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Ron Paul’s Name

Jim Burroway

December 26th, 2011

Americans have an incredibly short attention span. One would imagine the public’s latest outrage was over a recent discovery of a tranche of Ron Paul’s racist and homophobic newsletters written from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. The problem, though, is that while the renewed outrage may be recent, the discovery wasn’t. Many of those newsletters came to light the last time he ran for president, just short of four years ago. The New Republic, which broke the story in 2008, has an updated rundown on just what some of those reprehensible ideas were:

Gays

The December 1989 Ron Paul Political Report contains entries on a “new form of racial terrorism,” cites former Congressman Bill Dannemeyer’s claim that “the average homosexual has 1,000 or more partners in a lifetime,” and quotes Lew Rockwell, president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in the third person.

In January 1990, the Ron Paul Political Report cites “a well-known libertarian editor” who “told me: ‘The ACT-UP slogan on stickers plastered all over Manhattan is ‘Silence=Death.’ But shouldn’t it be Sodomy = Death’?”

The September 1994 issue of the Ron Paul Survival Report states that “those who don’t commit sodomy, who don’t get blood a transfusion, and who don’t swap needles, are virtually assured of not getting AIDS unless they are deliberately infected by a malicious gay.”

The June 1990 issue of the Political Report says: “I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities.”

A January 1994 edition of the Survival Report states that “gays in San Francisco do not obey the dictates of good sense,” adding: “[T]hese men don’t really see a reason to live past their fifties. They are not married, they have no children, and their lives are centered on new sexual partners.” Also, “they enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick.”

Those links go directly to the PDF’s of the newsletters in question. And those quote are just a selection of some of the anti-gay rants found in his newsletters. They don’t even touch on the racist and anti-Semitic ramblings and the strange conspiracy theories which were the heart of his newsletters. The 2008 outrage lasted, I think, a week or two, and then Ron Paul’s supporters found a way to shrug it off, pretty much as Ron Paul himself did:

Ron Paul released a very brief statement claiming that he was acting something like an absentee landlord with regard to those now-infamous newsletters:

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.

And that was that. Except that I really haven’t seen him take “moral responsibility,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. He didn’t explain how it came to be that those newsletters with his name emblazoned across the top — some of which raised money for his political campaigns when he decided to re-enter politics — came attached to such reprehensible ideas, other than to just say he didn’t write them. Which is a different story from the one he offered in 1995, when those newsletters, still fresh from the press, became a campaign issue in his run for Congress:

Paul, a Republican obstetrician from Surfside, said Wednesday he opposes racism and that his written commentaries about blacks came in the context of “current events and statistical reports of the time.” … A campaign spokesman for Paul said statements about the fear of black males mirror pronouncements by black leaders such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has decried the spread of urban crime. Paul continues to write the newsletter for an undisclosed number of subscribers, the spokesman said.

In this 1995 video, Ron Paul talks about his newsletters with a certain pride in ownership:

YouTube Preview Image

Here, we see a politician who was not particularly worried about how the themes of his newsletter would play out with his constituents. And he apparently knew his constituents well; he won his seat for Congress.

But now that he’s running for President with a new constituency he needs to convince, the 1995 explanation won’t wash. So today, this is what he’s saying:

“Why don’t you go back and look at what I said yesterday on CNN and what I’ve said for 20-something years, 22 years ago?” Paul said on CNN Wednesday. “I didn’t write them. I disavow them. That’s it.”

Unfortunately, he didn’t CC his Iowa campaign chairman with his new line:

However, Ivers said, Paul does not deny or retract material that Paul has written under his own signature, such as the letter promoting Paul’s newsletters.

When asked whether that meant Paul believed there was a government conspiracy to cover up the impact of AIDS, Ivers said, “I don’t think he embraces that.”

Paul’s newsletters “showed good factual information and investment information,” Ivers said. “It was a public service, helping people understand and equip them to avoid an unsound monetary policy.”

