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Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 24, 2010; 11:00 AM

The Post's Perry Bacon Jr. takes your questions about the latest political news and previews the week ahead.

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Perry Bacon Jr.: Good morning. Looking forward to your questions.

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Annapolis, MD: In light of the results of the recent primaries, I'm left with one simple question: Is the "tea party" movement splitting the GOP? What are your thoughts?

Perry Bacon Jr.: In general, no, I don't think the Tea Party is splitting the GOP. I would say it's moving the GOP to the right and most of the party's officials are embracing the movement and trying to place it within the party. I think Rand Paul and some of his views, which are shared by some in the Tea Party (getting rid of the Department of Education for example and earmarks) won't be joined by the rest of the party.

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Pittsburgh: Sarah Palin has frequently chanted "drill baby drill." And she has staunchly derided "government intereference" in private business.

Yet there she was on TV this weekend castigating the Obama administration for not doing more to intervene in cleaning up the BP oil spill in the Gulf.

Does Palin seriously think most Americans don't see her inconsistency? I realize that her faithful accept whatever she says.

My question: At what point will enough Americans reject her same old blatant hypocrisy to render her politically irrelevant? What will be her "have you at last no shame" moment?

Perry Bacon Jr.: If the Katie Couric interview didn't reduce her credibility with her base, I suspect nothing will.

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Rand Paul: How much damage do you think his comments this past week have done to his chances of beating Conway? I know one poll had Paul up 25 points, but that was before the Civil Rights debacle (not to mention the BP "anti-american" debacle).

Perry Bacon Jr.: It was also only one poll. I think Conway still has an uphill climb in a state that votes Republican in federal elections and where Obama and health care are unpopular. But it will help Conway running against such a green opponent as Paul.

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Media & Republican Darling or Civil Rights Bust?: Other than espousing euphemistic libertarian rhetoric, what's Rand Paul's specific plan to "take our government back" if he becomes Kentucky's next Senator? His comments to NPR, Louisville Courier Journal and Rachel Maddow revealing he opposes key provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and 1968 Fair Housing Act appear more like extremism trying to defend perfect liberty. If Rand's opposition to the Patriot Act and Iraq war is thrown into the mix, what Republican leaders will embrace his views? Perhaps Newt Gingrich who says in his new book that President Obama "represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union"?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Paul's other ideas: Term limits, no earmarks, Congress has to say which part of the constitution it gets the right to pass laws on certain issues, cutting farm subsidies. Some of these will be popular.

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In the Mold of William Buckley or Lester Maddox?: Rand Paul outdid Bill Clinton in stupidly defining a simple words -- "but" in Paul's case. His response to the Louisville Courier-Journal's but question should have been "But nothing! Racial discrimination is wrong period end of story." But he chose to defense or debate controversial aspects of "private ownership" in this country. When you consider his letter to a local Kentucky newspaper in 2002 complaining about the 1968 Fair Housing Act wherein he said "A free society will abide unofficial private discrimination even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin," one wonders if Rand Paul a devotee of William Buckley or a closeted bigot.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think more of a devotee of Buckley and other conservative thinkers.

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Ashland, MO: To what extent is it a misperception that the federal government is in charge of fixing disasters? Don't state and local governments and volunteer efforts that provide most of the people and relief with the federal government mostly supplying money? Why do most reports assume the federal government can simply order owners of private property to do something with that property when no law exists to support such an order? Or is there such a law?

Perry Bacon Jr.: The federal government, rightly or wrongly, gets blamed for lots of things and is held responsible for failures that could be aided by state and local governments.

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Syracuse, NY: Perry-

So I'm listening to NPR this morning and I hear the anchor say " . . . and some are saying that the federal government has not done enough with regard to stemming the oil spill in the Gulf." I then hear Governor Bobby Jindal talking about the severity of the problem and also laying some of the blame at "the federal government" for not moving fast enough.

I'm confused.

Is less government what the Republican Party (and the Tea Party especially) wants except when there's a problem? This was a mess created by BP, a free market entity. Isn't the free market supposed to fix everything and do so unencumbered by restrictions and regulations?

