Nashua, N.H. A wave of discomfort moved through the ballroom at the Crowne Plaza hotel when Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator running for president, proclaimed, “The terrorist could be you.”
The older, conservative crowd at the New Hampshire GOP’s Republican Leadership Summit on Saturday didn’t seem to know what to think at first. Paul wasn’t suggesting Patty from Portsmouth actually is a terrorist. The Kentucky Republican’s point was that the federal government’s disregard for rule of law and the right to a speedy trial for those accused of terrorism is a slippery slope. The feds are targeting Americans with names like Mohammed right now, Paul was implying, but what if the government decided a gun-owner from rural New Hampshire, say, was dangerous to the nation?
Civil libertarianism is a big part of Paul’s pitch, and he’s taking on not just theoretical threats from the federal government but arguments from hawkish members of his own party. On the issue of detention without trial for those Americans suspected of conspiring to commit acts of terror with foreign groups, Paul has laid down a marker on the side of a strict interpretation of the Fifth Amendment. “I think we need to be the party that defends the entire Bill of Rights,” he said in Nashua.
Without mentioning his name, Paul took on fellow Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who may be running for president and who spoke to the conference just a few minutes after Paul. Paul and Graham were on opposing sides during a 2011 Senate debate on indefinite detention of American citizens accused of terrorism. Graham's argument was that these Americans ought to be classified as unlawful enemy combatants, and that the rules of war apply so long as Congress has authorized military action. Enemy combatants can be detained for as long as hostilities continue or when Congress otherwise says so, goes the thinking. "And when they say, 'I want my lawyer,' you tell them 'Shut up. You don't get a lawyer. You're an enemy combatant,'" Graham had said during the floor debate.
But Paul didn't see it that way.
“One of them said, ‘When they ask for a lawyer, you just tell them to shut up.’ Really? That’s the kind of discourse we’re going to have in our country? Tell them to shut up?” Paul said. “You would send an American citizen to Guantanamo Bay without a lawyer, without a trial? He said, ‘Yeah, if they’re dangerous.’”
Paul cracked a smile as he launched into full libertarian lecture mode.
“It sort of begs the question, doesn’t it? Who gets to decide who’s dangerous and who’s not dangerous?” he said, pacing back and forth across the stage in blue jeans and without a jacket. “Has there been a time in our history when we decided who was dangerous based on the color of your skin? Has there been a time in our history when we decided someone was dangerous because of different beliefs, didn’t look like us, or had a different religion? Are we going to give up on our right to trial so easily?”
There were nods of approval and a few applause breaks during Paul’s appeal for a more robust defense of the Bill of Rights in the GOP—though more often than not, members of Paul’s campaign team could be seen in the back or side of the ballroom initiating the clapping.
Earlier in the speech, Paul spoke extensively about the plague of civil asset forfeiture abuse, wherein law enforcement seizes private property suspected of being connected with criminal wrongdoing even if the owners themselves are not accused of an crimes. “Government can’t take your stuff, your property, your things, without just compensation,” said Paul.
The original idea of civil asset forfeiture was to target organized crime, but there’s been an increased interest in reforming civil forfeiture procedures as stories of abuse have piled up. New Mexico recently passed a law, signed by Republican governor Susana Martinez, reforming the practice. Congress is also considering a similar bill. Paul explained how a grandmother had her house taken from her by the police because her grandson, who had been arrested, was suspected of selling marijuana out of the home where they both lived.
Less than four months ago, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice had concluded that the transgendered are among the classes of persons protected, unbeknownst to the framers of the legislation at the time, by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
President Obama and his family were there. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura attended. But missing from the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Alabama? President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Clinton, as well as Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.
All former presidents were invited to the anniversary, according to news reports.
In the long, tortured history of race in America, there are few bright spots shinier than the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Democratic and Republican reformers from across the country overcame the resistance, mainly of Southern segregationists, to pass legislation that broke the back of Jim Crow.
Eric Holder complained yesterday to civil rights activists about the way Congress is treating him. He made the remarks, which appeared unscripted, yesterday at Al Sharpton's National Action Network conference in Manhattan:
Hillary Clinton, speaking at the American Bar Association's annual meeting in San Francisco Monday night, botched the name of civil rights icon Medgar Evers. The former secretary of state and first lady was recounting the story of one of her mentors, lawyer John Doar.
"In 1963, in Jackson, Mississippi, John stepped between angry protesters and armed police to prevent a potential massacre after the murder of Medgar Evans," said Clinton, who was referring to Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist who was murdered while walking into his home on June 12, 1963. Watch the video below:
This afternoon, President Barack Obama consulted with MSNBC host Al Sharpton, who's also assicated with the National Action Network (NAN), about the fiscal talks between the White House and Congress. At the same meeting, Obama also consulted with other "leaders of civil rights and civic organizations."
A notional woman named “Julia” recently made her debut on the Obama campaign’s website. Julia, it seems, needs help at every stage in her life, and if the president has his way, the government will be there to assist her in, among other things, getting a college education, finding a job, securing birth control, and providing for her retirement. But it turns out that all this assistance will not be enough for the hapless Julia as she moves through life. It seems she will also need some close air support.