Ron Paul, Racist?
There has long been a buzz about the fact that Ron Paul’s vast network of supporters includes white supremacists and anti-Semites. Paul has disassociated himself from them and he’s shrugged it off as the nature of a bottom-up organization. While I’m by no means a Paul booster, that has struck me as quite reasonable.
Today, though, TNR (the publication which laid much of the groundwork for the “George Allen is a racist” meme that finally ignited into an inferno after the Macaca incident) takes it to a new level with James Kirchick‘s feature “Angry White Man – The bigoted past of Ron Paul.” It sifts through Paul’s newsletters, some dating as far back as 1978, for statements that are racially charged.
As Kirchick freely admits, many of the charges have been made before in local campaigns and most of the newsletters lack bylines, making the author impossible to pin down. But they were all published by Ron Paul and “seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him–and reflected his views.”
Much of the piece is guilt by association.
Kirchick notes Paul’s long association with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a respected libertarian think tank, and points out that other people associated with the organization are Confederate sympathizers and the like. Further,
Paul’s newsletters have themselves repeatedly expressed sympathy for the general concept of secession. In 1992, for instance, the Survival Report argued that “the right of secession should be ingrained in a free society” and that “there is nothing wrong with loosely banding together small units of government. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, we too should consider it.”
But, surely, one could philosophically support the right of self-determination without supporting, say, the lynching of people who were born with a different skin color?
The people surrounding the von Mises Institute–including Paul–may describe themselves as libertarians, but they are nothing like the urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute or the libertines at Reason magazine. Instead, they represent a strain of right-wing libertarianism that views the Civil War as a catastrophic turning point in American history–the moment when a tyrannical federal government established its supremacy over the states.
One has to love the pitting of urbane Northern libertarians against the reactionary Southern brethren in a tract seeking to establish that someone else is a bigot. Regardless, however, can one not simultaneously think the after effects of the Civil War (or, for that matter, the Great Society) negatively impacted the country while nonetheless being happy that slavery was ended?
Much of the rest of the piece is a mixed bag. Some of the quotes taken from Paul’s newsletters — again, quite possibly not Paul’s own writing but nonetheless put out under his banner — are quite indefensible.
Take, for instance, a special issue of the Ron Paul Political Report, published in June 1992, dedicated to explaining the Los Angeles riots of that year. “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,” read one typical passage. According to the newsletter, the looting was a natural byproduct of government indulging the black community with “‘civil rights,’ quotas, mandated hiring preferences, set-asides for government contracts, gerrymandered voting districts, black bureaucracies, black mayors, black curricula in schools, black tv shows, black tv anchors, hate crime laws, and public humiliation for anyone who dares question the black agenda.” It also denounced “the media” for believing that “America’s number one need is an unlimited white checking account for underclass blacks.” To be fair, the newsletter did praise Asian merchants in Los Angeles, but only because they had the gumption to resist political correctness and fight back. Koreans were “the only people to act like real Americans,” it explained, “mainly because they have not yet been assimilated into our rotten liberal culture, which admonishes whites faced by raging blacks to lie back and think of England.”
Quite a bit of this strikes me merely as frank discussion about race relations and a reaction against a racially based politics of distribution. One can lament cultural segregation without believing other races are inferior. Certainly, most American conservatives oppose racial gerrymandering, quotas, hate crime laws, and the like. And the idea that there is an attempt to bring “public humiliation for anyone who dares question the black agenda” has been a reality for quite some time.
Still, the business about welfare checks and whatnot is hard to defend.
As early as December 1989, a section of his Investment Letter, titled “What To Expect for the 1990s,” predicted that “Racial Violence Will Fill Our Cities” because “mostly black welfare recipients will feel justified in stealing from mostly white ‘haves.'” Two months later, a newsletter warned of “The Coming Race War,” and, in November 1990, an item advised readers, “If you live in a major city, and can leave, do so. If not, but you can have a rural retreat, for investment and refuge, buy it.” In June 1991, an entry on racial disturbances in Washington, DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood was titled, “Animals Take Over the D.C. Zoo.” “This is only the first skirmish in the race war of the 1990s,” the newsletter predicted. In an October 1992 item about urban crime, the newsletter’s author–presumably Paul–wrote, “I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming.” That same year, a newsletter described the aftermath of a basketball game in which “blacks poured into the streets of Chicago in celebration. How to celebrate? How else? They broke the windows of stores to loot.” The newsletter inveighed against liberals who “want to keep white America from taking action against black crime and welfare,” adding, “Jury verdicts, basketball games, and even music are enough to set off black rage, it seems.”
