The Unasked GOP Debate Question: Will Someone, Anyone, Please Drop Out of This Race?

Contempt

“So many questions in the aftermath of an ongoing exercise in excruciating national embarrassment. But the most important one remains unanswered today. With 14 candidates left in the field and the actual primaries just a couple months away, is anyone going to make like Scott Walker and go back to screwing up his or her regular day job?”

Read the full post on the Contemptor website.

 

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Hey You! Get Off of My Head (October 26, 2010)

Woman’s Head Stepped on by Rand Paul Supporters
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_kentucky_senate_scuffle

My friends, even in this most wacky of mid-term election campaign cycles, that is just not a headline one encounters everyday. As I woke up this morning, booted up the computer and perused my Yahoo home page, this story naturally caught my attention.

Rand Paul, as we all know by now, is the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky. The political newbie and practicing ophthalmologist won his party’s nomination in May of this year, riding a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment and sudden Tea Party relevance. Paul’s father, Republican congressmen and Presidential also ran, Ron Paul, endorsed his son’s candidacy early on, a bid to replace beleaguered Republican Kentucky senator Jim Bunning. That blessing and the backing of the suddenly powerful Tea Party machine, has been enough to propel Rand to a reported 15-point lead over Democratic opponent Jack Conway.

But it hasn’t all been a smooth ride for populist poster boy Rand Paul. On May 19th the candidate famously ran afoul of enlightened people when he stated that had he been a senator during 1960s, he would have raised some questions on the constitutionality of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits private businesses who provide public accommodations from discriminating on the basis of race, religion, or national origin against their customers. Paul argued that this title infringes upon constitutional freedoms. The would be senator got his first lesson in public backpedaling when the inevitable firestorm ensued.

And now this. The article above reports that “Lauren Valle of liberal group MoveOn.org, told Louisville station WDRB she was trying to give Paul a fake award when his supporters took her to the ground.

Television footage shows Valle’s blonde wig being pulled off before she’s pinned to ground. A man then puts his foot down on her head. Valle said the incident left her with ‘a bit of a headache.'”

Once I got done unclutching my abdomen after a full few minutes mirth, I became a little concerned about the members of the Rand Paul security team. During a campaign season of unparalleled hubris, have these folks gotten themselves confused with the Secret Service? What right did they have to get between a non-violent citizen and the candidate she peacefully opposes? This is downright undemocratic, although as we witnessed in last week’s firing of NPR commentator Juan Williams, the room for honest, diplomatic discourse grows ever smaller on both side of the aisle.

If you watch this video of the melee, it’s actually a little disturbing. The head stomper in question knew this maneuver was unnecessary. The slight Valle was already restrained on the ground. This is not Iran people.

Why Are We Debating the Civil Rights Act in 2010? (July 27, 2010)

Ronald Reagan

I have a close friend, whom I will call David for the purposes of this post, who presents me with an intellectual challenge. David is a well-informed 26 year-old African American man, and an unrepentant capitalist, Libertarian and disciple of Tea Party guru Ayn Rand.

Though David is a Libertarian in the philosophy’s purest form, i.e. a believer in equality and opportunity for all who supports gay marriage, and applauds female momentum in the workplace, he also finds himself in agreement with the likes of Rand Paul, a Tea Party candidate for the Kentucky Senate, who once mentioned that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 represented the continual overreach of the Federal government. Now I am a very opinionated person, as you may have noticed, but I am not fond of surrounding myself with homogenous head nodders. My quest, as it always has been, is to learn and discuss. Obviously, my friendship with David is fertile ground for this mission.

Over lunch one day, I asked, incredulously, how on Earth a black man could stand in opposition to the Civil Rights Act?! His response, as logically explained as it was subversive, took on a decidedly Bill Cosby slant. His complaint was that an attempt to equalize opportunity for the African American community has instead enfeebled it, viewing as David does, that the Civil Rights Act is the parent of the current welfare system. Now one can take issue with that position, as I certainly did, but one of the things I like most about David is not only his fearless individualism, but the well researched way in which he defends his beliefs.

