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I'm not sure if someone else has diaried this yet (I didn't see a diary on the list), but tonight on The Rachel Maddow Show, newly minted Kentucky Rebublican senatorial candidate Rand Paul refused to say whether or not he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He repeatedly said he was not a racist and said he abhorred institutional racism (I wonder if this is a dog whistle to the Tea Party about affirmative action) but he said he could only support 9 of the 10 Titles of the Civil Rights Act, saying he could not support the Title referring to private institutions. Presumably he was talking about Title VII which "prohibits discrimination by covered employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin".

Rachel repeatedly pressed Paul on the issue, in fact the entire interview was about this issue, but Paul refused to budge. He said he would have tried to change that Title if he had to vote on the Civil Rights Act. Rachel correctly pointed out that without government enforcing non-discrimination at private businesses, businesses could refuse to serve people based on their race or sexual orientation or on any other basis the business decided. Paul was unmoved and called the issue a red herring, while saying he was personally against discrimination and institutional racism. Rachel pointed to the concrete example of Walgreens refusing to serve blacks at lunch counters back in the 60s, yet Paul stuck to his guns.

Paul repeatedly tried to bring the discussion to a theoretical discussion, asking if restaurants were private or public and then he weirdly said that he didn't want to step on the First Amendment, saying that he abhors (of course) racism but people should have the right to say racist things. Does Rand Paul believe that the First Amendment gaurantees private businesses the 'right' to refuse to serve customers on the basis of their race, or sexual orientation or on any other bias of the owner? I don't know the answer to that question but it sure seemed that he was suggesting that. I'll post the video as soon as I can find it, but I really don't think we have any business losing to a person with Rand Paul's beliefs, even in a conservative state like Kentucky.

UPDATE 1: As Drewid reminded me in the comments, Paul suggested to Rachel that the discussion could be turned on its head by saying that Rachel's line of thinking made it possible for the federal government to mandate that private businesses could not refuse entry to gun carrying people. Because of course, refusing to serve someone because they have a weapon and there might be a public safety issue, is the same as refusing to serve someone because they are black, gay or for some other bias of the owner

UPDATE 2: Thank you everyone for recommending this diary - its my first time on the rec list!

UPDATE 3: Thanks to weatherdude in the comments for pointing me to the video. Here's Paul melting down as he tries to explain his very strange position.

UPDATE 4: On reflection, I think he was referring to Title II of the Civil Rights Act that deals with public accommodations (I'm not a legal expert so feel free to correct me). Also, some commenters have said that he didn't really meltdown. And I agree with this in the sense that he didn't breakdown on camera and he stuck to his position, but if his goal is to get elected, tonight's interview (hopefully) will go a long way to stop him. He argued for the freedom of a business to put up a 'No blacks served' sign!

UPDATE 5: (May 20) I guess his campaign has enough sense to realize that his view on defending the 'rights' of private businesses to discriminate wasn't an electoral winner. Here's Paul's spokesman (via Greg Sargent), Jesse Benton, today:

"Civil Rights legislation that has been affirmed by our courts gives the Federal government the right to ensure that private businesses don't discriminate based on race. Dr. Paul supports those powers."

Earlier today Thinkprogress sought Jim DeMint's comment on Paul's positions and DeMint refused to comment on Paul's comments, saying only that he was 'going to talk to Rand about his positions'. DeMint stated that he supported the Civil Rights Act. When you're too far out there for Jim DeMint...

UPDATE 6: (May 20)As science geek pointed out in the diary, it seems Rachel misspoke and meant to refer to the sit-in at the Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, NC of 1960 rather than the Nashville sit-in of 1960.

Originally posted to Inside the Paradox on Wed May 19, 2010 at 06:44 PM PDT.

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