Commonsense Ten, a Democratic political action committee, is running a TV ad that criticizes Rand Paul, the Republican Senate candidate in Kentucky, for being soft on drugs. This theme echoes criticism from Paul's Democratic opponent, Jack Conway, whose campaign produced a similar ad. The American Prospect's Adam Serwer calls such attacks "the sort of thing one really hates seeing from the left," adding, "I guess knowing that a 'libertarian' is running for Senate, Democrats are back to being drug warriors." Did they ever stop? Serwer is more on target when he writes, "The basic problem with criminal-justice reform is that both parties are very used to being the same kind of stupid about crime-related issues."
The new ad, like Conway's, includes an excerpt from a panel discussion on Kentucky Educational Television in November 2008, when Paul was chairman of Kentucky Taxpayers United. During a discussion about gambling toward the end of the show, Paul says:
I'm against legislating morality…I'm for having laws against things that are violent crimes, but things that are nonviolent shouldn't be against the law.
The ads use the part where Paul says "things that are nonviolent shouldn't be against the law." This formulation is imprecise, since I'm sure Paul does not think it should be legal to pick people's pockets or burglarize their homes. But in context, it's clear he's referring to laws that criminalize consensual activities, and this is exactly what both Conway and Commonsense Ten find objectionable. "Like other libertarians," says the Commonsense Ten ad, "he says drug laws are 'too harsh.'" Defending his ad, in which a sheriff calls Paul's view "crazy," Conway says, "Rand Paul said that nonviolent crimes, including prostitution and selling drugs, are not crimes." What a lunatic!