Congressman Ron Paul's appearance on Saturday's edition of Free Talk Live sparked an uproarious discussion about Paul's old racist Ron Paul Political Reports newsletters when a caller named Jeff from New York inquired about the matter. Of course, this subject has come up numerous times over the course of the Ron Paul for President Campaign, even though the issue has never been satisfactorily resolved and the true yet secret identity(ies) of the author(s) of the articles in the newsletters has (have) never been revealed. But the question that Jeff gave to Dr. Paul is a valid one, because it is a concern that has been long since brushed under the political rug, all in the name of protecting the Texan congressman's personal, professional, and political rapports with the individual(s) involved in the scathing debacle that dominated the political landscape at the height of the 2008 presidential race. [The show's entire podcast can be found here.]
Here's a rough transcript of the call that transpired on the show. One can decide whether or not the issue of whether Ron Paul had penned the newsletters or not is well worth the discussion and whether the caller was justified in inquiring about the buried subject that became the center of Paul's 2008 presidential campaign.
FTL HOST IAN FREEMAN: [A]h, so we're just gonna get, so we're just gonna get right into these phone calls. We have a lot of people with questions, and hopefully they will make these questions come out quickly. So let's start with the AMPlifier line and talk to Jeff in New York. Jeff, you're on with Ron Paul.
JEFF FROM NEW YORK: Hi, Dr. Paul! How are you doing?
RON PAUL: Doing fine, thanks.
IAN FREEMAN: (Speaking quickly after Paul finished his terse sentence) Go ahead.
JEFF: I just want to let you know, you know, I'm a huge fan. Um, I'm a supporter of Campaign for Liberty and the Mises Institute, and I voted for you...
IAN FREEMAN: (Annoyed; Interrupting) Get to the question, Jeff! I'm sorry, man, we've got to get to the question!
JEFF: Um, I wanted to say that, you know, was all before I read some things in the Ron Paul Political Reports in the '70s and '80s and '90s that had some really not so nice things to say about, you know, blacks and Hispanics and homosexuals, and I know you said you didn't write those reports, but, you know, I mean, uh, why was your name on there, and and, you know, do you so support all of those things that were said in there?
IAN FREEMAN: Thank you for the call.
RON PAUL: No, I didn't write them, and I don't support them, and that's been rehashed many, many times.
IAN FREEMAN: (Quickly speaking after Paul) Yeah, I'm surprised he even, uh, he even brought that up. Uh, you certainly addressed that during the presidential campaign, and it's when you got a lot of things going on beneath you, you can't oversee them all and it's one of those things that slipped through the cracks...
MARK EDGE: It's unfortunate, but it happens.
IAN FREEMAN: Yup, and it was a long time ago.
Let's deal with this subject, considering it is a grave issue that has been rendered moot by the Ron Paul supporters and activists within the old Ron Paul Revolution. It is distressing, although not surprising to say the least, to hear that a 10-term congressman from the 14th district of Texas -- a man whom I viewed as a hero of mine during the Campaign until the ruckus occurred -- decided to dodge Jeff's salient and relevant question by sweeping the old controversy under the political rug again (as the Paul Campaign, the Lew Rockwellers, and he had previously done many, many times). It is even more distressing to hear that two talk show hosts who run a nationally syndicated talk radio show on the Genesis Communications Network (GCN) have decided to help Paul with sweeping that ruckus under the political rug again by refusing to hold his feet to the fire on the matter which had been rendered moot by the Paul campaign and its activists, contributors, donors, and supporters, the bloggers with, supporters of, and contributors to LewRockwell.com, and a number of pro-Paul groups, including Paul's own organization Campaign for Liberty.
At the risk of severing my ties to my allies and those people who still support, love, and respect Dr. Paul, I cannot look the other way when a matter like this has been, with so much exertion and effort, pushed under the old political rug. Jeff raises a valid point: why would these putrid articles, which are laced with racism, bigotry, homophobia, collectivism, and nationalistic and jingoistic rhetoric, be placed under Paul's newsletter byline if the good doctor himself "didn't write them and doesn't support them"? This is an old political loose end that needs to be tied up once and for all, not nipped in the political bud as Paul and his supporters have been continuously done in the past and still doing in the present.
I believe Paul when he says that he didn't write the newsletters. After all, I disbelieve the idea that he held those odious notions expressed in them. But I do believe that he was around with the wrong people who would sooner or later harm and taint his credibility and respect in the libertarian circles and the movement itself. As Sheldon Richman wrote on his Free Association blog on January 10, 2008:
He may have had a sense of what was going on, but did not want to know the details. This doesn't absolve him of responsibility, but it does mean that he is not to be put in the same category as the author(s) and anyone else who had a hand in putting out such garbage in his name.
That said, I wish Ron Paul would more fully explain what went on. When did he first learn of the offensive material and what did he do about it? Most important, are the people responsible still advising him? He wouldn't even have to name names to answer these questions.
