The Problem with Paul Updated

We have a little unfinished business from yesterday. Allah had the post — TNR’s James Kirchick tracked down some old Ron Paul newsletters and found them…disturbing. Now, looking over Kirchick’s work, I have to agree with Ace that the TNR scribe steals some bases by including marginal quotes that aren’t on their face racist or crazy. It was, for instance, not insane to postulate that South Africa would become a killing ground after apartheid’s end. That’s not an argument for apartheid, by the way, or for maintaining the status quo there. It was a plausible prediction based on Africa’s terrible history of tribal and racial warfare, history that continues to this day in Zimbabwe, Sudan and elsewhere. Thankfully that prediction didn’t come to pass, and history records Nelson Mandela as the main reason why. By including that kind of material along with the truly objectionable material, Kirchick suggests a whole line of topics are entering a new taboo.

But even if you weed out the marginal stuff, there’s much, much more there and it’s bad. There’s support for David Duke.

While bashing King, the newsletters had kind words for the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke. In a passage titled “The Duke’s Victory,” a newsletter celebrated Duke’s 44 percent showing in the 1990 Louisiana Republican Senate primary. “Duke lost the election,” it said, “but he scared the blazes out of the Establishment.” In 1991, a newsletter asked, “Is David Duke’s new prominence, despite his losing the gubernatorial election, good for anti-big government forces?” The conclusion was that “our priority should be to take the anti-government, anti-tax, anti-crime, anti-welfare loafers, anti-race privilege, anti-foreign meddling message of Duke, and enclose it in a more consistent package of freedom.” Duke is now returning the favor, telling me that, while he will not formally endorse any candidate, he has made information about Ron Paul available on his website.

There’s paranoid support for the militia movement.

In January 1995, three months before right-wing militants bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, a newsletter listed “Ten Militia Commandments,” describing “the 1,500 local militias now training to defend liberty” as “one of the most encouraging developments in America.” It warned militia members that they were “possibly under BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] or other totalitarian federal surveillance” and printed bits of advice from the Sons of Liberty, an anti-government militia based in Alabama–among them, “You can’t kill a Hydra by cutting off its head,” “Keep the group size down,” “Keep quiet and you’re harder to find,” “Leave no clues,” “Avoid the phone as much as possible,” and “Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”

There’s veiled anti-Semitism combined with rank stupidity.

Of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, a newsletter said, “Whether it was a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly a retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists, matters little.”

Right. The actual perps and their motive “matters little,” except that Paul continually trots out the trope that the jihadis are motivated not by what their religion teaches them but by the fact that our troops protect their countries from other hostile countries. Surely even he can see that Mossad and al Qaeda would have different motives for attacking the US, even if he’s nutty enough to believe that Mossad would actually attack the US.

Paul’s defense of these newsletters has EVOLved over time, from the offending lines having been “taken out of context” to having been ghost-written by some unknown, not to him but to us, figure. Eric Dondero, who was Paul’s employee for years, says the ghost writer was Lew Rockwell. That’s very plausible; Paul and Rockwell are ideologically similar. Rockwell’s site is one of many online bastions for defenses of All Things Paul.

But here’s the thing about all of this. To borrow Paul’s spin on the 1993 WTC bombing, it actually does matter little if Paul wrote the crazy himself or had it ghostwritten under his own name. There’s a pattern developing with the Paul campaign that’s become too obvious to ignore. We have a pile of newsletters containing the more than occasional crazy. We have Paul being photographed with members of Stormfront, from whom he accepts donations. And we have Paul supporters celebrating terrorist Guy Fawkes on their big Ron Paul fundraiser day. And we have a mob of Paul supporters harassing Sean Hannity with obscenities. And despite the fact that Paul says he’s not a Truther, he has undeniably courted the Truther vote by hanging out with uber Truther Alex Jones.

Anything in the above paragraph, seen in isolation, is disturbing. But taken all together, it’s clarifying. Ron Paul isn’t just a “small government, constitutionalist libertarian.” I wish he was; that’s how he has long sold himself to the good people who have supported him all these years. But the truth is that he’s bad and many of his friends are worse. A vote for him is a vote for them. Yet Andrew Sullivan and his fellow prominent Paul supporters like NRO’s John Derbyshire remain blissfully unconcerned about it. This is serious stuff, but it hasn’t made a difference to them at all. Coming from any other candidate, and especially one they had not already publicly supported, it’s reasonable to expect that their reactions would be very, very different. Sullivan for one has treated terrorist propaganda about torture with far less caution than he’s showing with regard to Paul’s newsletters.

Back to the newsletter and then I’m done. Let’s take Paul’s latest defense at face value for a second. The best that can be said about it is that he mismanaged a newsletter and turned it over to cranks who don’t represent his views. Set aside that there’s a remarkable consistency between the views expressed in the newsletters and the views many of his supporters hold now. If Paul really didn’t write the most risible material in that newsletter, and if the ghostwriters really don’t represent his views, then he isn’t even competent enough to manage a newsletter in a way that keeps out the riffraff and represents his own thinking. Paul supporters still want to turn the executive branch of the government over to someone who exhibits this level of incompetence across a stretch of years?

I’m sorry, but that’s insane. Ron Paul has many honorable supporters among the crowd who genuinely believe that he’s just a small-government libertarian. Most of his supporters are probably of that stripe, and not part of the the Duke/Rockwell/Stormfront/Truther wing of the Paul movement at all. Now is the time for them to examine the evidence and choose whether continued support for Paul and his mob is wise or moral.

Update (AP): One of the oddest, most ominous things about this is that all of the newsletters quoted by TNR were published while Paul was a member of Congress. [Update: Not so, see below.] He’s been in office since 1976, in fact. In all that time, not one of his opponents thought to bring this stuff up? Or did they bring up, only to have it shrugged off by voters who don’t care about Paul’s association with the filthy dregs of American culture any more than the Paulnuts do?

One other thing. Paul was the money leader among the GOP candidates last quarter. He’s been something of a grassroots phenomenon for the past six months, at least. How come it took the assistant to the editor at TNR to break this open instead of some big media source? Which is to say, why is this nut given such a free ride?

Update (AP): Correction — Paul left Congress in 1985 and was reelected in 1996. Many of the newsletters were published during that period. So I amend my point. Why has it taken 10 years and five congressional elections for this crap to come out?

Update (bp): Well, some of this did come out in 1996 in the Houston Chronicle iirc. Paul was able to deflect it as statements taken out of context.

Update: Reason posts a round-up of response to the newsletters’ disclosure. Par for the course, Matthew Yglesias wins the dishonesty round. I’ve already noted Andrew Sullivan’s response in the post. The rest are interesting, especially Lew Rockwell’s non-denial. Granted, TNR has a very poor history of truthful journalism. But also granted, Kirchick has the goods in this story. Rockwell’s quoted response is non-responsive to the charges.