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Our Interview With Senator Rand Paul

On Tuesday, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul joined us to talk about Libertarianism in America today and the future of the Republican Party.  Here is his conversation with guest host, John Harwood

During the conversation, Senator Paul and guest host John Harwood discussed the Senator’s association with former social media adviser Jack Hunter:

John Harwood: You invoke the rights of black Americans. You spoke at Howard University. You’ve talked about commitment to outreach. What conclusion should people draw from the presence of that former shock jock Jack Hunter on your staff, who co-authored a book with you, who was identified as the “Southern Avenger…”

Sen. Rand Paul: He’s no longer on my staff.

John Harwood: But you had a pretty strong association with him.

Sen. Rand Paul: Yeah, but the thing is, if you’ll read through a lot of his things, I think some of the things he wrote, or many of the things he wrote were stupid and I don’t agree with. They weren’t things that I was aware of or reasons why I hired him. I do think though, that he was unfairly treated by the media, and that he was put up as target practice for people to say he was a racist, and none of that’s true.

Senator Paul expressed concern that he was being defined not by his actions, but by his associations:

Sen. Rand Paul: It’s also unfair to paint a broad brush and say that’s who I am when I should be judged by the things I’m doing. And I think there is no greater defender, truly, of minority rights — if you include minorities to be the color of your skin or the color of your ideology — than myself, because I will stand up there with the most progressive members of the caucus in the Senate and say, you know what, civil liberties are important, and they’re important particularly because of some of the egregious things that happened in America’s history.

John Harwood then asked for Senator Paul’s reaction to a piece from The Economist’s Democracy in America blog written by W. W. Houston (Will Wilkinson,) titled “Unpopular and Impolitic“:

John Harwood: If somebody sees the record of Jack Hunter…

Sen. Rand Paul: Why don’t we talk about Rand Paul, I’m the one doing the interview. You can go ahead and beat up on an ex-employee of mine, but why don’t we talk about Rand Paul and what I’m trying to do to grow the party, and then we might have an intelligent discussion.

John Harwood: Well I am, but he is someone who wrote a book with you.

Sen. Rand Paul: Well, you’re not. You think you want to dwell on something, you want to bring up critical articles from people who don’t like me, and don’t support any Libertarian ideals. Why don’t we talk about what Libertarian republican means and what it would do for the party.

You can listen to the full conversation on Libertarianism and the future of the GOP — which also included leading libertarian thinker and executive vice president at the Cato Institute David Boaz and The Atlantic staff writer Molly Ball – here.

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  • Kathleen Cox

    Rand Paul is an abrasive and disrespectful person. I was most disappointed in Mr. Harwood’s interview as he did not remind Senator Paul that he was conducting the interview not Senator Paul. Additionally, as with most journalists these days, there were no follow-up questions. The last question regarding national security funding was simply left dangling as Mr. Harwood did not ask the obvious—”Where would you cut the budget in order to provide funding for national security?” I was very pleased, however, that Senator Paul came off as the “bully” he is!

  • homebuilding

    Maybe, Kathleen, we should compile an extensive list of ‘well-known lies’ that politicians spout, relentlessly, to the point that many accept the lies as truth.

    It’s a huge problem….nowhere worse that the imaginary cuts that will solve all our problems when food stamps and foreign aid go away.

  • seethingsclearly

    I could not agree more with Ms. Cox below. As I wrote
    in the main comments section regarding this broadcast, when all is said and done, Paul is a garden-variety right-wing apologist for and kowtower to
    entrenched power and privilege. Irony and contradiction abound in his
    persona, since he espouses individual freedom but is in fact a kind of cult
    figure, with an all-too-huge cult following. And one of the characteristics of
    a cult leader is his inability to tolerate even a moment’s criticism, an
    unfortunate defect that was on open display during the broadcast. Truly free human beings have no need for resorting to the kind of sanctimonious
    indignation he relishes when challenged to explain controversial aspects of his
    life. He is nothing if not typical of the genre of self-inflated politicians
    whose transparent, overweening ambition is to occupy the White House and force
    his cherished ideology upon us whether we like it or not.

  • Outside_of_the_Box

    While I don’t agree with Paul on several issues, I do agree with him that interviews are often wasted with partisan slants and setups.
    I expect more from NPR in this regard actually.
    I do think Paul was overly defensive, but I also see how the line of questioning and tone set him off.
    Like he said, focus on the issues.

