An unfortunate consequence of the Ron Paul campaign has been to form a strange alliance between more conservative libertarians and extremist groups including neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I’ve quoted from the racist writings in Ron Paul’s newsletter in the past, as well as noted his other connections to extremist groups. James Kirchick has accumulated far more information on Paul’s past at The New Republic. Some selections from Ron Paul’s newsletters can be found here. Besides containing racism and anti-Semitism, the newsletters contained support for the paranoid conspiracy theories which Paul has been associated with:
Paul’s newsletters didn’t just contain bigotry. They also contained paranoia–specifically, the brand of anti-government paranoia that festered among right-wing militia groups during the 1980s and ’90s. Indeed, the newsletters seemed to hint that armed revolution against the federal government would be justified. In January 1995, three months before right-wing militants bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, a newsletter listed “Ten Militia Commandments,” describing “the 1,500 local militias now training to defend liberty” as “one of the most encouraging developments in America.” It warned militia members that they were “possibly under BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] or other totalitarian federal surveillance” and printed bits of advice from the Sons of Liberty, an anti-government militia based in Alabama–among them, “You can’t kill a Hydra by cutting off its head,” “Keep the group size down,” “Keep quiet and you’re harder to find,” “Leave no clues,” “Avoid the phone as much as possible,” and “Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
The newsletters are chock-full of shopworn conspiracies, reflecting Paul’s obsession with the “industrial-banking-political elite” and promoting his distrust of a federally regulated monetary system utilizing paper bills. They contain frequent and bristling references to the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, and the Council on Foreign Relations–organizations that conspiracy theorists have long accused of seeking world domination. In 1978, a newsletter blamed David Rockefeller, the Trilateral Commission, and “fascist-oriented, international banking and business interests” for the Panama Canal Treaty, which it called “one of the saddest events in the history of the United States.” A 1988 newsletter cited a doctor who believed that AIDS was created in a World Health Organization laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland. In addition, Ron Paul & Associates sold a video about Waco produced by “patriotic Indiana lawyer Linda Thompson”–as one of the newsletters called her–who maintained that Waco was a conspiracy to kill ATF agents who had previously worked for President Clinton as bodyguards. As with many of the more outlandish theories the newsletters cited over the years, the video received a qualified endorsement: “I can’t vouch for every single judgment by the narrator, but the film does show the depths of government perfidy, and the national police’s tricks and crimes,” the newsletter said, adding, “Send your check for $24.95 to our Houston office, or charge the tape to your credit card at 1-800-RON-PAUL.”
The responses from Paul’s campaign have not been very reassuring as he says the material was written by others, but are we to believe Paul had no idea about the types of people who he was not only associating with, but allowing to publish a newsletter under his name?
When I asked Jesse Benton, Paul’s campaign spokesman, about the newsletters, he said that, over the years, Paul had granted “various levels of approval” to what appeared in his publications–ranging from “no approval” to instances where he “actually wrote it himself.” After I read Benton some of the more offensive passages, he said, “A lot of [the newsletters] he did not see. Most of the incendiary stuff, no.” He added that he was surprised to hear about the insults hurled at Martin Luther King, because “Ron thinks Martin Luther King is a hero.”
In other words, Paul’s campaign wants to depict its candidate as a naïve, absentee overseer, with minimal knowledge of what his underlings were doing on his behalf. This portrayal might be more believable if extremist views had cropped up in the newsletters only sporadically–or if the newsletters had just been published for a short time. But it is difficult to imagine how Paul could allow material consistently saturated in racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy-mongering to be printed under his name for so long if he did not share these views. In that respect, whether or not Paul personally wrote the most offensive passages is almost beside the point. If he disagreed with what was being written under his name, you would think that at some point–over the course of decades–he would have done something about it.