At one point in our tete a tete, I flatly asked David the following question: “If Tea Partiers are Libertarians, lovers of personal freedom and deregulation, shouldn’t they be foursquare behind the gay community, as it continues its fight to participate in legal marriage?” David, who is quick to dissociate himself from the Tea Party Express, claiming with certainty that its members “don’t understand their own ideology,” agreed and pronounced furthermore, much as the NAACP did several weeks back, that the populist group should also disown the patently racist elements within its own ranks.

Much later, as I mulled over the content of this calmly spoken, but contentious personal debate, I found myself returning again and again to Shirley Sherrod. By now, most of us are aware of the tragic hatchet job performed on the tireless senior member of the USDA. Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart embarked, two weeks ago, on a disingenuous exercise in “gotcha journalism,” an attempt to defend the Tea Party from accusations of racism that instead only underscored the malevolent underbelly of the movement. This suspect and utterly partisan “news source” was able to single handedly humiliate an innocent woman, along with the entire White House and our national media apparatus, as though the latter isn’t already doing that well enough on its own. I will never forget, much to my chagrin, that I first heard the “story” of Sherrod’s supposedly racist remarks at an NAACP event, from Anderson Cooper.

My quest here is not to vilify pop culture’s lazy detection skills. Plenty of pundits, bloggers and journalists are already handling that. Instead my question, as relates to my conversation with David, is to wonder if we would have ever completely grasped the depths of injustice meted out to Shirley Sherrod WITHOUT the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s? As author Joan Walsh writes in her essay, “The Civil Rights Heroism of Charles Sherrod:”

“People who care about civil rights and racial reconciliation may eventually thank Andrew Breitbart for bringing Shirley Sherrod the global attention she deserves. Really. Her message of racial healing, her insight that the forces of wealth and injustice have always pit ‘the haves and the have-nots’ against each other, whatever their race, is exactly what’s missing in today’s Beltway debates about race.”

Point taken, Ms. Walsh. It is quite ironic that Breitbart set his smear in motion, using one of the few everyday American citizens who can point to a formidable historical record in her defense. And without the Civil Rights Act of 1964, would Mrs. Sherrod have ever held her position at the USDA in the first place, let alone be able to fearlessly defend it?

I haven’t posed these questions to David yet, but I will. I am not wholesale opposed to Libertarian values, and in fact, there is much to be admired in a vision of unlimited personal freedom. But I think that the economic collapse of 2008, the following automaker bailout, and the current BP Gulf disaster have gone a long way toward demonstrating that unchecked liberty, at least on he corporate level, is less than ideal. I don’t think it’s a great leap in logic to extend this view to the human condition. It is only because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that an African American man and a Caucasian woman can openly debate Tea Party politics at a sidewalk cafe.

Rand Paul and Charles Blow Make Strange Partners in Voting Rights Advocacy (June 23, 2014)

Rand Paul and Charles Blow Make Strange Partners in Voting Rights Advocacy

Two men from opposing sides of the political spectrum, with different experiences of America, utilizing two divergent forums, arrive at the same conclusion: disenfranchising voters is harmful to our struggling democracy.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul appeared on last Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press for an interview with moderator David Gregory. Paul gave several statements that would appear to be at odds with Republican Party talking points, including a stubborn refusal to fault President Obama for the administration’s current cautious approach to reengaging Iraq. But we already knew that Paul is a true libertarian on this issue. He values a nation’s right to live and determine its own system of government above his party’s interest in warfare and faux domination. I am not alone in wondering if this approach renders him unelectable in a national Republican primary.

But in the same interview, Paul drew attention to another fundamental plank in his platform – ending the war on drugs. This is another issue on which the Senator takes a truly libertarian perspective. Even so, I bolted upright on my couch when he said the following:

“[The war on drugs is] the biggest voting rights issue of our day. We’ve gotten distracted by a lot of other things. We think there may be a million people who are being prevented from voting from having a previous felony conviction…It prevents you from employment, so if we’re the party of family values and keeping families together, and the party that believes in redemption and second chances, we should be for letting people have the right to vote back, and I think the face of the Republican party needs to be not about suppressing the vote, but about enhancing the vote.”

I am not in the habit of rewarding politicians for uttering statements of obvious common sense, but given the toxic state of reason and discourse in the Republican party, it’s difficult not to view this as a little brave. After all, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor just got tossed for being viewed by his constituents as too liberal.

