Sen. Rand Paul: Civil Rights Act Was Overreach Because "I Can't Have A Cigar Bar Anymore"

January 09, 2012 12:04 pm ET — Kate Conway

While campaigning for a Senate seat in 2010, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) came under fire for his opposition to the part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting private businesses from discriminating on the basis of race. This morning on CNN, he revisited the topic when host Soledad O'Brien asked him about a 2004 statement his father, presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), gave asserting that "the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty."

Defending his father, Sen. Paul tried to explain that the "unintended consequences" of the Civil Rights Act have constituted a threat to property rights. "For example," he said, "I can't have a cigar bar anymore."

PAUL: The issues are a little more complicated than you scratch the surface and say he's not for civil liberties because of that. For example, there are things that people are concerned about that were unintended consequences. People who believe very fervently in people being— having equal protection under the law, and against segregation, all that, still worried about the loss of property rights in the sense that—

O'BRIEN: So he's saying property rights—

PAUL: Well let me finish, let me finish. For example, I can't have a cigar bar anymore, and you say, well, that has nothing to do with race. The idea of whether or not you control your property— Now it also tells you, I want to know the calorie count on all that. And the calorie Nazis come in here and tell me—

UNIDENTIFIED: I don't think I do, Senator.

PAUL: I don't think you can measure the calorie count there. But that's the point. The point is that it's not all about that. It's not all about race relations. It is about controlling property, ultimately.


Even if one were able to trace the legal precedent behind local bans on smoking in bars to the federal Civil Rights Act (a rather dubious connection), Sen. Paul's implicit comparison between the right of a person to be free of racial discrimination and the ostensible right of a business owner to operate a bar in which smoking is allowed is an absurd extension of an unreasonably rigid libertarian philosophy. Paul's defense of his father — and his own equivocation on whether combating racial discrimination in places of public accommodation is a rightful role of the federal government — is an illustration of a frightening dogmatism that will always choose ideology over pragmatism and over the interests of the people he represents.