Politics & Media
Dec 28, 2011, 07:15AM

Racists or Murderers

Do you prefer the torture of previous regimes or Ron Paul's racism?

Ron paul 2012 iowa controversy thumb 400xauto 27620.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Several decades ago, Ron Paul published countless racist newsletters under his own name. I haven't read many of them because reading paranoid racist crap depresses me, but Ta-Nehisi Coates published enough excerpts to give you a flavor.

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.

If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet of foot they can be.

Coates points out that, far from disavowing this nonsense, Paul has often doubled-down when confronted, claiming at one point that, "If someone challenges your character and takes the interpretation of the NAACP as proof of a man's character, what kind of a world do you live in?"

Paul has stated numerous times that he didn't write his newsletters and didn't even read them. This is, as Coates and others have pointed out, not sufficient. He earned money from the newsletters and promoted them personally. At the very least, he should have kept tabs on whether they were spewing racial hate speak. Failing that, he now needs, as Michael Tomasky argues, to do some fairly abject explaining. To my mind, that explaining should, ideally, explain and repudiate the long and unpleasant connection between libertarianism and racism—a history that goes back at least to the Civil War era cloaking of racism in the fig leaf of states' rights. Paul needs, in other words, to take responsibility not just personally, but ideologically for those newsletters; to explain why libertarianism has been complicit with racism in the past, and how it can cease being complicit in the future. He must not only apologize, but also show that he's learned from his errors not just as a man, but as a public leader.

Paul shows no signs of being willing to grapple with race in such a manner. Pressed on the issue during a recent CNN interview, he walked off the set rather than answer.

Not surprisingly, Paul's intransigence and, yes, cowardice, has started to alienate supporters. Andrew Sullivan, who had endorsed Paul on his blog, reconsidered.

It seems to me that even though I don't believe these old screeds reflect Paul's own beliefs, his new level of prominence demands a new level of accountability, even on issues this old. If Paul did not write these newsletters, then he has an obligation to say if he knew who did, or conduct an investigation. He has had years to do this, and hasn't. And here's what you've persuaded me of in the last few days: a person who has that kind of bigotry directly printed under his name without a clear empirical explanation of why he is innocent cannot be an honorable president of the United States. The hatred of groups of people in those letters—however gussied up by shards of legitimate arguments—is too deep and vile to be attached to a leader of the entire country. It is far too divisive. The appearance of things matters; and until Paul explains why this appears so horrible, he cannot shrug off the burden of proof.

A week or so back I said that I might be open to voting for Paul, certainly in the Republican primary, possibly even in the general election against Obama. So, have I changed my mind? Do I agree with Sullivan that Paul's newsletters are "too deep and too vile to be attached to a leader of the entire country"?

No, not really. I'd still consider voting for Paul.

That's not because I don't take the newsletters or racism seriously. The bits of the newsletters I've seen are vile. I think (contra Sullivan) that there's good reason to think that Paul harbors, or has harbored unpleasant racist sentiments. As I said above, libertarianism has some pretty unpleasant byways. The newsletters suggest that Paul has wandered down several of them.

So it's not really that I disagree with Sullivan's assessment, or with Coates' in terms of Ron Paul's character. It's that I don't think Paul's severe, disgusting character flaws disqualify him from the presidency. And the reason is that, as near as I can tell, everyone he's running against has character flaws that I find at least as troubling.

To put things in perspective: George W. Bush lied in order to start an unprovoked and unnecessary war that killed more than
a hundred thousand civilians
.  He also condoned the use of torture, with the result that a handful of people in U.S. custody were tortured to death. That makes Bush a war criminal; he should now be in jail. Our current President—whom I quite like in many ways—has refused to prosecute the war crimes of his predecessor. Under international law that makes him a war criminal as well, and he should also be in jail. Moreover, he has prosecuted a war in Afghanistan that has resulted in numerous civilian deaths in the name of it's-really-unclear-what.  (Here's a cheerful story a little girl with massive burns caused by our drone strikes, for  example.)

