Monday, December 26, 2011

Libertarians and Republicans would have benefited from giving Ron Paul the attention he deserves

The New Republic has a catalog from some of the most incendiary quotes from Ron Paul's newsletters. It's a chilling list complete with snapshots of the offensive pages. It's a subject that would have received more national attention if Paul hadn't been regarded as a non-contender. Certainly, in all of those candidate debates there could have been one journalist to call him on the insults against Martin Luther King, the praise of David Duke, and this quote after the 1992 race riots in Los Angeles.
“Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began. ... What if the checks had never arrived? No doubt the blacks would have fully privatized the welfare state through continued looting. But they were paid off and the violence subsided.”
I wonder if all those young people who are attracted to Paul's anti-government and isolationist positions would still be flocking to his campaign and helping him to win various straw polls if they had heard the full litany of these quotes. And Paul's defense that he didn't write what was in the newsletter that went out over his name with him listed as editor and publisher is quite lame. In 1995 he was promoting them in a C-Span interview. Are these the management skills for someone running to head the executive branch? As Ed Morrissey wrote,
Um, yeah. A politician sends out a newsletter filled with these kinds of paranoid rants, and then claims it would be “too confusing” to fire the people who supposedly wrote it in his name and explain that he didn’t really believe in any of it. There’s some real truth-telling for you!
Morrissey then links to this post by Ace that should give Republicans pause.
There are a lot of people who find it implausible that Barack Hussein Obama didn't know the basic tenor of the Reverent Wright's sermons of hatred. It is unlikely in the extreme, they reason, that Obama could have missed each one of Wright's hateful, anti-semitic seethings -- these statements were too pervasive to believe he just happened to miss every single one of them.

Well, the old-line racist/neoconfederate ravings in Paul's newsletters (for which he was paid; people paid for this, and he profited) were more pervasive.

Furthermore, these missives were written with a specific goal in mind: creating a "paleoconservative alliance" between libertarians and old-time neoconfederates and former Klanners.

Does Doctor Paul seriously expect us to believe he wasn't even aware of the basic ideological line his newsletters were peddling? He claims he didn't even have that minimum level of editorial knowledge?

A line here or a line there, I could understand. But we are talking here about the basic thrust of his newsletters, which were paranoid, survivalist, racist, anti-semitic, and homophobic. All that's missing is some anti-Catholic agitation and he's got the full Klanner set covered.
Read the rest of Ace's post. It's a winner.

Nick Gillespie of Reason Magazine tried to deal with the entire issue but ended up basically saying it didn't matter because Paul is saying what they want to hear about the policies he would adopt as president and besides, the newsletters just don't sound like the Ron Paul they're familiar with.
Doherty is right that the appeal of Paul in the here and now has absolutely nothing to do with the newsletters and everything to do with the fact that he alone among Republicans (and Democrats) is providing an actual alternative to the status quo. As Doherty [a Reason writer who is publishing a biography of Ron Paul next year] says, in an age of historic and chronic budget deficits, Paul is the only candidate talking about actually cutting spending; in a country tired of war and unabated increases in military spending, only Paul is talking about reducing the size and scope of armed forces and redirecting foreign policy; and in a country that never embraced bank bailouts and monetary policy that abetted the asset bubble that fueled the financial crisis, Paul was the first person to talk about auditing the Federal Reserve.
While Gillespie wants Paul to deal "more directly than he has so far" with the newsletters, he also believes that Paul's positions are better for minorities in the long run so the newsletters should not be a disqualifying issue.

I'm always wary of political supporters who say that their candidate should "deal" with some controversial question that has cropped up as if answering some questions should put the whole thing to rest. Herman Cain supporters wanted him to "deal" with the adultery allegations as if all it needed was his denial for the whole question to disappear.

Jonathan S. Tobin is right. Libertarians need to deal with the issues arising from this pulling back the veil on Ron Paul. The conservative movement was stronger when William Buckley read the John Birchers out of it. The libertarian movement should clean its own laundry. As Tobin writes, the views expressed in those newsletters as well as his flirtation with 9/11 Trutherism and opposition to any tough stance against Iran or help for Israel are a feature, not a bug of Paul's ideology.
Gillespie is right that many libertarians and even Republicans will vote for Paul in spite of his troubling connections and not because of them. Many conservatives share with libertarians their disgust for big government and the compromises some Republicans have made in order to buy popularity. But Paul’s isolationism on foreign policy speaks to the conspiracy crowd precisely because his view of the world conforms to their vision of an evil America rampaging across the globe. Given his own extremism — which extends to his rationalizations of the Taliban and the Iranian regime — it’s little surprise that wingnuts of the extreme right and left flock to his cause (and deluge the websites of journalists who point out their candidate’s shortcomings with hate mail). Try as they might, respectable writers like Gillespie can’t explain away the fact that there is a straight line between the newsletters and many of his other views.

