Don’t let one area of extremism distract from another

DON’T LET ONE AREA OF EXTREMISM DISTRACT FROM ANOTHER…. Republican Senate candidate and right-wing ophthalmologist Rand Paul is making headlines again today, following a head-shaking appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” But there’s no reason to let one area of extremism distract from another.

Reflecting on the BP oil spill disaster, which is quickly becoming even more catastrophic, the Kentucky Republican took issue with President Obama’s criticism of the negligent oil company. “I think that sounds really un-American in his criticisms of businesses,” Paul said of the president’s drive to hold the company responsible.

There was no evidence Paul was kidding. He seriously believes the U.S. president’s criticism of a foreign oil company responsible for a disastrous oil spill “sounds really un-American.”

As for the disaster itself, the GOP Senate hopeful added that society should simply understand “the fact that sometimes accidents happen.”

And while there’s no doubt that these remarks represent further evidence of a truly ridiculous candidate, let’s not overlook the fact that “GMA” host George Stephanopoulos also asked Rand Paul about his extreme anti-government views.

Indeed, Paul would not explain his stated opposition to the Fair Housing Act, and didn’t want to talk about the minimum wage, either.

When one strips away the spin and stupidity, what we’re left with is an extremist candidate who suddenly finds himself uncomfortable talking publicly about his own fringe beliefs. As Greg Sargent explained earlier, Paul “cannot bring himself to say — clearly and unequivocally — that the Federal government should have the power to prohibit private businesses from discriminating on the basis of skin color, religion, or national origin.”

Paul had a chance this morning on ABC News to clarify his views on the proper role of Federal power vis-a-vis discrimination by private entities and institutions. He conspicuously declined to do so.

During that remarkable appearance, George Stephanopoulos read aloud from that 2002 letter Paul wrote attacking the Fair Housing Act, in which he said “a free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination” and added that discrimination should not be “prohibited for private entities.”

Pressed repeatedly on whether he stuck by those views, Paul refused to answer.

It seems clear Paul received some very specific instructions yesterday from his handlers about how to deal with the radical nature of his beliefs: “Sound like you’re answering the question, but don’t.” So, for example, when asked about his opposition to the Fair Housing Act, Paul said he doesn’t support repealing it, and anyone who suggests otherwise is a liar. That’s fine, but it’s misleading when the question is about his core beliefs.

As long as his actual positions, principles, and values are not part of the conversation, Rand Paul is confident his candidacy will be in good shape. And maybe that’s true.

But this necessarily makes yes-or-no questions his enemy. Mr. Paul, do you believe the government has the authority to pass and enforce laws prohibiting businesses from discriminating? Mr. Paul, do you believe the government is right to set a minimum wage that private employers are required to pay? Mr. Paul, do you think the government abused its authority by outlawing child labor?

We know what he thinks — Paul has already told us — but his goal for the next six months is getting through the campaign while avoiding answering these basic questions, which nearly every other candidate in the country would have no trouble answering.