The Republican nominees for president are not as of yet war criminals to my knowledge, but that's only because they haven't gotten the chance.  Mitt Romney  has been eagerly, nauseatingly pro-torture. Newt Gingrich wants a war with Iran.  Bachmann, Santorum, Perry et. al. aren't much different. Vile as I find Paul's newsletters, I find the embrace of torture and perpetual imperial war even more disturbing. If I have to choose between rhetoric advocating racism and rhetoric advocating imperial mass murder, I will very reluctantly choose the racism—not least because the rhetoric advocating imperial mass murder is in itself more than a little racist.

Ta-Nehisi Coates at the end of the piece says this:

The kind of racism which Paul trafficked is neither innovative nor original. Even his denials recall the obfuscations of Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens. But some pity should be reserved for the young and disgruntled, for those who dimly perceive that something is wrong in this country, for those who are earnestly appalled by the madness of our criminal justice policy, for those who have watched a steady erosion of our civil liberties, and have seen their concerns met with an appalling silence on the national stage. That their champion should be, virtually by default, a man of mixed motives and selective courage, is sad. 

I don't quibble with that. But the situation is what the situation is. Currently, the main ways that our country implements racism is through the drug war at home and through imperial paranoia abroad. The only presidential candidate in my lifetime who has been willing to unequivocally oppose both is Ron Paul. I wish that I did not have to choose between personal racist nonsense and institutional racist policies. But as that is my choice, I am not ready to state categorically that I prefer the war criminals and the torturers to the racist.  






  • I don't understand why people are attributing a racist message with the first quote. It seems pretty clear that he is accusing the DC criminal system of being racist. Not stating his own beliefs. Even his comment on NAACP seems short of racist. Judging a person's moral character by the NAACP interpretation is rather foolish NAACP has no more moral authority than any other secular organization. Even the fleet of foot comment seems more un-pc than racist, does anyone actually contend that black males as a group tend to be faster than white men as a group? If so, go to a college track meet and see if the races of the runners match U.S. population proportionally.

    Responses to this comment
  • Ron Paul is never going to get into the White House. He's just on the scene to talk up a philosophy, and a vote for him counts only because it shows there is support for his beliefs. So, in that sense, it doesn't matter if he's profiteered off hate mongering and then lied about it -- we're not talking about a decision maker here, just a proxy for like believers. On the other hand, you might want to use your vote to underscore that hate mongering is not acceptable. In that case, there's Gary Johnson, who I gather is less hard line about the drug war and foreign intervention but is still in the same neighborhood as Paul.

    Responses to this comment
  • Like a typical pundit C.T., you have no courage! Once challenged on the mere basics, you retreat to opium-laced fodder rather than defend your absurd statements. I repeat my original statement, "It seems pretty clear that he is accusing the DC criminal system of being racist. Not stating his own beliefs." Are you able to respond to that or are you just going to continue to bear false witness? P.S. I'm not a Paul supporter just someone tired of falsehoods over fact.

    Responses to this comment
  • I wasn't responding to you, genius. I was responding to the fellow who wrote the article I had just read.

    Responses to this comment
  • Texan, the newsletter is saying that the criminal justice system is underreporting the number of black male criminals because it is inefficient. Therefore, the newsletter says, 95% of black males in DC are criminals. That's a racist thing to say, and the person who said it, and the person who printed it, are shameful assholes. //C.T., this campaign season has been pretty crazy; I wouldn't presume to know how much support Paul is or is not going to get. We'll see, I guess.

    Responses to this comment
  • Thanks for the clarification. As I stated earlier the quote you (and most press)used earlier does not make that point as a stand alone sentence. Do you know where I can find the full article?

    Responses to this comment
  • "I wouldn't presume to know how much support Paul is or is not going to get. We'll see, I guess." Yes, but ... the article is about who you might support. And I'm suggesting that there's no need to agonize about Ron Paul when there's an anti-drug war, anti-intervention candidate around who does not have a history of hate mongering.

  • and has the stage presence of Guy Richie

    Responses to this comment
  • Yes, C.T. May, I'd also vote for Jon Huntsman, the best candidate of the bunch.

    Responses to this comment
  • But I do know Paul has tons more support than Johnson....

