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Ron Paul is Not A Bigot: Refuting the New Republic Charges

By       Message James W. Harris     Permalink
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Paul’s Defense

Paul’s defense, while understandably unsatisfying to some, seems entirely plausible to me: “When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.”

When those issues were published, Paul was a full-time medical doctor and a busy family man, as well as an in-demand speaker and a student of politics and current events -- in short, a man with tremendous demands on his time and energy. He had recently ended an exhaustive presidential race, returned to private practice, and was not in Congress or involved in electoral politics. He had given up control of his newsletter business; he kept only a minority share in the newsletter that bore his name. He made an ill-advised decision to turn the newsletter over to others, to let others write it and edit it and publish unsigned articles in this newsletter with his name in the title. He apparently failed to closely monitor it.

That turned out to be a ghastly error. His good name was dragged in the mud by the newsletter ghostwriters he entrusted.

This is consistent with the observations of long-time libertarian writer Jesse Walker: “The race- and gay-baiting quotes in the New Republic piece -- and, even more so, the documents' general gestalt of an impending apocalypse -- sound like the sort of material that often appeared in far-right direct-mail packages in that era. My suspicion is that someone who wrote such packages also picked up a job writing the Ron Paul Survival Report.”

Ironically, The New Republic article itself makes Paul’s argument believable. TNR claims the newsletters published offensive material “over the course of decades” -- even though this is false; the genuinely offensive material TNR presents dates only from very late 1989 to 1993.Then TNR says that Paul’s claim -- that he did not write the material and is guilty only of poor oversight -- “might be more believable if extremist views had cropped up in the newsletters only sporadically -- or if the newsletters had just been published for a short time.” Well… that is exactly the point. It was a fairly short time period (judging from what TNR shows us), and the articles were short pieces in only some of those issues, certainly not the focus of the publication. This backs up what Paul is claiming. By TNR’s own argument, that boosts Paul’s believability.

Why Didn’t He Denounce Them At Once?

If that was the case, though, why didn’t Paul denounce them earlier, when he eventually did become aware of how bad it was? And why hasn’t he subsequently named names? Clearly, in retrospect, that seems like it would have been the best response. This is the biggest riddle in the whole mess, and there is no fully satisfying answer so far.

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Sam Gwynne, in his 2001 Texas Monthly profile, pondered this, too. Gwynne wrote: “His reasons for keeping this a secret are harder to understand: [Paul says] ‘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.'"

In retrospect, this was very bad advice.

Concludes Gwynne in Texas Monthly: “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."

Similarly, in his 2007 New York Times Magazine profile, Christopher Caldwell puzzled over why Paul did not simply identify those who wrote the offensive lines. Caldwell’s conclusion: “What is interesting is Paul’s idea that the identity of the person who did write those lines is ‘of no importance.’ Paul never deals in disavowals or renunciations or distancings, as other politicians do.”

It is fair to accuse Paul of sloppy management and bad judgment in this affair; indeed, he says so himself. Paul may also be simply saying, “The buck stops here.” It is possible, as some claim, he is protecting friends and advisors who have gone on to other careers. Perhaps Paul believes his public record and his decades of utterly spotless behavior are enough to make it clear to all reasonable people that charges of bigotry are groundless.

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Regardless, what is most important is that Paul has strongly and repeatedly denounced and repudiated the offensive content of the newsletters. He has also convincingly denied his authorship. And clearly they don’t match either his style or his views.

Immediately responding to the TNR article, Paul said: "The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts. In fact, I have always agreed with Martin Luther King, Jr. that we should only be concerned with the content of a person's character, not the color of their skin. ... For over a decade, I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name."

Paul deserves -- and accepts -- blame for allowing such trash to go out under his name. He has apologized profusely for this. Unfortunately, there is no time machine to let him go back fifteen years and undo the unwise decision to turn his newsletter over to those who wrote these words. There really isn't much more he can do, short of perhaps naming names or crafting a clearer explanation of the exact process by which this happened (and there is no guarantee this would satisfy critics). Wisely or not, he has thus far decided not to do this.

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JAMES W. HARRIS has published hundreds of articles in publications including THE NATION, REASON, THE FREEMAN and many more. He is editor of THE LIBERATOR ONLINE, the email newsletter of the Advocates for Self-Government, with over 70,000 (more...)

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