Well, we’ve definitely had some race riots. And one can hardly deny there have been numerous instances of mayhem in inner cities after major sporting events. But talk of “animals” and the general tone here is undeniably racist.
There’s much more in the piece, including something to offend just about any group you could think of.
Daniel Koffler, a self-described former Paul supporter, has a whole list of racist quotes from Paul’s newsletters in easy-to-digest, out-of-context form.
Ron Paul denies that this sort of thing reflects his personal views. Kirchick, again:
When I asked Jesse Benton, Paul’s campaign spokesman, about the newsletters, he said that, over the years, Paul had granted “various levels of approval” to what appeared in his publications–ranging from “no approval” to instances where he “actually wrote it himself.” After I read Benton some of the more offensive passages, he said, “A lot of [the newsletters] he did not see. Most of the incendiary stuff, no.” He added that he was surprised to hear about the insults hurled at Martin Luther King, because “Ron thinks Martin Luther King is a hero.”
The urbane Dave Weigel, one of the libertines at Reason magazine, caught up to Paul today and got much the same story.
[UPDATE: Paul has issued a press release:
“The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts.
“In fact, I have always agreed with Martin Luther King, Jr. that we should only be concerned with the content of a person’s character, not the color of their skin. As I stated on the floor of the U.S. House on April 20, 1999: ‘I rise in great respect for the courage and high ideals of Rosa Parks who stood steadfastly for the rights of individuals against unjust laws and oppressive governmental policies.’
“This story is old news and has been rehashed for over a decade. It’s once again being resurrected for obvious political reasons on the day of the New Hampshire primary.
“When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publically taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.”
Even beyond the questionable rhetoric on race, religion, and sexual orientation, we get garden variety kookery.
Paul’s newsletters didn’t just contain bigotry. They also contained paranoia–specifically, the brand of anti-government paranoia that festered among right-wing militia groups during the 1980s and ’90s. Indeed, the newsletters seemed to hint that armed revolution against the federal government would be justified. In January 1995, three months before right-wing militants bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, a newsletter listed “Ten Militia Commandments,” describing “the 1,500 local militias now training to defend liberty” as “one of the most encouraging developments in America.” It warned militia members that they were “possibly under BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] or other totalitarian federal surveillance” and printed bits of advice from the Sons of Liberty, an anti-government militia based in Alabama–among them, “You can’t kill a Hydra by cutting off its head,” “Keep the group size down,” “Keep quiet and you’re harder to find,” “Leave no clues,” “Avoid the phone as much as possible,” and “Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
How much Paul believes this nonsense is unclear. My sense of him has long been that he’s a conspiracy theorist and outside the mainstream of intellectual libertarianism.
Andrew Sullivan, who has praised Paul in the past, is quite concerned.
Paul needs to say not only that he did not pen these excrescences, he needs to explain how his name was on them and disown them completely. I’ve supported Paul for what I believe are honorable reasons: his brave resistance to the enforced uniformity of opinion on the Iraq war, his defense of limited constitutional government, his libertarianism, his sincerity. If there is some other agenda lurking beneath all this, we deserve to know. It’s up to Ron Paul now to clearly explain and disown these ugly, vile, despicable tracts from the past.
The Weekly Standard‘s Michael Goldfarb doesn’t expect to see that: “He’s been speaking in code to the dregs of American society this whole time. And he had no intention of alienating his base of support.”
For that matter, the best case scenario would seem to be that Paul has been marketing a “Ron Paul Newsletter” for years that is anything but. Which, by my reckoning, would make him a fraud.