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Tilting at Windmills

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May 22, 2010

WHEN EXTREMISM AND IGNORANCE COLLIDE.... Republican Senate candidate and right-wing ophthalmologist Rand Paul got into a little trouble this week while explaining his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To a lesser extent, his disagreement with the Americans With Disabilities Act also raised a few eyebrows.

When Wolf Blitzer asked Rand about his ADA opposition, he tried to make his concerns sound reasonable. "[L]et's say you have a local office and you have a two-story office, and one of your workers is handicapped," the Republican said. "Should you not be allowed maybe to offer them an office on the first floor or should you be forced to put in a $100,000 elevator? ... [M]y understanding is that small business owners were often forced to put in elevators, and I think you ought to at least be given a choice. Can you provide an opportunity without maybe having to pay for an elevator?"

At first blush, that may not sound ridiculous. The problem, as Yahoo News' John Cook discovered, is that Rand Paul has no idea what he's talking about, complaining publicly about the ADA without knowing what's in it.

The legislation specifically exempts the vast majority of buildings three stories and under from any requirement to install elevators. In other words, if you are a small business owner and you have a two-story office and one of your workers is handicapped, no one can force you to build an elevator. It's true that the exemption doesn't apply to health care facilities or shopping malls or buildings four stories and up -- and Paul, who has an ophthalmology practice, may have been thinking of those provisions when he insisted that businesses are "often forced to put in elevators."

Trouble is, we searched far and wide for a single instance in which a private employer was successfully sued under the ADA for failing to provide an elevator, or was compelled by a lawsuit to do so, and we came up empty. We searched the case law, contacted ADA experts -- both proponents and opponents of the law -- the Justice Department, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Not one of them knew of any case involving the government-ordered installation of an elevator. It looks like Rand Paul is either peddling a myth or spinning some vanishingly small number of elevator installations we've yet to hear of into an epidemic big-government overreach.

That's because, while the ADA does impose a burden on employers and business owners to make their facilities accessible, it also contains reasonable restrictions on what owners and operators of existing buildings can be forced to do.

When Cook asked the Paul campaign to substantiate the candidate's concerns, it did not respond.

Paul's bizarre worldview is troubling enough; is it too much to ask that he read up on the issues he claims to care about?

Steve Benen 10:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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Comments

Rand Paul is learning what every conservative learns - any honest conservative opinion is blood in the water for the liberal MSM.

Posted by: Al on May 22, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

What's more bizarre is that people like you actually expect them to have anything deeper than "I WANT MY FREEDOM BACK!!!" to bring to the conversation.

Posted by: sherifffruitfly on May 22, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Before Rand Paul to read on any issue before commenting on it ask members of the Obama regime who are whining about Arizona's new immigration law to actually read it. Of course one has to assume they can read above 1st grade level at all.

Posted by: Donna on May 22, 2010 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

The elevator story is a common misconception; but it is just that, a MISCONCEPTION.

My business just bought a two story office building without an elevator. Cook is right -- so long as the same facilities are offered on both floors (essentially, the restrooms and door widths) are ADA compliant, no elevator is required. We did a laborious two minute search through the government's ADA FAQs to learn that. Pity that Mr. Paul could not have been bothered.

Posted by: Michael Carpet on May 22, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Is it also too much to ask that the people in charge of delivering us news ALSO know what they are talking about? Why didn't Wolf know to ask the follow-up question?

I mean, the ADA has been around long enough that there are plenty of people who've sat through management training seminars or videos enough to at least hear the phrases "reasonable accomodation" and "no undue hardship".

Why wasn't Wolf able to immediately respond to Rand Paul's ridiculous claim with a question like "Wait. Doesn't the law only call for for a reasonable accomodation? I'm pretty sure giving them a downstairs office would be fine. Small employers have protection against undue hardhip..do you have an example?"

I did, and it's even not my job to know about these things.

(Yeah, now that I mention it, I guess it's not Wolf's real job, either. Sigh.)

