Richard Blumenthal & Rand Paul Controversies, And Political Priorities
Of course, there were a lot of political primaries on Tuesday. While I’d like to go into greater detail about my sorrow at the demise of that great stalwart of principle, Arlen Specter :) , I’ll just discuss a couple of primary winners and controversies that have arisen relative to their candidacies, even on Sunday’s political talk shows.
In one of the few states where it was thought after Chris Dodd’s withdrawal that Democrats would easily hold onto a Senate seat, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal won the Democratic Party’s nomination, even after The New York Times had published a story that made it clear that though Blumenthal had on occasions made reference to his “service in Vietnam,” he had in fact never served there, but only stateside in the Marine reserves after several deferments. A few days ago, I saw a CNN panel discussing the situation. Democrat Paul Begala said that this was not good and no excuses could be made for it, but also said he talked to Democrats who explained that “lotsa times, Blumenthal had explained accurately” that he had served ‘during’ rather than ‘in’ Vietnam. This prompted the Republican panelist Alex Castellanos to say “Paul may have just invented the best political slogan ever: ‘Lotsa times, he tells the truth…” Here’s the conversation .
Well, though Democrats nominated Blumenthal anyway, some say this might mean Republicans may have a shot in this race. At their CT convention, Republicans gave the greatest support to wealthy pro-wrestling executive Linda McMahon, though she didn’t win 50% and will still face a primary against Rep. Rob Simmons and even financial advisor Peter Schiff, who has declared his intention to remain in the race, citing the leverage of McMahon’s money in changing a lot of his votes. I’m far too distant to assess that, but I do think Schiff was easily the best candidate. Schiff predicted the consequence of the 2008 economic crisis from government meddling in the real estate and lending markets. And, he says he wants to go to the Senate to try to persuade Washington to stop and reverse the insane path it continues on, even more speedily, in order to avert a Greece-type calamity. But alas, McMahon’s many tens of millions (Schiiff has only a few tens of millions, poor fellow :)) appear to have persuaded CT voters to back her. But, McMahon’s promised “smack down” of Blumenthal and his Vietnam lies is not exactly inspiring. If that is persuasive to CT voters, perhaps they aren’t as sophisticated as they’d like to think.
As for Rand Paul, he won the Republican nomination for Senate in Kentucky by a landslide. Almost immediately, he got into a controversy with liberals over federal intervention with private business, most specifically raised in 1 of 10 titles in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. I happened to trip into and watched Paul’s discussion with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC on Wednesday. This and other discussions are available on the Internet. My immediate reaction was that Paul should not back down but go forward and I began to write. But, I’m glad I took time to ponder it and let the dust settle. I would unashamedly say that I do believe that federal intervention in private business is an unhelpful and socially dysfunctional thing…today. But, we can’t simply look at history through the cultural lens of 2010. George Will is very clear and very practical. Like many political commentators, he said on “This Week” yesterday, that Paul needlessly opened a question that we closed long ago. A full discussion isn’t politically feasible but I’m not running for anything.
In 1964, federal intervention in private business was one BIG and momentous idea. Barry Goldwater didn’t oppose it because he was a racist. However in 2010, opposing federal intrusion into private business is near the order of opposing the rain. And discussing the morality and the threat of re-segregation in America should be thought fodder for discussion in a nut house. In fact, when Maddow pressed Paul about whether segregated lunch counters were “OK” (OK and federally sanction able are not the same thing, either properly or practically), she asked if we could “re-segregate.” Let’s be serious. Paul could at least have told her that today it’s a moot point. Re-segregation is an entirely unlikely abstract idea, even though many liberals never cease to raise the specter of racism. As they used to say of conservatives’ anxiety over communists, liberals like Chris Matthews seem to see a racist under every bush. But today, a segregated business of any sort, is not only obviously immoral, it is commercial stupidity. A segregating businessman would and deserve to quickly go out of business. Even before then, news crews would be as valuable in a segregated business as they would be in the waiting room of a brothel: “Hey fellows, lucky you! You’re going to be on TV!”
Equally, a civil war over human slavery is today a preposterous idea. But, human slavery was an incipient contradiction of America’s founding. As Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” And in America in 1964, segregation was not merely the problem of the odd lunch counter. Inequality was in large parts of the country a social normality that was reinforced in law. My first reaction to this controversy was that it would have been preferable for the federal government to use financial and rhetorical force to pressure states to clean up the problem. But most of The Civil Rights Act was in fact to rectify the very legal structure that these states had democratically constructed. At that time, we couldn’t exactly have relied on those states to meticulously repair the problem. So, the blunt force of federal law was applied to criminalize racial discrimination, and it seems quite necessarily so. But, that was a substitute for a needed correction of the moral confusion in the hearts and minds of men. Like The Civil War, the intervention of The Civil Rights Act was a drastic measure to address a terrible and un-American situation.
I’m hard-pressed today, to find such a place where states are unequipped to handle a problem. One needn’t focus specifically on The Civil Rights Act of 1964. But, I enthusiastically would applaud a reassertion of state sovereignty, either independently or under a general assertion of 10th Amendment propriety. The urgency of such constitutional restraint of federal power is so great, that it saddens me to watch on forums such as this one, when the recent discussion of John Culberson and Congress’ Tenth Amendment Task Force, gathers a handful of comments while any discussion of immigration gets a chorus of tens of yelps about “amnesty” and “criminals” and “RINOs.”
I thought of this when I was recently discussing the Houston Astros, which had been the last of my fading interest in sports, which given the excesses of the past 11/2 years (they didn’t begin there, but things are now downright precarious), I no longer care about. I was told that because of a thin farm system, the Astros might perform poorly for 4 or 5 years. I answered that fortunately, we would probably be distracted with economic calamity before then. The answer was, “That’s true. It’s like the old George Carlin weather report…” This was back in the days of The Cold War when in school we had air raid drills and lined up in the halls with our heads between our legs. A later joke said that in a nuclear attack, you could put your head between your legs, and kiss your sweet behind goodbye. But Carlin’s weather report said, “…the radar is picking up a line of thunderstorms…But, the radar is also picking up a squadron of Russian ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles). So, I wouldn’t sweat the thunderstorms…” Here’s an entire recording George Carlin- Newscast 1967.
The integrity of the law and our disrespect of it is important. But A) directing our discontent at people is immoral and in this case only weakens any potential of averting disaster. And B) Given that looming disaster, I wouldn’t sweat immigration too much.