    • seethingsclearly

      I strongly disagree with your conclusion that questions about Paul’s past views and his close association with ex-staffer Jack Hunter (who had a long history of support for the Confederacy, including celebrating the assassination of Lincoln) are merely “partisan
      slants and setups.” It’s fair game indeed to press him on explaining why he thinks bartering to pay for medical care would be a good thing, or that businesses should be free to discriminate against anyone they want, or that Congress should lay off making safety rules for coal mining. “Focus on the issues,” indeed. It’s his refusal to do just that, to engage openly on controversial matters such as these, that reveals a serious character flaw in Paul. If he can’t explain himself and “man up” on a mere radio broadcast, then how does he expect to fare in the rough-and-tumble of a presidential campaign? He comes off as petulant, whiny, and thin-skinned. Can such a person be taken seriously as a national political leader? Surely there were other ways he could have responded without the undignified demand that the interviewer obsequiously lob only the softball questions Paul evidently preferred to consider. Apparently Paul is far more used to being idolized back home and on right-wing talk shows. His discomfort with facing questions he doesn’t like clearly shows he is “not ready for prime time,” as Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner put it recently. It gives me pause to think that he believes he can lead the country. I do hope a majority avoid being mesmerized into believing so as well.

      • Government_Banking_Serf

        Perhaps you should put your own ideological bigotry aside.


        Cherry picking is too easy, and if done in all directions would have us distracted ad infinitum. I guess some people like that. Good old status quo over evolved, informed, debated progress.

        • seethingsclearly

          So you think I am ideologically bigoted and cherry pick the facts. You imply you are the arbiter of informed debate while I am part of the “good old status quo,” which I take to mean I have a biased view worthy of contempt.

          Aside from the rude presumptuousness of your tone, you seem unwilling to state in your own words, clearly and simply, just what you find objectionable about my views. Instead, you simply dismiss them with a verbal wave of your hand and then refer me to some video produced by someone else. I see you have responded in like fashion to what I and others have written in the main commentary section of the program on Rand Paul, quickly dismissing the comments of those with whom you disagree and then posting several URL’s that presumably make your own case in spades.

          I think your responses would be much more meaningful, much more useful to a genuine debate on this important issue, if you dropped the derisive tone and stopped merely presenting the views of others as your only contribution. While I am certainly in favor of quoting others, it’s infinitely better to present an argument, in your own words, and then present someone else’s ideas afterward to bolster your own, rather than merely referring readers to someone else. It makes you seem intellectually lazy, and rather arrogant. If you can’t or won’t take the time to make your case in your own words, why expect someone whom you are trying to persuade to take the time and trouble to listen to the youtube videos you hold so dear? You may think references to some other authorities will lend weight to your own views, but if you don’t even present them to begin with, then why should I bother listening to you?

  • seethingsclearly

    I saw the same show and was disappointed by interviewer John Oliver’s coddling of Paul, avoiding asking him any challenging questions. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Paul made such kid-glove treatment a requirement of the interview. In my view, your verdict of “myopic” is putting it mildly (although considering his profession before he became a senator, it’s a punny characterization, all right).

    Paul isn’t much of a thinker. He’s a demagogue of the most ordinary sort, eager to stir a simmering pot of hinterland voter ire in hopes it will eventually propel him into the White House. He’ll have to compete, no doubt, with the likes of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and a host of other right-wing GOP hopefuls, all of whom are eager to outdo the other in stoking white-hot rage against the government that their party has hamstrung mercilessly because of their stranglehold on the House and their effective control of the Senate.

    This is not to excuse the Democrats, who, while they may be somewhat better than the Republicans on social issues, represent lost hopes for reforming an economic system that continues to fail the majority of citizens and that, in the trenchant view of author Thomas Frank (“What’s the Matter with Kansas?”), “is becoming more brutal and more arrogant by the day.”

  • Government_Banking_Serf

    I love how people equate going back to the Constitutional, Rule of Law principles that were the foundation of this country, with going back to the 1700′s.

    Human Nature hasn’t changed. I cannot believe with all thats going on, from colluding bankers, to gay bashing, to NSA surveillance etc, people are still ready to throw away historical gift of a Constituionally-constrained form of government and the Rule of Law instead of Rule of Men.


    • seethingsclearly

      This is a Straw Man argument. No principled critic of the Strict Constructionist interpretation of the Constitution is seriously arguing for throwing out the baby of “rule by law” with the bathwater of “rule by outdated, outmoded laws that need modern interpretation.” Your glib dismissal of such criticism is unjustified.

  • allen 2saint

    He is so clearly displaying an arrogance and beligerence that is the hallmark of Tea Party amateur politicians. Is he the only politician who has had to answer to criticisms or prove himself? You think politicians and public figures don’t have to slog through difficult or even annoying questions on a weekly basis. What boorish behavior. He is an arrogant jerk and it is an absolute crime that the media gives him the time of day because he is “contreversial.” He s

  • Todd Jensen


  • Pingback: Despite 'Southern Avenger,' Rand Paul to Open Minority Outreach | Tea Party Poison

  • Pingback: Despite 'Southern Avenger,' Rand Paul to Open Minority Outreach | The Central Issue

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