Rand Paul and Confederates: It's Complicated

When you have to come out and tell reporters, "I'm not a fan of secession," you're not having a particularly good day. That's what Rand Paul found himself doing today, in the wake of revelations that one of Paul's staffers, who co-wrote (or, let's be honest, probably ghost-wrote) Paul's 2010 campaign book, also spent years as a neo-confederate shock jock advocating secession, praising the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and urging whites to be proud of their heritage. Just how is it that Rand Paul, like his father before him, keeps attracting these people? It's a mystery.

Interestingly enough, this latest episode in Rand Paul's struggles with race came about because of an article in a conservative online publication, The Washington Free Beacon. (To some, this is evidence of the neo-conservative faction of conservatism's opposition to Paul's isolationism.The Free Beacon is edited by Bill Kristol's son-in-law; make of that what you will.) And for the record, the aide, Jack Hunter—who used to do appearances wearing a wrestler's mask with a Confederate flag printed on it—now says his views have evolved, and he no longer celebrates Lincoln's assassination. But there exists within libertarianism a small yet persistent strain of neo-confederates, many of whom seem attracted to Rand Paul. Perhaps it's because of Paul's complicated feelings on the Civil Rights Act, or perhaps they fondly remember dad Ron Paul's racist newsletters and assume the younger Paul shares their beliefs.

Suggestive though it might be, Paul can't be responsible for every one of his fans. But he is responsible for the people he hires, like Jack Hunter. It would be a little odd if Paul had no idea about Hunter's prior career, because Hunter had his "Southern Avenger" radio show until last year, when he joined Paul's staff. Nevertheless, Paul knows it was just a youthful indiscretion. "Are we at a point where nobody can have had a youth or said anything untoward?" Paul asked. Indeed. Some people get drunk on Jagermeister after the homecoming game and crash their daddy's car, other people host long-running neo-Confederate radio shows. What's the difference?


So They Say

@billclinton thanks for taking the time to talk Mr. President. Your words meant alot.#greatguy

Justin Bieber, taking to Twitter after calling the former president to apologize for yelling "Fuck Bill Clinton!"

Daily Meme: Going Nuclear

  • Have you heard the news? Harry Reid's gone nuclear!
  • Well, it's not truly news, as the Senate Majority Leader has been mulling a redo on filibuster reform in July for a few months.
  • What is the nuclear option? Basically, Reid wants to ban or limit filibusters during some executive branch confirmation votes, because Senate Republicans have beenespecially trigger-happy about filibustering Obama's nominees.
  • And Democrats are getting antsy as a number of nominations sit languishing in confirmation purgatory...
  • ... especially the Secretary of Labor, National Labor Relations Board, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau nominees, the ones most important to Democrats' constituents, and the ones Republicans are most determined to stop.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is not pleased or is he?) with this turn of events. “‘Breaking the rules to change the rules is un-American’—his words, not mine. I just hope the majority leader thinks about his legacy, the future of his party and, most importantly, the future of our country before he acts.”
  • To which Reid responded, "An agreement is a two-way street. This obstruction has continued at every level and through creative new methods. Even before President Obama’s nominations reached the Senate floor, Senate Republicans bogged them down with unreasonable demands, terribly time-consuming, and they’re designed to be, if not attainable, really hard and difficult."
  • Reid is referring to the watery filibuster reform he and McConnell agreed to in January that hasn't worked out too well, at least if you are pro-Congress doing things.
  • McConnell's cries have grown more frantic as the hours pass and Reid's words inches further from threat, closer to reality, using key phrases like "Pandora's Box," power grab," and "live to regret."
  • And, Reid said he's filing cloture on the big nominations this afternoon ... unless Republicans back off on the nominations. We'll see how the rest of this unfolds...

What We're Writing

  • Why are bad cops still on the beat in California? Steven Yoder explains.
  • Come Friday, the hope reformers once had that risky trades made overseas by American banks might be regulated is likely to be crushed. And, as David Dayen writes, Democrats cozy with Wall Street are just fine with that.

What We're Reading

  • Legislators are pushing Obama to halt the force-feedings at Guantanamo.
  • In California, thousands of inmates are waging a hunger strike against solitary confinement.
  • Will Jeff Merkley be the next Ted Kennedy. David Dayen looks at the liberal legislator's legacy.
  • Amy Davidson examines how our perceptions of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will shade the trial.
  • Will Bob McDonnell's scandal hurt Ken Cuccinelli? Beth Reinhard weighs the odds.
  • Barry Goldwater's son is pushing solar power?

Poll of the Day

Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton are at the head of the 2016 pack in Iowa, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling. Paul leads New Jersey Governor Chris Christie 18 percent to 16 percent, and Clinton leads Vice President Joe Biden 71 percent to 12 percent.

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