Do they not see this as being hypocritical?

Perry Bacon Jr.: It is striking the difference between the comments of Jindal and Rand Paul.

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Louisville, KY: I'm writing as a supporter of Rand Paul, whom the Post has treated unfairly. You say that his position on 40 year-old settled law is important. I say that he is the -only- candidate looking towards the future where we are forced to accept the single North American currency called "the amero" (go on YouTube and search for Vincete Fox amero if you don't believe me).

Why aren't we hearing more about this instead of about hypotheticals and bygones?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Hypotheticals matter; campaigns are about what you will do as much as what you have done, particularly for someone who has never held office before. I think his views on the Civil Rights act are important, in part because they might give a clue to his votes on the minimum wage and other such things.

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New Hampshire: As tough as it might be to lose a Senate seat, would it be worth it for Democrats if Rand Paul wins and they can hold him as a a leader in the GOP for the next 6 years? One can only imagine what he'll say if he's actually elected

Perry Bacon Jr.: I actually think he could become a Jim Demint, Tom Coburn style senator who becomes a popular figure for conservatives and gets reelected often. I don't think Demint has been a negative force for Republicans nationally.

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Arizona tax increase: I'm surprised that there hasn't been more coverage of Arizona's vote last week to increase the state sales tax. There can't be many states that are more Tea party-friendly than Arizona, yet they voted in favor of a tax increase. It seems to me that a lot of people are opposed to taxes generically, but when specific consequences are attached - in this case the condition of Arizona's schools - then they will vote for more taxes. It strikes me that the Arizona vote demonstrates that support for the Tea Party is pretty shallow. What do you think?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think that taxes are raised on the state level all the time, by Democrats and Republicans. I still think on the national level the Tea Party has helped pushed Republicans further to an anti-tax, anti-goverment vision and that will resound through 2012 at least.

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what's on Congress' plate: After financial reform, what will be pushed by congressional leadership other than appropriations bills? Cap and trade? Immigration? Russian treaty? Naming post offices after representatives?

Perry Bacon Jr.: They have a bill to limit how much corporations can spend on politics (their protest of the Supreme Court decision earlier this year) a Supreme Court nomination and i suspect some small-bore jobs bills.

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Re: Pittsburgh: Palin will never be elected to a national office. Why are you so upset? There is a core group of people who believe everything she says, a core group of people like you who get all up in arms every time she speaks, and then there's the rest of us who think, "Who cares?" You'd think Palin actually held a national office the way liberals react to her.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I agree.

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Lexington, KY: Rand Paul may not be the smoothest talker, he may not answer the questions the way you want him to, to quote Sarah Palin. But who else has the guts to take on the NAFTA superhighway? Who else will put us back on the gold standard where we belong? Aren't these more important issues?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think he is pretty good talker. I"m agree to hear him defend his views on the big issues, repealing the health care bill, raising the retirement age, etc.

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Chicago IL: If the Tea Party is pulling the GOP to the right, isn't that just the mirror image - but same fatal problem - as the progressives pulling the Democratic Party to the left? The conventional wisdom has always been that the Democrats had to retake the center to win national elections; I don't see how the Republicans will do any better by catering to their extremists at the expense of the more rational middle ground.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think the conventional wisdom is wrong here. Obama in 2008 ran with centrist language, but a fairly liberal platform: universal health care being at the center of it. I think the Republicans can do well with a pretty conservative message (repealing the health care bill, keeping in place tax cuts for the wealth) as long as they keep the campaign about broader issues like reducing the size of government and not getting rid of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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RE: Palin: Despite sharing some views, I'm not much of a Palin fan.

But: what you and your earlier questioner don't understand is that a lot of her appeal is that people like you don't like her or respect her. It's sort of an "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" thing, and with every news item ridiculing her, her supporters dig in deeper.

Perry Bacon Jr.: Without defining if I personally like or dislike Palin, I agree with your sentiment here.

