Just one day after winning the Republican nomination for Kentucky’s open Senate seat, Rand Paul appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show to argue that the federal government blurred the lines between public and private ownership when it passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Asked by host Rachel Maddow whether Paul believes that a private business has a right to deny service to people of color, the aspiring Senator stressed that he was “not in favor of any discrimination of any form” before defending freedom of speech. “I don’t want to be associated with those people,” said Paul, referring to racists, “but I also don’t want to limit their speech in any way.”
Whether or not restaurants deny service to anyone is up to them, said Paul. “If you decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into a restaurant even though the owner of the restaurant says ‘well no, we don’t want to have guns in here’ the bar says ‘we don’t want to have guns in here because people might drink and start fighting and shoot each other.’ Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant?” asked Paul “Or does the government own his restaurant?”
Some commentators on the left are now criticizing Paul for supposedly defending segregation. The Huffington Post was quick to jump on the story while at The Washington Post, Ezra Klein argued that while not a racist perhaps, Paul is an ideological extremists because he is “so categorically opposed to public regulation of private enterprise he cannot even bring himself to say that the Woolworth lunch counter should’ve been desegregated.”
In Klein’s world, that is an outrage evidently. But the libertarian will praise Paul for his consistency. He doesn’t shrink from defending the freedoms of speech and enterprise even if they allow racism and segregation. No reasonable entrepreneur will deny people service because of their race, but if they want to, that ought to be their right. No government should be empowered to dictate whom restaurant holders may and may not serve.
Nonetheless, Paul felt compelled to issue a statement to make it clear that he was no racist. “I believe we should work to end all racism in American society and staunchly defend the inherent rights of every person,” he wrote. “I have clearly stated in prior interviews that I abhor racial discrimination and would have worked to end segregation.”
As much as it might have been predictable, it is sad that some media should spin Paul’s words to try to portray him as a bigot. Remember the words of Barry Goldwater, Mr Klein: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!”