On the same day, The New York Times ran columnist Charles M. Blow’s piece, “The Frustration Doctrine.” Blow, a dyed in the wool liberal who writes from the perspective of an African-American man come of age in the deep South, has been critical of the broken prison system as well as voter disenfranchisement. This past weekend, while evaluating the nation’s general distrust in government institutions, he observed:

“As many Americans, particularly those in the middle, throw up their hands in disgust and walk away in dismay, hyperpartisans — particularly conservatives — exert more influence…moderates are the least likely to be politically active. The ambivalent middle appears to be the cradle of apathy. And while the consistently liberal are more likely to do things like volunteer for a candidate or a campaign, consistent conservatives are much more likely than liberals to vote.”

While Paul and Blow approached the issue of the vote from two different angles (Paul indicting a penal system that disproportionately disenfranchises minority men – who incidentally tend to vote Democrat, Blow trying to incite civic spirit in the malaised middle), the message is the same. Renewed access to and enthusiasm for the ballot is the only way to repair our fractured democracy.

It’s hard to remember a time when getting out the vote was not a polarizing issue, but so it was. Merely eight years ago, then-President George W. Bush celebrated the extension of the Voting Rights Act. The compassionate conservative and former Governor of Texas would likely find himself primaried over such an inclusive approach to the polls in 2014.

I’ll go back to impugning his other dangerous policies in short order, but for now, I thank Senator Rand Paul for challenging his party to live up to its long stated core values. Freedom for all – not just the moneyed white man. At the same time, it’s equally critical that those of us on the left and in the middle chant the same mantra: Don’t like where the country is headed? Get off the couch and vote – even if they make you wait in line. No hyperbole here. It’s the only way.

Arrest of Rand Paul’s Son Continues Family Legacy of Woman Hating (January 15, 2013)

william-paul

The Associated Press is reporting today that 19-year-old William Paul, the son of Republican senator Rand Paul from Kentucky and grandson of ever-present presidential candidate Ron Paul, was charged with misdemeanor assault. William Paul was taking a flight that deplaned in Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. While details of the arrest remain vague as the story develops, what is known is that young Mr. Paul is suspected of assaulting a female flight attendant “by aggressive physical force.”

We are aware of the historically poor choices made by young adults from time to time and it is critical not to rush to a determined judgment until all facts are brought to light. As I read the AP’s brief piece, I found myself weary and resigned. While William Paul has never run for public office, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, does it?

Remember in October 2010 when MoveOn.org volunteer Lauren Valle had her head stomped at a Rand Paul Rally? Who can forget the repugnant images of the small woman falling under the burly feet of Paul’s testosterone-enraged security detail.  A close Paul aide labeled the incident “incredibly unfortunate” at the time., Can we feign surprise at the disrespectful and dangerous treatment of female protesters from a team that believes it has a right to comprehensively control the female body? Rand Paul is opposed to abortion without exception, even in cases of rape or incest. He supports a Human Life Amendment and a Life at Conception Act, which confer more privileges and protection on a cluster of cells than a living, independently breathing female adult. Need it be said that he also favors the overturn of Roe v. Wade, allowing states to decide the issue of abortion unburdened from federal involvement?

And here is Rand Paul’s enlightened stance on the tolerance ofsexual harassment in the office: “There are people now who hesitate to tell a joke to a woman in the workplace, any kind of joke, because it could be interpreted incorrectly.”

In 2012, Rand Paul had this to say about the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill designed to equate the pay of workers irrespective of gender: “Three hundred million people get to vote everyday on what you should be paid or what the price of goods are…In the Soviet Union, the Politburo decided the price of bread, and they either had no bread or too much bread. So setting prices or wages by the government is always a bad idea.”

Given his father’s illustrious track record as a patriarchal patronizer of female equality, William Paul’s brush with the law is hardly shocking. The entitled son of the political elite is further accused of “underage drinking, disorderly conduct and being intoxicated and disruptive.”

Rand Paul must be very proud. His son has done a magnificent job of ingesting and reflecting his father’s ideology. If Paul is concerned about the effect of William’s imbroglio on his popularity and re-election chances, clearly, he has no one to blame but himself.