    Responses to this comment
  • Maybe you could flesh out your back reasoning a bit more. It sounds like you want to support the fringe candidate who has the most support. Is that the case?

    Responses to this comment
  • I'm not convinced that Paul is a fringe candidate. He could certainly win Iowa; his poll numbers against Obama are comparable to Romney's. At least at the moment, he looks like a serious candidate to me./Texan, I don't have a link, but I think the statement is actually fairly clear on its own.

  • I respectfully disagree Noah. The statement is clear in stating the assumption is based on a flawed system not fact. In other words, because the system is so flawed or innefficient, the data suggest most blacks are criminals because blacks are the vast majority of prisoners. I do appreciate your looking for the link. If I find it I will post it. Reminder to other readers: I'm not rendering an opinion on the article, just the stand-alone statement P.S. I agree with you that the data suggests Paul is not fringe. It is the media and establishment politicians who label him that and C.T. has fallen into the trap of conventional wisdom.

    Responses to this comment
  • On Think Progress this morning is an article stating that black students are 6 times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school in D.C. If based solely on this study, one could conclude one of two things, those issuing the punishments are racist (which includes a shockingly/disturbingly large groupof racists since no one person orders all disciplinary action)or there is a behaviour problem with black students. Obviously more info is needed to determine which it is. Stating the later can be an effective way of delegitimizing and bringing attention to an otherwise (likely to be ignored yet damaging) study. The statement quoted from the newsletter strikes me as sarcastic or reductio ad absurdum and therefore, not racist. It is why I feel more context is needed.

    Responses to this comment
  • So I take it you really think Paul could get elected president and Johnson couldn't.

    Responses to this comment
  • Texan, the statement was sarcastic. You can make racist sarcastic statements. The newsletter is arguing that 95% of blacks in DC are criminals. That's racist bullshit, whether it's supposed to be funny or clever or not.//There are massive racial disparities in our education system, enabled in large part by housing segregation, but also by the fact that straight up racial discrimination hasn't vanished. If we agree that police sometimes stop people for driving while black, it hardly seems like a leap to suggest that disciplinary authorities in schools are also more likely to punish those who conform to stereotypes of what a criminal is supposed to look like.//C.T., yeah, I think Paul has a chance of winning. Not a big chance; if I had to bet, I'd guess Romney will win the Republican nomination and Obama will win the general. But if Romney implodes (one really embarrassing gaffe might do it), I think Paul could win. Whereas Gary Johnson isn't any more likely to win the nomination than I am, as far as I can tell.

    Responses to this comment
  • Right oh, just checking to see if I understood.

    Responses to this comment
  • That's the problem Noah. You are making my point by example. You now state that it was a sarcastic statement. If so, that would mean the writer beleives the opposite to be true. In this case, 95% of blacks are not criminal. A racist sarcastic statement would be "95% blacks are not criminal" said or written with a sarcastic tone. Unlike you, I prefer to see the context of a statement prior to hurling the racist card. It is possible you are correct, but for now, i have only your poorly sourced word for it and will therefore reserve judgement.

    Responses to this comment
  • For pity's sake, the sarcasm is directed at the DC authorities, who he is sneering at because they do not arrest enough black people. He's saying that given the lameness of the DC authorities (snark snark) we can assume that there are even more black criminals than they have actually arrested.//I don't need to see more context because I can read the damn thing in front of me. It's not that complicated. Sheesh.

    Responses to this comment
  • Texan, try the URL below. It's to a site that has scans of 50 of Ron Paul's old newsletters. The quote being debated by you and Noah isn't there, but you will get to read, in context, what the newsletters had to say about blacks, urban riots, AIDS, Jews, the WTC attempted bombing, the Trilateral Commission, etc.

    Responses to this comment
  • http://www.mrdestructo.com/2011/12/game-over-scans-of-over-50-ron-paul.html

    Responses to this comment
  • Hey, I found the page with the quote! Anyone around?

    Responses to this comment
  • http://www.mrdestructo.com/2011/12/ron-paul-political-report-special-issue.html

    Responses to this comment

Register or Login to leave a comment