Sheldon is absolutely on the button, and his words still ring true to this very day. Like him, I wish Ron would expound on what happened during those years when the newsletters were published. When did he first discover the existence of the offensive content? How did he handle it? More importantly, what does he know about it? Even much more importantly, does he know the identity(ies) of the man (men) who is (are) responsible for writing the articles?
While I do concur with Sheldon that he "wouldn't have to name names to answer these questions," it would wipe the congressman's slate clean if he were to come out with the identity(ies) of the man (men) who is (are) responsible for the material. Why the need to keep his true identity a secret after the campaign? Paul has indicated on the show that he has no intention of running for the presidency again in 2012, yet he doesn't owe that (those) individual(s) anything. And, if those who read this blog post believe otherwise, what does Paul owe him (them)? His loyalty? His respect? His generosity? What?
Paul's dodging of Jeff's question and Ian and Mark's assistance with that dodging are not helping matters at all. There are many libertarians -- yours truly included -- who are wondering who was involved and why the scathing and offensive content were included in those reports. While legally speaking Paul isn't under any legal obligation to furnish details of what transpired over the years, libertarians who support him and his organizations are not legally obligated to blindly hero worship him, regardless of how popular he is in the libertarian movement at the present moment.
And what happened on FTL is an indication of that: blind hero worship. Hero worshipping is a very dangerous opiate, because an individual cannot see the facts and the reality for what they are. What Ian, Mark, and Paul did on the show provided the notion that the controversy should be forgotten and ignored, as though it never happened at all. Sidestepping a controversial incident like the racist Ron Paul Political Reports won't drive the issue away; it will only foster resentment, division, and disgust from libertarians who supported Paul initially but became disenchanted with Paul and the campaign because of their avoidance to talk about the incidents when they found about it. It even adds fuel to the fire for other libertarians who feel that the deliberate attempt to forget about and ignore the wrinkle simply harms the libertarian movement. Even Wendy McElroy, who is not even a fan of Paul, has acknowledged this in her personal blog on January 9, 2008:
Damage is being done to the libertarian movement (see Radley Balko's analysis) and to Ron Paul. Frankly, I don't give a flying fuck about the latter...but I know you do. Will you now do the decent thing for libertarianism and come forward to acknowledge responsibility for the material being used against your mentor?
When I initially wrote about this on Facebook, I wrote the following two statuses:
Todd Andrew Barnett is disappointed that Ron Paul, who was on FTL last night, brushed the racist Ron Paul Political Reports newsletters under the political rug in response to a caller named Jeff from New York who inquired about the comments made in them by saying, "I didn't write them, and I don't support them, and that's been rehashed many, many times."
Todd Andrew Barnett is equally disappointed in Ian Freeman and Mark Edge for helping to brush that issue under the rug by not holding Paul's feet to the fire. It's a valid issue to this day, because hero worshipping a congressman on a very uproarious matter, even if the man himself didn't write those comments, gives the notion that such statements should simply be forgotten and ignored. If Paul didn't write them, who really did?
Bile of Blog of Bile and I had the following exchange on Facebook:
Bile: It really has been beaten to death. A few seconds on Wikipedia will turn up the suspects.
If it is the person or persons some claim it's probably not going to harm them much but it could harm Paul's professional relationships with them. The people who dislike them already believe they said it and that they are racists. Those who don't care as much... Read More dismiss it as pandering the wrong crowd and a clash of cultures.
I find the whole thing very unfortunate and stupid... but see it as minor compared to everything else. When Holdren is found to have written a book calling for population control... the Paul letter calling rioters barbarians, black teenage theft's fleet-footed, etc. seems pretty tame. I want the truth too... but I don't see that happening and find it more of a distraction then anything else.
Sun at 11:02am · Delete
Me: With all due respect, Bile, I personally disagree with you on this one, and not even a large extent. It's easy to shrug it off and say that it's "as minor compared to everything else." It's hard to get to the real gut of the truth when it's been officially swept under the rug by the old Paul campaign. And, if Paul chooses to run again in 2012 (... Read Morewhich I hope he won't), what if the issue comes up again? That old "I didn't write it" excuse won't fly. Hero worshipping is a very dangerous opiate, and it's too easy to fall into that trap. When you advance the old "let's ignore it, ok?" argument, it opens the door for acrimony and animosity which will fester and continue to fester for posterity.
I'll buy the fact that, if the person or persons who wrote them did come out, it would jeopardize Paul's professional relationships. But so what if that happens? They certainly didn't help his credibility when they buried that issue last year. And, as a result, it harmed the Liberty movement.
Sun at 11:13am · Delete
Me: Even outstanding agorist libertarians like Sheldon Richman (a REAL ideological hero of mine), KN@PPSTER's Tom Knapp, and Wendy McElroy have been critical of the RP Revolution and its politically-religious treatment of the controversy. When the newsletter uproar hit the blogosphere last year near the end of the campaign, many libertarians on that ... Read Moreside demanded to know who was responsible for the comments if Paul didn't know about it. Even though I do believe Paul that he didn't write the comments, his comment that he didn't know about them (and he publicly stated that at the time) was implausible and absurd. Even Stefan Molyneux has been critical of Paul and his followers, and many of his points are well taken, whether the man has done good for the movement or not.