I understand that libertarians want to overturn the system, not just to reform it. There’s a facile logic to Paul’s approach, but that is exactly why the haters love him. As much as libertarians and anti-establishment Republicans want to believe in him, he is a product of the John Birch milieu of the far right, and that leaves them twisting themselves into pretzels trying to justify supporting a candidate for president who is irredeemably damaged by the lunatic fringe with which he has long associated himself.

In defense of Paul’s candidacy, Gillespie seems to be arguing that libertarians need to rally around him despite his imperfections because he is the most viable spokesman for their ideas:
Paul is not the perfect vessel for a libertarian message, but waiting for perfection is something ideologues insist on. Most of us are far more interested in someone who at least has shown he understands the most pressing issues of the moment — and the future.
With all due respect to Gillespie, you have to be taking some of the drugs that Paul wants to legalize in order to believe he has even a remote chance of being the Republican nominee, let alone elected president. Far from a pragmatic attempt to get him into the White House, his campaign is still very much the stuff of ideologues. Moreover, libertarians also need to face up to the fact that their little coalition of fellow travelers is populated by those to whom Paul’s disturbing record is an attraction rather than a drawback.

Principled libertarians need to rethink a decision to tie their ideas to such a flawed vessel. It’s more than obvious to all but his zealots that the vast majority of Americans want nothing to do with a candidate like Paul even if some aspects of his libertarian beliefs are attractive. Those intellectuals who try to justify supporting such a person’s futile run despite his long involvement with a hateful lunatic fringe are trashing their movement’s integrity for very little in return.
There are principled libertarians out there. There are libertarians who have an appealing message about shrinking the size of government and getting government out of our lives. They also can advocate for the U.S. pulling back from its role in the world without indicating that they think U.S. actions prompted the attack on 9/11 or that Israel is to blame for discontent in the Middle East. They might not have come out with positive comments on Bradley Manning as a patriotic heroand the Wikileaks publication of classified documents.

Instead of defending Ron Paul, why don't libertarians get behind those candidates? Why didn't they support Gary Johnson rather than Ron Paul? He had a similar message, more leadership experience without the kook baggage.

Even beyond the newsletters, Politico came up with six statements that Ron Paul needs to explain. While libertarians might agree with all those statements, other GOP voters might not be so fond of his disdain for Ronald Reagan or his support for drug legalization. Even his son backed away from Paul's position opposing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. As Alana Goodman reminds us, even if you ignore his newsletter and the statements Politico highlights, there are enough of his other statements to put Paul on the fringiest of the fringe.
This list doesn’t even include his vehemently anti-Israel comments, his opposition to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, his close relationship with unhinged conspiracy-monger Alex Jones, and his wild claims that there’s a conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government and institute a “New World Order.”

So Paul’s supporters are right, to an extent – other than the newsletters, there is no evidence that he’s ever praised David Duke​ or decried the “evil of forced integration.” But there is plenty of evidence that for years Paul has aligned himself with – and benefited greatly from – the same movement that has spawned much of the racism and anti-Semitism on the right. Looking at his record and hearing his recent controversial comments, the content in the newsletters isn’t as “out of character” as some have tried to argue. [Links in original]
As Paul does better in the polls, those newsletters and some of his past statements on foreign affairs particularly will come up more and more in the press coverage. And he will come to be the face,warts and all, of the libertarian message. If true libertarians don't want to be tainted by his racist statements, they should do more to denounce those statements now and to turn away from him. If not, their entire ideology will be irredeemably connected to such positions.

And on a purely political basis, this couldn't be working out any better for Mitt Romney, certainly one of the candidates true libertarians would most disdain. If Paul comes in first or second in Iowa, it will only hurt the other candidates' appeal as the non-Mitt candidate. The vote in Iowa is just 10 days away and there probably isn't time for the newsletter issue to emerge as a big time problem for him ahead of the caucus vote on January 3. However, as the race goes on, if Paul does well in Iowa, the newsletter quotes will appear more and more in the news. I would expect it to come up in the January 7 and 8 debates right before New Hampshire's primary. Paul's appeal will dissipate to just the fervent few who will support him no matter what. There is a quiet period in February in the nomination contest; that would be the time for a non-Paul, non-Romney candidate might hope to take hold.