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"Ashland, MO: To what extent is it a misperception that the federal government is in charge of fixing disasters?": Since Katrina. When the media's ignoring of the Louisiana kleptocracy made it possible to blame Bush for everything bad that ever happened anywhere in history, disaster cleanup became a federal responsibility.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I wouldn't have phrased it exactly this way, but the Katrina experience will make any future president want to take over any natural disaster relief effort.

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Indianapolis Indiana: Isn't the problem with Rand Paul (or any idealist) the fact that in the real world the abstract concepts of any "ism" are hard pressed to work at all times and in all situations?

Perry Bacon Jr.: That's true as well.

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Arizona tax increase: Easy explanation: Tea Partiers and their ilk prefer sales taxes, which are ultimately regressive, to progressive taxes (like income, luxury, inheritance and property taxes) which may tax the rich more.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think Paul would like to reduce taxes drastically if he could figure out a way to pay for it.

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Takoma Park, Md.: The true lesson from the coverage Rand Paul's recent comments and reaction from Tea Partty is that it is a movement not only without a discernible message, but also that it is without any consensus amongst its supporters. Numerous reactions agree with Paul's principles, but not necessarily his choice of works. Others agree with some but not all of his principles. Others claim questions to clarify his principles are left-wing media bias. It's a huge mess and no one seems to agree except that it has momentum... But what is "it?"

Perry Bacon Jr.: I don't think all Democrats or Republicans agree on everything either, but I think the Tea Party is part of the broader "anti-" out there right now.

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Civil Rights Act a 40-year-old issue?: The questions I would like put to Rand Paul (a shame he canceled on "Meet the Press"--couldn't handle the heat, I guess) are very much about TODAY:

The Lilly Ledbetter Act: helping women get equal pay for equal work. For or against?

Mine safety regulations: for or against?

Oil valve shutdown systems that actually work and are routinely tested: for or against?

Strengthening the Clean Air Act? For or against?

Etc., etc., etc.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think he will get plenty of these questions before it's over. and I think it's important they are asked.

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Washington, DC: It's striking to note the difference between the words of Jindal and Jindal. Remember, he's the one who mocked volcano monitors as proof of government overreach and outrageous spending. Now he wants the government to spend more and reach more. I'm a fiscal conservative, and even I think the GOP has boxed itself into a corner by running this far away from basic government emergency services like FEMA.

Perry Bacon Jr.: A good point on Jindal.

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FinReg Conference-Now on CSPAN?: Hi Perry,

So what provisions of Wall Street reform are going to survive the (possibly televised?) Conference Committee? The strong capital requirements from the House bill? The derivatives regulation from the Senate? The ratings agency reform from the Senate? the CPFA?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I don't know the answers to all of your questions, but I am skeptical the real detailed negotations will be in the conference, as opposed to just a televised meeting once everything is worked out.

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Re: Arizona tax increase: I'm no Tea Partier, but I know there's a difference between raising federal income taxes, and raising state or local sales taxes. A sales tax can be avoided or lowered by buying less, and goes directly to local area government services. Federal income taxes...also often get turned around and sent back to local area services, like roads or police or firefighters, but there's a largely incorrect view that all your federal income tax gets spent in some other state by illegal immigrant welfare recipients or something (forget that illegal immigrants by law can't receive welfare benefits). Also, sales taxes are seen as less complex than federal income tax. So you'll find a number of small-gov proponents who are in favor of increasing sales taxes and decreasing or getting rid of federal income tax.

Perry Bacon Jr.: This is an interesting point.

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Discrimination on Private Property: I wonder if a private property owner should be allowed to call police to enforce his bigotry? Seems the libertarian point of view is that they have right to be bigots and I have right to pay to have bigotry against me enforced. Doesn't seem fair.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think the real argument is that businesses that discriminated would be punished by the marketplace; people would not go to them. The problem is that the market did not do in the pre-1960's era.

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Richmond, VA: Has Rand Paul expressed any opinion on child labor laws? Does he think the market will just settle itself out in that case too?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Again, all of these questions will be asked now. Should be an interesting campaign.

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Perry Bacon Jr.: Thanks for the questions folks.

Perry

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