Lew Rockwell is named as the man who allegedly wrote the newsletters.
Sun at 11:23am · Delete
Bile: I don't see this as a hero worship issue with most. I'm just treating it realistically. I really don't think that if he said "It was Lew Rockwell" much would come of it. I'm just saying that I suspect that that's the reason he's not doing it and I can understand that position. I disagree it'd be a real problem for him but I can see that it could be... Read More seen as one.
I don't care if it hurt Paul's or Rockwell's or whoever's reputation... I just don't see it making much difference whether he says or not. Those who dislike them already do... those who will forgive them already have.
In addition I really don't believe his credibility or the liberty movement was hurt outside a very small circle of those who already were against him or on the fence. The people we care about understanding and respecting liberty are those in the general public. Those people often heard nothing of the incident or figured it was just some normal election attack. And the MSM didn't believe Paul did it either.
Sun at 11:31am · Delete
Me: I don't know if it's true that he wrote them and there is no evidence that he did (if there is, prove it and not just make some baseless claim!), but if he did write them, it's time to fess up.
It's even suggested that Eric Dondero Rittberg, who was a former Paul campaign staffer, wrote the crud. I don't know if he actually did it (no proof has ... Read Morebeen established, although it would not surprise me if he did given his nefarious reputation on the Web), but if he did, it's time to fess up. Besides, how do we know that those people who have a great professional relationship with Paul didn't leave him holding the bag when that newsletter nightmare came out? Obviously, they did....by making him out to be the fall guy so that Paul could protect them. And for what? What honor and integrity did this individual or individuals have?
As for Holdren, I haven't read his book, so I can't comment on that. But I say both matters are equally disturbing. And that's how I feel about it.
Sun at 11:32am · Delete
Bile: I agree that he should come clean and that "I don't know" is highly unlikely. I just don't see it being something to focus on.
Stefan was critical of Paul regardless of the letters. His "grandmom is going to be murdered when Paul turns off SSI" was crazy.
Sun at 11:34am · Delete
Me: Fair enough, Bile. We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. No offense intended as always.
Sun at 11:47am · Delete
Another Ron Paul supporter, whose Skype nickname I won't reveal, told me this in a private Skype chat:
Dude, the newsletter thing is a nothing story. It was dug up by the establishment as the only thing resembling 'dirt' they could find, and blown way out of proportion. It's a pure hit piece. DOn't know how you can't see that. FTL is right to drop it - it's been rehashed a million times, when it wasn't worth discussing once. There are plenty of legit things to pick on - he's a minarchist and a Christian. But he is most definitely not a racist.
Sorry, but it's not a "nothing story." Peddling such sophistry won't get us anywhere. But since this person brought up the establishment, let's focus on that angle here.
Yes, James Kirchick used the Paul newsletters to skewer Paul, the campaign, and his supporters and allies. It is true that Kirchick, who published the infamously notorious New Republic hit piece on Paul, was looking to make a name for himself and to boost his then-favored candidate Rudy Giuliani's poll numbers, and he certainly did that. But, since the Paul supporters were looking to Paul as some sort of Republican version of Barack Obama who touted himself as the "real" agent of change, wouldn't some Paul supporter have done the same thing? After all, isn't it true that Lew Rockwell changed his personal website to be a pro-Paul vehicle, thereby sacrificing the site's tax exempt status (under the guise of the 501 c(3) registration) and became a Paul for President campaign tool?
The fact is that Paul and his campaign became fair game, whether they want to acknowledge, embrace, accept, or tolerate that or not. The second the Kirchick piece came out, the second Paul was an easy target. And it doesn't help the fact that, according to my good friend Tom Knapp of KN@PPSTER, LewRockwell.com (LRC.com), the Ludwig von Mises Institute (LvMI), and the paleolibs like Karen DeCoster pandered to the racists, who have successfully tried to torpedo any investigation into this matter. All of this have resulted in further damage to the libertarian movement.
Finally, my criticism of Paul goes a bit further here. When this ruckus began to explode, he said that he didn't "know about it." Sorry, but that's a implausible and ridiculous excuse. He should have known who was responsible for the articles. Fortunately, he has taken responsibility for this mess by saying that he hadn't written them. He could have urged the person who refused to come forward to come clean. But he chose not to do this. That's another mark on him from a personal and political standpoint.
Ron Paul has done a lot of good for the Liberty movement, and that goes without saying. But he is not above reproach or criticism. He has his political sins that he carries on his shoulder. His avoidance of the issue does not absolve him of aiding and betting with the people responsible for the crud in his reports. But that universal question remains: if Ron Paul didn't write them, who really did?
[Cross-posted at the Freeman Chronicles.]