After writing a column critical of Ron Paul’s presidential straw poll win at CPAC, I was smacked with barrage of colorful emails from his supporters. A few of those complaints turned up in the comments section of this blog (though I rarely use this space for politics) so I thought I’d bring it to a post.
This comment is typical of many:
What kind of libertarian argues for a “robust and proactive” national defense?
That means perpetual war.
I’m no sort of libertarian, actually — especially if being libertarian means passing a purity test. I’m a conservative with strong libertarian impulses. I imagine I’m not alone. And though I often advocate for strong national defense (and God knows that can mean a million things), the column made no argument on the subject. Here’s what the piece stated:
Patrick Buchanan recently claimed that the GOP was showing signs of turning away from its recent foreign policy positions. The focus of policy may have changed, and perhaps more reluctance in nation-building, but polls pretty clearly illustrate Republicans still believe in a robust and pro-active national defense.
Pointing out that “polls illustrate” Republicans generally believe in a robust and pro-active national defense is a fact, not an argument.
Others have a problem with my calling out Ron Paul “unserious.” I probably should have used the word “irrelevant.” Paul is significantly irrelevant — or no more relevant than fellow conspiracy theorist Dennis Kucinich, even if I happen to be sympathetic to many of his views.
Here is another problem many readers had with my column — from the comments:
Calling someone an anti-Semite and racist without backing it up with a single quote or another shred of evidence is not something I would call well thought out or well supported. In fact I can imagine fewer things in poorer taste.
Upon further examination I could not find anything that indicated that Ron Paul was an anti-Semite or a racist. In fact he regularly quotes Jewish economists so I doubt he has much of a problem with them. I must say I expected more from someone writing for Reason Magazine.
The piece wasn’t written exclusively for Reason magazine — or libertarians — it was written for the general audience of the Denver Post (and my syndicated column) which allows only 600 words.
Furthermore, quoting Jewish economists doesn’t insulate you from hating Jews. Karl Marx was Jewish economist, and he asked: “What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.…. Money is the jealous god of Israel …”
In the column, though, Ron Paul was never referred to as an anti-Semite or a racist. But the fact that Paul’s newsletters of the 80s and 90s were brimming with bigoted rants is substantiated. So substantiated, in fact, that Paul himself repudiated “everything that is written along those lines …”
Here’s my post in the Denver Post blog explaining the comment:
“Paul’s newsletters of the ’80s and ’90s were filled with anti-Semitic and racist rants, proving his slumming in the ugliest corners of conspiracyland today is no mistake.”
For those who interested in learning more, this investigation by New Republic’s James Kirchick is instructive – though, I will say, I don’t find every lifted quote to be as egregious as the author.
One newsletter, right after the 1992 LA riots, just to give you a taste, says “order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.”
Julian Sanchez and David Weigel furthered the story with this piece in Reason which offers plenty of background for those interested in the ideological underpinnings of the newsletters and Paul.
This stood out for me:
Cato Institute President Ed Crane told reason he recalls a conversation from some time in the late 1980s in which Paul claimed 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 until it folded in 2001.
Because that paragraph brings me to this piece from the American Thinker that explores some of Paul’s unsavory support from neo-Nazis and Klan members.
There are a number of people claiming that I called Paul a racist and anti-Semite, which I did not. In fact, when I first learned the content of his newsletter, I wrote this (no link available).
Many of the vile pull quotes here, no matter what context they may have been in originally, have nothing to do libertarianism or freedom or some principled Constitutional stand on secession. They’re just racist and homophobic. Two: even if Paul didn’t know of their existence, he should have made it his business to know. It’s exceedingly difficult for me to believable that Paul was unaware of the content in a newsletter bearing his name. Judging from what I’ve read and heard from the man, I do not believe he wrote these things. But I’m not sure it matters. If George Bush or Hillary Clinton or any mainstream politician were even remotely associated with the sort of rambling anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist and paranoid text, they would be finished as legitimate voices. Paul should be finished, as well.
When asked if he was a racist at the time by CNN, Paul responded: “Libertarians are incapable of being a racist, because racism is a collectivist idea.” That is as inane as a socialist claiming that he can’t be greedy because greed is an individualist idea. What makes that statement even more curious is that so many Ron Paul fans heap cultish — collective — adoration on a politician.
It appears that Paul fans believe loving the Constitution and liberty is tethered to loving of Ron Paul — a professional self-aggrandizing politician — and his ugly brand of fringe paleo-libertarianism. The most curious aspect of this love is the belief that such inflexible ideology will win the day politically.
On my desk, I have two papers on public policy from the Cato Institute. One is called “Lawless Policy: TARP as Congressional Failure” by John Samples. The other is “Globalization: Curse or Cure? Policies to Harness Global Economic Integration to Solve Our Economic Challenges” by Jagadeesh Gokhale. In my other window, I have Megan McArdle’s blog up. All three offer far more useful and sensible libertarian arguments on existing public policy than a Ron Paul book.