Ron Paul’s exotic past tells us much about him, the GOP, libertarians – and about us
Summary: The Republican primaries, esp the latest chapter about Ron Paul, provide a feast of insights about our America. It’s not a pretty picture, but important to know — and cheap, if we learn from this before the election.
- About the GOP
- About Ron Paul
- About us
- About libertarians
- Articles about Ron Paul and his newsletters
- For more information
(1) About the GOP
Donald Trump, Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich … and now they turn to Ron Paul. What does this tell us?
About the GOP, its leaders? Is this a sign of their desperate search for a right-wing candidate attractive to an increasingly foolish and ignorant electorate? Or does it show indifference to which puppet we elect (just like 2008 Obama vs. McCain, their knowledge that both would be in effect a third term for Bush Jr’s policies)?
What does this tell us about the average Republican (ie, as reflected in the polls)? Their ignorance and willingness to be fooled by simple stories told by shallow imitations of statesman (as proven by their fast collapse under even the US media’s light scrutiny)?
Some articles discussing these questions:
- “The Republicans’ Farcical Candidates – A Club of Liars, Demagogues and Ignoramuses“, Marc Pitzke, commentary in Der Spiegel, 1 December 2011
- “The Media’s Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Campaign Coverage“, Bob Garfield, The Atlantic, 21 December 2011 — “The most powerful segment of the political right has moved into fringe territory. Why has the press been largely silent on this?”
(2) About Ron Paul
This information (all available to the public since 2008) tells us much about the real Ron Paul. Not just the past, but today — as we see an old fashioned defense by this old politician (born 1935), making up increasingly bizarre explanations for the content of his newsletters. Highly profitable newsletters for a decade or more, but now he has amnesia about their contents — the racism, broad bigotry, and crackpot conspiracy theories. Paul might not have believed these things (grifters need not believe in their cons), but he at least pretended to do so for his personal profit.
- The Ron Paul Political Report: A Special Issue on Race Terrorism (15 June 1992) — Ugly statements
- Game Over: Scans of Over 50 Ron Paul Newsletters — Scores of ugly statements
- Transcript of Meet the Press on 23 December 2007 — Paul today would vote against the 1964 Civil Righs Act, and believes the Union should not have fought the Civil War.
- Ron Paul Personally Defended Racist Newsletters: Internview on Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees, CNN, 21 December 2011
- “15 Years Ago, Ron Paul Wasn’t Claiming Somebody Else Wrote His Newsletters“, David Weigel, Slate, 26 December 2011 — But he denies it now.
(3) About us
Our history since the Ford Administration shows our increasingly fondness for underqualified and fringe candidates for the Presidency — and perhaps at all levels of government. We have elected at least two grossly underqualified Presidents — Carter and Obama. Both were fine floats in our parade of American exceptionalism, but incompetent Presidents.
People often compare the current GOP candidates to those of the Democratic Party in 1988 (the “seven dwarfs”, see Wikipedia). The comparison is spurious, as six of the “dwarfs” were experienced centrist politicians. The difference between the candidates of 1988 and today show the rapid deterioration of our collective understanding and judgement.
Now we take the next step — or begin to do so: acceptance of extremism. Typical people — often well-educated, intelligent and experienced — applaud Ron Paul because they like some of what he says. They close their eyes to the whole picture because they prefer the pretty picture in their minds to the reality. With this we crossing another red line into a new future. Crossing another red line.
(4) About libertarians
The libertarian political movement, like all political movements, consists of multiple strands working together. In the GOP, as in its libertarian component, that’s an alliance between social conservatives, small government conservatives, economic conservatives, and neoconservatives (using “conservative” in as a modern political classification, not in terms of classical philosophy). As with all alliances, they work together for common goals, overlooking large differences (eg, the US-Soviet alliance in WWII).
(a) The significant aspect of the Ron Paul newsletters — and one obscured by libertarian apologia for them — concerns the role of two central figures in modern libertarian thought: Lew Rockwell (highly involved, probably as an author of many articles) and Murray Rothbard (far lesser involvement, possible occasional author). For details see “Who Wrote Ron Paul’s Newsletters?“, Julian Sanchez & David Weigel, Reason, 16 January 2008 — “Libertarian movement veterans, and a Paul campaign staffer, say it was “paleolibertarian” strategist Lew Rockwell.” Excerpt:
Ron Paul doesn’t seem to know much about his own newsletters. The libertarian-leaning presidential candidate says he was unaware, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, of the bigoted rhetoric about African Americans and gays that was appearing under his name. He 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.
Rockwell has denied responsibility for the newsletters’ contents to The New Republic‘s Jamie Kirchick.
(b) It’s not just what happen decades ago. Ron Paul’s past and current behavior shows the depth of the problem. “Paul Disowns Extremists’ Views but Doesn’t Disavow the Support“, New York Times, December 2011 — Excerpt:
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.
In May, Mr. Paul reiterated in an interview with Chris Matthews of MSNBC that he would not have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing segregation. He said that he supported its intent, but that parts of it violated his longstanding belief that government should not dictate how property owners behave. He has been featured in videos of the John Birch Society, which campaigned against the Civil Rights Act, warning, for instance, that the United Nations threatens American sovereignty.
In the mid-1990s, between his two stints as a Texas congressman, Mr. Paul produced a newsletter called The Ron Paul Survival Report, which only months before the Oklahoma City bombings encouraged militias to seek out and expel federal agents in their midst. That edition was titled “Why Militias Scare the Striped Pants Off Big Government.”
