As I’m sure you know by now, Rand Paul went on the radio last week to suck up to Sean Hannity, assuring him that he’s actually tough on national security despite his opposition to the Patriot Act. And how did he manage to suck up to Caveman Hannity? By saying that people who attend speeches by “radicals” advocating the violent overthrow of the government should be put in jail or deported. In its full context, there is absolutely zero doubt that is what he said and meant.
And it wasn’t just me and ThinkProgress and Krugman and Maddow and Cenk and Glenn Greenwald and Steve Benen saying that. Even the libertarian fanboys of Rand Paul at Reason Magazine agreed that this was really messed up:
Having listened to more of the interview…, I can’t say it makes the Kentucky senator, whose principled criticism of the PATRIOT Act I praised a in my column yesterday, look much better.
But Paul goes completely off the rails when he suggests that merely attending “radical political speeches” is “an offense that we should be going after,” one that justifies deporting or even imprisoning someone. (On what charge?) That does not sound like the same man who the day before insisted that we can “capture terrorists and protect our liberties at the same time” and who the day before that challenged conservatives and progressives by declaring that “if we do not protect the entire Bill of Rights, we are not going to have any of it.” It’s not surprising that Hannity did not press Paul for an explanation, but Paul had a chance to clarify his position and did not. You would think that a self-identified defender of civil liberties who goes on a nationally distributed radio show and hears himself suggesting that people should be imprisoned for attending speeches would be in a hurry to explain that is not what he really meant.
Another person at Reason wrote Paul to clarify what he meant, but he still hasn’t responded.
But what Rand did do yesterday is go on Mandy Connell’s show for some damage control, where Connell served up some huge softballs and slobbered all over him, like the no-talent hack that she is. In the “interview” Rand “clarifies” his views, of course blaming his “enemies” for taking him “out of context”. This is the first real 100% instance of “Rand’s Law” that we’ve seen in a while, as those who quote him full and in context are liars (yes, Newt has appropriated this Law).
But does Rand Paul fully back down from his views on Hannity’s show, especially his belief that Rand Paul himself should be a person of interest for federal authorities? Not so much. As you can see when he summarizes his views at the end of the interview:
Well heaven forbid that we should think about our political discourse some and have debate. But, no I don’t, I think if people hear enough of it, that’s one of the beauties I think of talk radio, is that you can have a more full discussion of things. The people on the internet who are talking that out of context, are obviously people who are my political enemies. So they are going to do anything to try to promote that.
But I think it’s a consistent position, and all I’m saying is that attending a rally where you call for the violent overthrow of the United States, one, it’s against the law to say that. But attending the rally I think would be supportive evidence to a judge to say, well maybe that person should be somebody, if he’s taking 25 calls from Pakistan, he’s been to Yemen twice, perhaps that’s enough evidence that a judge could grant a warrant to look further into his activities.
OK, looking past the hilarious praising of right-wing radio’s service of allowing people like Rand Paul to do unchallenged PR spin when they say something idiotic, let’s look at the basic argument which remains.
According to Rand, if you attend one of those radical speeches, Big Brother should be watching and listening to you, but only if you’ve been cavorting with Muslims, it appears. Now, does the fact that Rand Paul attended a speech where militiamen with assault rifles were calling for the violent overthrow of the government implicate himself and justify his spot on their Naughty List? Or does the fact that these militiamen were good white Christians mean that there is no harm here, and that Rand doesn’t have to be taken down to the station for questioning or have his phone tapped? Or is the fact that Rand Paul is a good white Christian allow him to go to radical violent speeches without impunity, while Muslim students do not have that right?
It’s still a little cloudy, as Rand’s Reason Fanboy Jacob Sullum agrees:
Paul has managed to construct a clarification that is alarming as well as reassuring. Instead of saying that he misspoke, he seems to defend the idea that people should be imprisoned for advocating violence. But in the 1969 case Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from criminalizing “advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” That test is very hard to meet in practice, and an anti-American speech by a radical imam is unlikely to qualify unless his listeners immediately go out to plant bombs. In any case, people who merely listen to the speech have not committed any conceivable offense by doing so…. It is hard to tell exactly what he meant to say, since in both interviews he conflates several different scenarios, including airport screening, search warrants, deportation for violating student visa rules, and both listening to and giving radical, violence-promoting speeches. But at least he has made it clear that he does not favor punishing people for exercising their First Amendment rights. I think.
They truly are trying very hard to get him off the hook here, but… Rand’s making it kind of difficult.
Anyway, if this PR Bailout didn’t fully do the trick to quiet the storm, I’m sure Mandy Connell would invite him back to finish the job, true professional that she is.