By not definitively repudiating newsletters that went out under his name that had racism or political Twilight Zone-ish ideas to the media’s satisfaction, Rep. Ron Paul has let the newsletters and his critics define him. The issue is is lingering out there, becoming a field day for cartoons and — if he wins Iowa — and low hanging fruit for late night comedians.
Let’s face it — Ron Paul’s lame denials about his repulsively racist and homophobic newsletters of the ’80s and ’90s on CNN should permanently lay to rest everyone’s favorite myth about the man, i.e., that he’s a “straight shooter” and an “honest man”. No he’s not. He’s a liar.
Anyone who can make millions of dollars for years off a notorious newsletter with their name on it and then later look into a camera and claim with a straight face: “I didn’t write them. I didn’t read them at the time. I disavow them. That’s it” — that man is a liar, pure and simple. Especially when you can find videos as recent as the above 1995 interview on C-SPAN in which he clearly embraces the content of those newsletters.
That alone should tell us everything we need to know about the man. The facts: Ron Paul had a significant role in determining the editorial direction of his newsletters, which were edited and largely written by Lew Rockwell and a staff under his direction. And yes, those newsletters were ugly, racist, homophobic, and bizarre excursions in right-wing extremism, extraordinarily popular with militiamen and other far-right “Patriots”. But then, that would be because Paul built his political career in pandering to such extremists.
[W]hether or not Paul did the actual writing, the newsletters were produced at Paul’s behest and written deliberately in a way to make it sound as if it were Paul himself addressing the readers. More to the point, we also know that he had a significant role in the editorial decisions, and was responsible for the newsletters’ larger thrust which — from my reading of them at the time, picked up at various militia meeting tables in the 1990s — was largely about “New World Order” conspiracy theories, as well as various other themes tailored to the far-right militia audience: Eliminating the IRS and the Fed, returning to the gold standard, and the usual fearmongering about minorities, crime, and immigration.
There’s a lot more so go to the link.
The New York Times notes that although Paul has disavowed the newsletters, he doesn’t disavow extremist support:
Don Black, director of the white nationalist Web site Stormfront, said in an interview that several dozen of his members were volunteering for Mr. Paul’s presidential campaign, and a site forum titled “Why is Ron Paul such a favorite here?” has no fewer than 24 pages of comments. “I understand he wins many fans because his monetary policy would hurt Jews,” read one.
Far-right groups like the Militia of Montana say they are rooting for Mr. Paul as a stalwart against government tyranny.
Mr. Paul’s surprising surge in polls is creating excitement within a part of his political base that has been behind him for decades but overshadowed by his newer fans on college campuses and in some liberal precincts who are taken with his antiwar, anti-drug-laws messages.
The white supremacists, survivalists and anti-Zionists who have rallied behind his candidacy have not exactly been warmly welcomed. “I wouldn’t be happy with that,” Mr. Paul said in an interview Friday when asked about getting help from volunteers with anti-Jewish or antiblack views.
But he did not disavow their support. “If they want to endorse me, they’re endorsing what I do or say — it has nothing to do with endorsing what they say,” said Mr. Paul, who is now running strong in Iowa for the Republican nomination.
The libertarian movement in American politics has long had two overlapping but distinct strains. One, backed to some degree by wealthy interests, is focused largely on economic freedom and dedicated to reducing taxes and regulation through smaller government. The other is more focused on personal liberty and constraints on government built into the Constitution, which at its extreme has helped fuel militant antigovernment sentiment.
Mr. Paul has operated at the nexus of the two, often espousing positions at odds with most of the Republican Party but assembling a diverse and loyal following attracted by his adherence to libertarian principles.
Fair enough, but Paul’s problem is that this will damage his imagery no matter what the truth is about the newsletters. It hurts him during a year when he seems poised to become a major contender in a GOP primary. To many, the newsletter issue will make him a non-option.
Look for more cartoons such as this if he wins Iowa and the newsletter issue continues to linger out there.
UPDATE: Read this extensive post from a former Paul staffer who addresses the issue of Paul’s newsletter content and other Paul-related issues in detail.
Here’s what Balloon Juice’s John Cole takes out of this staffer’s letter about Paul:
This open letter by a former Paul Staffer is a must read. I can’t tell if he is trying to help or hurt Paul, and maybe some of you know what his deal is, but the results of this letter are going to be devastating to the Paul campaign…
He’s [Paul’s] not a bigot cuz he’s hired some “blacks,” he just doesn’t like to be around them or their culture.
He’s not a homophobe, he just doesn’t want to be around them or see any of their gayness.
This should be the end of the Paul campaign. If nothing else, it should be fun watching young Conor contort this to fit his worldview.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.