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

Ron Paul’s racist ties get another airing

It’s good to see that Ron Paul’s dalliance with racists and anti-Semites is getting another airing. The Weekly Standard is recycling James Kirchick’s splendid New Republic article of four years ago, in which we learned that newsletters with names like Ron Paul’s Freedom Report and the Ron Paul Political Report were filled with gems such as a reference to Martin Luther King Day as “Hate Whitey Day.”

Paul, naturally, claimed to know nothing.

The New York Times gives the charges an airing today. For what it’s worth, here’s what I wrote for the Guardian in early 2008.

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  1. Mike Benedict

    Ron Paul is a zany guy.

  2. Dan, I know you’re not a Ron Paul fan, and you’re most certainly entitled to your opinions concerning him, but the way you’ve worded this piece is beneath you, IMVHO.

    “Paul, naturally, claimed to know nothing.”

    The insertion of “naturally” is an interesting choice. It’s simply wordy and innocuous on the surface, but unless you wish to make it sound as though Paul is likely to have lied when he made such a statement, there’s no real need for the word.

    Another choice phrasing is “dalliance with”, as though you were speaking of someone who may or may not have been ready to commit to something possibly considered odious and immoral. Similar wording used to be seen in pulp magazines when speaking of drug usage or homosexual encounters. You could have used the less-lurid “possible ties to”, but that would hardly paint the same picture, would it?

    It is obvious that the publications referred to DID print the quotes. That’s a fact. However, Paul has long ago (at least four years back, and probably other times before then) explained that he had no knowledge of what those publications printed during the time in question, and that he did not, and does not, agree with that stuff. The easy, and honest, way to get at the truth of the matter is to ask the man about it (that has been done, and Paul has, as noted, disavowed it) and then, if you wish to pursue it, to look at his public record as a congressman, and as a candidate, and attempt to ascertain if what he said concerning those statements in the publications is likely to have been a lie. Do that and I think you will find nothing in his voting record or public statements as a candidate to substantiate any charges of racism or other truly abhorrent behavior.

    You will also have done journalism, which this (again, in my very humble opinion, seeing as I got a B- in it during my time in school…) isn’t.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Suldog: I think it could have happened without Paul’s knowledge — once. Every occurrence after that is on him.

      Public statements? Here’s Paul and Tim Russert in December 2007:

      MR. RUSSERT: I was intrigued by your comments about Abe Lincoln. “According to Paul, Abe Lincoln should never have gone to war; there were better ways of getting rid of slavery.”

      REP. PAUL: Absolutely. Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war. No, he shouldn’t have gone, gone to war. He did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic. I mean, it was the–that iron, iron fist..

      MR. RUSSERT: We’d still have slavery.

      REP. PAUL: Oh, come on, Tim. Slavery was phased out in every other country of the world. And the way I’m advising that it should have been done is do like the British empire did. You, you buy the slaves and release them. How much would that cost compared to killing 600,000 Americans and where it lingered for 100 years? I mean, the hatred and all that existed. So every other major country in the world got rid of slavery without a civil war. I mean, that doesn’t sound too radical to me. That sounds like a pretty reasonable approach.

      Paul also has said he would not have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

      Even if Paul is not personally a racist, his ideology appeals to them, and his — his — newsletters attracted them like flies to shit.

  3. In the Russert interview, Paul argues that slavery would have died naturally (or that it could have been taken care of at less cost to the nation as a whole.) I fail to see how that is an admission of racism, or even racist in any way at all. It is arguing about tactics for eliminating slavery, not calling for a continuation of it.

    WHY did he say he would not have voted for the Civil Rights Act? That’s the important part of this.

    You may disagree with his reasoning – I have some reservation, myself – but, to me, it doesn’t read as a racist commentary in any way, shape, or form.

    The ideology of many politicians appeals to racists of differing stripes, depending upon what else the racists may deem important.

    Unless a candidate can be proven racist, a la Wallace or Maddox or Duke, via actual voting record or overt racist remarks (rather than asking theoretical questions concerning past history – and what other damn candidates are being asked theoretical questions?) I consider it patently unfair to try to paint him as a racist.

    Argue against the logic of his positions. Suggest he is offering hideously misguided solutions. That’s certainly fair enough. But don’t go for character assassination that can be proven tenuously at best.

    (Once again, just my opinion. Still love you, Dan, and we’ll probably get along better during baseball season. Merry Christmas!)

    • Dan Kennedy

      Suldog: I didn’t say Paul was a racist. In fact, I suspect he isn’t a racist. Rather, he holds views that racists love and — this is the key — has gladly and cynically accepted their support. I mean, please, don’t tell me he didn’t know what was appearing in his newsletters. And Merry Christmas to you as well!

  4. Mike Benedict

    @Jim: So do you think Ron Paul should name those persons responsible for writing the newsletters published under his name (and from which Paul derived millions)? Wouldn’t that put this to bed once and for all?

    He’s only had about 15 years to make this go away.

  5. Mike:

    Good point (the naming) if valid. What I mean is that I don’t have knowledge of whether or not he has, in the past, named anyone responsible for the newsletters. It would be a good move to do so, for sure.

    (Of course, there’s a slight catch there. If he can name who was responsible, then it likely would mean that he had more knowledge concerning them than he has thus far admitted to having.)

    As for the “Paul derived millions” statement, which you used in your question as a parenthetical, not to open another can of worms, but where is that substantiated? That is, can you point me to something showing that Paul gained wealth from them? Or are we talking about campaign funds? In either case, I’d like to do the reading. Thanks!

  6. Mike Benedict


    Take a look at Kirchick’s article. Apparently Paul reported earning a million bucks from the newsletter in one year alone.

  7. Mike Benedict

    Hehe, Ron Paul just had his Herman Cain moment. What a wus.

  8. Mmmm. Some of that is pretty ugly. Some of it, though, I would still contend isn’t actually racist, but is seen so because it is taken out of context and viewed next to the stuff that (whether Paul was the author or not) IS racist. In any case, very uncomfortable viewing.

  9. Dan Kennedy

    Suldog: It’s not too late to switch your support to Gary Johnson.

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