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I'm a little late to this. You know I'm no fan of Rand Paul, but his thoughts on free speech and racial profiling with Hannity are just loony tunes.
Libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made headlines last week for single-handedly obstructing the renewal of the Patriot Act, calling the law an unconstitutional infringement on civil liberties. His demand to insert a series of amendments to weaken the law nearly allowed it to lapse and put the country at “risk,” but Paul said it was worth it to prevent the government from continuing to “blatantly ignor[e] the Constitution.” But when Paul went on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s radio show Friday to discuss his opposition to the national security law, he suggested implementing a far more serious infringement on civil liberties. While discussing profiling at airports, Paul called for the criminalization of speech:
PAUL: I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It wouldn’t be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.
Paul’s suggestion that people be imprisoned or deported for merely attending a political speech would be a fairly egregious violation on the First Amendment, not to mention due process. What if someone attended a radical speech as a curious bystander? Should they too be thrown in prison? And who defines what is considered so “radical” that it is worth imprisonment?
I believe Paul has said he's not as rigid as his father on certain Libertarian ideas, but Paul Krugman puts it this way:
He’s not unusual. There are genuine libertarians out there. But political figures who talk a lot about liberty and freedom invariably turn out to mean the freedom to not pay taxes and discriminate based on race; freedom to hold different ideas and express them, not so much
Digby describes him thusly:
How shall I put this delicately? The man isn't playing with a full deck. He's not the sharpest tool in the shed. He's a few tacos short of a fiesta platter. His jogging trail doesn't go all the way round the lake...He's an idiot. The fact that we have to count on him to be the guardian of the constitution in the US Senate says everything you need to know about the state of civil liberties in this country.
Indeed, the First Amendment not only protects the mere "attending" of a speech "promoting the violent overthrow of our government," but also the giving of such a speech. The government is absolutely barred by the Free Speech clause from punishing people even for advocating violence. That has been true since the Supreme Court's unanimous 1969 decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio, which overturned the criminal conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader who had threatened violence against political officials in a speech.
Liberals and Libertarians agree on civil liberty issues all the time, but it's the rest of their belief system that turns out the Rand Pauls and poses a danger to the health of our Democracy. Rachel Maddow exposed him pretty easily. Sean Hannity does have a way of extracting cuckoo for cocoa puffs rants from those that actually try to hide them to look more reasonable.
(h/t blue aardvark)