Line of the Day – “Welcome to Big Time Politics, Rand Paul” Edition

Man running for United States Senate shocked to learn that he has to be careful what he says.

Via an interview with Dave Wiegel:

“it’s amazing how you say things and they get blown into things you didn’t say! I’m not even sure I can talk to some people anymore because they take things out of context.”

The thing is, that’s politics and it is amplified the more prominent the office to which one aspires and is part of the reason that politicians typically cut their teeth on less prominent offices so as to learn how to navigate the process.  To jump from relative obscurity to major party nominee for one of the most prominent offices in land is almost certainly going to mean some verbal gaffes and certainly some critical, indeed, hostile, press coverage.

Indeed, the above quote goes with any kind of public utterances to an audience.  Over the years I have certainly been misunderstood and/or quoted out of context as a blogger, writer, and a a professor.  My audience, however, is smaller than Paul’s and the general consequences of misapprehension of my words is several quanta less significant.

UPDATE (James Joyner):  It’s amusing that Dave Weigel is the one breaking the story, since he’s learned exactly the same lesson the hard way overnight.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, US Politics,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    Weigel’s case is a bit different as it was a leaked private discussion, not public comments. Like Palin’s leaked emails, if it was written in private, in confidence, to another private party, the content should not be leaked.

  2. Brian Knapp says:

    It’s amusing that Dave Weigel is the one breaking the story, since he’s learned exactly the same lesson the hard way overnight.

    And a good lesson for all of us that in the information age, assume that anything that crosses one’s lips is public. That goes for any behavior really.

    If you want something kept private, keep it in your head.

  3. James Joyner says:

    [I]f it was written in private, in confidence, to another private party, the content should not be leaked.

    I don’t disagree. But it’s going to happen if you’re a public figure. And that’s especially true if you’re blasting it to a wide list of people rather than a single individual.

  4. Herb says:

    I’d quibble with the “exactly the same lesson” thing. Paul learned he can’t speak his mind to Rachel Maddow for fear that it will be disseminated to the wider world. Weigel learned he can’t speak his mind on Journolist without it being disseminated to the wider world.

    The difference, one is a nationally televised show, and the other is a private e-mail list.

    A lesson, yes….but the same lesson?

  5. grampagravy says:

    Someone should explain to some of these dumber politicians what “out of context” means. Rand Paul publicly stated that he disagreed with portions of the Civil Rights Act. Joe Barton publicly apologized to BP for making them pay for what they broke. Neither of these statements could be “misconstrued” or “taken out of context” to be anything other than what they clearly were to anyone with a modicum of proficiency in the English language. The “context” excuse for when these clowns actually say what they really think sounds more like “I was lying then, or I am lying now pick the one you like.”

  6. Juneau: says:

    “Rand Paul publicly stated that he disagreed with portions of the Civil Rights Act.”

    Please provide the quote and reference, because you , sir, are most certainly taking him out of context in stating emphatically that he “disagreed with portions of the civil rights act.” He was contrasting the idea of a perfect freedom to have the “right to refuse service to anyone” (you know, that sign you used to see behind the counter in almost every restaurant and bar in the country) with the controls put n place by the CRA. This is the libertarian position on basic freedoms as an ideal.

    Just stating something is true, does not make it so.

  7. grampagravy says:

    Juneau,
    So you are saying that Rand Paul doesn’t disagree with part of the Civil Rights Act, he just disagrees with what part of the Civil Rights Act does…???? LOL
    As for providing citations for “common knowledge,” I never do that. You can try to hunt down the Maddow interview or any of the flap that followed for yourself.

  8. Juneau: says:

    Just as I thought. Your mouth is bigger than your ability to defend your statements of “fact.” And as for Maddow’s comments, a magic 8 ball is more accurate than she is. Flatly put, she lies. On tape. Undeniably.

  9. Jueneau: you need go no further than the archives of OTB: click and it isn’t even the Maddow interview. Paul clearly states that while he is in favor of banning “institutional” discrimination in public facility, he opposes the notion of telling private business whom they can serve.

