The American primary process, a kind of elongated sweeps for the cable news channels, is a four-yearly vaudeville show that doubles as a selection process for future leaders of the free world.
Imagine the aesthetics of American Idol welded to the intellectual demeanour of pro football. When it’s the Democrats, there’s also a touch of the campus rally; with Republicans, the megachurch.
This year Republicans have been on top form. We’ve had a Texas governor who can’t count to three, a Minnesota congresswoman who thinks HPV vaccinations cause ‘retardation‘, and a former Speaker of the House who may not need access to the nuclear launch codes to start a war in the Middle East. Palintastically incurious pizza tycoon Herman Cain might have dropped out, sparking sighs of relief across Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, but Donald Trump – who has a 100% lifetime rating from the American Toupee Union – daily threatens to re-enter the race, provided he can obtain proof that Kenyan-born President Obama forged his birth certificate at a Chicago Kinko’s.
But even in this field, one candidate stands out as the court jester of the festivities.
Ron Paul, a 76-year-old Congressman for the 14th District in Texas, is a perennial figure in Republican presidential primaries. A libertarian of such philosophical purity that he makes Robert Nozick sound like a Bolshevik, Paul opposes almost all government intervention, wants to abolish the federal income tax and not replace it, advocates the dissolution of the Federal Reserve, and campaigns for America to return to the Gold Standard. But where he truly departs the Republican reservation is on foreign and security policy. He opposes the Patriot Act, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and indeed all wars where he deems US national interests are not under threat (which, to his mind, is almost all wars). He denounces concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons programme as ‘war propaganda’. Most controversially, he is a vocal opponent of the US-Israel relationship and calls for America to cease foreign aid to the embattled state and similar allies around the world.
The Texas Congressman is treated as a harmless, if kooky, grandpa figure by the mainstream media, save for those left-liberals who actively champion his crank foreign policy (step forward Glenn Greenwald, Robin Koerner, John Nichols). Any in-depth examination, however, belies this kindly persona and reveals a fringe ideologue whose politics are as downright nasty as some of his associates and supporters.
Paul has flirted with the 9/11 ‘truth movement’, those conspiracy theorists who believe the Bush administration or Israel were behind the attacks or at the very least had foreknowledge and allowed them to happen. He regularly appears on the conspiracy theory radio show hosted by Alex Jones, a 9/11 ‘truther’ and promoter of a cornucopia of nutty causes (he led the campaign to rebuild cult-leader David Koresh’s Branch Davidian church destroyed during an FBI raid on the Waco, Texas compound). Paul himself has blown dogwhistles on 9/11, claiming the attacks were met with ‘glee‘ in the Bush White House.
Dr Paul isn’t punctilious about his political associations. In February 2011, he took chairmanship of the House Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology Subcommittee (a hootenanny, by the way) and chose as his first witness an obscure academic, Thomas DiLorenzo. DiLorenzo is a Southern secessionist and author of the book Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe. He calls Lincoln ‘tyrannical and dictatorial’ and describes the Civil War Lincoln fought to free the slaves as an exercise in ‘mass murder, looting, pillaging, plundering, and the burning of entire cities’. According to the Washington Post, DiLorenzo was until 2008 an ‘affiliated scholar’ to the League of the South Institute, the research operation of the League of the South, a Southern nationalist organisation designated a ‘hate group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
Nor is Paul picky about whose money he takes. In 2007, Don Black, a neo-Nazi political activist and founder of the white nationalist Stormfront website, donated $500 to Paul’s campaign. Obviously Paul, upon learning the source of this money, immediately returned it and distanced himself from Black. Except he didn’t. He kept the money from the former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, a campaign spokesperson said, to help him ‘spread the message of freedom’. This did nothing to dampen down the already growing support for Paul amongst what in contemporary parlance must inevitably be called the ‘neo-Nazi community’.
Why ever would skinheads gravitate towards this soft-spoken, harmless old lawmaker? Perhaps because his politics sometimes bump up against the ideology of the far-Right. For example, he opposes the Civil Rights Act, the 1964 law that outlawed segregation and discrimination against African-Americans, claiming it ‘increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty’ and arguing that its enforcement ‘encouraged racial balkanization, and fostered racial strife.’
