Gregory Kane: GOP missed opportunity with Paul's remarks

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Gregory Kane

Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul, a Republican, continues to take the heat for remarks he made in late May about the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Specifically, Paul questioned whether Title II, which bans businesses from discriminating in public accommodations, amounts to inappropriate government meddling in private businesses.

Republicans in general are also taking the heat. Paul's comments have ratcheted up the charges that the party is "racist." The r-word has been whipped out to describe Paul himself.

In a May 20 edition of the online publication called the Hill, reporter Jordan Fabian opened his story with this paragraph:

"Controversial comments made by Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul resulted in a flurry of e-mails from Democrats bashing the Tea Party favorite and had Republicans tight-lipped on their nominee."

Republicans should not have been "tight-lipped" in the wake of Paul's comments. They should have used it as an opportunity to go on the offensive. They should have used the moment to remind Democrats that it's the GOP of late that has had the moral high ground on racial matters, not their opponents.

It's the Republicans who have supported the spirit, meaning and intent of the Civil Rights Act: that things should be done in America without regard to race. It's the Democrats who have supported race-based affirmative action and racial quotas they cynically refer to with cringe-inducing terms like "critical mass."

Who supported the admissions process at the University of Michigan's undergrad school, where "underrepresented minorities" were given 20 points solely for their race? Who supported "desegregation plans" in Louisville and Seattle that went against the clear language banning racial discrimination in the Civil Rights Act?

That was not Republicans; it was the Democrats. And the Democrats resorted to some pretty disgusting and naked race baiting while they did it.

The Supreme Court rightly struck down the University of Michigan policy and the race-based plans in Seattle and Louisville, but not without some Democrats hysterically howling "Racism!" afterward. But if Republicans need help in bolstering their opposition to racial preferences and the Democrats' attempts to dismantle the Civil Rights Act, they need only look to one source: James Farmer.

In the early 1940s, Farmer, now deceased, joined the Congress of Racial Equality. During the 1960s, he was the leader of the civil rights organization considered among the more radical because of its use of "direct-action" tactics.

Farmer resigned from CORE just as it went from being a civil rights organization to a black nationalist one. He even worked in President Nixon's administration for a while. In the early 1990s, Farmer spoke at Baltimore's private Gilman School.

In response to a question about affirmative action, Farmer said it was more difficult supporting it than supporting the fight against blatant segregation. The latter, Farmer said, was clearly a case of right versus wrong. With affirmative action, it was a case of right versus right.

If Farmer's account of a meeting of 1960s civil rights leaders is accurate, he wasn't the only one who felt that way. When he broached the subject of affirmative action based on racial preferences with them, Farmer attributed this quote to National Association for the Advancement of Colored People leader Roy Wilkins:

"I have a problem with that whole concept. What you're asking for there is not equal treatment, but special treatment to make up for the unequal treatment of the past. I think that's outside the American tradition and the country won't buy it."

So far, the country hasn't bought it. The notion it should buy is this: Democrats, more than Republicans, have all but ripped the Civil Rights Act to shreds.

Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

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