Rand Paul has been trying to improve his presidential prospects by posing as something of a defense hawk and as less than a full libertarian on social issues. However, in announcing his presidential bid today, Paul again betrayed his lack of seriousness, while demonstrating the threat his presidency would pose to America.
In his speech, Paul stated:
I see an America where criminal justice is applied equally and any law that disproportionately incarcerates people of color is repealed.
As John points out, pretty much every criminal law disproportionately incarcerates African-Americans, from murder on down. Thus, Paul sees an America where, at most, only white collar offenses are against the law — in other words, an essentially lawless America.
The touchstone for repealing a criminal law must be whether it makes sense to ban the behavior in question and to enforce a ban. The touchstone can’t be the ability of “people of color” to comply with the law. Otherwise, our criminal laws would be subject, in effect, to a “criminals of color veto.”
Has any sane figure on the left proposed that we dispense with every law that disproportionately incarcerates people of color? I don’t know. But in civil rights law, from which the legal concept of disparate impact springs, even serious leftists agree, at least in public, that an employer (for example) can maintain policies that disproportionately harm African-Americans (for example) if the policies are justified by business necessity.
John says that the Kentucky Senator needs to work on his theme. But Paul has been pitching African-Americans for some time. (A few months ago, he pitched Robert Woodson, president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise and a favorite of Power Line; Woodson reportedly was unimpressed and felt that Paul was pandering.) Paul should therefore be ready for prime time on issues pertaining to race. To the extent that he isn’t, he should abstain from opining.
I assume that Paul will reformulate his position on repealing criminal laws, just as he’s been walking away from other, more defensible libertarian agenda items. But the fact that he articulated a lunatic view of criminal law in arguably the most important speech he has ever made cannot be overlooked or, in my view, forgiven.