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The end of the liberal-libertarian romance

Dan Balz and Krissah Thompson have a (final?) take on the fallout of Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul's comments about whether all the provisions of the Civil Rights Act are necessary; Greg Sargent got Paul's campaign to say that the candidate did not really oppose government action to prevent discrimination in private businesses.

But we're not done with the fallout here. As I noted last night on Hardball, Paul's campaign was surprised and unhappy that MSNBC's Rachel Maddow drilled him so hard on the civil rights issue -- something that was obvious when Paul sarcastically thanked Maddow for a brutal introductory video, clipping together all of his quotes on the CRA. Normally, it wouldn't be news that a Republican candidate was annoyed by Rachel Maddow. But Rand Paul and his father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), had been welcome on Maddow's show, where they'd happily light into mainstream Republicans. Before the younger Paul became a Senate nominee, he was an emissary for a brand of Republican politics less threatening than the Dick Cheney kind -- anti-Fed, anti-war, pro-drug legalization. (Paul is not personally pro-drug legalization, but many of his supporters are.) After he won the nomination, it was open season on his more extreme politics.

We saw this happen in 2008 with Ron Paul. In December 2007, the New Republic ran a piece on Paul by Tucker Carlson, the most glowing of several fun pieces it ran about him. Weeks later, the magazine ran an exposé by Jamie Kirchick of racist passages in newsletters that went out under Paul's name. "If you are a critic of the Bush administration," Kirchick wrote at the top of his article, "chances are that, at some point over the past six months, Ron Paul has said something that appealed to you." Hint, hint -- it was fun to indulge the libertarians for a while, but the time had come for good liberals to take them seriously.

I think Rand Paul has been whipsawed by the literally overnight shift in his coverage -- from "check out this exciting insurgent candidate" to "will this insurgent candidate destroy the Republic?" It's not a shift I plan to undergo, but it's one that will, I'm told, keep Paul from accepting invitations to Maddow's show for the foreseeable future.

By David Weigel  |  May 21, 2010; 8:40 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Libertarians  
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