By Nick Li
My friend Randy McDonald has an excellent blog with an emphasis on all-things Toronto, Eastern-European, and demographic. One of the nice things about the web is it provides an opportunity for ongoing conversations (which can even be occasionally backed up by research thanks to the magic of google and wikipedia). Here is a recent discussion lifted from Randy’s blog – I am the antagonist. Over at The New Republic, assistant editor James Kirchick may have managed to significantly complicate the presidential campaign of Ron Paul with his article "Angry White Man" . There, Kirchick reveals how newsletter published under Paul’s name for nearly two decades and often with his byline reveals Paul to be affiliated with a variety of conspiracy theories and a variey of bigotries (against non-heterosexuals, against blacks, et cetera). In response, Paul’s presidential campaign has issued a denial that Paul was responsible , though this would seem counterintuitive given the sheer volume of the material produced and–as Kirchick notes–the people Paul has surrounded himself with.
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." In other words, Paul’s campaign wants to depict its candidate as a naïve, absentee overseer, with minimal knowledge of what his underlings were doing on his behalf. This portrayal might be more believable if extremist views had cropped up in the newsletters only sporadically–or if the newsletters had just been published for a short time. But it is difficult to imagine how Paul could allow material consistently saturated in racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy-mongering to be printed under his name for so long if he did not share these views. In that respect, whether or not Paul personally wrote the most offensive passages is almost beside the point. If he disagreed with what was being written under his name, you would think that at some point–over the course of decades–he would have done something about it. What’s more, Paul’s connections to extremism go beyond the newsletters. He has given extensive interviews to the magazine of the John Birch Society, and has frequently been a guest of Alex Jones, a radio host and perhaps the most famous conspiracy theorist in America. Jones–whose recent documentary, Endgame: Blueprint for Global Enslavement, details the plans of George Pataki, David Rockefeller, and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, among others, to exterminate most of humanity and develop themselves into "superhuman" computer hybrids able to "travel throughout the cosmos"–estimates that Paul has appeared on his radio program about 40 times over the past twelve years. Then there is Gary North, who has worked on Paul’s congressional staff. North is a central figure in Christian Reconstructionism, which advocates the implementation of Biblical law in modern society. Christian Reconstructionists share common ground with libertarians, since both groups dislike the central government. North has advocated the execution of women who have abortions and people who curse their parents. In a 1986 book, North argued for stoning as a form of capital punishment–because "the implements of execution are available to everyone at virtually no cost." North is perhaps best known for Gary North’s Remnant Review, a "Christian and pro free-market" newsletter. In a 1983 letter Paul wrote on behalf of an organization called the Committee to Stop the Bail-Out of Multinational Banks (known by the acronym CSBOMB), he bragged, "Perhaps you already read in Gary North’s Remnant Review about my exposes of government abuse."
My response: Not very surprising. I kind of like Ron Paul the person – he seems thoughtful and very authentic, reminding me a little of a happy hobbit or something (why would you ever want to leave the Shire Frodo? If we didn’t go around stealing magic rings from people, they never would have sent those dark riders of Mordor…). I also can’t blame him for wanting all the exposure or support he can get, even if he has to appear on the radio shows of questionable individuals or accept volunteer labor from racists. However, his brand of extreme libertarianism just happens to be exactly what you’d expect from your typical militias, conspiracy theorists, home schoolers, and people afraid of those black UN helicopters… Still, I wouldn’t condemn him guilty simply by association.
why would you ever want to leave the Shire Frodo? If we didn’t go around stealing magic rings from people, they never would have sent those dark riders of Mordor
Now you’re reminding me of Santorum.
I wouldn’t condemn him guilty simply by association.
The association is suggestive of wider issues. This blog at Reason and this one at Ace of Spades make the case that if he wasn’t the author, Paul was shockingly lax in allowing all that material to be published under his name.
My response: His official reply:
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA – In response to an article published by The New Republic, Ron Paul issued the following statement: "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 publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name."
This seems like enough for me. Perhaps if he condemned them a little more loudly? Perhaps Thompson should condemn George "Macaca" Allen for his endorsement. And Obama should speak out a little more on that homophobic preacher attached to his campaign at one point. And then Hillary could condemn MoveOn.org a little louder for the Betrayus ad (because she didn’t condemn it forcefully enough). And then… But then he would still be racist in the subtle way – not for pandering to the HisPanic crowd like some of his fellow Republican contenders, but because his embrace of individual freedom at all cost means no chance for affirmative action, reparations, or any kind of communitarian response to the historical, systemic racism in the U.S. I think that is what we should be worried about, not who visited Bob Jones university (McCain!) or who subscribes to the Mormon faith that until recently was overtly racist (Romney!) or who defended his police forces after they killed a few unarmed black men (Giuliani) or acted as a racist on TV (Thompson) or, aw shucks, I got nothing on Mike (S)huck(s)abee (except that women should submit to their husbands). Whose policies are racist? Whose policies are pandering to the racist crowd? I would say Ron Paul is certainly not the worst of the current Republican crop. Nick
This seems like enough for me. Perhaps if he condemned them a little more loudly?
The problem is that it is not a credible denial . Paul who says that "several people" published things he strongly disagreed with in three of his official newsletters over the space of two decades without his catching it. He is either terribly negligent or a not very good liar.
Whose policies are racist? Whose policies are pandering to the racist crowd? I would say Ron Paul is certainly not the worst of the current Republican crop.
Paul might not the worst, he is low-hanging fruit. Others may yet be called to account for their issues–Romney might be a candidate for this given his weakness.
My response:Well gee, I guess there is nothing he could ever do show that he isn’t a racist, is there? Or maybe if he figured out who wrote the article, called them out by name as a racist, and fired them if they were still on his payroll? But even that wouldn’t be enough, would it, because he can’t change the past? I suppose it is pointless to continue arguing then, isn’t it? If he can’t do anything, I certainly can’t. So would you consider George W. Bush a racist because of what his campaign did to McCain in South Carolina 7 years ago (even McCain)? He never fired Karl Rove, let alone reprimand him… And I should add (though I have already admitted the possibility that my efforts are in vain) I would point to the fact that the newsletters that are most cited (indeed, the only quotes cited in the New Republic article) all date form a period between 1990-1992, even though the newsletters continue on through 1999 (though there is one, and only one, reference to a newsletter in 1994 citing an impending holocaust in South Africa, though the NR article provides no context). The only reason I find this interesting is that it suggests a very strange pattern of racism. Look, I’m openly a racist spewing the most vitriolic bile about blacks, not to mention gays, etc. Oh wait, now I’m just a secret racist who will not allow anything overtly racist published under my name for the next 14 years, all the while professing my admiration for Muhammed Ali, Rosa Parks, and stating that racists are "small-minded." While I will admit that it would make sense if suddenly I decided to run for office (Paul ran for office again in 1997, after a 12 year hiatus during which time all of the offending quotes are taken), it doesn’t make sense for a really vitriolic, David Duke type of racist that people seem to portray him as. I will recapitulate, I think he espouses some policies that are racist in effect, if not in intent, and he clearly has not done enough to disassociate himself from some of his supporters (on the last Fox debate he once again had to reaffirm that he did not support 9/11 conspiracy theories, though for some his latest statement was not a "strong" enough or in Randy’s case "credible" enough denial). But I think these attacks on him are a little affair, based as they are entirely on guilt by association and the requirement to prove a negative (I am not a racist, I am not a racist, I am not a racist). - Nick