Ron Paul, the libertarianesque Republican presidential contender, likes to bask in the appreciation he gets for a reputation as a straight-talking iconoclast competing with a crowd of dissemblers, prevaricators, flip-floppers and falsifiers. That reputation and the pathetic GOP field has lately put him at the top of the polls for the upcoming Iowa caucuses. His views on U.S. military actions abroad, the war on drugs and civil liberties have seduced many young people to view him as a reasonable alternative to other candidates, including President Obama.
To do so they must ignore his anti-choice, anti-gay, isolationist, economically illiterate, Limbaugh-backing, Pat Buchanan-endorsing, global-warming denying, 9/11 trutherist, xenophobic views. Oh, and the brazenly racist commentary in newsletters published under his name from 1978 to 2001, particularly from 1989 to 1993.
The newsletter controversy, which was first brought to light by his Democratic opponent in his 1996 campaign for Congress, sprang up again Wednesday in his interview with Gloria Borger on CNN. Indeed, Paul himself sprang up, removed his microphone and left the studio because, he said, she was pestering him with questions he had already answered time and time again.
He has, indeed, given answers. But not the kind that will put the accusations to rest. Either he knew the newsletters contained vile racism and he let them be published, which means he at the very least condoned their contents by inaction. Or, as he has claimed, he didn’t know what was in the newsletters because he didn’t write them or read them, even though they were published under his name (without bylines) and he made gobs of money off them. Which, if true, makes him just another despicably unprincipled amoral greedhead, hardly a standard-bearer for common-sense and plain-spokenness. So which is it?
The issue first gained national attention during the 2008 presidential race. At The New Republic James Kirchick, a widely published journalist, exposed decades worth of the Dr. Paul’s newsletters. [All but a small portion of his article is now behind a paywall]. Of the newsletters, Kirchick wrote:
They were published under a banner containing Paul’s name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him—and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing—but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.
If you want to read some of the scanned newsletters, Mr. Destructo has done a service by scanning a few that you can see here.
One of them, published in April 1993, had this to say about
9/11 the World Trade Center bombing:
“Whether it was a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly a retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists, matters little. The cities have become centers of violence, whether through the daily and routine terrorism of crime, political bomb terrorism, or the terrorism of mob behavior as in Los Angeles.”
Another, published in December 1990, states:
[Martin Luther King, Jr.] was also a Comsymp, if not an actual party member, and the man who replaced the evil of forced segregation with the evil of forced integration. King, the FBI files show, was not only a world-class adulterer, he also seduced underage girls and boys…. And we are supposed to honor this ‘Christian minister’ and lying socialist satyr…?”
And, in October that same year, the newsletter included this nugget:
“A mob of black protestors, led by the ‘Rev.’ Al Sharpton, occupied and closed the Statue of Liberty recently, demanding that New York be renamed Martin Luther King City ‘to reclaim it for our people.’ Hmmm. I hate to agree with the Rev. Al, but maybe a name change is in order. Welfaria? Zooville? Rapetown? Dirtburg? Lazyopolis? But Al, the Statue of Liberty? Next time, hold that demonstration at a food stamp bureau or a crack house.”
There is plenty more if you have the stomach for it.
As noted, Paul says he didn’t write these newsletters, didn’t read them and “disavows” them. Their style certainly isn’t his, as some examiners have stated. And it’s true he doesn’t indulge in racist tropes in his speeches or debates.
But it’s simply unbelievable that in all the years those newsletters were published as Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, Ron Paul Political Report and The Ron Paul Survival Report, he never once looked at a single article in these noxious publications and found reason to give the bum’s rush to whoever was writing this poison. Nor, he has said, does he know who did write the articles. I may have fallen off a turnip truck, Dr. Paul, but I didn’t fall off yesterday.
In response to the Kirchick piece, in 2008, journalists Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez were assigned by the libertarian magazine Reason to investigate whether Paul actually did write them. They concluded no. Instead, they wrote:
[Paul] told CNN last week that he still has “no idea” who might have written inflammatory comments such as “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks”—statements he now repudiates. Yet in interviews with Reason, a half-dozen longtime libertarian activists—including some still close to Paul—all named the same man as Paul’s chief ghostwriter: Ludwig von Mises Institute founder Llewellyn Rockwell, Jr.
Financial records from 1985 and 2001 show that Rockwell, Paul’s congressional chief of staff from 1978 to 1982, was a vice president of Ron Paul & Associates, the corporation that published the Ron Paul Political Report and the Ron Paul Survival Report. The company was dissolved in 2001. During the period when the most incendiary items appeared—roughly 1989 to 1994—Rockwell and the prominent libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard championed an open strategy of exploiting racial and class resentment to build a coalition with populist “paleoconservatives,” producing a flurry of articles and manifestos whose racially charged talking points and vocabulary mirrored the controversial Paul newsletters recently unearthed by The New Republic. To this day Rockwell remains a friend and advisor to Paul—accompanying him to major media appearances; promoting his candidacy on the LewRockwell.com blog; publishing his books; and peddling an array of the avuncular Texas congressman’s recent writings and audio recordings.
Over at The Atlantic, staff writer Conor Friedersdorf has written a long piece on the matter, examining how much responsibility Paul has for the racist, anti-semitic, conspiratorialist toxicity of those newsletters.
Paul obviously does know who wrote the newsletters, and if he truly “disavows” them, as he repeatedly has claimed, he owes it to everyone to tell us who the author(s) were. And he (or they) should be asked: “Did Ron Paul give a stamp of approval to what you wrote? Did he read proofs before the newsletters were published? Did he ever tell you what a great job you were doing? Did he ever ask you to remove or tone down something you or others under your supervision wrote?”
If Dr. Paul thinks walking out of an interview will bring an end to discussion of this episode of “ancient history,” as he likes to call it, he is profoundly mistaken. Not that this will keep him from possibly winning the Iowa caucuses or from being reelected to his Texas congressional seat. But if he wants to keep that reputation for straight talk, now is the time for him to give us some. Otherwise, he should be subjected to a “mic check” every time he gets up in public.