Look, the man's a hoot and all, and he was right on Iraq and he at least talks the talk about civil liberties, which in the current Republican debate is roughly the same thing as shouting your opinions into the engines of a 747. But the man's views of many of his fellow Americans are straight out of a anti-fluoridation handbill that somebody stapled to a telephone pole in 1957. He apparently ascribes to a view of FEMA that is roughly the same as the one that powered the X-Files movie a few years back. ("FEMA - the secret government," hisses Martin Landau, before They do away with him and stuff him in the trunk of a car that explodes.) He attaches himself to assessments of the civil-rights movement that would have embarrassed J. Edgar Hoover. He trafficks with racists, and conspiracy nuts, and he has spent his career marinating in the most toxic sauces of the lunatic Right, the noxious brew that the more respectable Republicans are happy to serve up to the mouthbreathers in their base, as long as it doesn't leach into the Chateau Petrus in their hospitality suites. That's what's happening now, some discreet ratfking to make sure that Crazy Uncle Ron doesn't interrupt too severely the relentless march of Willard Romney. Nevertheless, these newsletters are a look into the political world according to Ron Paul, along look backward in time through the prism of genuine American nativist bigotry. [my emphasis]The newsletters to which he refers there are the ones that were a lucrative source of income for Papa Doc 20 or so years ago. The invaluable Dave Neiwert explains in The Freedom To Oppress: Why Ron Paul's Old Racist Newsletters Matter C&L 12/26/2011:
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.Conor Friedersdorf did a piece for The Atlantic last week (12/22/2011) called Grappling With Ron Paul's Racist Newsletters that Dave accurately characterizes as "a thoughtful and nuanced take on the matter" but which nevertheless "also makes excuses for the inexcusable," i.e., he's willing to give Papa Doc a pass on white racism. Friedersdorf winds up arguing that, well, those newsletters weren't so nice and Papa Doc was at least complicit in them; but for his supporters, Papa Doc looks like the candidate who "would do the most to square American government with the highest ideals of our polity". And he expresses his sympathy for the notion that Papa Doc's "policies, the ones he would champion in general election debates and pursue if elected, are the most moral on offer among the GOP contenders."
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.
Dave's not so willing to mealy-mouth Papa Doc's ugliest political traits away:
Well then, let us consider whether or not Paul's policies would be moral ones. And we know, as he has expressed over many years on many occasions, what the outline of his policies would look like: eliminating the income tax, dismantling the IRS, dismantling the Fed, returning to the gold standard, and radically gutting the federal government and its power, notably including its power to enforce civil-rights laws and to protect minorities. It was only recently, after all, that Paul reaffirmed that he would have voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act.Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks has shown some enthusiasm for the fact that Papa Doc's antiwar positions seem to be giving him a boost in the upcoming Iowa caucuses. But in this segment from the 12/22/2011 show, he and his panel of commentators address the question Is Ron Paul racist?, including one of the excuses Conor Friedersdorf makes for him:
That agenda, as it happens, matches up with the agenda that has long been promoted by the most racist elements in American politics of the past two generations and more -- the Posse Comitatus, the Aryan Nations, the Klan -- as well as by a variety of extremists with deep roots in far-right anti-Semitism, such as the John Birch Society (with whom Paul has enjoyed a long association).
And while they may employ vicious racism and bizarre extremism in their rhetoric supporting this agenda -- something largely absent from Paul's -- their reasons for pursuing an agenda identical to Paul's supposed "freedom" agenda have to do with the way they define "freedom" -- that is, as the freedom to oppress other people.
Tags: david neiwert, ron paul, white racism