For a different take on the Ron Paul newsletter controversy, click here.
Let’s stop dancing around the issue. Let’s stop trying to parse what he knew and when he knew it. It doesn’t matter. All roads lead to the same inescapable conclusion: Ron Paul is a bigot, and should not be taken seriously as a potential standard-bearer for a major party.
Paul is now coming under fire for racist newsletters that were issued in his name in the 1980s and 1990s. James Kirchick’s excellent reporting in both The New Republic and The Weekly Standard has brought several unsavory excerpts from Paul’s newsletter to light. For example, Paul’s newsletter opined that order was only restored in the 1992 Los Angeles riots “when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks”; frequently disparaged that prominent leader of “the blacks,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., including by referring to the holiday in his honor as “Hate Whitey Day”; warned of “The Coming Race War”; used the headline “Animals Take Over the D.C. Zoo” for a story on disturbances in Washington involving minority youth; and made the following complaint: “We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational.”
Paul’s newsletter also trafficked heavily in paranoid conspiracy theories, many of them targeting Israel. Israel was characterized as an “aggressive, national socialist state,” an unmistakable and offensive attempt to compare the Jewish state to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. A piece on the 1993 World Trade Center bombing mused that “[w]hether it was a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly a retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists, matters little.” Actually, it matters much, and Paul’s transparent attempt to inoculate himself by citing his (imaginary?) Jewish friend (“I can’t be anti-Semitic! Some of my best friends are Jewish!”) hardly excuses the delusional speculation at Israel’s expense. Paul’s newsletter also dredged up the classic anti-Semitic canard of Jewish dual loyalty, alleging that there are “tens of thousands of well-placed friends of Israel in all countries who are willing to [work] for the Mossad in their area of expertise.”
These are not new revelations. Snippets had been reported over the years, and Kirchick wrote a comprehensive article on Paul’s newsletters in 2008. I would presume, though, that many of Paul’s idealistic supporters were unaware of the reprehensible newsletters until recently.
Paul has denied writing the articles. He claims that the articles do not reflect his views, and has made two assertions that strain credulity: that he was unaware that this material was going out in his name, and that he does not know who wrote the offensive articles. As reported by Kirchick, Paul has brushed off accusations of racism by claiming that he is “gaining ground” with “the blacks” and “getting more votes right now and more support” from “the blacks.”
Paul is trying to act as if all pertinent questions about the newsletters have been, as they say in the courtroom, “asked and answered.” The standard courtroom retort to that assertion should be directed at Paul: “asked but not answered.”
There are only two possibilities. One is that Paul wrote or otherwise approved the pieces, and hence is a bigot. Given that the newsletters went out in Paul’s name and the articles did not include bylines of other authors, the most logical presumption would be that the views expressed were his. Paul, of course, has denied writing or approving the articles. He claims not to know who wrote the bigoted articles because, he says, different people were writing for the newsletter. This is an unacceptable excuse because, if we take Paul at his word, he could easily find out who wrote the offensive pieces. If he really does not know who wrote the articles, he has shown an unforgivable lack of curiosity about who did.
The other possibility: Paul associates with bigots and covers for them. And there is a word for a person who associates with bigots and is not sufficiently offended by their bigotry to expose it. That word is “bigot.” According to some reports, Paul is feigning ignorance of who wrote the articles in order to protect a friend that he’s still close to. That would be unacceptable, and would demonstrate a tolerance of bigotry that itself rises to the level of bigotry. That is the most favorable explanation that Paul could possibly muster. It would require us to believe that Paul really had no idea of what was in the newsletters that were going out in his name for over two decades (earning him millions of dollars). But it still would not be enough to absolve Paul of the charge of bigotry.
There is additional evidence that Paul, at the very least, associates with bigots. Kirchick reports that Ed Crane, the president of the Cato Institute, said Paul told him that “his best source of congressional campaign donations was the mailing list for The Spotlight, the conspiracy-mongering, anti-Semitic tabloid run by the Holocaust denier Willis Carto.” I find it impossible to believe that Paul could be that tied in with people who hate African-Americans and Jews and not, to at least some extent, be a kindred spirit himself.
Paul’s frequent references to “the blacks,” as well as his appalling and inept attack on Michele Bachmann (“She hates Muslims”), suggest, at the very least, someone who is cluelessly insensitive about the appropriate way to discuss matters of race and bigotry in modern society. This does not prove that Paul is a bigot — the newsletter scandal is sufficient to do that. It does, however, reinforce the image I have of Paul: an older man who thinks he is hiding his attitudes but, because of a lack of savvy, is oblivious to the telltale signs that he is emitting. I wouldn’t even mention these observations if Paul’s bigotry had not already been established through solid evidence. As a conservative, I do not make the charge of bigotry lightly. I do not accuse people of bigotry simply because I have good faith differences of opinion with them over policy.
Some who support Paul’s libertarian message are now wringing their hands over whether the newsletter controversy should disqualify Paul’s candidacy from serious consideration. Hand-wringing is neither necessary nor appropriate in this case. Even under the best-case scenario for Paul, his culpability is clear. Decent libertarians should look to Gary Johnson. Decent Republicans should look elsewhere.
David B. Cohen served in the administration of President George W. Bush as U.S. Representative to the Pacific Community, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, and as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He hosted the debate show “Beer Summit” for PBS Guam.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Ron Paul stormed off from a CNN interview after Gloria Borger questioned him about the newsletters. A recently released video proves that the initial reports of Paul storming off were exaggerated.