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Rand Paul's surprise win in Kentucky's GOP senatorial primary made him an overnight hero for the movements he represents: the Tea Party, conservative libertarianism, and the general anti-establishment sentiment of the day. While Paul's libertarian-tinged philosophy puts him to the left of most Republicans on some issues (he has questioned the size of U.S. defense spending, for example), it puts him way to the right on others. Some observers are beginning to ask, is he too conservative? Here's their case and the counter-argument.

  • Too Conservative For Dick Cheney?  The New York Daily News' David Saltonstall makes some trouble. "Some of his positions frighten even staunch conservatives like former Vice President Dick Cheney, who backed Paul's GOP opponent. ... [Rand Paul] wants to abolish the federal departments of education, commerce and energy, as well as the income tax. ... he is opposed to all government bailouts and earmarks, and President Obama's 'socialist' health care law. He favors a constitutional amendment banning abortion, even in cases of rape and incest."
  • Yet He's Just Like Cheney on Some Issues  The American Prospect's Adam Serwer writes, "When it comes to due process for people accused of terrorism, Paul is indistinguishable from the neoconservatives who tried to prevent his rise. ... Paul's Gitmo NIMBYism and support for ineffectual military commissions as a method of trying people he's preemptively declared guilty puts him firmly alongside the likes of Dick and Liz Cheney on due process and terrorism."
  • Paul: 'Whites Only' Restaurants OK  Paul told the Louisville Courier-Journal, "I don't like the idea of telling private business owners – I abhor racism – I think it's a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant. But at the same time I do believe in private ownership. ... this is the hard part about believing in freedom." The newspaper balked: "he holds an unacceptable view of civil rights, saying that while the federal government can enforce integration of government jobs and facilities, private business people should be able to decide whether they want to serve black people, or gays, or any other minority group. He quickly emphasizes that he personally would not agree with any form of discrimination, but he just doesn't think it should be legislated."
  • What Does That Mean in Practice?  Gawker's Adrian Chen mocks, "it's simple: Rand Paul hates racism, but wants to allow businesses to be racist. He would definitely support a segregated Applebee's as long as it instantly went bankrupt because no one liked its racist food. He basically loves the idea of the possibility that somewhere in America someone could open up a racist business, but as soon as that business becomes a reality he hates it. Ideally, racist businesses would shift between existence and non-existence at a rate approaching infinity, such that they opened and closed at exactly the same time, thus providing maximum individual freedom and minimum racism. It's so simple!"
  • Why This Is So Touchy  The Huffington Post's Taylor Marsh explains, "There is an undercurrent of opinion dogging the Tea Party that posits they are racist. It has also dogged the Republican Party since their Southern strategy was implemented, of which the Tea Party is an extreme element."
  • Will Make Trouble in General Election  Politico's Ben Smith evaluates , "I'm not sure his evasive response to a question today on whether he would have voted for the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination in public places and in the workplace, [will be satisfactory]." Smith says Paul must begin "addressing a broader set of issues than the anti-tax, anti-spending focus of his campaign."
  • This Could Sink Him  Talking Points Memo's liberal blogger Josh Marshall shrugs, "I was finding it kind of hard to believe that a Democrat would really have a chance to win a Senate seat in Kentucky in 2010. But Rand Paul has some positions that probably won't wear well even in Kentucky -- being against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act and supporting abolishing the Department of Education."
  • Dissent: He's Pretty Liberal  Reason's Radley Balko sees it coming. "Lefties: Before you start fringe-baiting Rand Paul, note that he's better on civil liberties than most Democratic senators. And Obama." Balko calls Paul "more anti-war, pro-civil liberties than most Democrats."
  • Dissent: Liberals Misread His Civil Rights Position  Conservative blogger Allahpundit defends, "His reservations about the law have to do not with the ends but with the means of federal compulsion; he wants business owners to serve everyone but clearly prefers using boycotts and local laws to pressure them. It’s not a question of being pro- or anti-discrimination, in other words, it’s a question of how federalism and civil-rights enforcement mesh."

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