Rand Paul Op-Ed Defends Civil Rights Stance, Compares Himself To Martin Luther King Jr.

Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul emerged from his relative media dormancy over the weekend, writing an op-ed for the Bowling Green Daily News that seeks to defend against the recent contention that he opposes elements of the Civil Rights Act.

In the op-ed, Paul calls himself an "idealist" and draws parallels between himself and famous abolitionists, as well as civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. He also blames his Senate opponent and the "liberal media" for misconstruing his statements on the Civil Rights Act given during interviews last month.

I am unlike many folks who run for office. I am an idealist. When I read history I side with abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglas who fought for 30 years to end slavery and to integrate public transportation in the free North in the 1840s. I see our failure to end slavery for decade after decade as a failure of weak-kneed politicians.

I cheer the abolitionist Lysander Spooner, who argued that slavery was unconstitutional 20 years before the Civil War. I cheer Lerone Bennet when he argues that the right of habeas corpus guaranteed in the Constitution should have derailed slavery long before the Civil War.

Only when the brave idealists, the abolitionists, finally provoked the weak-kneed politicians into action, did the emancipation proclamation come about. Our body politic has enough pragmatists, we need a few idealists.

Segregation ended only after a great and momentous uprising by idealists like Martin Luther King Jr., who provoked weak-kneed politicians to action.

In 2010, there are battles that need to be fought, and they have nothing to do with race or discrimination, but rather the rights of people to be free from a nanny state.

Paul goes on to outline a few areas where he thinks the "federal government has overreached in its power grabs," but says that he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

For example, I am opposed to the government telling restaurant owners that they cannot allow smoking in their establishments. 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?

My overriding principle is this: I believe in the natural right of all individuals to have their God-given liberty protected. And that's why I believe the Civil Rights Act was necessary, and that I would have voted for it.

Paul also refutes recent allegations that he is against the Americans for Disabilities Act and The Fair Housing Act, but provides a misleading situation to define his qualms with the legislation.

"[S]hould a small business in a two-story building have to put in a costly elevator, even if it threatens their economic viability?" Paul writes. "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."

As the Washington Post's Greg Sargent notes, however, Paul's use of this example is actually misrepresentation of the legislation, as the Americans With Disabilities Act actually contains a provision that would exempt buildings with "less than three stories or have less than 3,000 square feet per story."

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