposed to Civil Rights Act and I’ve been attacked by half a dozen people on your network, trying to say that I’m opposed to the Civil Rights Act and somehow now I’ve changed. So I’m not really willing to engage with people who are misrepresenting, you know, my viewpoint on this.”
 
After the senator stressed the importance of having “an honest discussion,” Ari responded, “I think the honest discussion is, you said that some titles of [the Civil Rights Act], Title II and Title VII that relate to private businesses…”
 
Paul interrupted, “The honest discussion of it would be that I never was opposed to the Civil Rights Act. And when your network does 24 hours news telling the truth, then maybe we can get somewhere with the discussion.”
 
In the interest of an “honest discussion,” let’s set the record straight.
 
As best as I can tell, Rand Paul has not explicitly said, “I oppose the Civil Rights Act.” As a Senate candidate four years ago, however, he was asked more than once whether he would have supported the landmark legislation. Whether he’s embarrassed by his responses or not, the Kentucky Republican said repeatedly that he had objections to specific parts of the civil rights law.
 
If we’re going to have an “honest discussion,” it means acknowledging that Rand Paul raised objections, publicly and on the record, to parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That’s not opinion; it’s just what happened.
 
And as Rachel noted on the show last night, “rather than explaining that he’s evolved, that he’s changed his mind, he no longer has those objections to the Civil Rights Act, he’s now insisting that those 2010 interviews never happened – and he never admitted to having those views and he certainly never had those views.”
 
It’s bizarre. Rand Paul has an opportunity to explain the evolution in his thinking. He can even encourage others to do the same. But instead of dealing with his own record, the senator digs deeper, resisting reality, and lashing out at those who dare to point to the facts.
 
Rachel concluded last night, “Not only is this not presidential temperament, this is not senator temperament. This is not even playground temperament in most well-run elementary schools. Nobody expects you to be perfect, but nobody expects you to be a petulant person who lies and is constantly threatening imagined adversaries about it.”
 

Civil Rights and Rand Paul

'The honest discussion'