It looks like Rand Paul may have stepped into the first controversy of his campaign:
Paul has suggested in the past — and been attacked for suggesting — that the federal government has no place regulating private business decisions, even on issues like race and accomodations for the disabled, and was pressed on the question — three times — on NPR just now:
“What I’ve always said is, I’m opposed to institutional racism, and I would have — if I was alive at the time, I think — had the courage to march with Martin Luther King to overturn institutional racism, ad I see no place in our soc for institutional racism,” he said in response to a first question about the act.
“You woul have marched with Martin Luther King but voted with Barry Goldwater?” asked an interviewer.
“I think it’s confusing in a lot of cases in what’s actually in the Civil Rights Case (sic),” Paul replied. “A lot of things that were actually in the bill I’m actually in favor of I’m in favor of — everything with regards to ending institutional racism. So I think there’s a lot to be desired in the Civil Rights — and indeed the truth is, I haven’t read all through it, because it was passed 40 years ago and hadn’t been a real pressing issue on the campaign on whether I’m going to vote for the Civil Rights Act.”
Asked for a third time about that and the Americans with Disabilities Act, he explained his objections to the latter.
Here’s the audio:
“I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m all in favor of that,” he said. “I don’t like the idea of teling private business owners….”
Paul’s position is essentially identical to the one that Barry Goldwater took when he voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act due solely to his belief that two of it’s sections — Title II and Title VII — because he did not believe that the Constitution authorized Congress to regulate purely private behavior, a vote he explained in this Firing Line interview:
In the case Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States and Katzenbach v. McClung, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Title II based on what can only be described as a tortured reading of Commece Clause, but, it’s the law of the land and this entire discussion is, quite honestly, pointless because of that.
If you really had to push me to take sides in this debate, though, I’d be with Paul and Goldwater. As offensive as it is, I do not see any provision in the Constitution that gives Congress the authority to determine who an private individual can and cannot do business with even if that decision is based on someones race or religion, and the Court decisions in Heart of Atlanta and Katzenbach are burdened by the same intellectual flaws that underlie every Supreme Court decision under the Commerce Clause since Wickard v. Filburn. That said, there was much in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that was necessary, and should have been passed, just not with the unconstitutional additions that Paul was talking about.
I doubt that this story is over. The left will try to pin Paul as a racist, which is absurd, and the press will ask him the question again. Here’s hoping he’s ready for it this time.