Freshman Sen. Rand Paul, an advocate for the conservative tea party movement, waxed eloquentin his maiden Senate speech about the perilous nature of compromise, the national debt and the historic argument over slavery.
Though he said there was no "moral equivalency," Paul compared the current debt debate to the 19th century slavery dispute between free states and slaves states.
Paul (R-Ky.) has been assigned the Senate desk of Sen. Henry Clay, who also represented Kentucky and was known as the "Great Compromiser," in part for his efforts to settle the nation's differences over slavery before the Civil War.
Paul has mixed feelings about Clay -- and also the art of compromise.
During his Senate orientation, Paul said a colleague asked him, "'Will you be a great compromiser?'" Paul said Wednesday that he had pondered the question long and hard. "Is compromise the noble position? Is compromise a sign of enlightenment?"
Clay, a slave owner, made compromises on the issue that were meant to avert war, but were "morally wrong and may have even encouraged war," Paul said. His estranged cousin, Cassius Clay, on the other hand, was an "unapologetic" abolitionist who broke with his more famous relative over the issue and "refused to compromise" on slavery.
"Who are our heroes?" Paul mused. "Are we fascinated and enthralled by the Great Compromiser or his cousin Cassius Clay?"
As he legislates, Paul said he would keep in mind Henry Clay's "lifelong desire to forge agreement," but also the stand taken by his cousin "who refused to forsake the life of any human simply to find agreement."
Having given fellow senators a history lesson, Paul turned to the modern-day business of trillion dollar plus budget deficits -- a prime target of the grassroots, anti-big government tea party movement. "Will the tea party compromise? Can the tea party work with others to find a solution?" The answer, Paul said, is that any deficit reduction "compromise" must be over where to cut spending and by how much -- "not where we raise taxes."
Any compromise on the deficit, he added, must include conservatives "acknowledging we can cut military spending and liberals acknowledging we can cut domestic spending." At a first-termer, Paul is not a leader in the Senate, but he will be watched as a barometer of the tea party's influence.
Paul, a libertarian who was named after the novelist Ayn Rand, is the son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) who ran for president in 2008. During his Senate campaign, Rand Paul came under fire when he seemed to fudge when asked in interviews how he would have voted on the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Paul said he was troubled by laws that impinge on the rights of private ownership.
In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.