Posted by: biggerbox on May 22, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

is it too much to ask that he read up on the issues he claims to care about?
Yes. (Same goes for Wolfie.)

I bet other countries' pols and journalists laugh at us all the time.

Posted by: Fleas correct the era on May 22, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

"WHEN EXTREMISM AND IGNORANCE COLLIDE"

You've just defined today's Republican Party.

Posted by: bluestatedon on May 22, 2010 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

I'm quite sure Rand Paul will soon be appearing on that oh so liberal network known as Fox News.The dude wants to be a senator but he either can't or won't answer basic questions about his beliefs.

Posted by: Diaper Dave Vitter on May 22, 2010 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Follow up question? Fact-check? I seem to remember something about that in the olden days of pre-9/11 journalism.

Wolf Blitzer is getting by on the actual real journalism he did when Ted Turner was still there to make sure they did stuff like verifying sources and fact-checking.

Now all he has to do is be the famous CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer and wear a neatly trimmed beard.

What a hack.

Posted by: Winkandanod on May 22, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

"Of course one has to assume they can read above 1st grade level at all."

This, coming from someone who writes, "Before Rand Paul to read on any issue..."

Posted by: bluestatedon on May 22, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

This is a problem of Rand Paul's making. I am no libertarian -- I think most of their proposals are silly in the actual world of people -- but I would welcome a frank dialog on the libertarian philosophy. Nothing but good could come of a respectful exchange of ideas and a quality debate coming therefrom.

Paul has had an opportunity to do exactly that this week -- and he blew it. One has to bring facts to the table in a debate. And if a person is going to present himself as a principled adherent to a philosophy, it's not a good idea to throw that philosophy under the bus the first time a hard real-world question gets asked.

As usual, this latest libertarian discussion ends with "well, you'd have to make adjustments for real-world situations" again. I've never seen a debate on the libertarian "philosophy" that ended any other way.

It's going to take a lot more than this to change my opinion of libterianism: that it's just the law of the jungle with some basic Smithian "invisible hand" economics attached along with a big "be nice to each other" sign.

Posted by: Churchyard on May 22, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Did you read the yahoo article and then the comments? Many of the comments were to the tune of "more liberal lies".

This is what kills me in a general sense. How can you present simple, easily proven facts and then be accused of lying or part of some grand conspiracy. The yahoo article was a prime example. What part of that article was a lie? What part was twisted to fit the liberal agenda?

How does one go about changing perceptions when ones opponents won't believe blantant facts when presented?

Ugh, like I said, it drives me crazy...

Posted by: Joe on May 22, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Rand Paul is learning what every conservative learns - any honest conservative opinion is blood in the water for the liberal MSM.

I think what Paul is really learning is that it's easy to convince yourself you hold a singularly righteous worldview if you're part of a group that is so marginalized that no one cares enough to challenge them. Now that the libertarians are starting to get some political traction, they're going to find out that the answers aren't as black and white as they thought, the federal government isn't the root of all evil, etc.

Posted by: DelCapslock on May 22, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Paul out-Palins Palin.

Posted by: g on May 22, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

["Rand Paul is learning what every conservative learns - any honest conservative opinion is blood in the water for the liberal MSM."]

The interesting thing is, the spoof named Al happens to be correct this time (and yes, folks, Al is a spoof; satire, not real). Any honest conservative opinion is blood in the water, **because conservative opinions are way outside the American mainstream**. Americans are in favor of *liberal* values, not conservative ones, even if they aren't aware of that. They want a clean place to live, they want a level playing field for everybody, and they want reasonable government that respects their freedom while taking care of important background things.

Most people don't consciously think of this, but if you actually pin them down in a conversation, they'll freely acknowledge all of this. And that's why Rand Paul has messed himself up so badly. He committed a classical gaffe, by actually telling the truth about his extremist right-wing ideas. And since Americans, by and large, don't agree with that stuff, he rapidly found himself in hot water.

And now the WATB and his WATB defenders are whining about the reaction they got from mainstream America over their extremist views.

