Why is Jamie Kirchick's story in The New Republic about distasteful passages in newsletters published under Ron Paul's name nearly two decades ago getting so much attention?
Those passages were raised by Dr. Paul's opponent in the congressional election of 1996 and discussed widely at that time. The voters in the 14th District of Texas did not seem perturbed by the revelations.
And in an October 2001 profile in Texas Monthly (not a right-wing publication by any stretch of the imagination), Dr. Paul discussed the newsletters in a straightforward manner with reporter S.C. Gwynne:
Paul's return to congressional politics.... happened in 1996. With Nolan Ryan as his honorary campaign chairman, he entered a bruising Republican primary against incumbent Greg Laughlin, who had switched parties the year before. Paul was now running in a new district, the 14th (he had moved his residence from Lake Jackson to his beach house in Surfside). It was a demographic oddity that connected the Gulf Coast and Central Texas and included the Brazos, Colorado, and Guadalupe lower river basins and the small cities of Victoria, San Marcos, and Freeport. Paul immediately discovered that the electoral ground rules had changed: With the Democrats trying to regain control of the House, which they had lost two [ ] years earlier, and Speaker Newt Gingrich backing Laughlin, whom GOP regulars viewed as the stronger candidate, someone who had run for president on the Libertarian ticket—and who had advocated things like the repeal of federal drug laws and an end to the "so-called drug war"—was now a much bigger and more visible target. "My image was completely different in 1996 than in 1976," Paul says. "You can't just get passed off as an average Republican having done what I did. We got hit hard."I would like to highlight something that Gwynne wrote in that article, quoted above:
Most of the hitting was on the drug issue, first by Laughlin, whom Paul beat convincingly in a runoff, then by Charles "Lefty" Morris, Paul's opponent in the general election. Morris was certain that Paul's radical views would discredit him with voters. "We just have to get his ideas out, and people will know what he really stands for," Morris said at the time. He ran ads saying that Paul advocated the legalization of illegal drugs, which was not entirely accurate. Though some of Paul's public remarks had suggested that he supported full drug legalization, his official position was (and is) that federal drug laws ought to be repealed: Let the states handle all drug laws. Then Morris' subalterns dug up something even more damaging to Paul: copies of a 1992 newsletter he had published that contained racially tinted remarks.
They caused a minor sensation. In one issue of the Ron Paul Survival Report, which he had published since 1985, he called former U.S. representative Barbara Jordan a "fraud" and a "half-educated victimologist." In another issue, he cited reports that 85 percent of all black men in Washington, D.C., are arrested at some point: "Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. 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." And under the headline "Terrorist Update," he wrote: "If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be."
In spite of calls from Gary Bledsoe, the president of the Texas State Conference of the NAACP, and other civil rights leaders for an apology for such obvious racial typecasting, Paul stood his ground. He said only that his remarks about Barbara Jordan related to her stands on affirmative action and that his written comments about blacks were in the context of "current events and statistical reports of the time." He denied any racist intent. What made the statements in the publication even more puzzling was that, in four terms as a U. S. congressman and one presidential race, Paul had never uttered anything remotely like this.
When I ask him why, he pauses for a moment, then says, "I could never say this in the campaign, but those words weren't really written by me. It wasn't my language at all. Other people help me with my newsletter as I travel around. I think the one on Barbara Jordan was the saddest thing, because Barbara and I served together and actually she was a delightful lady." Paul says that item ended up there because "we wanted to do something on affirmative action, and it ended up in the newsletter and became personalized. I never personalize anything."
His reasons for keeping this a secret are harder to understand: "They were never my words, but I had some moral responsibility for them . . . I actually really wanted to try to explain that it doesn't come from me directly, but they [campaign aides] said that's too confusing. 'It appeared in your letter and your name was on that letter and therefore you have to live with it.'" It is a measure of his stubbornness, determination, and ultimately his contrarian nature that, until this surprising volte-face in our interview, he had never shared this secret. It seems, in retrospect, that it would have been far, far easier to have told the truth at the time.
That controversy ought to have destroyed him. Lefty Morris certainly thought it would, and things looked even bleaker for Paul when the AFL-CIO kicked in with a heavy rotation of anti-Paul ads. That may explain why, even after midnight on Election Day, when the newspapers were all giving the election to Paul, Morris still refused to concede. He simply couldn't believe it.
What made the statements in the publication even more puzzling was that, in four terms as a U. S. congressman and one presidential race, Paul had never uttered anything remotely like this.This has been the most common reaction in the past few days from people who have known Ron Paul, who have followed his career, and who are familiar with the issues that motivate him and the way he expresses himself.
Let me speak from my own experience as someone who has met Dr. Paul on several occasions, all of which were characterized by civility, politesse, and good humor. I have never seen any evidence from Ron Paul the man that he has a hateful thought or possesses an animus against any group or individual. He, like most libertarians, is focused on ideas, ideas principally aimed at promoting human dignity, individual liberty, and personal responsibility.
Nearly fifteen years ago, I was running for the Virginia House of Delegates (in the 49th District, then completely within Arlington County, one of the most heavily Democratic and liberal districts in the state).
The campaign took place during the period that, according to Kirchick, "Ron Paul" was making derogatory, anti-gay remarks in "his" newsletters. As it happens, I was running as an openly-gay candidate for the Virginia General Assembly. (It was my second run for that office after a previous attempt in a special election in January 1991. The same district currently has an openly-gay Democrat representing it in Richmond.)
During that 1993 campaign, Ron Paul issued a letter on my behalf, soliciting funds from libertarians and votes from constituents. (We sent the letter to both groups.) Dr. Paul (then a former Congressman) was aware I was running as an openly-gay candidate and he raised no questions, concerns, or objections. I hardly think a homophobic bigot would have sent out a fundraising letter over his own signature, endorsing (as the Washington Times stylebook would have it) an "avowed homosexual" for public office.
Did Ron Paul exercise poor judgment in allowing others to publish badly-written newsletter articles under his name? Yes -- and that is something that he acknowledged more than a decade ago, and quite explicitly in that 2001 Texas Monthly article. He has taken responsibility for his error, owned up to it, and did not even beg for forgiveness. In fact, he has reacted to this smear attempt in a cool, evenhanded, and direct manner.
If people want to dredge up the past of politicians, how about paying attention to the way Mike Huckabee has consorted with Christian Reconstructionists, who want to institute a sort of sharia law in the United States that would include the death penalty for adulterers and homosexuals?