Recovering Nat Hentoff sounds off on Rand Paul

By Ron Strom

Sounding excited and resolute, 90-year-old civil-libertarian legend and writer Nat Hentoff has assured WND he is “by no means retiring” – despite a recent health issue that required him to suspend his weekly syndicated column, featured on this news site since 2008.

Hentoff, a foremost expert on the Bill of Rights and author of more than 20 books, has advocated for civil liberties, an informed American citizenry and constitutional government for decades.

“I’ll be starting back to my column in a week or two,” Hentoff said, “because I’ve gotten very good medical help.”

Nat Hentoff
Nat Hentoff

Asked about what he’ll write about once he’s back to full strength, Hentoff responded, “One of the things is who the next president is going to be and who will fill the vacancies on the Supreme Court.”

Though once an Obama supporter, Hentoff was quick to share his criticism of the president.

“With the damage done by Obama, and before him Cheney and Bush, regarding the separation of powers and so many other things,” he said, “we are fast not becoming America.”

Hentoff expressed skepticism about how many of the current crop of presidential candidates have a sense of what it means to be “a constitutionalist.”

The nonagenarian columnist says that while recovering physically, he continues to follow national developments and conduct research – which he describes as “therapy.”

Since last writing about the presidential contest, Hentoff’s enthusiasm for Republican Sen. Rand Paul has waned.

“Though he knows more about the Constitution” than many other candidates, says Hentoff, “there is something lacking in him, and that’s, to use the language of the street, a certain amount of balls.

“For example, I was very disappointed when he suddenly went along with Obama and said it was OK to make amends and stabilize the relationship between Cuba and the United States,” he continued. “I have friends who have been in Cuban jails for a long time, and they have very little chance of getting out.”

Also, Hentoff was not impressed with Paul’s attempt to kill the Patriot Act in Congress recently, which was renewed but with a slight change in how information about Americans’ phone usage is stored. He was hoping for an end to the law completely.

“Just because the information will stay with the phone companies doesn’t mean that our privacy won’t be lost,” Hentoff noted, saying Paul should “learn to stick to his guns.”

So, in the presidential race, Hentoff said, “I’ve got no candidate at the moment.”

The columnist commented further on government surveillance, saying, “We’ve pretty much lost our privacy, and that should be an issue in the campaign – and I’ve got to raise it.”

Hentoff, a longtime columnist for the Village Voice, also mentioned his ongoing passion for civics education in public school, questioning whether or not “our children and grandchildren will still be Americans.”

He called it astonishing that many public schools do not have mandated courses on American history.

Hentoff also decried standardized testing, advocating instead for more individualized, “personal teaching.”

Regarding the issue of retirement, Hentoff, who has written about the jazz music scene for over 60 years, told a story about a conversation he once had with bandleader Duke Ellington:

“I said to him, ‘Duke, you don’t have to keep going through this (touring, etc.). You’ve written a lot of classics. You can retire on your ASCAP income.’

“Duke looked hard at me and responded, ‘Retire? To what?'” – a question Hentoff reiterated in relation to his own future.

Look for the resumption of Hentoff’s weekly Wednesday column soon on WND’s Commentary page.

Read Hentoff’s WND columns.

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