All of this leaves us with just a few possibilities, with only one of them potentially positive from Paul’s point of view. The first possibility to consider is that he is saying today: that he really didn’t write them, and that his role was that of an absent landlord. The problem with that, however, is that those racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic conspiracies found a home in his newsletters for more than a decade. They weren’t just a rare escape of  an editor’s notice. And that presents a significant problem. Paul is running as a different kind of politician, and he asks us to accept him as a man of his word. But which word is he a man of? Do we trust his word today where he claims not to have any connection with those newsletters which provided such a financial benefit to him? Do we trust his word in 1995 when he promoted those newsletters? Or do we trust what was presented as his word in those newsletters — with his good name across the top and, in some cases, a likeness of his signature below? If you’re running as a man of his word, the last thing you want is for your audience to constantly ask themselves, “Which word?”

The second possibility is even worse. Some have suggested that Paul was aware of the content of those newsletters, but that he didn’t necessarily agree with the content. According to this theory, he stuck with it because it was both a good campaign strategy and a good money raiser.  Michael Brendan Dougherty considers that possibility:

At that time a libertarian theorist, Murray Rothbard argued that libertarians ought to engage in “Outreach to the Rednecks” in order to insert their libertarian theories into the middle of the nation’s political passions. …As crazy as it sounds, Ron Paul’s newsletter writers may not have been sincerely racist at all. They actually thought appearing to be racist was a good political strategy in the 1990s. After that strategy yielded almost nothing — it was abandoned by Paul’s admirers. You can attribute their “redneck strategy” to the most malignant kind of cynicism or to a political desperation that made them insane.

If that’s true, then it betrays exactly the kind of cynicism that Paul claims to be running against, and turns the entire mess into an indictment of his character. A cynical politician is hardly shocking, sure, but it certainly says something when a man, who claims to stand on principle regardless of that principle’s popularity, decides to adopt a different set of principles solely for political and financial advantage. This is a worse problem than the first possibility. As much as you don’t want to have to ask, “Which word?”, you definitely don’t want to have to ask, “Which principle?”

And this leaves us with the third possibility: that he was aware of those newsletters and let them go out under his name because they did reflect his views at the time. This possibility at least has the benefit of restoring his integrity. First, it would mean that he was a man of his word then, and it would mean that he’s a man of his word now. And his word now would demonstrate that he is someone who is capable of changing and adapting his views over time. After all, Rep. Paul did vote to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and told one GOP debate audience that “heterosexuals are causing more trouble than gays” in the military. But that’s a far cry from what we see in those newsletters, and it would show an evolution which his supporters could take comfort in.

The problem with that possibility though is that it’s not the one Paul is running on. He’s running on the first one. And yet, he still wants us to believe that he is a man of principle and a man of his word, while also expecting us to swallow the corollary  that he was extremely reckless with what was associated with his good name.

I can’t accept that, and no one else should either. Every time I write something with my name on it, you can be sure that it reflects my opinion and understanding at the time that I write it, however flawed and poorly spelled it may be. You can count on it because my name is firmly attached. I can always change my mind later about an opinion I’ve held, I can always retract when I’m convinced that I’m wrong, and I can always apologize when I offend.

But one thing I can never do as a blogger (which is the 2011 equivalent of writing a newsletter, after all) is run away from my name. And when it comes to voting for president, I would expect that the candidate I support has at least as much integrity as a blogger.

Comments

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tim
December 26th, 2011 | LINK

And when it comes to voting for president, I would expect that the candidate I support has at least as much integrity as a blogger.

Ron Paul is a politician – if you are looking for integrity of any stripe from a politician – you are incredibly naive.

Saying that Ron Paul has never been a serious contender for President for this and many other reasons. He does however have a very vocal and very technology savvy supporters (read: young and clueless about his history). I have the same opinion of social conservatives – they have very vocal (and not very technology savvy) supporters (read: old and can barely manage IE6). Both their influences in the final outcome are way over stated.

