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Rand Paul’s Rocky Start

In the same week you get your party’s nomination, you really don’t want to make headlines in major newspapers over a flap about whether you think the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a good idea. I don’t buy the excuse-mongering from some quarters about how he was “set up” or that Paul’s aversion to federal anti-discrimination laws is politically acceptable. A savvier politician would have made the point that the left has hijacked the original race-neutral language of the statute — as a mandate for quotas and racial preferences. That’s not only true but also a very popular position.

To their credit (and unlike the circle-the-wagons-around-the-liar Richard Blumenthal display by the Democrats), many Republican officeholders stepped forward to rebuke Paul. And so did a few conservative writers. Rich Lowry blogged: “It goes without saying that a senate campaign is not the best place to hold a seminar on Historic Issues in Libertarianism. Besides, even if I understand where he’s coming from, I think Paul was wrong (as were many conservatives, including NR, at the time).” Indeed.

When candidates and officeholders go astray, the natural instinct for partisans is to blame the media or whine that words are being distorted. This rarely helps the politician under fire, and it casts doubt on the sobriety and integrity of his defenders. Politicians seem to believe that they can convince ordinary people that other politicians really shouldn’t be judged on their words or deeds. But voters don’t believe most politicians, who, therefore, make poor character witnesses.

As for Paul, we’ll have to see if this is a sign of things to come. His opponent will claim that this incident is revealing of political extremism and a loose-canon quality. Paul will have to prove him wrong or the Kentucky Senate seat will be a Democratic pick-up. Here’s some free advice: don’t trot out his father, Ron Paul, to defend him — it will give voters the sense that Rand is as wacky as his dad.



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