Ron Paul, racist?
The blogosphere brouhaha of the day is a New Republic report on Ron Paul, in which they comb through his old newsletters and come across some surprising articles. Some choice excerpts are here. My excerpts from the excerpts:
This 1978 newsletter says the Trilateral Commission is "no longer known only by those who are knowledgeable about international conspiracies, but is routinely mentioned in the daily news."
A 1986 newsletter names Jeane Kirkpatrick and George Will as "two of our enemies" and notes their membership in the Trilateral Commission.
An October 1990 edition of the Political Report ridicules black activists, led by Al Sharpton, for demonstrating at the Statue of Liberty in favor of renaming New York City after Martin Luther King. The newsletter suggests that "Welfaria," "Zooville," "Rapetown," "Dirtburg," and "Lazyopolis" would be better alternatives--and says, "Next time, hold that demonstration at a food stamp bureau or a crack house."
The January 1991 edition of the Political Report refers to King as a "world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours" and a "flagrant plagiarist with a phony doctorate."
"A Special Issue on Racial Terrorism" analyzes the Los Angeles riots of 1992: "Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began. ... What if the checks had never arrived? No doubt the blacks would have fully privatized the welfare state through continued looting. But they were paid off and the violence subsided."
A January 1994 edition of the Survival Report states that "gays in San Francisco do not obey the dictates of good sense," adding: "[T]hese men don't really see a reason to live past their fifties. They are not married, they have no children, and their lives are centered on new sexual partners." Also, "they enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick."
If you want to look at PDFs of the newsletters in question, visit TNR's selections link and click on the red type in each example.
You'll see that I ignored some topics. That's because I'm not that concerned with the sections on Israel, secession and the Mises Institute; I can see principled explanations there.
Libertarians -- and Andrew Sullivan -- are dismayed. Reason Magazine got a comment from Ron Paul, whose campaign later issued a statement. The defense is notable for its blandness and lack of specificity, but the basic argument is that this was old news, and reflective of poor oversight on Paul's part, not racism.
Ron Paul supporters, of course, are apoplectic. Just read some of the comments under TNR's main piece. They do have one valid point: the timing of the piece was a bit precious, coming on the day of the New Hampshire primary. Sure, given that we're in primary season, just about any date will have some timing-related effect. But it wouldn't have killed TNR to publish it tomorrow or Thursday, giving Paul enough time to respond before the next primary.
So how much is smoke and how much is fire?
Let's start with the indisputable facts.
1. For decades, various newsletters went out with Ron Paul's name on them.
2. Some of the issues contained material that was far, far, far beyond the pale of being defensible.
3. Paul himself didn't always edit them, and it's unclear which articles, if any, he wrote himself.
4. In particular, Paul disowns the racist, homophobic issues of the early 1990s, which he said were written and edited by others while he was retired from politics. He accepts a "moral responsibility" for not paying closer attention to what was being said in his name.
5. It's also clear that the views expressed in the newsletter are not what he espouses now. Indeed, he flatly told Reason that he considers MLK a hero and spoke in support of Rosa Parks in a Congressional speech in 1999.
But there are troubling questions involved here.
1. I cannot imagine letting a publication be put out in my name without being aware of -- and concerned about -- its content. So if Paul is to be believed, we're talking about a truly stunning lack of oversight.
2. Paul says this is "old news." I'd be willing to dismiss the conspiracy stuff as too old to be relevant -- except that he continues to believe much of it today. The rest is too recent to simply dismiss. It may indeed not reflect his views, or at least his views today, but they're recent enough to require at least some explanation.
3. The "poor oversight" argument would be more persuasive if we were talking about one bad issue or an article here or there. But I bolded the dates in the excerpts above for a reason. Here's how the categories break down:
Conspiracy theories: 1978-present.
These things went on for years. Is it possible to be that completely out of touch with a publication bearing your name?
4. Even if we (rather charitably) accept Paul's claim that he was totally uninvolved with the newsletters and never even read them, we come to the question of who Paul entrusted to edit and publish them. I don't see how he would have consented to let someone use his name unless he knew that person and felt they would reflect his own philosophy more often than not. It seems to me that he must have known the political views of the editor, if not the writers. For one thing, a person capable of publishing some of the newsletters TNR discusses could not hide their extremist views very well or for very long. Indeed, the editor presumably had no desire to hide them, seeing as how he or she volunteered to print them up in a newsletter and mail them off to subscribers.
So the explanation that Ron Paul owes us is severalfold:
1. Did the writings reflect your views?
2. Did you ever read the newsletters published in your name?
3. Why did you lend your name to publications you totally disagree with?
4. How did you pick the editors, publishers or writers of these publications?
5. Who were the editors and writers involved, and do you still associate with them today?
For what it's worth, while I think Paul is a conspiracy-minded extreme conservative from the nutty end of the libertarian spectrum, I never had him pegged for a racist. I'm willing to believe that the newsletters do not reflect his personal views. But he then must explain why and how he put his name on the publication containing such trash.
Update: Stubborn Facts has some cogent commentary.
Ron Paul, politics, midtopia