Here is the part that confuses me. If Rand Paul wants to illustrate how serious a libertarian he is*, he can choose from a broad menu of options. Pretty much every law restricts someone’s freedom in some way. Someone in Paul’s staff must have tried to wave him off of provoking a completely gratuitous argument about race. He could just as easily make an issue out of the Commerce Department regulating monopolies or the Clean Air and Water Acts. Why not the FDA? God forbid he bring up the drug war and highlight a Libertarian mega-issue that has crossover appeal.
Defenders can point out that Paul’s position on the Civil Rights Act (whatever that position might be) fits in an overall ideological framework. That’s fine. Like most politicians Paul’s selling his ideology so that people who agree will elect him to have it represented in Congress. The problem is that starting with the Civil Rights Act is almost the worst possible way to make people find your ideological framework is reasonable and appealing. How about Kelo V. New London? It’s like a car salesman leading with how many baby carriages a sedan can crush before you have to replace the bumper. Presumably the guy wildly misunderstands his audience. More disturbingly, maybe he doesn’t.
(*) In fact Paul is a rather poor excuse for a Libertarian.