Things got worse for GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul when his GOP presidential rival Newt Gingrich called Paul on the carpet for purported racially inflammatory utterances he made in the 1990s in his officially approved newsletters, Ron Paul's Political Report and Ron Paul's Freedom Report which brought in a considerable haul of cash. Paul's purported half-baked racial scribbles are by now well known. He bashed blacks as chronic welfare grifters, thugs, lousy parents, and said they are inherently racist toward whites. Paul issued a terse denial that he authored or even read any of the racial slanders at the time but there is no evidence that he wrote a correction, or issued a clarification.
Paul was back at it again in 2008. On his campaign website ronpaul2008.com, Paul spotlighted race as "Issue: Racism." "Government as an institution is particularly ill-suited to combat bigotry." In short, the 1954 landmark Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of education school desegregation decision, the 1964 and 1968 Civil Rights Acts, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and legions of court decisions and state laws that bar discrimination are worthless. Worse, said Paul, they actually promoted bigotry by dividing Americans into race and class. None of this would have much mattered to Gingrich or much of the media if Paul hadn't become a front runner in the Iowa Caucus.
His kind of sort of, let's drop the subject retort to the press challenge to forcefully repudiate the past writings was the standard Paul dodge. The jury then and now is still out on whether those views truly represent his feelings or not. He loudly protests that he's not a racist now because he has to if he is to have any credibility as a serious presidential contender. But protests and dodges, don't change the reasons for Paul's seemingly out of the pale attacks. They likely did accurately reflect Paul's thoughts about racial matters, if not in the crude wording, as he protests wasn't his wording, but in political sentiment. That's the operative word, "sentiment" because this sentiment can easily morph into lethal and incendiary public policy advocacy.
Paul's boast that he would not have voted for the landmark 1964 civil rights bill that's been the law of the land for nearly six decades is a textbook case in point.
Paul's rap against the bill is just as absurd and tortured as the rap that Southern Democrats and Northern GOP conservatives who bottled the bill up for more than a year in Congress used to pretty up their opposition to it. It violated property rights. Paul, nearly six decades after their efforts failed in a interview reiterated, "...I'm for property rights and for state's rights, and therefore I'm a racist, that's just outlandish."
The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment wiped away the bogus claim that property rights trumps racial discrimination a century before Paul and Jim Crow maintenance proponents used this ploy to torpedo the civil rights bill. But his anti-civil rights position linked directly to the old property rights canard fits neatly into the stock libertarian argument that the best thing that government can do is stay out of the affairs of private citizens and private business. That the root of America's woes -- bloated spending, soaring deficits, congressional gridlock, crippling energy dependence, massive tax disparities, the drug plague, and even America's wars are the result of top heavy government interference and intrusion in the lives of Americans. Paul also knows that spicing up the horribly distorted Jeffersonian principle of limited government with race has broad implications for scrapping regulations on environmental and civil liberties, and consumer protections, gutting regulations to prevent corporate abuses, and of course, slashing funding or eliminating government health services, education, welfare, and labor rules and laws. He has drilled home in his talks, lectures, and innumerable GOP presidential debates. Paul's seeming anti-establishment, anti-party, maverick position plays well to the legions of frustrated, disgusted, even enraged GOP rank and filers and purported libertarians that are desperate to have an alternative to the GOP establishment anointed presidential contenders.
Paul can be magnanimous and apologize for the racist rants while deftly deflecting blame to someone else and then quickly lecturing the press to get over it and talk about the "substantive" issues. But the dredge up of the newsletters gave him what he wanted. He is a near household name and a viable force in the GOP. A slash and burn assault on government, even when its race tinged, doesn't hurt Paul one bit. It gets media and public attention, draws denunciations from his defenders as hitting below the belt, and quiet cheers from the multitudes that happen to agree with Paul, his racial suspect views notwithstanding. In other words, Paul flunks the R (Racism) test for good reason.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson