Ron Paul Doesn’t Want To Talk About His Newsletters Anymore
Ron Paul’s new status in the GOP race, from gadfly to possible winner of the Iowa Caucuses, has brought new media scrutiny to the candidate and his past, specifically the newsletters that were sent out under his name in the 1990s. The candidate, however, doesn’t want to talk about them anymore:
Presidential candidate Ron Paul was defensive Wednesday when pressed about controversial newsletters in the 1980s and 1990s that were in his name.
When asked during an interview with CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger whether he looked at them when they were published and decided they did not represent him accurately, he said “not all the time.” Pressed on whether he read them he said, “Not all the time. Well, on occasion, yes.”
Paul, who had left Congress at the time and was practicing medicine, has repeatedly disavowed the controversial remarks in the newsletters.
“I’ve never read that stuff. I’ve never read – I came – I was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written and it’s been going on 20 years that people have pestered me about this and CNN does it every single time,” he said.
Among the racially charged comments contained in the publications was this one from 1992: “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.” They also contained some conspiracy theories.
When Borger asked him if this was a legitimate topic, he became testy saying “Yeah and when you get the answer, it’s legitimate that you sort of take the answers I gave. You know what the answer is? I didn’t write them, didn’t read them at the time, and I disavow them. This is the answer.”
Paul became more and more testy with Borger as the interview went on, a quality that we really haven’t seen from him in media interview many times before because the media has never subjected him to this kind of questioning, and, well, you can watch for yourself to see what happened:
Ask yourself this; when was the last time you saw a leading candidate for President walk out of an interview with a fairly prominent correspondent for a major network like Paul did here? I don’t remember it ever happening, and it seems like a pretty clear sign that this is not an issue that Paul wishes to deal with honestly. The problem he faces is that, now that he’s polling with the likes of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich not only in Iowa, but also nationally, he really has no choice in the matter. Just as every other candidate who has gotten this far, from Michele Bachmann to Rick Perry to Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich, it is time for Ron Paul to face the fire and, like it or not, these newsletters are a legitimate issue.
Steven Taylor has already done a thorough job of setting forth the content of some of these newsletters in his posts here, here, and here. There really are no apologies for the content itself, the question has always been who wrote the articles, what Paul knew about the content, and why he never did anything to stop such inflammatory, offensive, racist nonsense from being sent out under his name. The problem for Paul is that the “official” story on that issue has changed several times over the 15 or so years since he returned to Congress:
WASHINGTON – Rep. Ron Paul has tried since 2001 to disavow racist and incendiary language published in Texas newsletters that bore his name, denying he wrote them and even walking out of an interview on CNN Wednesday. But he vouched for the accuracy of the writings and admitted writing at least some of the passages when first asked about them in an interview in 1996.
In 1996, Paul told TheDallas Morning News that his comment about black men in Washington came while writing about a 1992 study by the National Center on Incarceration and Alternatives, a criminal justice think tank in Virginia.
Paul cited the study and wrote: “Given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”
“These aren’t my figures,” Paul told the Morning News. “That is the assumption you can gather from the report.”
Now, Paul says he had nothing to do with the contents of the newsletters published in his name
In fact, in the CNN interview above, Paul seems to suggest that he didn’t even read the newsletters until sometime well after they had been published when he was back in Congress. The problem is that doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. This morning, for example, Ed Morrissey uncovers a C-Span interview from 1995 in which Paul was discussing is then recently announced plan to attempt a return to Congress in 1996 after an 11 year hiatus, the video below starts at the 1:10 mark:
So, I was always very active in both politics and my profession. When I came back, I resumed my medical practice, and I’ve been doing that ever since, but I’ve also stayed active in education. Long term, I don’t think political action is worth very much if you don’t have education, and so I’ve continued with my economic education foundation, Free Foundation, which I started in 1976. So that’s been very active. Actually, in the last several years, we’ve been doing some video work, in an educational manner. We did 14 different 30-minute programs on video.
But along with that, I also put out a political type of business investment newsletter that sort of covered all these areas. And it covered a lot about what was going on in Washington, and financial events, and especially some of the monetary events. Since I had been especially interested in monetary policy, had been on the banking committee, and still very interested in, in that subject, that this newsletter dealt with it. This had to do with the value of the dollar, the pros and cons of the gold standard, and of course the disadvantages of all the high taxes and spending that our government seems to continue to do.
For a guy who says now that he had no idea what was being put in the newsletters, he sure seems to be pretty familiar with those newsletters sixteen years ago, doesn’t he? Even when the newsletters became a political issue in hsi first campaign for Congress, Paul didn’t repudiate the newsletters, nor did he did he deny authorship. That didn’t start happening until 2001.
The newsletters story has been around for years. Paul’s story has changed over the years, and he no longer wishes to talk about it. In libertarian circles, though, the truth has been known for sometime:
While his statements sometimes leave the impression that Mr Paul simply licensed his name to people with whom he had little contact, there is much evidence to the contrary. The newsletters that appeared under his name were published by M&M Graphics and Advertising, a company run by Mr Paul’s longtime congressional campaign manager Mark Elam—which Mr Elam himself confirms. And according to numerous veterans of the libertarian movement, it was an open secret during the late-80s and early-90s who was ghostwriting the portions of Mr Paul’s newsletters not penned by the congressman himself: Lew Rockwell, founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and members of his staff, among them Jeffrey Tucker, now editorial vice president of the Institute.
