Rand Paul’s Pandering On Ferguson Foolish—And Unlibertarian

With his comments condemning “racial disparities” fueling riots in Ferguson, Senator Rand Paul isn’t the equivalent of Obama—he’s something worse.

Paul has been trying to position himself as a Main Stream Media-friendly defender of racial orthodoxy for some time now. When he came out in favor of the Amnesty/Immigration Surge in 2013, Paul spoke before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and praised Bolivian math teacher Jaime Escalante as a model of Hispanic immigrant values in education. It turned out that Paul’s speechwriters plagiarized the Wikipedia page of the movie Stand and Deliver. [Rand Paul has given speeches plagiarized from Wikipedia before, by Andrew Kaczynski, Buzzfeed, October 29, 2013] Of course, had they taken the time to read the “historical accuracy” section of the film’s Wikipedia page, they would have learned that his students most likely cheated on their calculus exam.

Similarly, Rand Paul’s latest genuflection to the Left—an article in Time Magazine on the police shooting of Michael Brown and resulting black riots—comes close to plagiarizing Barack Obama’s comments on Trayvon Martin.

While Paul didn’t excuse rioting and looting (after all, neither did Al Sharpton), he claimed the Ferguson riots were partially justified. As he put it:

Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.

[Rand Paul: We Must Demilitarize the Police, August 14, 2014]

Similarly, Obama said of the Trayvon Martin case:

I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away….The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws — everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.[Links added]

[Remarks by the President on Trayvon Martin, July 19, 2013]

Note that Paul was actually less nuanced than the President—Obama at least acknowledged that blacks are “disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence.”

Commenting on Michael Brown, Paul said:

If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot.

So while Obama refrained from commenting on the specifics of the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases, Paul felt perfectly free about speculating that Brown did nothing wrong except walk on the street and make a wisecrack to a police officer.

Granted, Paul wrote his column before the police released images of the 6’4 290 bound Brown attacking a diminutive convenience store clerk. But Paul still should have known better. The police officer claimed that Brown had attacked him and grabbed his gun. Even if he were lying, it’s just irresponsible for a sitting US Senator to accept the story without seeing any evidence. And, given how the MSM systematically misrepresents these types of stories, Paul had real reason to be cautious.

The rest of Paul’s TIME article was on “demilitarizing” the police. Pauls’ complaint was that the Ferguson police’s response to the riots (he called them “protests”) was overkill. He approvingly quoted the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson who said: “The dominant visual aspect of the story, however, has been the sight of overpowering police forces confronting unarmed protesters who are seen waving signs or just their hands.” [Police Militarization in Ferguson — and Your Town, Cato @ Liberty, August 13, 2014]

Of course, this is the “dominant image” if you get your news from MSNBC and the Huffington Post. In another world, the dominant image could be the looting, riots, and arson.

Then Paul tried to reframe the issue as a libertarian crusade rather than typical Leftist minority grievance-mongering. He wrote:

Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.

Paul says this “militarization” was all done for the Drug War and War on Terror and continues,

The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. It is one thing for federal officials to work in conjunction with local authorities to reduce or solve crime. It is quite another for them to subsidize it

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that everything Paul writes about the “militarization of the police” is true. Paul still ignores one of the key ideological motivations behind federal funding. When the federal government subsidizes state and local law enforcement, it also forces them to fight “racial profiling.”

Thus the state of Missouri’s Local Law Enforcement Block Grant request for 2015, promises to give an “Annual Racial Profiling Report” to the federal government. It also requires that all local law enforcement contractors to create or enforce:

  • An Equal Employment Opportunity Plan (EEOP)
  • Non Discrimination in Delivery of Services and Hiring Practices
  • Grievance procedures/Reporting findings of discrimination
  • Access to services for persons with limited English proficiency (LEP)

[Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG) Program 2015 Local Solicitation, State of Missouri, Department of Public Safety]

So, far from creating a racist police state, federal subsidization forces more Politically Correct and pro-criminal policies upon local law enforcement.

And, if everything Paul and the Leftist media say about the Brown shooting were true, the only possible end result would be yet more sensitivity training, civil rights lawsuits, and other big government incursions upon state police power.

Libertarians used to be aware of the danger of this. One of the most outspoken was Rand Paul’s father, Ron Paul—or at least whoever wrote the Ron Paul newsletters, originally published in 1980s and exhumed and used against Paul’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

The newsletters explicitly reject that “big government” is the problem behind black rioting and crime: “Are blacks being denied economic opportunity? The cities could have freer markets, but so could the rest of the country where there is no riots and little street crime.”

Rather than blame the government and racism, the newsletters made clear: “The cause of the riots is plain: barbarism.”

To the extent that government was at all responsible The Ron Paul newsletters did not attack the local police for protecting its citizens, but the federal government and cultural elites for

“quotas, mandated hiring preferences, set-asides for government contracts, gerrymandered voting districts, black bureaucracies, black mayors, black curricula in schools, black tv shows, black tv anchors, hate crime laws, and public humiliation for anyone who dares question the black agenda” which gave a clear message to blacks: “you are entitled to something for nothing.” [Ron Paul Political Report, June 1992,]

Of course, Ron Paul later ran away from these comments, just like Rand Paul now runs away from the pre-neutered Jack Hunter and his comments on the Civil Rights Act (and, literally, ran away from so-called DREAMers confronting him). Rand Paul has more recently supported Amnesty, called for extending the Voting Rights Act, enfranchising felons, and letting black prisoners out of jail.

Rand Paul’s pandering is working in the short term. The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post praised his column. Even Al Sharpton said “Rand Paul is Right” on MSNBC.

But it’s a mirage. In the event that Rand Paul were to win GOP nomination for president, the Left and their MSM allies will forget all this praise—just like they abandoned their former darling John McCain in 2008.

Of course, if other Republicans candidates have brains (a big assumption) they will use Paul’s pro-criminal pandering to destroy him in the primaries—and he won’t get the privilege of watching Hillary Clinton get 95% of the black vote against him.

Alexander Hart (email him) is a conservative journalist