I do respect Hunter’s renunciations and rethinking, and the increased empathy that preceded this controversy. Within the world of commentary, I am disinclined to shun anyone earnestly seeking redemption from a past of talk-radio hackery — talk about getting the incentives all wrong.
That doesn’t change the fact that Hunter should resign his post immediately, because his continued presence can only undermine the effectiveness of his employer. Paul shouldn’t have ever hired him, because even if — to be overly charitable — Paul wasn’t aware of his objectionable views, or disagreed with all of them but didn’t regard them as pertinent to the job, a Senate staffer’s role is to help his boss govern, and any fool should’ve been able to see that having an avowed secessionist and Confederate nostalgist on staff would end in distraction, controversy, and many assuming (whether rightly or wrongly) an antagonism to blacks — just as many Americans assumed, during the Jeremiah Wright scandal, that Obama harbored antagonism toward America.
Bouie thinks Rand has a race problem that goes beyond the staffer:
Yes, Paul is on the right side of the war on drugs, and is one of the few Republican voices pushing for federal criminal justice reform. At the same time, as evidenced by his disastrous appearance at Howard University, he lacks any awareness of how his limited government views play to African Americans, who—as a group—have a strong memory of what could happen when you leave states to their own devices. On some level, he seems to think that his ideological purity makes it okay that he believes the 1964 Civil Rights Act was an imposition on “liberty,” despite the fact that this places him in the company of people who defend secession, and the Confederacy.
None of this is evidence that Rand Paul holds racist views, and if he did, it wouldn’t matter. Lyndon Johnson was almost certainly a racist—he also worked to usher a Second Reconstruction of far-reaching civil rights laws. But it is evidence that Paul is oblivious to the history of “limited government” ideologies in this country, which have been (and are) used to defend white supremacy.
Julia Ioffe nods:
As New York’s Jonathan Chait pointed out, racists tend to pop up in the Pauls’ circles. A lot. This has been true since the elder Paul got into politics, in Houston, in the late 1960s. Paul is going to have to explain this stuff, and explain it in a definitive way. How, for example, did he only have a “vague” notion of his co-author’s previous work? Wouldn’t his past work be an important qualifier when he was being considered for that job? How did he hire a man to direct his social media whose Twitter handle is @SouthernAvenger?
This is a different and more important question than the one his father faced over the racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic apocalyptic drivel written under his name. Ron Paul had no chance of getting to the White House, but Rand could, and so it matters who those “lot of people” are. Rand, of all people, should know: He filibustered one of the people that was going to work for the current president (CIA Director John Brennan), and has threatened to filibuster another potential presidential employee (FBI Director James Comey).