What’s more, Paul’s connections to extremism go beyond the newsletters. He has given extensive interviews to the magazine of the John Birch Society, and has frequently been a guest of Alex Jones, a radio host and perhaps the most famous conspiracy theorist in America. Jones–whose recent documentary, Endgame: Blueprint for Global Enslavement, details the plans of George Pataki, David Rockefeller, and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, among others, to exterminate most of humanity and develop themselves into “superhuman” computer hybrids able to “travel throughout the cosmos”–estimates that Paul has appeared on his radio program about 40 times over the past twelve years.
Then there is Gary North, who has worked on Paul’s congressional staff. North is a central figure in Christian Reconstructionism, which advocates the implementation of Biblical law in modern society. Christian Reconstructionists share common ground with libertarians, since both groups dislike the central government. North has advocated the execution of women who have abortions and people who curse their parents. In a 1986 book, North argued for stoning as a form of capital punishment–because “the implements of execution are available to everyone at virtually no cost.” North is perhaps best known for Gary North’s Remnant Review, a “Christian and pro free-market” newsletter. In a 1983 letter Paul wrote on behalf of an organization called the Committee to Stop the Bail-Out of Multinational Banks (known by the acronym CSBOMB), he bragged, “Perhaps you already read in Gary North’s Remnant Review about my exposes of government abuse.”
The evidence of Paul’s extremism has been widely available on line. What is disturbing is the response from his supporters. When I’ve had posts on such topics the bulk of the responses supported the bigoted writings and expressed similar racism, anti-Semitism, or belief in conspiracy theories. Some responses came from more conventional libertarians who found ways to justify Paul’s writings and the acceptance of contributions from people such as Don Black. By finding excuses for Paul’s acts, these so-called libertarians help blur the line which has separated such racism and anti-Semitism as attitudes which have been considered unacceptable in our society. A campaign which started with well-deserved opposition to the Iraq war has turned into one where the main freedom they are defending is the freedom to discriminate and oppress.
What is also remarkable is that upon closer examination Paul’s views are far better characterized as social conservativism with extreme support for states’ rights as opposed to libertarianism. Despite his reputation as a libertarian, Paul is actually hostile towards First Amendment rights where they conflict with his other views. As I’ve previously noted, Paul has incorrectly claimed that, “The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers.” He has also supported keeping “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, has co-sponsored the school prayer amendment, and supported keeping the Ten Commandments on a courthouse lawn. Paul has both criticized secularism and claimed that the Founding Fathers envisioned a Christian America. Ron Paul’s version of the Constitution is contradicted in the writings of the founding fathers, many court decisions, and in the view of most historians.
Ron Paul was interviewed by Reason following the publication of the article in The New Republic. Dismissing this all as “old stuff” or “political stuff” is no more reassuring than the statements that the material in Paul’s newsletters was written by someone else. Jim Crow laws and the Holocaust are also “old stuff” but this doesn’t make them something which should just be ignored. A press statement is somewhat better, but raises the question as to why Paul could not come up with a better answer on his own when interviewed:
“The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts.
“In fact, I have always agreed with Martin Luther King, Jr. that we should only be concerned with the content of a person’s character, not the color of their skin. As I stated on the floor of the U.S. House on April 20, 1999: ‘I rise in great respect for the courage and high ideals of Rosa Parks who stood steadfastly for the rights of individuals against unjust laws and oppressive governmental policies.’
“This story is old news and has been rehashed for over a decade. It’s once again being resurrected for obvious political reasons on the day of the New Hampshire primary.
“When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publically taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.”
The problem for Paul is that he has repeatedly failed to disassociate himself from extremist organizations when he’s had the opportunity to in the past, and has still not returned the contribution from Don Black. While he might not personally be a bigot, his lack of understanding of the need to dissociate himself from such beliefs remains disturbing. Waiting until a major publication has exposed him hardly shows a meaningful commitment. He has also admitted his belief in conspiracy theories. Even if Paul really had no knowledge of any of this material in his newsletter, which is rather hard to believe, he is hardly the person I’d trust in making all the appointments which are the responsibility of the president.
Update: On second thought, there is some value to the Ron Paul excuse. It just might come in handy some time.
Update II: Responses from libertarians