Washington Report: Updates From the Capitol

Rand Paul backtracks on race comments; Small business bill advances

GOP Candidate Skewered for Civil Rights Comments

Rand Paul

Fresh off his victory in Kentucky’s GOP Senate primary in which he defeated a mainstream Republican,  Rand Paul, who is also a member of the Tea Party, set off a hailstorm of fury over comments he made suggesting that he might not have supported government forcing private businesses to comply with the Civil Rights Act in the ’60s.

The controversy began during an interview Wednesday night on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Showand by the next morning, Paul was backtracking. Skeptics were left wondering, however, whether the Tea Party does indeed use its libertarian ideology to mask what are in fact racist views.

“I believe we should work to end all racism in American society and staunchly defend the inherent rights of every person. I have clearly stated in prior interviews that I abhor racial discrimination and would have worked to end segregation,” Paul said in a statement issued by his campaign. He also claimed that critics are trying to score cheap political points.

But that doesn’t explain a letter Paul wrote a letter to a Kentucky newspaper in 2002 that said, “A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination – even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin.”

It does, however, give Democrats hope that this tinge of racism could help their prospects in the midterm elections and diminish those of the Republican Party that continues to struggle with issues of race and encouraging blacks and other minorities to its brand.

Dewey Clayton, a political scientist at the University of Louisville, suspects that Tea Party candidates may cause the GOP “more pain or political problems than actual victories” this fall and that in the end Kentucky voters may find Paul too extreme. Libertarians may argue for limited government, he added, but clearly there are times when only government can step in to solve the nation’s problems, such as the economic freefall it has experienced.

Clayton reckons that President Barack Obama’s election is the true cause of so much conservative protest and upheaval.

“Part of what’s going on here is that people are looking at changing demographics, and there’s some general unease,” he said.

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