All of this, distasteful though it is, is outdone by the matter of Paul’s political newsletters. James Kirchick has just published an article in the Weekly Standard on this outrageously underreported skeleton in Dr Paul’s closet. These publications, issued under Ron Paul’s name in the 1980s and 1990s, either as the Ron Paul Political Report, Ron Paul Survival Report, or Ron Paul Freedom Report, contain some of the most disturbing content ever associated with a major party candidate.
Here are a few highlights:
‘The Coming Race War’, a 1990 piece from the Ron Paul Political Report, counsels the Republicans to play the race card in the 1992 election. It reads: ‘[I]f there is any issue the Republicans have in their favor for the next presidential election, it is the question of race. It was all over for Michael Dukakis when Jesse Jackson gave his awful prime-time speech at the last Democratic convention, and the cameras focused on masses of teary-eyed, left-wing blacks.’
The same essay describes Martin Luther King as a ‘pro-communist philanderer’ and condemns Ronald Reagan for signing the law that created Martin Luther King Day: ‘We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.’
The Los Angeles Riots provided more racial ammunition for the Ron Paul Political Report which carried an article in its July 1992 edition on the violent response to the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King. The report sneers: ‘Jury verdicts, basketball games, and even music are enough to set off black rage, it seems.’
A newsletter from 1992 carries this charming little nugget of racist sociology:
[W]e are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men [but] it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers.
Needless to say, the Jews get it too.
[T]he brilliant Fischer, who has all the makings of an American hero, is very politically incorrect on Jewish questions, for which he will never be forgiven, even though he is a Jew. Thus we are not supposed to herald him as the world’s greatest chess player.
An April 1993 article pushes the old perfidious Jew stereotype:
Whether [the 1993 World Trade Center bombing] 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.
And in the interests of equal opportunity bigotry, the gays get a kicking. This, from the September 1994 Ron Paul Survival Report, on HIV/AIDS:
Those who don’t commit sodomy, who don’t get blood a transfusion, and who don’t swap needles, are virtually assured of not getting AIDS unless they are deliberately infected by a malicious gay.
Now, Paul claims he didn’t write any of the newsletters and disavows their content. This has sufficed for his dead-eyed, cult-like followers and a worrying segment of the mainstream media. However, the most cursory research calls Paul’s defence into question.
I offer three examples.
In a 1992 issue of the Ron Paul Political Report, the following statement appeared:
If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet of foot they can be.
The Dallas Morning News challenged Paul on the newsletter in 1996. Here is how the paper characterised his response:
In the interview, he did not deny he made the statement about the swiftness of black men.
“If you try to catch someone that has stolen a purse from you, there is no chance to catch them”, Dr Paul said.
The Dallas paper also asked about another line from the newsletter, which read:
Given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.
Paul also did not deny authorship of that statement; in fact, he said it was based on the findings of a report from criminology think-tank the National Centre on Incarceration and Alternatives. ‘These aren’t my figures,’ he told the reporter. ‘That is the assumption you can gather from [the report].’
The Austin American-Statesman followed up the Dallas Morning News story by highlighting a 1992 newsletter which opined:
Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions.
When the paper asked for a comment, Paul’s spokesperson, far from denying the statement, repeated it:
Polls show that only about 5 percent of people with dark-colored skin support the free market, a laissez faire economy, an end to welfare and to affirmative action…
Ron Paul or his campaign spokespersons are on the record defending or at the very least confirming remarks which he now claims he never made.
This man just topped the latest poll on the race for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. He could, in the event that 300 million people simultaneously take leave of their senses, become the next occupant of the White House.
Did he write these articles? I don’t know. Is he a racist? I don’t know.
What I do know is that it’s time for the kid gloves to come off. Ron Paul is a candidate like any other in this primary process. If the extreme thinking (and non-thinking) of the rest of the field is disturbing, it is as nothing compared to the content of these journals and other overlooked aspects of Paul’s ideological worldview. The mainstream media, however much it might sympathise with his foreign policy or his criticism of the Bush administration, has a duty to ask the tough questions and provide the American people with the answers.
The first question must be: Congressman Paul, could you please explain these newsletters?