There’s been a national discussion about the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law in Indiana and pending in Arkansas.
What is interesting to me, and which has not to my knowledge been mentioned elsewhere, is that I have heard the logic used to defend and justify this law, and the ‘need’ for it, before. It was not well articulated, but you can hear the underpinnings of the reasoning there.
I first heard them almost 5 years ago.
It was in a famous – some might say notorious – interview that Rand Paul gave to Rachel Maddow when he announced his candidacy for the Senate seat from Kentucky. You can see and hear it here: Rachel Maddow’s interview with Rand Paul, 05/19/10 @ 10:10 PM—Updated 11/07/13 08:56 AM
This interview led to a commentary on my third-ever radio show.
2010-MAY-24: Welcome to the Mike Honig Show: Thinkwing Radio ™
It’s hard to do a really topical show when it runs only once a week, but I’m going to start a little differently today, because I want to talk about the Rand Paul controversy, what I think it’s really about, and what I think it means.
[On May 19, 2010,] I was watching when Rachel Maddow asked Rand Paul the question about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and whether he could support that today. I believe that I understand the basic philosophical foundation of what it means to be a Libertarian. While I may agree with some of their positions because they overlap mine, Libertarianism is not to be confused with Liberalism, though some people conflate the two. They are 180 degrees different. I disagree with the Libertarians’ basic premise, which I believe is in many ways just a few steps above favoring anarchy.
There are many people who understand what it actually means to be a Libertarian, and subscribe to that political philosophy.
I disagree with them strongly on many things, but I respect the honesty of their positions.
What I don’t respect and never can respect is anyone – particularly a politician – who, when asked a direct question about what they believe, evades that question because they believe (often rightly) that their answer will put them out of the mainstream in which they must ‘swim’ if they want to be elected.
I don’t believe that Rand Paul is a racist. I don’t think that he’s a hateful person or a person who wishes ill on anyone. But in my view, he committed a cardinal sin: He refused to give a direct answer to a direct question about what he believed.
Rachel Maddow spent 20 minutes asking Rand Paul one question. By my count (and I DID count) she asked Dr. Paul his position on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its basic principals at least 11 times in different ways, trying to get a straight answer out of him.
Or 12, depending on how you count.
Ultimately, he was asked a yes or no question, and neither ‘yes’ nor ‘no’ was acceptable to him.
Dr. Paul danced all around an answer. He talked about 1840, the 1810s and ‘20s, the 1950s and ‘60s. He talked about everything except giving a simple straight answer.
In effect, he took the 5th Amendment. But here’s the thing: Running for office isn’t the same as standing trial. You don’t have a right to refuse to incriminate yourself. People have a right to ask you what you believe, and their right to a straight and honest answer is more important than a politician’s reluctance to incriminate himself based on what he actually believes.
Dr. Paul – BOTH Dr. Pauls, in fact – as Libertarians, believe in virtually complete personal freedom without interference – or as little interference as possible — from central government. That includes the right – in their view – for a private person or business to do hateful things, as long as those hateful things don’t do actual injury to another person.
THAT’S what Libertarianism means! And I respect their integrity in hewing to their beliefs.
But what I DON’T respect is a refusal by a politician to acknowledge their beliefs when asked a direct question about them. THAT is Dr. Rand Paul’s ‘crime’, as it were. He refused to admit what he believed, explain it and defend it, and take any consequences that might result.
He ran from his true views, and in affect committed an act of moral cowardice. He did so with a clear intent to deceive the voters of Kentucky in order to get their vote.
He lied by omission.
Some day, there may be a verb, “To be Rand Paul-ed.” The definition will be getting asked a central question about your beliefs which you refuse to answer honestly, and thus instantly destroying both your political career and your personal integrity.
But first, we need more political interviewers who are willing to ask a question 11 times, if that’s what it takes to get an answer, or to demonstrate a clear and deliberate intent to NOT answer.