But will there be another candidate with the money, organization, and appeal to take Paul's place in the non-Mitt sweepstakes? We've already seen that Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry didn't have the organizational chops to get on the ballot in Virginia. How many other states will their organizations fail to compete with a Romney juggernaut?

Nate Silver explained how Ron Paul's success is helping Mitt Romney. As Silver notes, Ron Paul has a ceiling in how many GOP voters would consider supporting him. And those numbers are before the gimlet eye of the media is cast over his record.
The irony is that Mr. Paul’s campaign may so far have made Mr. Romney’s path easier. It has released exceptionally effective commercials against Mr. Gingrich, while also feuding with Mrs. Bachmann. If Mr. Paul was a more traditional candidate, this strategy might make sense, since Mrs. Bachmann and especially Mr. Gingrich are threats to win Iowa. Weakening these candidates might also tend to help Mr. Romney, but that would not be Mr. Paul’s major concern.

But Mr. Paul is an unusual candidate; his ability to influence the Republican race depends as much upon the order of finish among the rest of the candidates as how well he does for himself. If Mr. Romney finishes a strong second in Iowa behind Mr. Paul, for instance, that showing will be in line with expectations — enough so that Mr. Romney will probably not relinquish his 17-point lead in New Hampshire and should book a solid win there. That would put Mr. Romney on the inside track for the nomination, with Mr. Paul proving to be little more than a footnote.

Just think if Paul had been exposed more fully earlier in the campaign. He still might have done well in Iowa, but he wouldn't have been in the top tier. Those Republican voters with libertarian leanings would have had to look elsewhere. Rick Perry might be the logical choice with all his talk of the 10th Amendment and getting the federal government out of people's lives. Or, once Perry and Cain fell behind, could there have been a strange sort of evangelical-libertarian alliance to get behind Rick Santorum? That seems iffy, but it would have been better than tying the small-L libertarian banner to a fringe candidate who, as Tobin wrote, came out of the John Birch milieu and felt quite comfortable with racial statements going out under his name in the past. It is a stink that will take some time to get out of the libertarian closet and that is a true shame.

UPDATE: John Hawkins has published a lengthy and revealing statement from Eric Dondero, a man who worked for Ron Paul as an aide from 1987 to 2003. If you want to have more of an idea of why Ron Paul should not be considered seriously for the presidency or even for Congress, you need to read this statement. Dondero denies that Paul is a racist, anti-Semite, or even anti-gay, though he cites a couple of incidents to show Paul's discomfort with gays such as refusing to shake the hand or use the bathroom of openly gay men. He says that Paul does not hate American Jews, but absolutely opposes Israel.
He is however, most certainly Anti-Israel, and Anti-Israeli in general. He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all. He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations. His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the America taxpayer. He sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs.
Paul's isolationism is quite severe, even to the point of thinking that we should not have been involved fighting Hitler in World War II.
Ron Paul is most assuredly an isolationist. He denies this charge vociferously. But I can tell you straight out, I had countless arguments/discussions with him over his personal views. For example, he strenuously does not believe the United States had any business getting involved in fighting Hitler in WWII. He expressed to me countless times, that “saving the Jews,” was absolutely none of our business. When pressed, he often times brings up conspiracy theories like FDR knew about the attacks of Pearl Harbor weeks before hand, or that WWII was just “blowback,” for Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy errors, and such.

I would challenge him, like for example, what about the instances of German U-boats attacking U.S. ships, or even landing on the coast of North Carolina or Long Island, NY. He’d finally concede that that and only that was reason enough to counter-attack against the Nazis, not any humanitarian causes like preventing the Holocaust.
Paul was deeply opposed to the war in Afghanistan or any military response to the attacks of 9/11. Dondero, who was a senior aide to Paul at the time recounts that Paul was adamantly determined to vote against the war resolution against Afghanistan but only switched his vote at the ladt minute. Dondero believes that Paul realized that he would have lost reelection in 2002 if he'd voted the way he wanted. Dondero concludes,
If Ron Paul should be slammed for anything, it’s not some silly remarks he’s made in the past in his Newsletters. It’s over his simply outrageously horrendous views on foreign policy, Israel, and national security for the United States. His near No vote on Afghanistan. That is the big scandal. And that is what should be given 100 times more attention from the liberal media, than this Newsletter deal.
I'm not sure that I agree that the newsletters are no big deal. They are part of the entire picture. Paul's crazy views on foreign policy have been pretty clear from the debates. Other candidates, particularly Rick Santorum, have challenged him strongly on those positions. Paul's core group of supporters don't seem to care. However, highlighting those views along with the noxious statements from his newsletters may well serve to contain any growth of the Paul vote beyond those core Paul supporters. And that would be a very good thing for everyone else involved.