An earlier edition of another newsletter he produced, The Ron Paul Political Report, concluded that the need for citizens to arm themselves was only natural, given carjackings by “urban youth who play whites like pianos.” The report, with no byline but written in the first person, said: “I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self-defense. For the animals are coming.”
(c) James Kirchick explains how the Ron Paul candidacy highlights these dynamics within the libertarian movement: “Why Don’t Libertarians Care About Ron Paul’s Bigoted Newsletters?“, The New Republic, 22 December 2011 — Excerpt:
To be sure, these figures, like the broader group of Paul enthusiasts, don’t base their support on the Congressman’s years-long record of supporting racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and far-right militias. Quite the opposite: Like the candidate himself, they manage to mostly avoid making any mention of his unsavory record at all. It’s an impressive feat of repression, one that says volumes about the type of enthusiasm Paul inspires.
Ultimately, Paul’s following is closely linked with the peculiar attractions of the libertarian creed that he promotes. Libertarianism is an ideology rather than a philosophy of government — its main selling point is not its pragmatic usefulness, but its inviolable consistency. In that way, Paul’s indulgence of bigotry — he says he did not write the newsletters but rather allowed others to do so in his name — isn’t an incidental departure from his libertarianism, but a tidy expression of its priorities: First principles of market economics gain credence over all considerations of social empathy and historical acuity. His fans are guilty of donning the same ideological blinders, giving their support to a political candidate on account of the theories he declaims, rather than the judgment he shows in applying those theories, or the character he has evinced in living them. Voters for Ron Paul are privileging logical consistency at the expense of moral fitness.
But it’s not simply that Paul’s supporters are ignoring the manifest evidence of his moral failings. More fundamentally, their very awareness of such failings is crowded out by the atmosphere of outright fervor that pervades Paul’s candidacy. This is not the fervor of a healthy body politic — this is a less savory type of political devotion, one that escapes the bounds of sober reasoning. Indeed, Paul’s absolutist notion of libertarian rigor has always been coupled with an attraction to fantasies of political apocalypse.
For more about this see:
- A modern conservative dresses up Mr. Potter to suit our libertarian fashions, 17 November 2011
- “The liberty of local bullies“, Noah Smith (student), 26 November 2011 — How Ron Paul fits in the broader currents of libertarian thought
(5) Articles about Ron Paul and his newsletters
This history also tells us much about Libertarians (as a movement).
- Transcript of Meet the Press on 23 December 2007 — He would vote against the 1964 Civil Righs Act and believes the Union should not have fought the Civil War.
- “Ron Paul as President“, Tyler Cowen (Prof Economics, George Mason U), 26 December 2007
- “Ron Paul: My Two Cents“, Arnold King (CATO Institute, bio here, Library of Economics and Liberty, 26 December 2007
- “Angry White Man“, James Kirchick, The New Republic, 8 January 2008 — “The bigoted past of Ron Paul.”
- “‘Old News’? ‘Rehashed for Over a Decade’?“, Matt Welch, Reason, 11 January 2008
- “Who Wrote Ron Paul’s Newsletters?“, Julian Sanchez & David Weigel, Reason, 16 January 2008 — “Libertarian movement veterans, and a Paul campaign staffer, say it was “paleolibertarian” strategist Lew Rockwell”
- “Ron Paul’s Shaggy Defense“, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Atlantic, 20 December 2011 — Ron Paul is 76; perhaps amnesia is natural for him.
- “Why Don’t Libertarians Care About Ron Paul’s Bigoted Newsletters?“, James Kirchick, The New Republic, 22 December 2011 — A very good question.
- “Ron Paul quits CNN interview after questions about racist newsletters“, Reuters, 22 December 2011
- “The Trouble with Ron Paul’s Defense“, Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online, 26 November 2011
- “Ron Paul Takes Credit For & Explains The Ron Paul Survival Report“, Real Clear Politics, 26 November 2011 — In a 1995 video interview.
- Solicitation Letter for Ron Paul’s Investment Letter and Political Report — Undated, from 1985 through late 1990s. Source: Reuters
- “FACT CHECK: Ron Paul Personally Defended Racist Newsletters“, Judd Legum, ThinkProgress, 27 December 2011
(6) For more information about American politics
To see all posts about these things see these FM Reference Pages:
- America – how can we stop the quiet coup now in progress?
- Obama, his administration and policies
- Politics in America
About conservatives and the Republican Party:
- Let’s play “Name that Liberal”
- Let’s play round 2 of “Name That Liberal”
- Let’s play round 3 of “Name That Liberal”
- What happens to the Republican Party after the election?, 2 November 2008
- Whose values do Dick and Liz Cheney share? Those of America? Or those of our enemies, in the past and today?, 14 March 2010
- The evolution of the Republican Party has shaped America during the past fifty years, 8 May 2010
- Two contrasting views of the Republican Party, 23 May 2010
- Will people on the right help cut Federal spending?, 19 June 2010
- Conservatives oppose the new START treaty, as they opposed even the earlier version negotiated by Ronald Reagan, 24 July 2010
- The Republicans are serious about the budget. The results could be ugly., 24 November 2010
- Why do Rep Ryan and the Republicans want to gut America’s military defenses?, 14 April 2011
- Why Conservatives are winning: they use the WMD of political debate, 28 April 2011
- Mitt Romney and the Empire of Hubris. Setting America on a path to decline., 10 October 2011
- A modern conservative dresses up Mr. Potter to suit our libertarian fashions, 17 November 2011