Victor
December 26th, 2011 | LINK

This is the best, most thoughtful analysis of those old RP newsletters – even-handed and un-hysterical, quite refreshing. I don’t like RP. I think true “Libertarianism” is a myth, an illusion, a political philosophy devoid of moral underpinnings because human compassion has been excised in favor of a doctrine that leaves people to their own selfish devices, unencumbered by any form of regulation that might compel civility from those who lack it. This is the kind of president RP would be and those who embrace him as some refreshing individualist seem all too willing to jettison any real consideration for people, tossing us all to the wolves, in favor of a form of Social Darwinism that informs their every political opinion. It is a scary, heartless vision for America that doesn’t even have the love of money and power (so central to the Tea Party) to make it understandable. It makes the Grover Norquist crowd seem at least humanly greedy in comparison to Ron Paul who doesn’t seem to actually care about anybody or anything except his own infinitely malleable beliefs and the power and platform they give him. RP’s casual dismissal of those writings attributed to him speak volumes about him as a person. His willingness to overlook his own questionable past is deeply disturbing, rivaled only by those who blindly celebrate him.

Charles
December 26th, 2011 | LINK

I am not a Ron Paul supporter, by far. But Democrats have given Obama a free pass since he began his run for the presidency about sitting in the pews of J. Wright ……………. and, not hearing anything that was offensive. As Tim said, we are dealing with politicians. They are totally of different bread.

Mark F.
December 26th, 2011 | LINK

Did you know Ron Paul never turned away a patient when he worked as a physician because she couldn’t pay? So spare me the standard liberal anti-libertarian nonsense, Victor.

And what is worse: Offensive WORDS and IDEAS in a newsletter or Obama’s policies of reckless spending, support of the racist war on drugs, trying to put medical marijuana providers out of business and a dismal record on civil liberties and reckless militarism?

How many people has Ron Paul held in indefinite detention without trial, how many people has he had assassinated, how many people has he killed in wars? How much bailout money has Ron given to corporations? How many hundreds of billions has he voted to spend on the military in countless overseas bases while millions suffer at home? How much foreign aid to anti-gay regimes has he supported? You get my drift.

Go ahead and argue about Ron Paul’s newsletters while Obama pursues policies that make Bush look good.

Yes Jim, I wish Ron was human perfection like Christians think of Jesus Christ or something like that. He’s not. Nobody is.

Graham Shevlin
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

Sorry Mark, I don’t buy the approach of “he may be a duplicitous s.o.b., but the incumbent is worse”. I set the bar a lot higher for people running for elective office.
This is really not that difficult. Either Ron Paul agrees with the sentiments in the newsletters or he doesn’t. If he wishes he had not supported the sentiments now, he can come out and say it. The fact that he and his campaign cannot get their stories straight, and he consistently and persistently equivocates when asked about the issue, proves that he is a weasel. I have a generalized reluctance to support weasels. The fact that he might be less of a weasel than the sitting President doesn’t magically make him acceptable to me as an alternative. He is flunking Accountability 101.

Non-Idiot
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

ROTFLMFAO. Yeah, Ron Paul is a racist, homophobe, right? That’s why he’s a libertarian that conservatives (and liberals, apparently) love to hate. He abhors racism, homophobia, and other forms of collectivist thinking like sexism and religious persecution. I was a bit reticent about Ron Paul at first, but then I did something that you nitwits never think of doing: research. Actually look for things that Ron Paul HIMSELF (not some newsletter ghostwriter from over a decade ago) has said or written. But you won’t, because you’re all democratic party shills, who sold your sold to the devil and got a shiny black savior. Now watch as he does nothing for you, but make it easier to end your life or imprison you forever. If Ron Paul is a weasel, then Obama is evil incarnate, and your support of Obama makes you just as evil.

Samiimas
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

I’m tempted to go to Pharyngula and post a link to this article, unfortunately I can’t find a recent post where it wouldn’t be off-topic.

I’m sured they’d think it was a good article, but mostly because they LOVE laughing at libertarians, especially when said libertarians are flooding the comments section in defense of their prophet.

Like this article for example:

http://ashleyfmiller.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/why-does-anyone-like-ron-paul/

I think Non-Idiot from our comments and ashleylmillerhasapenis from their comments would be soulmates.

Ben In Oakland
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

I wrote this to a friend of a friend who uis an ardent ron paul supporter. And facts i state about his positions i got off his wikipedia page.

Shel, there is a great deal to be said for Ron Paul. We agree on a lot of issues—the failure of the war on Drugs, and the stupidity of “foreign entanglements”, for example. But I can’t say a lot for many of his supporters—not referring to you. They are the same old right wingers they always were.

