Strange Bedfellows: Ron Paul and his racist newsletters

According to the Libertarian ideal everybody has a right to his/her own beliefs and government should not interfere.  Accordingly, Ron Paul doesn’t seem to be too particular about some of the people he associates with.

Paul may stick to his Libertarian beliefs, but  this is not to say that he can’t be pragmatic at times.  He wants to end the Fed, eventually, but he would audit it first and then try to phase in sound money slowly.  He doesn’t like social security, but he would keep what we have and allow people of a certain age to opt out. He doesn’t like welfare, but he would cut spending on warfare first in order to keep the programs so many have come to depend on. He doesn’t think the government should have the responsibility of taking care of its citizens, but he encourages citizens to take care of each other through charity. He wants to get rid of the EPA, but then he would enforce laws against polluters. As a former Democrat, I was at first alarmed by some of his views, but now  I find them palatable enough to change my party in order to vote for Paul in the primary. I’m voting for  peace. That’s what’s most important to me.

But then there’s the thing about the newsletters.  At first I assumed the comments had been taken out of context and distorted. One comment, the one Paul did not disassociate himself from, is not racist in context. Newt Gingrich  blasts Paul for the comment that  “95 percent of black men” in Washington “are criminal or entirely criminal.”  The full sentence, which most articles do not quote, reads, “Given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” Those who quote this sentence in full, believing it to be racist, clearly have a problem with reading comprehension. It’s about how biased the system is. Those who don’t quote the first half of it are being intentionally dishonest.  Paul did not disavow this sentiment when confronted during an earlier campaign–and we wouldn’t expect him to–because it is perfectly consistent with what he continues to say today. I recently ran across this popular mash-up of black Ron Paul supporters that’s worth watching.

Another newsletter remark brought forward at about the same time was not ameliorated by context. “If you have ever been robbed by a black teenage male, you know how unbelievably fleet of foot they can be.”  At the time, Paul apologized for the remark, but accepted responsibility for it, not mentioning that it was ghost-written.  Sometimes taking responsibility out right is easier than making excuses, and admitting that you weren’t monitoring the content of newsletters bearing your name is almost as bad as writing it yourself, so I can see why his campaign manager told him not to mention the ghost writing. Saying that black teenagers can be fleet-footed is not as bad, in my opinion, as Gingrich’s recommending that poor black school children be allowed to work cleaning the toilets in their schools, a suggestion mocked by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

Bad as it is, the fleet-footed statement is not  as damning as other statements which have more lately surfaced.  These are from older newsletters which were clearly written by a narcissistic, immature, hatemongering skinhead. These had not been brought up yet to Paul  when he was claiming that the apparently racist comments were taken out of context.  At that time he was referring the “95 percent of black males” comment.  The Christian Science Monitor, which published a timeline of the newsletter story, does not make it clear that this is the case.  These older newsletters are really bad, and there is no way you can play these remarks down. Even Paul’s enemies agree that they don’t sound like Paul. Most people seem to accept the story that they are all ghost written and that Paul probably didn’t even see them until lately.

These newsletters appear to have been type written, xerox-copied pages, not professionally printed glossy newsletters, like we might have imagined.  If only these examples could turn out to be fraud, perpetrating by some crazy racist in his basement copy shop with no ties whatsoever to the real newsletter company. Vain hope, I suppose, but it really is nightmare-like for Paul supporters, especially in its unreality, and it does seem like we ought to be waking up from it soon. But it’s not just a bad dream, apparently. Everyone, including Paul himself, seems to agree that to neglect your duties as publisher, to this extent, is an unpardonable sin. Paul needs to really apologize for this more than he has.

Eric Dondero, a disgruntled former campaign staff member, recently spoke out alleging that Paul does in fact have homophobic views and possibly other kinds of bigotry.  The allegations are not convincing, even to gays. He says Paul was afraid to use the bathroom of a homosexual man, preferring a public facility instead. As a physician, Paul could not have the misconception that AIDS can be transmitted by toilet seat. The claim is illogical anyway since someone with toilet phobias wouldn’t prefer a public seat. However, one thing this former staff member mentions does sound plausible.  He notes that along the campaign trail Paul would often be greeted by supporters who, to the campaign staff, appeared to be really unsavory racist types.  Paul seemed not to notice, smiling, shaking hands, posing for photos, while the staff was just cringing.  Paul even outdoes Jesus who was known to hang out at the well with prostitutes. Few could manage Paul’s level of tolerance.

Idealists are often afraid of the slippery slope.  They think that If you try to prevent certain beliefs, even racists ones, you provide the opening for controlling any beliefs. In a perfect Libertarian world no one, neither blacks nor whites, would want to patronize a “white only” restaurant and it would go out of business.  But of course this isn’t a perfect Libertarian world. That is why the ultimate Libertarian tolerates anti-Libertarian views, for instance allowing Liberal Democrats to believe that we should be intolerant of racist practices in businesses or even private clubs. I think Libertarian and Democrat impulses balance each other out in ways that could be healthy for the nation. A Paul-Kucinich ticket perhaps?

I remember when I first heard the term “Libertarian.”  By the sound of it, I thought it was a permissive, relativistic, anything-goes ideology. Now I understand better that it is about tolerance of beliefs with which you disagree: it’s “right-to-lifers” showing empathy for those who support “choice,” allowing others to do what they think is right, not making people pay for what they think is wrong. Well, I can agree with this with regard to the war issue. Whether or not we tolerate different ideals in others, we should not be forced to support actions that we object to on moral grounds. To me being tolerant of racist actions (killing millions of innocent people in the Middle East) is a lot worse than being tolerant of racist beliefs here in the US.

p.s. These “political” posts are exercises to prepare me to write my next novel Locus Amœnus.

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