  10. Juneau: says:

    Paul clearly states that while he is in favor of banning “institutional” discrimination in public facility, he opposes the notion of telling private business whom they can serve

    Directly from your link. The first comment out of his mouth, and the money line that all the liberals here want to completely ignore:

    PAUL: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m all in favor of that.

    And then he talked about the libertarian ideal of a business owner having the right to refuse service to anyone they want to in their own business.

    You know part of the problem here is that y’all think you can legislate the thoughts that people have. CLimb inside their mind and shake your finger at them because you know – you just know- that they’re racists or bigots, or … whatever. The main problem isn’t any of those, it’s just that they won’t agree to the concept that you should pass laws that sit in judgement of their basic freedoms to be different than you.

  11. Juneau: like it or not, Paul is arguing that he believes that the Civil Rights Act was wrong to prohibit discriminatory practices by private businesses. He believes that the government should only be able to restrict public (i.e,. government) discrimination.

    As such, your assertions above about what Paul said are simply factually wrong.

  12. Juneau: says:

    I agree with Paul. As much as I may abhor it, the government has no place telling me who I have to provide my business services to. What’s next, forcing churches to hire people who’s lifestyles they disagree with? Do you support the idea that I would have to hire, say a transvestite to work in my Bible bookstore?

  13. Juneau: says:

    “it” being racism and prejudice…

  14. The conditions in the deep south at the time of the passage of the Civil Rights Act were such that the black portion of the population was treated as second class (at best) citizens and were denied the ability to function in daily life because of restriction placed on what they could and could not do, much of which was enforced by private businesses. It was an intolerable situation that required government action.

    BTW, to compare that circumstance to the question of hiring a transvestite to work at a Bible bookstore is to demonstrate a gross misunderstanding of what we are talking about here.

  15. Juneau: says:

    BTW, to compare that circumstance to the question of hiring a transvestite to work at a Bible bookstore is to demonstrate a gross misunderstanding of what we are talking about here

    It’s an extrapolation of the subject, but I don’t feel that it is a gross misunderstanding at all. The point I am expanding upon is the idea that you can legislate attitudes and how that 1) is impossible and 2) by natural progression leads us to the place we are today. How can you say that it is a gross misunderstanding when the quest for acceptance of homosexual marriages is being equated with the civil rights movement? The choice of whether my question about a bible bookstore is relevant is not my choice, it is being promoted as such by the left.

    This is not the South in the 60s any longer. To me it sounds like what your really saying is that prejudice is so inherently natural to the whites in this country that it will always be necessary to make it a federal law to discriminate, in order to keep it from becoming rampant. Isn’t that concept more than a little prejudiced in its own right?

  16. Juneau: says:

    Poorly constructed sentences abound. Not “federal law” , rather “federal crime.” Apologies…

  17. This is not the South in the 60s any longer.

    But we are talking about the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and whether or not it was necessary for the government to interfere with private businesses in the South in the 60s.

    Indeed, part of why the south now (where I live, btw) isn’t like the south of the 1960s is partly because of the CRA of 1965.

    To me it sounds like what your really saying is that prejudice is so inherently natural to the whites in this country that it will always be necessary to make it a federal law to discriminate, in order to keep it from becoming rampant.

    I honestly have no earthly idea how you could construe me to have asserted that.

    What I am asserting is that there was a condition of massive discrimination that was not likely to resolve itself naturally and that it was necessarily for the government to act.

  18. Juneau: says:

    I honestly have no earthly idea how you could construe me to have asserted that

    Perhaps the issue here is that I’m looking at Paul’s statements in light of the current social climate here in the US, which I believe is the context that it should be viewed in. I feel like you are asserting that 1965 norms are still in play. The reason why I get this impression is because the contention means Paul has been labeled by the left as being pro-discrimination.

