On cold winter nights like this one, there’s nothing I like more than curling up in front of the fireplace and reading some classic racist tracts. Tonight, I’m sitting here in my easy chair, with a piping hot cup of camomile tea, and a big stack of Ron Paul newsletters. I really can’t imagine a better way to spend my evening after baking Christmas cookies with my daughter…
OK, back to reality…
I’d heard about these newsletters a long time ago, but I’d never taken the time to search them out and read them. Now that Paul looks like the Republican favorite in Iowa, though, I thought that I should make the effort. Fortunately, they were easy to find. Here’s another taste.
In Paul’s defense, he says now that he didn’t write the more objectionable articles – like the ones that go into detail as to how one should prepare himself for the coming race war – even though they were published under his name. But, that wasn’t always what he said. Here’s a clip from an article on the the Business Insider website.
…In 1996 when the Texas Monthly investigated the newsletters, Paul took responsibility for them and said that certain things were taken out of context. (It’s hard to imagine a context that would make the above quotes defensible.)
When the newsletter controversy came up again during the 2008 campaign, Paul explained that he didn’t actually write the newsletters but because they carried his name he was morally responsible for their content. Further, he didn’t know exactly who wrote the offensive things and they didn’t represent his views.
But it is still a serious issue. Jamie Kirchick reported in The New Republic that Paul made nearly one million dollars in just one year from publishing the newsletters. Could Paul really not understand the working of such a profitable operation? Reporters at the libertarian-leaning Reason magazine wrote that the author was likely longtime Paul-friend and combative polemicist Lew Rockwell…
Regardless of who wrote the racist and homophobic rants that went out under his name in the 80’s and 90’s, I think it’s clear that Paul signed off on them. Now, though, it seems as though people are willing to give him a pass on it. Michael Brendan Dougherty, the author of the Business Insider piece quoted above, while not exactly letting Paul off the hook completely, suggests that race-baiting was just something that Libertarians had to do back then in order to grow their base, and get elected, as thought that makes it somehow OK. Here’s how Dougherty explains it.
…(I)n the 1990s and 1980s, anti-government sentiment was much less mainstream. It seemed contained to the racist right-wing, people who supported militia movements, who obsessed over political correctness, who were suspicious of free-trade deals like NAFTA…
At that time a libertarian theorist, Murray Rothbard argued that libertarians ought to engage in “Outreach to the Rednecks” in order to insert their libertarian theories into the middle of the nation’s political passions.
Rothbard had tremendous influence on Lew Rockwell, and the whole slice of the libertarian movement that adored Ron Paul.
But Rothbard and Rockwell never stuck with their alliances with angry white men on the far right. They have been willing to shift alliances from left to right and back again. Before this “outreach” to racists, Rothbard aligned himself with anti-Vietnam war protestors in the 1960s. In the 2000s, after the “outreach” had failed, Rockwell complained bitterly about “Red-State fascists” who supported George Bush and his war. So much for the “Rednecks.” The anti-government theories stay the same, the political strategy shifts in odd and extreme directions.
As crazy as it sounds, Ron Paul’s newsletter writers may not have been sincerely racist at all. They actually thought appearing to be racist was a good political strategy in the 1990s. After that strategy yielded almost nothing — it was abandoned by Paul’s admirers…
Do you buy that he was never really a racist? And, if so, does that excuse the fact that he was disseminating such garbage, and profiting from it financially? Does the fact that it was, according to this theory, only done for votes, make it any more palatable? I’m inclined to say no, but I’m curious to hear what you think.
Also, I should probably mention that I chose to post this here tonight as a kind of reminder to myself as to why I can’t pull the lever for Paul come election time. Last week, when we heard that Obama wouldn’t be vetoing the NDAA, as he’d promised, I found myself thinking that a vote for Paul might not be such a bad thing after all. “Sure, he’s crazy,” I thought, “but at least he’ll put an end to shit like this.” Then, a few minutes later, I made a note to myself to read these back issues of the Ron Paul Survival Report. And, no, the use of race baiting isn’t the only reason that I won’t be voting for Paul. It just reminded me that he holds many views that I find objectionable.
update: There may be some creative editing at play, but it looks as though Ron Paul just walked out of a CNN interview, after having the following exchange about these newsletters.
PAUL: “I never read that stuff. I was probably aware of it ten 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. So when are you going to wear yourself out?”
BORGER: “Is it legitimate? Is it a legitimate question to ask that something went out in your name?”
PAUL: “And when you get the answer, it’s legitimate you sort of take the answers you get. I didn’t write them. didn’t read them at the time and I disavow them. That is your answer.”
BORGER: “It’s legitimate, it’s legitimate. These things are pretty incendiary.”
PAUL: “Because of people like you.”
And, to think, he used to complain about not getting the intense attention that the other candidates were receiving.