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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript: Civil Rights Act Remarks


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I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Just days after winning the Republican senate primary in Kentucky, the darling of the Tea Party Movement Rand Paul is under fire. Critics are seizing on remarks he made about the Civil Rights Act and his Democratic opponent it accusing Paul of promoting a narrow and rigid ideology with dangerous consequences.

Joining us now is the Republican senate candidate from Kentucky, Rand Paul.

Doctor Paul, thanks very much for coming in.

RAND PAUL, (R) SENATE CANDIDATE: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I want it give you a chance to explain because there's a lot of confusion right now about precisely where you stand. I'll ask you a simple question. If you had been a member of the Senate or the House back in 196 1964, would you have voted yea or nay for the civil rights act?

PAUL: Yes. I would have voted yes.

BLITZER: So why is there all this confusion emerging right now? Give me your analysis because you've had to issue a statement today. Will have been interviews on NPR yesterday, and MSNBC. Tell us what's going on.

PAUL: Well, first of all, Wolf, I thought I was supposed to get a honeymoon. When does my honeymoon start, you know, after my victory?

BLITZER: No such thing in politics, Doctor Paul.

PAUL: No such thing. I think you're right.

I think what troubles me is that the news cycle has gotten out of control. I mean for several hours on a major news network yesterday, they reported repeatedly that I was for repealing the Civil Rights Act. That is not only not true, never been my position, but is an out and out lie. And they repeated it all day long. It started with my Democratic opponent asserting this, but has never been my position.

BLITZER: You support that -- because the argument was made that you support the Civil Rights Act in terms of federal -- in terms of government responsibilities, there should be no racism or segregation, but if there's a private club, or a restaurant where they don't want to serve African-Americans -- as abhorrent as that is, you think -- you suggested, correct me if I'm wrong - they would have a right to do that?

PAUL: Well, what I did suggest is that it was a stain on the history of the South and our country that you know, we desegregated in 1840 in Boston. William Lloyd Garrison was up there with Frederick Douglas being thrown off trains an going through what happened in the 1960s in 1840 in Boston. So it is a stain on our history and something that I am sad for and something that if I had been alive at the time would hope that I would have been there marching with Martin Luther King.

One of our biggest county coordinators was there with Martin Luther King, attended the rallies in D.C. and considers himself to be a civil rights activist. And he takes it as a personal insult that people will say that our movement doesn't believe in civil rights.

BLITZER: But I just want to be precise on this.

PAUL: I think it is politically motivated--

BLITZER: Doctor Paul, I want to be precise. Did Woolworth, the department store, have a right at their lunch counters to segregate blacks and whites?

PAUL: I think that there was an overriding problem in the south so big that it did require federal intervention in the '60s an it stemmed from things that I said, it had been going on really 120 years too long. And the Southern states weren't correcting it. And I think there was a need for federal intervention.

BLITZER: All right so you've clarified, you would have voted yes in favor of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

PAUL: Yes.

BLITZER: Would you also have voted for the Americans With Disabilities Act?

PAUL: Well, I have some questions about it. I mean the one question that comes to mind to my thinking is let's say you have a local office, and you have a two-story office and one of your workers is handicapped, should you not be allowed maybe to offer them an office on the first floor, or how is be forced to put in a $100,000 elevator? I think that sounds like common sense, that you should maybe be allowed to give them a first floor office.

I think sometimes when we have a federal solution, we make it one size fits all and that we recognize the problem, which I do also, of someone who's handicapped, but then we don't take consideration at all the business owner, or the property owner. So I think it's a balancing act. And I would have to look at that legislation to see how they balanced it, but my understanding is that small business owners were often forced to put in elevators. And I think you ought to at least be given the choice of can you provide an opportunity without maybe having to pay for an elevator.

BLITZER: So the answer is you don't know for sure if you would have voted yes or no on that Americans for Disabilities Act?

PAUL: Yeah, I mean, I would have to look at it and see. I think you do have to-it's a balancing act. I am in favor of trying to have the workplace open. My office is open to the handicapped. We try very hard. But it's been open to the handicapped for decades. So, it doesn't always take government for people to do the right thing. Sometimes government has to step in, in extraordinary circumstances. But I think a lot of times that the private world can step up and do the right things, or we can find local solutions over federal solutions.

So it's not always whether you oppose something, it's about where the solution should arrive, whether it arrives at the federal government or local government. I do think though there is a big civil rights issue out there. And I think the Democrats avoid it. And that's school choice. I think the biggest thing holding down our inner city communities is a lack of good education and I say give them a choice, let them choose to go to a school anywhere in the city, or outside the city. So I think school choice is the civil rights issue of our era. And many people are saying that.

BLITZER: I want you to have a chance to differentiate, if you want to differentiate, with your dad. I've interviewed Congressman Ron Paul on many occasions. And we've gone through all of these issues. He's a principled libertarian, as you well know. First of all, are you as principled a libertarian from your perspective as your dad?

PAUL: Some would say not. I call myself a constitutional conservative, which means I believe the Constitution does restrict and restrain the federal government, and we should be doing a lot less than we're doing. And if we did so I think we would balance the budget and we would have more local and state control.

BLITZER: All right. PAUL: So we'll agree on a lot of issues and we'll disagree on some and there may be some nuance, but I would say -- he will probably still be the number one libertarian in the country. I'm probably not going to supplant him there.

BLITZER: You're not going to be able to compete. Because there are four votes and I've discussed this with him, himself, in which the vote was 425-1, or 421-1. For example, asking Arab states to acknowledge genocide in Darfur. Asking Vietnam to release a political prisoner, condemning the Zimbabwe government, awarding a gold medal to Rosa Parks. Your dad was the only member, on the Democratic and Republican side, to vote against that because he's a principled libertarian. He doesn't want the U.S. government involved in any of those issues. Are you the same as him?

PAUL: Probably not. And the thing is that he is incredibly principled and I admire him for the stands he's taken. Interestingly, some of those things sound like how could anybody be against that? The reason he votes against it a lot of times is not that he disagrees with the position, often he'll agree with the position of the resolution. But just think that the government really shouldn't be making a statement on some of these things.

I think it's yet to be seen how I'll vote on resolution, nonbinding resolutions. But I'm probably not going to be the great path breaker that he is, but I think he stands on principle, and I think he's well respected because he doesn't compromise his principles.

BLITZER: We're going to continue this conversation, I'm hoping, on many occasion, Doctor Paul. Thanks very much for coming in.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLITZER: I'm glad you had a chance to explain your positions precisely. These are, as you well know, as a novice politician, among the most sensitive issues out there.

PAUL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to get the other side next. My interview with Doctor Paul's opponent, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. He's the Democratic senate candidate. Stand by for that.

Also, the push to legalize marijuana. We'll talk about it with America's current are drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, and the country's first drug czar. CNN Political Contributor Bill Bennett.

And pushing the human body to new extremes, with a jump from the edge of space.


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