    My point is that norms have changed since 1965, and like most legislation, the CRA is being used as leverage into federal control of other aspects of our lives. I think that was part of Paul’s point of view. Maybe I’m giving him more credit than I should, but I believe that what he is stating in regards to the CRA is that a public policy is desirable, but private control, in today’s social environment, has become simply an intrusion on freedom. It was initiated and morally mandated by circumstances that no longer prevail.

  19. Juneau,

    Paul states, in the linked interview that at the time he would have allowed Woolworth’s to stop Dr. King from sitting at their lunch counters because they were a private business. He states that while he would have been opposed to Woolworth’s behaving that way, and that he personally would not have patronized Woolworth’s and perhaps would have protested, he thinks that private businesses, even those in the Jim Crow south, had the right to discriminate because of skin color because of his view of property rights.

    As such, he is not arguing that the portions of the CRA that apply to private businesses should not be in force now, he is arguing that they should not have been in place in the 1960s.

  20. BTW–to correct an error I made above: the CRA was 1964. 1965 was the Voting Rights Act. For some reason I always want to put them both in the same year.

  21. grampagravy says:

    I sort of wish we could have stuck to why these (supposedly) educated, elected idiots think that “I was taken out of context” is good cover for every miscontruction, false representation, and outright lie they present. Do they think people really accept that bull? Do they believe it themselves? Or worse, do they actually manage to score points with both sides as a result of people only paying attention to those they agree with?

  22. Liandro says:

    I still don’t fault Rand. I pretty much agree with him that it was unconstitutional, and still is. Liberals had to basically bend (or ignore) the meaning of the Constitution for everything to fit in. However, I also agree with Dr. Taylor’s point about conditions in in the South for the black individuals. So, given the tension between those two issues, some questions:

    1. Did the courts change how the Constitution was read to allow the 1964 Civil Rights Act to stand? If so, was the moral imperative enough to justify this? Is this an acceptable judicial philosophy (living document, etc.)?

    2. How much damage, if any, did expanding the commerce clause do to the concept of enumerated powers?

    3. If portions of the Act were, in fact, unconstitutional, was the imperative to act (something we both agree on) enough to act unconstitutionally (a la Lincoln, perhaps)? Or was the spirit of the Constitution at odds with the letter, and where would that leave us?

    4. Why did the various suffrage movements, despite being very worthy causes, need amendments to pass but the Civil Rights Act did not? Or, put another way: if this was so controversial from a Constitutional perspective, why did it not deserve or get an amendment?

    5. Would not such an amendment–narrowly defined to expand the federal government’s power into private businesses where racism is concerned–have prevented the trampling of the commerce clause and any possible destruction of enumerated powers? Was not the amendment process put in place to require the federal government to put before the People, and the States, exactly what it is doing, and why? Should not the most powerful entity in the word–the US government–have some tethers on it, and should it not have to defend its need and moral right to expand those tethers if some occasion arises?

    As you can probably conclude from the above questions, I believe that the federal government did not have this power at that time, and that it essentially gave itself the power based on the desperate need that Dr. Taylor is talking about. This usurped power from the people and the States (however justly), and that power has gone on to do many, many other things completely unrelated to civil rights. Was the federal government required to explain why it has the power to branch off into all these areas? No–because when we freed it from the Constitution, we removed the best chains the people had over the federal government. Now Washington can do via laws, or even bureaucracy, what would have, at one time, required amendments.

    Anyway, I’m curious to see what your thoughts are on those questions, Dr. Taylor. This is an issue I have been pondering off and on since Rand aired it out. And, by the way, kudos to him for doing so. I think the knee-jerk reaction to his position is evidence against our political process and even us as a People, then it is against Rand. It is shameful how many liberals hide behind race when the real issue Paul was getting at was expansion of the federal government, abuse of the commerce clause, and the destruction of enumerated powers. The Civil Rights Act was one of the tipping points for abuse of the commerce clause, so it has to be discussed…but that always gives liberal apologists the chance to put race front and center. I digress…