He is neither a friend nor supporter of gay people. Nor is he truly libertarian. He appears to be one of those people who really don’t give a shit about gay people one way or the other, and truly has no principles when it comes to them. He just doesn’t care because it doesn’t affect him.

His position on gay marriage is simply wrong, constitutionally and legally. It is not merely a state’s rights issue, but a federal issue as well. That’s the full faith and credit clause, Social security, and a host of other rights, benefits, and responsibilities– not to mention hundreds of thousands of Federal employees whose rights are ignored due to DOMA. Had he said, “I support the right of gay couples to marry in the states that permit it. I support the rights of states not to authorize it within their borders. However, the constitution says that other states and the Federal Government must honor those marriages.” Though I would disagree with it, I could respect that position, because it would truly be principled. But to pretend the feds have nothing to do with marriage is just willful blindness. By his arguments in this matter, Loving v. Virginia was wrongly decided, but not by Virginia. By his arguments, Kansas was right and Brown v. BOE was incorrectly and anti-constitutionally decided. Both things were bad for our country, and bad for our Constitution.

His arguments about the permissibility of sodomy laws as merely a states rights issue is also not tenable. He cannot both simultaneously claim that as you say: “But most important for Americans, he wants to leave us alone, to allow us to live our lives our own way” and that sodomy laws—laws which says the state can come into my bedroom and arrest me—are perfectly acceptable. This “acceptability” is a virtual impossibility under the Fourth Amendment—probable cause, search and seizure, that sort of thing. Especially when the Texas law singled out gay people but ignored heterosexuals committing the exact same act. As Justice O’Connor wrote in Lawrence, that just ain’t right. And of course, sodomy laws have been used to justify all the other anti-gay laws. That asshat Scalia admitted as much in his dissent to Lawrence v. Texas. Without those sodomy laws, there is no longer ANY legal justification for treating gay people differently.

Not htat there ever was.

He has both supported Don’t ask Don’t Tell as a “decent policy”, but voted to repeal it. One of the few places I could respect his opinion.

Paul co-sponsored the Marriage Protection Act, which would have barred federal judges from hearing cases pertaining to the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. That’s no more a marriage protection act than was DOMA a marriage defense act. The fact that he supported DOMA and sponsored the MPA—both of them dishonest, outright LYING titles in true 1984 style double-speak, says a great deal about his worldview and his morality.

Paul basically says we should vote for him because he is an American first and a politician second. Well, that’s spoken like a true American Politician.

Failure to call a spade a spade is the hallmark of the True American Politician. That he would remove judicial review from the purview of so-called “activist” judges speaks worlds about his real view of the constitution and the Separation of Powers and the stare decis of (I believe) Marbury v. Madison.

It all boils down to this for me. I’m not really a single issue voter, though I might appear to be one, and it certainly is a factor for me. But I truly believe this: there is not a single justification for treating gay human beings differently than heterosexual human beings, especially by the government. I have not yet heard a single answer to that question which does not boil down to 1) I hate queers. 2) My religion tells me it’s my duty to hate queers, but maybe I’ll call it love in case you can’t tell the difference. 3) I might be queer.

And if you (not meaning you personally) believe that such a justification does exist, but cannot have a coherent logical, factual, principled answer as to why—and no one does– then I have to question your ability to lead, your morality, your compassion, your generosity of spirit, and your intelligence.

I’m spekaing to you, Mr. Paul.

I’m not thrilled with Obama on lots of issues. But I will take Obama any day over just about anyone in the Republican Party. I’m not thrilled with the Democrats on a lot of issues, but I also believe the only party worse for this country than the Democrats are the Republicans. The Republican Party has declared itself repeatedly to be an enemy of my life, my liberty, and my pursuit of happiness. I’m not going to support people like that, ever.

Priya Lynn
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

Mark said “How many people has Ron Paul held in indefinite detention without trial, how many people has he had assassinated, how many people has he killed in wars? How much bailout money has Ron given to corporations? How many hundreds of billions has he voted to spend on the military in countless overseas bases while millions suffer at home? How much foreign aid to anti-gay regimes has he supported?”.

Zero, but he’s not president and doesn’t have the power to do such things. If he was its guarenteed the number would be well above zero.

