Admittedly it was something of an event for Rand Paul to defy his state's GOP establishment yet win the primary to run for U.S. Senator, but I didn't realize that we now had to hang on every word of this new celebrity. Yet for a while this morning the top political news item on the MSNBC website was a report of the candidate's remarks in defense of British Petroleum and against what he took to be the Obama administration's "un-American" prosecutorial tone in dealing with the unfortunate corporation after the Gulf oil spill. "Accidents happen," is Young Dr. Paul's own view of the case, and that's unremarkable (in the sense of "not worth remaking upon") in its own right. But it looked to me as if MSNBC will exploit any opportunity to put Candidate Paul back in the spotlight so that it can again remind the public that he had not endorsed absolutely legislation from half a century ago: the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Readers will recall that he has some philosophical objections to private business owners being denied the prerogative to deny service to whomever they choose. MSNBC as a cheerleader for the Democratic party is interested in portraying this as Paul's endorsement of racism, and their motive is obvious: they want their portrayal of Paul to confirm the stereotype of the Tea Partiers, whom he claims to represent, as revanchist racists. Paul himself is a little slow: only today, two days after his torturous interview with Rachel Maddow, did he grit his teeth and say the necessary thing: he would have voted, despite his reservations, in favor of the 1964 law, and he would not vote to repeal it if elected. Ideally this will end the controversy, but I suppose MSNBC will find cause to question Paul's sincerity over the remaining months of the campaign season.
I'm not endorsing Rand Paul for anything, and anyone who reads this blog knows that I don't support the Tea Parties. Leaving even the possibility of racism out of it, I find much of their worldview abhorrent. But I take political campaigns seriously, and I think they should be debated, by the candidates and by their supporters in the media, on the actual issues of the moment. MSNBC represents those Democratic sympathizers who would rather not debate the issues raised by the Tea Parties or refute their errors, but seek to change the subject and scare Americans. That is, they do exactly what they accuse Republicans and their radio auxiliaries of doing. They're practicing the politics of fear.