To the People

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Ron Paul Newsletters

I was up past 3am last night reading blog post after blog post and comment after comment about The New Republic's "hit piece" on Ron Paul. Reason. New Republic. Lew Rockwell. Think Progress. I've read them all. There seems to be two libertarian views: 1) The New Republic piece is an intellectually dishonest attempt by a pro-Giuliani writer to smear Ron Paul's name in the hopes of dooming his anti-war campaign. And 2) Ron Paul has a hell of a lot of explaining to do. These views are not mutually exclusive.

I think the author of the piece, James Kirchicks, is intellectually dishonest and definitely a douchebag. He quotes a lot of things out of context and makes quite a few entirely unsubstantiated innuendos. And lets face it, anyone who supports a presidential candidate who supports racial profiling at home and killing brown people abroad is in no position to be judging anyone on issues involving race.

The thrust of Kirchicks' piece, however, cannot be ignored. Ron Paul lent his name to a newsletter that for at least four years was full of racist and homophobic diatribes. Take for instance this witty piece from a 1990 newsletter (and by witty I mean shitty):

A mob of black demonstrator, led by the "Rev." Al Sharpton , occupied and closed the Statute of Liberty recently, demanding that New York be renamed Martin Luther King City "to reclaim it for our people."

Hmmmm. I hate to agree with the Rev. Al, but maybe a name change is in order. Welfaria? Zooville? Rapetown? Dirtburg? Lazyopolis?

But Al, the Statue of Liberty? Next time, hold that demonstration at a food stamp bureau or a crack house.

God. It's not even clever. How about at least Crookland. Or Stabbin' Island. You can read other such garbage here.

Now, Rep. Paul has said many times that he didn't write any of these offensive pieces and I believe him. I also believe him when he says he opposes the hateful sentiments expressed in the articles. But why did he lend out his name to the people who wrote them? And why did it take him so long to stop them from perpetuating such hate-filled messages?

Pauls' claims - years ago and now - that he didn't realize what was in the newsletters rings completely hollow. We're not just talking about a newsletter with the words "Ron Paul" in its name. The articles are written in first person as if he - not someone else - is speaking. And he has admitted to profiting from the letters. I don't think there's a single person alive who would profit from something being written in their name who wouldn't check to see what was being written.

I think it's more likely that Ron Paul knew what was in the newsletters and allowed them to be published anyway. Maybe he didn't see every article, but there's no way he didn't see any of them. So why would he allow these articles to happen? Perhaps because he realized there was money to be made selling such dribble. Even if just 5,000 nut-jobs were willing to pay $25 a year to read it, that's $125,000 a year in revenue. That money could not only fund a later foray into politics (the most offensive pieces were written after his unsuccessful run for president on the Libertarian Party ticket and before his successful run for Congress as a Republican) but also help maintain a database of potential funders he could solicit in future campaigns. (I'm not the only one suggesting a theory like this. At least one person in the know is too.)

Of course even if my conjecture is true, it doesn't make Ron Paul a racist. In fact, the evidence suggests he exploited racists - taking their money and using it to spread a message of peace and individual rights. Well, good for him. I guess. But neither him nor his supporters should be shocked that his association with these newsletters casts doubts on his moral integrity and ability to lead a movement. He profited from hate anyway you cut it.

Paul's die-hard loyalists say The New Republic piece is just re-hashing old news. That's true. But it's important news and I want to know more. I want to hear from Ron Paul's own mouth how all this happened. And it's not enough for him - or his loyalists - to say he has addressed this issue already. Because he hasn't addressed it for me. Or the tens of thousands of people fighting on the frontlines to boost his campaign and message. He has a responsibility to many to come totally clean.

Here are six simple questions I want answers for:

1) What exactly was his relationship to these newsletters?
2) If he didn't write these newsletters, then who did?
3) Why did he allow his name to be used by this person (or group of people)?
4) Did he read any of these newsletter before they went out? If not, why not?
5) At what point did the hate-filled messages cease? And why did they cease?
6) Did he profit substantially from these newsletters? And was that money and/or the mailing list built-up by the newsletters used to fund any of his free-market projects over the years, including running for Congress and President?

Finally, a disclaimer: I've contributed money to Ron Paul's campaign and hope the anti-state/anti-war Revolution he has sparked continues to grow.

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