Friday, January 6, 2012

Sizing Up Ron Paul

A few weeks ago, I learned on Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish of a racist outburst in Ron Paul's newsletter following the L.A. riots of 1992 (with reference to multiple, questionable "newsletters"). It seemed bad that Paul would have let this one get published. Reporters have called it "old news" since it broke in 2008, apparently. Actually, Paul's been questioned about it since the 90s.

Sullivan had given Paul a qualified endorsement for president (since withdrawn), with only a passing reference to some "creepy associations" of Paul's in the past. To illustrate this creepiness, the blogger at Et tu, Mr. Destructo? scanned and posted over 50 instances of either racist, homophobic, anti-Israel, or generally conspiracy-minded blurtings (written in first person) from Ron Paul's newsletter from the late 70s through the early 90s. How about this unnerving tidbit from a 1990 newsletter?

Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for that pro-communist philanderer, Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day. Listen to a black radio talk show in any major city. The racial hatred makes a KKK rally look tame.

Tame? Hate Whitey Day? Please. And actually, MLK should be a libertarian's hero for his oppostition not only to tyrannical state laws that enforced racial antipathy, but also for his non-interventionist policy position regarding the Vietnam War.

Then one of Paul's former longtime staffers wrote this revealing piece, half apologia, half exposé. Granted, one needs to take such an anecdotal account with a grain of salt, but none of it seems all that unrealistic. When you boil it down, Ron Paul is just a genuine social conservative who happens to have a libertarian political orientation. He's the Old Right.

I've often appreciated the fact that he's the only candidate of either major party to (1) acknowledge that the U.S. is an "empire," and (2) to accurately describe Obama not as a "socialist," but as a "corporatist." I am sympathetic to a non-interventionist foreign policy--especially while people in our own country are hungry and homeless--and I applaud Paul's strident call to end the surveillance state created even before the Patriot Act, as well as his desire to end the war on drugs.

He has distanced himself from the racist comments in the newsletter, and has claimed to not even have written them. I'm not so sure. Since learning about all this, I have thought that Paul should drop out of the race because, simply, if he didn't write those newsletters, then at best it only shows that his managerial abilities are abysmal. He didn't bother to read material attributed to him over an extended period of time; and this material was pretty incendiary. A 1992 newsletter opines that "order was restored in L.A. [during the time of the riots] when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks." Is that fit for a chief executive?

Now, I don't think he needs to drop out. Why? Because he can do what he wants, of course. Moreover, his defense of civil liberties should not be silenced but amplified.

But I could never actually vote for someone who had his name on the above newsletter excerpts, or who dismisses, as Ron Paul does, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as an end to "liberty." Whose liberty, exactly? But again, Ron Paul is the Old Right.

Nonetheless, to size him up, consider these varying opinions from politically iconoclastic writers whom I generally find worthwhile:

Glenn Greenwald (Salon.com, 12/31/11): He argues that liberals and progressives are uncomfortable with Ron Paul precisely because he defends foreign policy positions they have long claimed are central to liberalism and progressivism: ending the wars, ending the surveillance state, and restoring habeas corpus, i.e., undoing the Bush-Cheney legacy. But Barack Obama has either done nothing to end that legacy or, worse, has entrenched it for another generation.

Robert Scheer (Truthdig.com, 12/29/11): Scheer asks: What is more racist, Paul's newsletters or the Fed that "enabled the banking swindle that wiped out 53 percent of the median wealth of African Americans and 66 percent for Latinos"?

Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com, 12/21/11): A longtime libertarian stalwart of the "new" Old Right and friend of Ron Paul, Raimondo calls the newsletter excerpts "racist" in quotes where, frankly, no quotation marks are needed. Interestingly, he believes it's mainstream media hype, largely the result of a Republican/Fox News smear campaign that he (Raimondo) thought he had cleared up in 2008.

UPDATED 2/17/12.

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