Two candidates, two statements and two apologies: the continuing sagas of Kentucky’s Republican nominee for the US Senate, Rand Paul, and the Democratic Senate nominee in Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, are indicative of the decisive battle pitting ideology against integrity that November 2010 represents. On the one hand, we have a candidate who honestly expressed his opinion regarding legislation that was passed over thirty years ago, legislation that remains in place and will continue to remain in effect in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, we have a candidate who fraudulently distorted his service record in a war that was fought during that same era, deeply offending many veterans who served our nation during that conflict.
Rand Paul’s response to the theoretical question of whether or not he would have supported the Civil Rights Act in 1964 was purely libertarian: he believes that the federal government should tread very lightly when it comes to imposing its will on the public sector, or when it comes to usurping states rights. His answer echoed Barry Goldwater’s position at the time, except that Goldwater was in a position to influence federal law as it was being formulated, whereas Paul was ruminating about a basic philosophical principle of governance: what right and obligation does the federal government have to correct injustices?
There is no doubt that Paul, like Goldwater before him, believes that institutional racism was indeed a grave injustice. Yet, because Paul questioned the method – not the goal – of correcting this particular inequity, the left and their allies in the mainstream media wasted no time piously declaring that Rand Paul is a racist and, by extension, the Tea Party movement that helped win his nomination has thus been outed as equally racist. One would be hard-pressed to find a better example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once the left finally realized that the Tea Party movement was something more than a few fringe protesters supposedly on the GOP payroll, and that Tea Partiers were in fact a potent, grass roots force to be reckoned with, liberal tactics to counter-attack the Tea Party movement shifted dramatically, almost overnight. Tea Partiers were no longer isolated GOP operatives, instead they became an insidious, racist, homophobic cancer that was infecting the Republican party in particular and the conservative/libertarian movement in general. Rand Paul’s theoretical answer to a rhetorical question was all the evidence the left needed to confirm their hypothesis: Paul would not have been elected but for the tea party movement, Paul is racist because he opposes the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ergo, all tea-partiers are racist. Q.E.D.
Responding to this tempest in a liberal teapot, Paul clarified his remarks a bit. He shouldn’t have had to, but Paul apparently still believes that a reasonable response will result in reasonable treatment by the mainstream media. It won’t – it never does – but candidate Paul gave it his best shot, saying:
“These are settled issues in the Civil Rights Act. I have no intention of bringing up anything related to the Civil Rights Act… I think [segregation] is sort of a stain and blight on our history – so, no, I have never really favored any change in the Civil Rights Act or any of that. But they have seemed to unleash the loony left on me.”
That brings us to Richard Blumenthal. While it’s hard to imagine that the state of Connecticut could elect a more despicable successor to occupy the seat of the thoroughly despicable Christopher Todd, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal appears to fit the bill. As the New York Times reported in a blockbuster story last week, Blumenthal had, on more than one occasion, said that he had served in Vietnam, and that, upon returning from Vietnam, he had endured the insults aimed at veterans of that war by anti-war protestors. Since Blumenthal never actually served in that theater, many a Vietnam veteran was understandably upset. Stealing a veteran’s honor is not only reprehensible, it’s also illegal.
Yet, as bad as Blumenthal’s fabrications were, his petulant non-apology after the story broke was even worse. Symbolically hiding behind a human shield of veterans dutifully applauding behind him, Blumenthal piously recounted his unwavering support of veterans, while writing off his lies as unfortunate, regrettable, mis-statements. His attempt to spin the issue fell entirely flat among many vets. Blumenthal didn’t “mis-speak,” he lied. Is there any doubt that he lied knowingly and willfully? How can you say that you were in a theater of war when you were not? How can anyone who has interacted with veterans as much as Blumenthal says he has not understand how important this point of honor is to them?
The cases of Rand Paul and Richard Blumenthal converge here. Both involve matters of principle and points of honor. Paul stuck to his principles even when the question chosen to challenge those principles involved one of the most emotionally-charged issues of our time. Good for him. That was the honest and honorable course of action and, despite liberal glee over this supposed gaffe, reports of Rand Paul’s political demise will, I suspect, prove to be greatly exaggerated. Voters are sick of ideologues, in either party. Integrity – that quality that so many on Capitol Hill lay claim to, but so few possess – will be the deciding factor in 2010. Americans have had enough of smooth talking politicians whose primary skill is the ability is to make saying nothing sound selfless and noble.
Blumenthal’s sorry performance was American politics at its worst. The focus of his sneering non-apology was to defend his record on veteran’s issues, which, he declared, no one may dare attack. Nobody did. The problem was not about veteran’s affairs, but rather the affairs involving one particular veteran: Richard Blumenthal. Faced with the choice of humbling himself by apologizing to the real veterans of the Viet Nam War whose honor he had stolen and the politically expedient tactic of attacking those who dare question his integrity, Blumenthal chose the latter course. It’s a sad testament to our current political climate to note that his choice was not surprising at all, which is why so many Americans – and not just tea partiers – are going to go to the polls in November to say that they have finally had enough.