Mr Rockwell denied authorship to Jamie Kirchick, the reporter whose New Republic article published earlier this week reignited controversy over the newsletters. But both Mr Rockwell (who attacked the New Republic article on his site) and Mr Tucker refused to discuss the matter with Democracy in America. (“Look at Mises.org,” Mr Tucker told me, “I’m willing to take any responsibility for anything up there, OK?”) According to Wirkman Virkkala, formerly the managing editor of the libertarian monthly Liberty, the racist and survivalist elements that appeared in the newsletter were part of a deliberate “paleolibertarian” strategy, “a last gasp effort to try class hatred after the miserable showing of Ron Paul’s 1988 presidential effort.” It is impossible now to prove individual authorship of any particular item in the newsletter, but it is equally impossible to believe that Mr Rockwell did not know of and approve what was going into the newsletter.
This matters because, while Mr Paul may disavow the sentiments that were expressed under his name over the years, he has scarcely disavowed Mr Rockwell, who remains a friend and adviser.
Rockwell, who pedals his own bizarre brand of libertarianism that more closely resembles pre-Buckley conservatism than anything contemporary, worked in Paul’s Congressional Office during the final years of his first tenure there, and stayed a close Paul adviser and friend ever since. During the early 90s, Rockwell alienated pretty much every decent person in the libertarian movement when he backed Pat Buchanan’s 1992 bid for the Presidency, yet another reflection of his belief that libertarians should ally themselves so-called paleo-conservatives and others who tend to travel in conspiracy-minded, racist, and anti-Semitic circles. Now, maybe its possible that Paul doesn’t want to hang a long-time friend out to dry, that may actually be understandable, but for him to deny now that he was ever even aware of what was in the newsletters at the time they were published is utterly absurd.
To die hard Paul supporters, of course, none of this will matter. To them, Dr. Paul (and when someone uses that title it’s usually a pretty good sign that they’re what is derisively referred to as Paulbot) is the savior of the nation and the only possible person that can avert us from the course of economic destruction and tyranny. Therefore, any person who dares criticize him is either an dupe, an enemy, or an idiot. The flame wars that I experienced from these people in 2008 are just one example of that mentality. But what about more reasonable Paul supporters? Andrew Sullivan, for example, recently endorsed Paul for the GOP nomination, and Conor Friedersdorf has been an fairly strong in his support for Paul during this election cycle. I wouldn’t characterize either of these men as “Paulbots.” Both of them seem to take a similar position on the newsletters and what they mean for 2012.
I think the papers (and comments almost two decades ago) should definitely be considered, in context, when judging his candidacy, and not because the neocons are determined to smear anyone challenging their catastrophic record. But compared with Rick Perry’s open bigotry in his ads, or Bachmann’s desire to “cure” gays, or the rhetoric around “illegals” in this campaign, these ugly newsletters are very, very old news. To infer from them that Paul is a big racist is a huge subjective leap I leave to others more clairvoyant than myself.
But ask yourself: you’ve now heard this guy countless times; he’s been in three presidential campaigns; he’s not exactly known for self-editing. And nothing like this has ever crossed his lips in public. You have to make a call on character. Compared with the rest on offer, compared with the money-grubbing lobbyist, Gingrich, or the say-anything Romney, or that hate-anyone Bachmann, I’ve made my call.
And here’s Friedersdorf:
For me, the disconnect between the Ron Paul newsletters, which make me sick, and Paul’s words and actions in public life, which I often admire, put me in mind of the way I reacted when candidate Barack Obama was found to associate with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, both of whom had said execrable things. I couldn’t defend any of it. But I could never get exercised about the association in exactly the way that writers like Victor Davis Hanson wanted, because it seemed totally implausible that if Obama was elected he would turn out to secretly share the convictions of the Weather Underground, or hope for God to damn America. It always seemed to me that those relationships were the unsavory product of personal ambition. I don’t mean to suggest that the two circumstances are entirely analogous, but I do find it hard to believe that if Paul were elected, he’d turn out to be a secret racist, implement policies that targeted minorities, or drum up support by giving speeches with hateful rhetoric.
If those ugly impulses didn’t emerge after 9/11, when xenophobia was rewarded, or during the ascent to the presidency of Barack Obama, whose victory stoked racial paranoia in so many Americans prone to that disease, when would they emerge in Paul? The post 9/11 decade has been one of attacks on minority groups and pandering to Birthers. In some quarters, Paul is accused of pandering to Truthers. Is there an instance aside from the one at issue when he has pandered to racists?
Well, there is his continued relationship with guys like Lew Rockwell, and other paleo-libertarians who have an odd fetish for the Confederate States of America and an irrational hatred of Abraham Lincoln, his frequent appearances on Alex Jones’s radio show, and little things like the fact that back in 2008 he received a campaign contribution from the head of a the neo-Nazi organization Stromfront which his campaign refused to return despite repeated calls from libertarian pundits, myself included, to do so. Does that mean that Paul is a racist? No, but, as with Rockwell’s appeal to extremists in the 1990s in the pages of The Ron Paul Survival Report, there seems to be a willingness to tolerate that kind of rhetoric from supporters. In politics, you are often known by the friends you keep and Paul has had an unfortunate habit of attracting rather unsavory “friends” over the years. I understand where Sullivan and Friedersdorf and others are coming from, but these are facts that cannot be denied. This is the reason that many libertarians — who are usually dismissed by Paul supporters as “Beltway Libertarians” — were not entirely enthusiastic about Paul’s 2008 campaign, and would have preferred a candidate like Gary Johnson taking center stage.
The most important thing about the newsletters story, though, is that it is yet another reason why, regardless of what happens in Iowa or New Hampshire, Ron Paul is not going to be the Republican nominee and is unlikely to be a real factor in the race after January. Not only are his views on foreign policy and some elements of domestic policy outside the GOP mainstream, but when GOP voters hear about these newsletters they will conclude, correctly I would submit, that Paul is unelectable in a General Election. Paul supporters will scream that this is unfair, but it is reality, and perhaps Paul could have avoided all of this if he’d just been honest about the newsletters from the beginning.