Posted by: Shade Tail on May 22, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

The pathetically sad part of this whole crap is that ADA has done a hell of a lot to get people with disabilities [and their families!] into the mainstream.

One day Dr. Eyeball is going to want to take Dad to Sunday dinner. There is a good chance that Eyeball's dad will need a walker, or a wheelchair. Like a lot of us, just once, or twice, a week, mom or dad will want to get out, and, you know, enjoy the fruits of free enterprise at a restaurant, or a movie. Maybe Eyeball and dad won't care, but I will be happy knowing that they will actually be able to get mom and dad out, and doing things, BECAUSE of ADA, and that once, we had a caring society that thought of the greater good.

Posted by: bigtuna on May 22, 2010 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

In Boston, privately-owned apartment buildings of less than five floors are not required to have elevators, and those that existed without an elevator before the law (sometime before 1977, I believe) were grandfathered as exceptions.

I recommend that Rand educate himself a bit more about the law and reality.

Perhaps he could spend a week wheelchair bound and without access to any of the ramps or elevators or other conveniences mandated by the ADA so that he can experience the humiliation and discomfort suffered by people less fortunate than him.

You have to hand it to the teabaggers though. They can scream about government death panels without cease but consider it a point too far that disabled people have the ability to live independent lives.

Posted by: karen marie on May 22, 2010 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Mr Paul's statements are yet another data point supporting what I think is rapidly becoming an inescapable conclusion that conservatism, at least as currently manifest in the US political realm, is ultimately first and foremost an utter failure of imagination -- specifically, the complete inability of the holders of such positions to envision themselves in the places or circumstances of anybody but themselves.
The lies and distortions all follow from the inevitable incongruities that result whenever a conservative is challenged on the implications of their failures to accommodate the realities of anyone but themselves or their own.
I don't know if the ADA would not have become law but for the efforts of Bob Dole, but it certainly happened when it did and as it did because of his legislative heavy lifting. If Mr Dole had not been winged as he was in serving our country (and the world) in WWII, who knows how much longer it might have taken, or how much less powerful a form it might have taken when it did?
Oh, and yes, everything Shade Tail said, absolutely.

Posted by: smartalek on May 22, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

"...while explaining his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

*Head on desk* We're back to overstating. I don't get it, Steve -- you've written some fine posts on this that represented Rand Paul's comments fairly, yet you also indulge in statements that he *opposes* the Civil Rights Act, which he doesn't. He disagrees with an essential part of it -- and apparently doesn't understand why it was necessary. But that does not amount to "opposition to the Civil Rights Act" and I think you know that. Is this just lazy hyperbole?

Posted by: Algernon on May 22, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

...And to DelCapsLock above: Spot on!

Posted by: Algernon on May 22, 2010 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

is this all the DNC can come up with to have you talk about? Between you and TMP you sound like a song being replayed over and over. Has DNC told you to keep this up b/c they hope this will help their sorry excuse for sa candidate to win in Kentucky?

Posted by: tm on May 22, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

RAND PAUL OUTPACES PALIN AMONG VOTERS WHO DESCRIBE THEMSELVES AS "MORONS"

In a sign of his increasing prominence in the so-called Tea Party movement, a new poll shows Kentucky senatorial candidate Rand Paul topping former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin among voters who describe themselves as morons.

In the poll, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, 42% preferred Paul, 36% preferred Palin, and the remaining 22% were unsure what the word “prefer” meant.

According to Davis Logsdon, who supervised the poll for the University of Minnesota, Paul’s surging popularity among morons is bad news for Palin, who previously had a lock on that important constituency.

“I never thought I’d say this, but if Palin is going to stay competitive with Paul, she’s going to have to start dumbing down her message.”

-from today's Borowitz Report

Posted by: mellowjohn on May 22, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Rand Paul doesn't really understand how things work and has a simplistic views of the world. He thinks government is bad and private sector is good. He tells stories about government programs/regulations that aren't true to demonize government. He doesn't believe that government should do anything about discrimination.

