Rand Paul: I Was Sullied by "Lies and Innuendo"

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul addresses a luncheon meeting of the Lions Club in Bowling Green, Ky., Tuesday, May 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
Ed Reinke
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul is shown during an interview at his campaign headquarters after winning his party's primary election in Bowling Green, Ky., Wednesday, May 19, 2010.
AP

After a flurry of national press attention prompted by his upset victory in the Kentucky Republican Senate primary followed by his suggestion that he does not entirely support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Tea Party favorite Rand Paul has been lying low, largely avoiding the national spotlight as he tries to put together a winning general election campaign.

But he has not dropped completely off the map: Over the weekend, an op-ed from Paul appeared in his hometown newspaper, the Bowling Green Daily News. In it, he lays out his beliefs about the limits of government - and addresses criticism of his comments on the Civil Rights Act, which prompted questions about whether he was too controversial for the mainstream GOP.

Paul writes that beginning almost immediately after his primary victory, his reputation was "sullied" by "lies and innuendo" in the form of false claims on cable news that he had called for the repeal of the Civil Rights Act. He writes that by trying to take a nuanced position on the measure he "did what typical candidates don't - I discussed some philosophical issues with government mandating rules on private businesses."

When Paul was pressed on whether he thinks the government should prohibit private businesses from discriminating on the basis of race back on May 20th, he said this, in part: "Should we limit racists from speaking? I don't want to be associated with those people, but I also don't want to limit their speech in any way, in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because that's one of the things that freedom requires...that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized, but that doesn't mean we approve of it."

In his op-ed, Paul tries to clarify his position, laying out his opposition to what he sees as government overreach into the behavior of private businesses. (He also stresses that he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act, despite any misgivings.) Casting himself as an "idealist," he compares his outlook to that of the abolitionists who pushed for an end to slavery despite the failure of "weak-kneed politicians."

The fight in 2010, he writes, is over "the rights of people to be free from a nanny state."

"For example, I am opposed to the government telling restaurant owners that they cannot allow smoking in their establishments," he writes. "I believe we as consumers can choose whether to patronize a smoke-filled restaurant or do business with a smoke-free option. Think about it - this overreach is now extending to mandates about fat and calorie counts in menus. Do we really need the government managing all of these decisions for us?"

Paul goes on to write that the media is "twisting my small government message" by casting him as "a crusader for repeal of the Americans for Disabilities Act and The Fair Housing Act."

"Again, this is patently untrue," he writes. "I have simply pointed out areas within these broad federal laws that have financially burdened many smaller businesses."

Continues Paul: "For example, should a small business in a two-story building have to put in a costly elevator, even if it threatens their economic viability?" Wouldn't it be better to allow that business to give a handicapped employee a ground floor office? We need more businesses and jobs, not fewer."

Rand Paul and his father Ron - dubbed "the First Family of Libertarianism" - were profiled in the New York Times over the weekend. Rand Paul, the newspaper reports, did not get an allowance, "which [his parents] viewed as a parental version of a government handout."

He also didn't have a strict curfew. Writes the Times: "Mr. [Ron] Paul says that unintended consequences -- like speeding home to beat the clock -- can result from excessive meddling from a central authority."