By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The truth about Ron Paul

In my latest for the Guardian, I take a look at Ron Paul’s past association with racist, homophobic newsletters, as well as persistent rumors that he continues to dally with some of the more fragrant elements of the extreme right. What is the truth? It’s time for the major media to dig in and find out.

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19 Comments

  1. Suldog

    Dan:As a former state chair of the Libertarian Party in Massachusetts, I feel obliged to comment.(Disclaimer: I am not now officially associated with the party in any way. I do continue to vote Libertarian, when the choice is offered.)I’ve been a recipient of Ron Paul’s newsletters for some years now. I have never seen a single instance of his using racist or otherwise objectionable terminology. As a libertarian, I may be less inclined to search for such things. However, even if one were to have a more politically correct filter in his or her head, I rather doubt that any of it would stand out as particularly offensive.Now, having said that, I’ll admit I’ve only been subscribed to the newsletters for about 10 years. If anything nasty showed up in them prior to that time period, I’d have no knowledge of it.However, let’s say I’m willing to concede, on evidence presented in the article you refer to, that it does indeed seem to have been there at some point. What constitutes “offensive” is debatable – your “offensive” may contain a wider range of stuff than mine – but some of the quotes are pretty ripe.Now, I’d argue that Paul’s refuting of association with the people writing those bits is enough, at least when combined with any and all quotes you can easily dig up from his recent history. The man, to my eyes, has a wonderful track record concerning his stances on human rights. We may argue about the means he proposes, but everything he says refutes any notion of his being somehow in favor of a continuation of any of this country’s less savory practices regarding minorities, homosexuals, or whomever else you’d like to bring into the argument.As for “…persistent rumors that he continues to dally with some of the more fragrant elements of the extreme right”, they are exactly that – rumors. I dare you to find even ONE verifiable instance of Dr. Paul actively courting the support of someone or some group acting outside of the laws and/or Constitution of the United States. (Not to be needlessly inciting of an argument here, but it would help if terms were defined. What exactly constitutes “fragrant”?)I want you to know that I admire your work. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t come here so often, nor would I watch you on “Greater Boston”. And you did add enough disclaimers to your Guardian piece to make me believe that you aren’t just looking to put the hit out on Paul. However, I find it somehow chilling that your first call (that I am aware of) for the media to pay attention to Paul campaign calls for that media to try and dig up some dirt, rather than because you consider his candidacy just plain newsworthy.(If I’ve betrayed any paranoia, it’s only because I’ve spent many years trying – fruitlessly – to gain publicity for Libertarian candidates and campaigns. I’m sure you understand.)

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Jim: Send me your e-mail address. I’d like to respond privately. Thanks.

  3. Anonymous

    Jim,good luck getting anyone here to examine the “fragrant elements” of the extreme left…

  4. Don, American

    The Civil War was about states’ rights; just ask any Southerner. Lincoln’s freeing of the slaves was a ploy, trying to cause chaos in the Confederacy. At that point, they weren’t even U.S. citizens.As far as that goes, the Civil War still isn’t over; just ask Al Sharpton.

  5. bostonph

    I spent time as a Libertarian Party member. I think the crux of suldog’s mail (and the reason I left the party) is this:As a libertarian, I may be less inclined to search for such things.It’s better exemplified by the letters from Ron Paul supporters in Bay Windows:http://www.baywindows.com/index.php?ch=columnists&sc=letters&sc2=&sc3=&id=54644Ron Paul is the best friend that the GLBT community, or any other community, could have in Washington. He wants to treat the members of your community as individuals, and as equal to all other individuals before the law. No one can do more than that.(emphasis mine)In my experience, almost the entire party falls into that category. They support right X, but are absolutely unwilling to do anything tangible about. I can’t count the number of Libertarians who’ve told me “market forces” will take of everything from job and housing discrimination to every function now provided by the FDA. More disturbing was the number of Libertarians who spouted variations on “blacks and Hispanics will still do poorly under a Libertarian regime, since test scores show they’re just not as smart as whites and Asians.” At best it’s a incredibly naive political philosophy (they like to think of themselves as Utopian), at worst it’s deliberately dismissive of any problem which doesn’t directly affect the party membership.Ron Paul’s newsletter blunder strikes me as part and parcel of that.

