*Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele was inevitably asked to comment about the controversial civil rights views held by Kentucky’s GOP Senate hopeful Rand Paul, who made headlines last week when he expressed having reservations about the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“I can’t condemn a person’s view,” Steele said on ABC’s “This Week.” “The people of Kentucky will judge whether that’s a view that they would like to send to the Senate.”
Steele said that while he is “uncomfortable with a lot of things … it doesn’t matter what I’m comfortable with or not comfortable with. I don’t vote in that election.” [Watch interview below.]
The day after Paul’s easy victory in the Republican Senate primary, he told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that, while he supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act in general, he thought some provisions banning discrimination in private businesses went too far.
Less than 24 hours later, Paul began backtracking from those comments, saying in a written statement, “I believe we should work to end all racism in American society and staunchly defend the inherent rights of every person.”
When asked on “Fox News Sunday” if Paul’s civil rights statements were wrong, Steele answered that the candidate’s “philosophy is misplaced in these times.”
Paul “stands foursquare with the party on this issue, but he had a philosophical difference, as many members who come to Congress have different philosophies,” the chairman said. “But when you get [in Washington], what you do and how you execute the job is what matters.” “It’s important to understand that Rand Paul has clarified his statement and reiterated his support for … pushing civil rights forward,” Steele said. “Any attempt to look backwards is not in the best interest of our country, certainly, and certainly not in the best interest of the party.” [Watch clip below.]
Steele added that Paul’s views on civil rights should be judged in context with the “philosophical position” held by libertarians, which Paul is.
“They have a very, very strong view about the limitations of government intrusion into the private sector,” he said. “That is a philosophical perspective.”
Former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin outright defended Paul, saying on “Fox News Sunday” that he was “right in his clarifications about what he means in his interpretation of the impacts of the Civil Rights Act.”
“Rand Paul is not a perfect, always-to-be-agreed-with candidate. Nobody is,” the former governor added. “But Rand Paul is a libertarian. He’s clear in his libertarian leanings.” Mrs. Palin went on to say that Mr. Paul, during his interview with Ms. Maddow, had engaged in a “hypothetical discussion about constitutional impacts” with a “media personality who has an agenda.”
“You know, they’re looking for that ‘gotcha’ moment, and that’s what it evidently appears to be that they did with Rand Paul,” she said. Below, Steele’s apperances on “Fox News Sunday” and ABC’s “This Week.”