It sounds like Ronald Reagan to me.

Posted by: Objective Dem on May 22, 2010 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Right out of the Ronald Reagan songbook. Aides reported that Reagan's favorite stories "about America" more often than not were drawn from the scripts of movies he had appeared in. It wasn't reality, but it was his reality and that was what counted.

Posted by: dweb on May 22, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

is this all the DNC can come up with to have you talk about?

Yeah, why should a guy running for the US Senate be expected to talk about laws and legislation and all of that silly stuff. It's not like he's going to be involved in writing legislation if he's elected or anything.

Maybe we should ask him who he thinks is going to win "American Idol." That's clearly a much more important thing for an aspiring legislator to talk about than actual legislation.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on May 22, 2010 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

FDR: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself"
current republicans: "We have nothing but fear to spread"

Whatever happened to:
Freedom from want
Freedom from fear
Freedom from hunger
Freedom from disease
Freedom from torture
Freedom of expression
Freedom to love
Freedom to be who you want to be

(I'll end on the song que)

Posted by: golack on May 22, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

In regards to Wolf Blitzer, I can understand how a reporter can't know the details of every law. But the idea that ADA required elevators put into buildings is so clearly wrong it amazes me that he didn't say anything.

I live in a big city with a lot of two and three story buildings and I don't remember a single building having an elevator but in. Likewise, when I'm in a 2/3 story business or retail store, I seldom see an elevator.

This to me is the equivalent of Pres. Bush I acting surprised at the scanner for buying groceries. Wolf must be really out of touch with the world around him or he is just a crappy journalist.

Posted by: Objective Dem on May 22, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Paul's objection isn't on practical grounds, so naturally he stumbles over practical details.
He just wants to redefine what most people consider public life.
'public' means government and nothing but, while 'private' should be governed by the rules of the living room.
Most sane people consider buying and selling a public act and have no problem with it being done according to public rules.
And the base of it is, the Free Market is a public institution that requires public support to function. He and his ilk want to demolish it in favor of a State of Nature.
Two people like this: predators and adolescent idiots.

Posted by: pbg on May 22, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

["We're back to overstating. I don't get it, Steve -- you've written some fine posts on this that represented Rand Paul's comments fairly, yet you also indulge in statements that he *opposes* the Civil Rights Act, which he doesn't. He disagrees with an essential part of it -- and apparently doesn't understand why it was necessary. But that does not amount to "opposition to the Civil Rights Act" and I think you know that."]

You're splitting hairs at best. Paul said quite bluntly that he would have voted against the CRA. Now, you can try to parse that by saying that he's only against particular pieces of it, but that doesn't change the fact that **he said he would have voted against it**.

By any fair and reasonable measure, that means he opposes the CRA. From there, you can go into the details of how he thinks it could have been "improved" to the point where he could support it.

Posted by: Shade Tail on May 22, 2010 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Q: Do you believe in thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife?

Rand Paul: Why are asking me something that was decided 2000 years ago?

Posted by: gregor on May 22, 2010 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

re: CNN "reporting"

CNN launched the tv careers of right-wing extremist Loud Dobbs, right-wing lunatic Glenn Beck, and militant right-wing extremist Erik Erickson.

CNN continues to air right-wing sycophants like Gloria Borger and Howard 'Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh promoter' Kurtz.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer gets attacked by the right-wing for reporting facts and in response to getting 'worked over as a ref(eree)' ends up sucking up to right-wing liars and consistently fails to fact check them (perhaps out of ignorance but it seems more likely out of fear).

While I get a kick out of the solitary lefty Joy Behar on CNN, I don't count her as a 'reporter', and she sure doesn't make up for the plethora of right-wing lunatics perpetually spouting nonsense on CNN.

Posted by: Annoyed on May 22, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

right-wing ophthalmologist

Perfect term! He'll refuse to treat you if you don't see things his way.