  6. Anonymous

    Don, we’re all aware that the Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in Confederate-occupied territory.I agree the Civil War was about states’ rights, in the same way the fight over federal anti-lynching legislation, desegregation and banning of the poll tax were all about states’ rights, or the rights of a stateb to deprive its citizens of rights. I look foward to the staunch defenders of states’ rights standing up for Massachusetts’ right to recognize same-sex marriage when there is an attempt to ban the same on the federal level, a case in which for once a state is extending rights to more citizens instead of trying to limiting rights.By the way, I hereby proposed a Sharpton corollary to Godwin’s Law.Bob in Peabody

  7. Marc

    This is not news, this is The New Republic writing an article and every one else covering it because they have this material evidence to rehash. This guy called out Ron Paul for a talk on race and respect for African Americans in September.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwOxi4oPF7g&NR=1This teenager was undaunted by this media spotlight on this.http://youtube.com/watch?v=IdP_OJsAD9gIt's enough. Now I don’t know if if I’m even going to vote.

  8. Suldog

    Just a quick reply to Bostonph:If you think that Libertarians consider themselves Utopians, you obviously didn’t spend much time in the party or in delving into the literature. I’ll quote one very good example, from David Bergland’s Libertarianism In One Lesson.(Bergland was the LP’s 1984 presidential candidate, and a national chair of the party for multiple terms.)From chapter 3, under the heading THE UTOPIAN FALLACY:”‘Utopia’ refers to a perfect society, where everybody has everything they want all the time and nothing ever goes wrong. No such place has ever existed. But opponents of liberty hold Utopia up as a standard. They argue that liberty does not guarantee that everyone will get everything they want. Some will be sick, hungry or disappointed and there will still be murderers, thieves, rapists and other criminals. Because liberty does not guarantee Utopia, they argue, we should reject liberty and embrace government control.It is true: no advocate of liberty can guarantee Utopia.So what?No advocate of any political view can guarantee Utopia.Utopia is not one of the options.Utopia is simply not available.”(Bolding by the author)Yes, we believe that our policies will result in a better society. That is the stated goal of every political entity. However, we do not, nor have we ever, said that it will be perfect.If you encountered a Libertarian Party member who told you otherwise, then he or she was either seriously ill-informed or tremendously over-optimistic.

  9. bostonph

    Suldog,Sorry, I’d forgotten the Libertarian love of semantics. No, I clearly and obviously didn’t mean “Utopian” as in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia. I meant Utopian as in “striving for an ideal of how society should work.” Guess I should have gone with sneer quotes (“Utopian”). Any reply to my actual points?

  10. bostonph

    This teenager was undaunted by this media spotlight on this.http://youtube.com/watch?v=IdP_OJsAD9gThis is one of the most unintentionally funny things I’ve ever seen. It’s the political fringe version of the “Leave Britney Alone” video.Why didn’t I realize it was all the fault of Ron Paul’s ghostwriters???!!!!

  11. Suldog

    Sorry if you think I’m engaging in semantics. I thought I was quoting a large part of the actual philosophy behind the party, something that you seem to have missed when you were a member. If that’s semantics, so be it.I did not find that you “clearly and obviously didn’t mean “Utopian” as in Sir Tomas More’s Utopia.” I was operating under the assumption that you did, in fact, mean just that. If it was clear and obvious, I wouldn’t have wasted my time typing.Yes, “striving for an ideal of how society should work” is, as I said in different words, the stated goal of ALL political organizations. I agree wholeheartedly.I’ll gladly speak to more of your points, if you wish.”They support right X, but are absolutely unwilling to do anything tangible about.”The philosophy, as a whole, relies upon individual freedom and individual action. We believe – others mileage may, of course, vary – that securing the utmost freedom for the individual (with the concurrent responsibility that falls to an individual with such freedom) will provide that person with the greatest opportunity for betterment. To that end, we look to elect to office people willing to make that freedom available, and we look to make changes in public policy which would make more freedom available. If that’s your idea of doing nothing, your definition differs from mine, greatly.”More disturbing was the number of Libertarians who spouted variations on ‘blacks and Hispanics will still do poorly under a Libertarian regime, since test scores show they’re just not as smart as whites and Asians.'”I cannot debate what you supposedly heard. All I can tell you is that, during all of my time as a party member (some 15 years) and as State Chair (a year), I heard not even one single instance of what you purport.”At best it’s a incredibly naive political philosophy (they like to think of themselves as Utopian), at worst it’s deliberately dismissive of any problem which doesn’t directly affect the party membership.”Foregoing the Utopian ground we’ve already covered, perhaps you’d like to elucidate upon how libertarianism is “deliberately dismissive of problems which don’t directly affect the party membership” in any way that other political organizations aren’t? It seems to me that the very definition of a political organization that “[strives] for an ideal of how a society should work” would be contradictory to that on its face.

