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The ruling class on the right should give Rand Paul a fair hearing

Jeffrey T. Kuhner

Is Rand Paul a racist? That’s the charge — or rather, the insinuation — being made by some on the Beltway right.

The Kentucky senator, a Tea Party favorite, is under fire not for anything he said or did, but for what an aide may have said 20 years ago. With conservative friends like these, who needs enemies?

Leading the charge is National Review’s Jonah Goldberg. In a recent column, the pundit questioned whether Mr. Paul is ready to be a serious Republican presidential candidate in 2016.

Sen. Rand Paul.  /Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Sen. Rand Paul. /Jacquelyn Martin/AP

The reason: His aide, Jack Hunter, was once the Southern Avenger — a radio shock jock, who in the 1990s made disparaging comments about Abraham Lincoln and defended the South’s right to secede.

For his part, Hunter now says he has grown up and is embarrassed by some of the outlandish skits and comments made on his show, such as joking about Lincoln’s assassination. Moreover, Hunter insists he has never uttered or done anything racist in his life. “I abhor racism,” he wrote on his website.

Yet, that is not enough for Goldberg and his ilk. According to them, it is part of a larger, sinister pattern of Paul and especially, his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, associating with white supremacists.

What is Goldberg’s proof? Ron Paul’s newsletters during the 1990s spewed racist venom against blacks. The three-time presidential contender and libertarian icon has already addressed this issue — repeatedly. He did not edit the newsletter and was unaware of the racist content. When he did, the bigoted comments stopped.

In the eyes of some establishment conservatives, Ron and Rand Paul’s real sin is not their alleged racism; rather, it is their willingness to wage a frontal assault on the Republican Party’s ruling elite. They are not considered part of the “respectable” mainstream for one reason: They challenge the decrepit duopoly that is slowly destroying America.

The game has been rigged. Liberal pundits cheer lead for the Democrats; so-called conservatives shill for the GOP. But, for decades, no one has spoken for Middle America — until the Paulistas came along.

The problem with the likes of Goldberg is that they are the mirror image of the progressive left: self-appointed arbiters of what is permitted — and acceptable — conservative thought.

Take Lincoln. He was not, as legend would have it, our greatest president — not even close. Lincoln engaged in numerous abuses of power. Habeas corpus was suspended. Anti-war newspapers in the North were shuttered. Critics were imprisoned. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s Northern forces marched to Atlanta, razing it to the ground. Civilians — including women and children — were butchered. Contrary to myth, Lincoln was not a racial egalitarian. He viewed blacks as inferior to whites. Ultimately, he waged war to save the Union, not to liberate the slaves.

Yet, to question the myth of Lincoln (like Hunter did) is to invite the wrath of the PC police. Rand Paul is being subjected to ad hominem attacks of guilt by association. His aide is an alleged bigot. Hence, Paul must be one as well — even if he has never said or done anything remotely racist in his life.

Goldberg’s dislike of Paul has little to do with race. That is a red herring. The real issue is one that has consumed the Beltway right for decades: war. Republican hawks despise Paul because he is a principled opponent of military interventionism and America’s empire. He is the latest casualty of National Review’s ongoing effort to purge conservatives the magazine deems “outside the mainstream.”

Pat Buchanan, the late Robert Novak and Ann Coulter — all of them were read out of the movement because of their alleged heresies. For example, National Review labeled Novak and Buchanan as “unpatriotic conservatives.” Their alleged crime? They opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In contrast, NR embraced — and even praised — the late Christopher Hitchens, a malicious leftist and anti-Catholic bigot. For decades, Hitchens excused Soviet communism and praised Castro’s Cuba. He smeared Pope Benedict XVI as a “child molester.” Yet, when it came to bombing Baghdad he passed NR’s litmus test. For the Beltway right, the only good conservatives are those who supported the GOP on the Iraq War.

What Paul — and his father, Ron — understand all too well is that the rise of big government has been inextricably linked to military interventionism. The warfare state feeds the welfare state. It was World War I that enabled the federal government to expand control over civilian life. Franklin D. Roosevelt used World War II to entrench the New Deal. Vietnam was the backdrop for Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. The neocons’ hero, President George W. Bush, launched two major wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, while also dramatically increasing the federal government’s control over education and passing the lavish Medicare prescription-drug plan.

Paul is one of the few voices in Washington who seeks to repeal the welfare-warfare state. He has been right on almost every issue. He is against the Gang of Eight immigration bill. He wants to slash spending by over $600 billion — the only plan that realistically will rein in skyrocketing deficits. He is pro-life. He defends states’ rights and federalism. He opposes the use of drone strikes that kill innocent civilians. He is pushing for sweeping entitlement reform. He seeks to dismantle the National Security Agency’s spying program. And he hopes to end our disastrous foreign adventurism — arming Al Qaida in Syria, invading Iraq, bombing Libya and aiding Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Paul’s arguments deserve to be debated. He should be heard not shunned.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a celebrated talk radio host at Boston’s WRKO and a columnist for The Washington Times and WorldTribune.com.

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