Posted by: Dale on May 22, 2010 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

@Dale (16:45),

More likely, he'll rearrange your eyes, so that you *do* see things his way; I'd avoid him, at all costs.
---------------
Perhaps he could spend a week wheelchair bound and without access to any of the ramps or elevators or other conveniences mandated by the ADA so that he can experience the humiliation and discomfort suffered by people less fortunate than him. -- Karen Marie, @12:34

If it weren't for all those wheel-chair-accessible, big-govt-mandated ramps and such, that guy with Parkinson's could have never reached that PP rally and would have saved himself heaps of humiliation. Being yelled and thrown money at was the least he deserved for forcing all those nice, tolerant Pee Pottiers to expose themselves as slimebags.

Posted by: exlibra on May 22, 2010 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

I'm thrilled to see someone debunk Paul's statement about the ADA requiring the installation of an elevator for an employee.

The ADA specifically does not require such an extreme action. I know this because I work with the ADA every day. It was deliberately written with the intention of not imposing an undue burden on business owners both large and small.

And 20 years after the passage of the ADA, most business still do not comply with this important Federal anti-discrimination law.

Rand Paul would serve his voters well if he called on them to include American with disabilities instead of trying to keep them out.

Posted by: zak822 on May 22, 2010 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

[M]y understanding is that small business owners were often forced to put in elevators,

Oh, crap. You didn't have a chance to double check that before you landed a US Senate nomination?

People, there ARE smart Libertarians out there, ya gotta believe me on this despite this recent evidence to the total effing contrary here.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on May 22, 2010 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

"smart libertarian" seems to be quite oxymoronic.

Posted by: Slide on May 22, 2010 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

"is it too much to ask that he read up on the issues he claims to care about?"

Of course it is. He's running as a Republican for the Senate. What Republican Senator reads up on the issues they claim to care about? For Republicans "reading up" means checking the Frank Luntz memo of the day, and memorizing the talking points.

Posted by: Cal Gal on May 22, 2010 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

@Donna
Donna Troll, they don't have problems reading. I understand that you don't either, it's just that you believe that drinking the kool-aid is a good thing. Grow Up.

Posted by: Doug on May 22, 2010 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

Wait a minute, people...

You're arguing that a little government intrusion into private businesses and facilities is ok, as long as it doesn't involve more than 3 stories?

Can't wait 'till the law is amended to require 2 story elevator buildings, 60" doorways, handrails in every hall ...

In other words, it's a slippery slope. And a costly one. My alma mater had to gut 25% of an historic building to put in handicap elevators and stairwells. Who suffers? Whoever is paying tuition.

Oh, but there's student loans, so don't worry about that...

Posted by: The Boiled Frog on May 23, 2010 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

Rand Paul thinks that we as a country are not truly free unless we are free to deny other citizens their freedom. That's why he opposes the Civil Rights Act -- it denies people the "right" to deny other citizens their freedom. That's libertarian logic in a nutshell-- quite a pretzel.

The US Constitution says we have the right to freely assemble. Rand Paul says individuals, businesses and other "private associations" can deny that right to anyone or any group they choose.

When you look at the outcome of the Civil Rights Act it's clear that the amount of freedom in the United States increased as a result of its passage. I'm not from Kentucky but if I were looking for freedom I'd go with the federal government on this one.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on May 23, 2010 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

It's nice that Paul's willing to stick up for businesses overburdened by the ADA or the CRA, but it would be better if those businesses actually existed.

Is it possible that Rand Paul wants to be the first Senator with a constituency of zero?

Posted by: Herb on May 23, 2010 at 4:28 AM | PERMALINK

"is it too much to ask that he read up on the issues he claims to care about?"

Why should he; Sarah Palin doesn't have to.

Posted by: bob h on May 23, 2010 at 7:16 AM | PERMALINK

What a jerk. He's not only wrong, but now he's just fed a bunch of folks more reasons to oppose the ADA.

As if it wasn't hard enough for people with disabilities to secure some basic rights to participate in society. Ugh.

Posted by: lupe on May 23, 2010 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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