  12. bostonph

    Foregoing the Utopian ground we’ve already covered, perhaps you’d like to elucidate upon how libertarianism is “deliberately dismissive of problems which don’t directly affect the party membership” in any way that other political organizations aren’t?I think this Pew study may shed some light:http://pewresearch.org/pubs/17/in-search-of-ideologues-in-americaLibertarians are 59% male, 82% white, 31% in the highest income bracket, 33% under 30, and 69% under 50.The majority of Libertarians I know have never experienced discrimination in their lives and dismiss it as an issue. It’s easy to bloviate about freedom when your’s isn’t really on the table.

  13. Suldog

    “Libertarians are 59% male, 82% white, 31% in the highest income bracket, 33% under 30, and 69% under 50.”Gosh, you pegged me. I’m a white male. The rest of it? Not so much.Of course, since the percentage of whiteness quoted there pretty much equals the national percentage, that wasn’t a tough one. The male part? I suppose if I really wanted to, I could do something about that, but I’d prefer not. I hope you understand.Otherwise, I’m over 50, and I’d have to find out just what constitutes the highest income bracket. Since I rent, own one car made in the 90’s, and have less than $5,000 in the bank, I’m thinking I’m probably not in it, but who knows?”The majority of Libertarians I know have never experienced discrimination in their lives and dismiss it as an issue. It’s easy to bloviate about freedom when your’s isn’t really on the table.”I would argue that everybody’s freedom is always on the table, but that might qualify as bloviating in your book, so I won’t.What you’ve done is to delineate what the party is made up of. What you have failed to do is to tell me why those people are “deliberately dismissive of problems which don’t directly affect the party membership”.Yes, you say that “the majority of Libertarians I know have never experienced discrimination in their lives and dismiss it as an issue.” OK. How many Libertarians do you know? Got names? Making an unsubstantiated claim concerning any group to prove a point via circular logic is NOT proof.You seem to be conjecturing that, because I may be white and male, I don’t care about anyone else’s problems. Aside from the fact that that’s highly insulting, racist AND sexist, I find nothing of value there. You dismiss the possibility of white men possibly being caring human beings as easily as the supposed Libertarians you cite dismiss the claims of others concerning discrimination. Kettle, meet pot.Your turn again.

  14. Suldog

    I’d like to set aside the major battle we’re having for a minute. I’d rather not have this degenerate into a pissing war, which I’m afraid I might be guilty of escalating. Instead, Id like to ask you a question, in complete seriousness.At the beginning of this, you said that you were once a member of the Libertarian Party. What was it, exactly, that made you become a member? I’m truly curious; not trying to draw you into another argument or anything. I’ll also relate my reasons, if you wish.

  15. Marc

    Dan, what I don’t understand is why you are doing this now. Is it because the New Republic did it…you jumped on the bandwagon with CNN and others.I mean this isn’t timely. Look, this “Facebook” generation kid was on the rebound in October. This happened a long time ago.This just wreaks too much of political opportunism to resurface right now. Is it because Ron Paul has become a threat?

  16. Dan Kennedy

    Marc — My first inkling of Paul’s dark side was the Heffernan incident. I hadn’t been following him that closely. Not sure how much of a threat Paul’s become — he’ll get his 5 percent in every primary, but no more than that.

  17. Marc

    Damn, it’s just I had my heart set on Paul. I even got the Ron Paul family cookbook and have been spreading his ideal of defending the constitution. There’s no evidence of him being racist, really. But he shouldn’t be hanging with known racists.

  18. Marc

    Whoa! 14 percent in Iowa, man. It must have been that big brothel owner demographic.http://www.boston.com/news/politics/http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21973236/

  19. VisiTeach

    Another one-sided, biased, ill-researched, out of context, out of touch, gutter journalism Guardian article by Dan Kennedy from the newspaper that sells itself as being neutral.

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