THE BLOG
05/21/2010 01:46 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Rand Paul and the Discourse of Degenerative Myopia

Regardless of what David Weigel writes in "Rand Paul, Telling the Truth" about Rand Paul not being a "racist," one really needs to deconstruct Rand's discourse, especially in the interview with Rachel Maddow which, if he proved anything to me, he proved he was less a racist and more a functional illiterate. I admire the fact that Weigel could actually separate the Randian philosophy from the non-sequiturs in Rand's ramblings especially when he started to digress historically about William Lloyd Garrison as a way of circumventing Maddow's yes or no question: "Was the Courier-Journal right? Do you believe that private business people should be able to decide whether they want to serve black people or gays or any other minority group, as they said?"

Maddow's question was about as clear a question as Maddow could ask so why the equivocation, if not the painfully embarrassing digression? He might as well have answered why Louisville Sluggers are made in Louisville. Besides the fact that he started no fewer than 10 sentences with the word "Well" his repetition of the word "racism" (repeated no fewer than 8 times) or "discrimination" (repeated no fewer than 7 times) was always related to a particular kind of racism or discrimination: namely, governmental racism or institutional racism. Though he kept repeating his mantra of being against racism he could never articulate a solid argument as to why. If, as Weigel suggests, Paul has a philosophical issue with it, then he certainly didn't make it clear to anyone. At least to me. I've had an easier time reading Hegel in German than listening to Paul in English. He made it abundantly clear that he's against any kind of racism or discrimination perpetuated by the federal government. As he said, "In the totality of it, I'm in favor of the federal government being involved in civil rights and that's, you know, mostly what the Civil Rights Act was about. And that was ending institutional racism."

To Maddow's equally articulate question:"In terms of legal remedies for persistent discrimination, though, if there was a private business, say, in Louisville, say, somewhere in your home state, that wanted to not serve black patrons and wanted to not serve gay patrons, or somebody else on the basis of their -- on the basis of a characteristic that they decided they didn't like as a private business owner -- would you think they had a legal right to do so, to put up a "blacks not served here" sign?" Paul answered: "Well, the interesting thing is, you know, you look back to the 1950s and 1960s at the problems we faced. There were incredible problems. You know, the problems had to do with mostly voting, they had to do with schools, they had to do with public housing. And so, this is what the civil rights largely addressed, and all things that I largely agree with."

Which begs the question: What in the hell is he talking about? Is this what change is all about from the far right? Can the Teabaggers actually deconstruct what Rand is saying? The question I really wanted Maddow to ask was: "So, when then-Cassius Clay returned from the Tokyo Olympics with a gold medal do you think it was justified for the restaurant owner to kick him out of his restaurant?" I'm sure Paul would have replied (as he did to all the other questions) by prevaricating or digressing on whatever he felt he could digress on rather than answer the question. I can't begin to highlight the number of feeble attempts Rand made to substantiate an argument that Weigel wrote about as "fascinating to watch Paul stand by his philosophical and legal stance and refuse to dissemble in a way that would, you know, get people to stop accusing him of some archaic form of racism." With all due respect to Weigel, I have no clue as to how he understood Rand's philosophical stance since if it weren't for rhetorical nonsense there wouldn't be any rhetoric at all. Perhaps, that's what made is fascinating. And why the digression to "freedom of speech?" Does barring the then-Cassius Clay from sitting down and ordering a hamburger an infringement on that restaurant owner's freedom of speech? Rand may, in fact, not be a racist and I'm not accusing him of that. What I am accusing him of is an inability to articulate in any meaningful way how he can justify racial exclusion by private enterprise. His statement that if her were old enough he would have been marching with Martin Luther King must have made anyone listening who did march with King, shudder at that thought. I think one of the most ironic things about the interview was the fact that Paul, an opthamologist, just couldn't see where Maddow was coming from. More important, I'm not sure he can see where he's going.