Reed Boyer
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

AS I commented on another article, if this is an example of “blogging difficulties,” then bring on more of ‘em. Damn good stuff.

Erin
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

What Priya Lynn quoted Mark saying: Mark has a point, and you have a point as well. I’m very disappointed in Obama’s continuation of Bush foreign policy and the continued attack on Civil Liberties, but I’ve suspected for a while now that the president is just a figurehead who does what other, more powerful and more influential people tell him to do. So if Paul were elected, he’d probably be coerced into doing the exact same things as well, or he just won’t get elected because he hasn’t been sold out to the right people. Sorry, just really cynical about our so-called democracy these days. I think Ben in Oakland summed up what I have to say on the matter perfectly. I really really appreciate when Ron Paul has the guts to speak out against the wars on terror and drugs, but I’m tired of the cowardly catering to social conservatives. The libertarians of the South have long been associated with White Supremacy: Strom Thurmond’s States’ Rights party argued that forcing the South to end Jim Crow discrimination was against the states’ rights to form their own policy, all while conveniently ignoring the 14th amendment. No doubt ardent racists and homophobes and xenophobes have latched onto this nonsense excuse for decades. I don’t know if Paul agrees with racist ideas, but I know politicians will take one side of a wedge issue if he feels that will draw him the most voters even if he disagrees or doesn’t care. Folks in both major parties are guilty of this.

Priya Lynn
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

Erin, I agree with you about Obama’s attack on civil liberties, in some ways he’s a twin of Bush.

TomTallis
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

Libertarianism = Anarchy & Water

Richard Rush
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

More and more I’m viewing the label libertarian as a convenient cover for being a bigotarian.

Timothy Kincaid
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

Richard,

Don’t confuse Libertarian with libertarian. The former is a party and the latter is an ideal.

Much like republican and democratic, the words may at times have little reflection on the actions or positions of the party.

Rob in San Diego
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

Liberal, gay and a proud supporter of Ron Paul. So Ron Paul doesn’t think highly of gays, that is nothing new from the republican field. Have any of you heard of a candidate names Santorum, Bachman, or Gingrich, none of them think highly of gays. All republicans think alike when it comes to gays, unless your a Log Cabin Republican. Language like that was used in the late 80′s and early 90′s, I know this because I remember not enjoying life back then as a gay kid in school.

Ron Paul has the best foreign policy I’ve heard in my 30 years. You leave us alone, we leave you alone. We have to stop policing the world, we can’t hold Israels hand forever, we have to let go and let them do their own thing without us there to back them up, we can’t afford it, we’re bleeding out of our pockets.

I love you Box Turtle, but your not going to get me to change my mind. I will not be voting for Obama this year, neither will any of my straight or gay friends here in San Diego, everyone loves him here!

Erin
December 28th, 2011 | LINK

I agree with you on foreign policy, Rob, but you have to know Paul is never going to get elected for precisely that reason. I think our economic woes and the growing wealth gap and the war take precedence over gay issues, but that doesn’t mean i don’t believe we should have had equal rights yesterday. There is something much bigger than voters voices at work in our government’s involvement in Israel. We provide the majority of the funding for refugee camps for Palestinians whose families have been misplaced for generations, and we put no pressure on Israel to offer these families a path to citizenship in their own homeland. We fund the Israeli military, which is now the second largest in the world behind ours. They are the Middle-Eastern puppet state of the wealthy elite Europeans and Americans and those folks are not going to give up control of those markets or resources any time soon. And our propaganda machine we call the media, whether it is supposedly Liberal or Conservative has made it so anything less than full support of every Israeli policy is anti-American. I feel like this whole argument and scrutiny of Ron Paul is a waste of time. Unless there can be a nation wide effort to replace propaganda with education and elect people who have those good ideas Paul has and who haven’t been bought out by lobbyists in every branch of the federal government, we’re not going to see those ideals be put into place. It is about as futile as voting for someone simply because he has pledged to overturn Roe V Wade.

Non-Idiot
January 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Yep. Just keep laughing. Soon enough, it will turn into wailing, when (if) you succeed you get another four years of Obama, or of whatever republican besides Ron Paul (or hell, Gary Johnson). I’d rather have Ron Paul who *supposedly* doesn’t “give a shit” about gay rights, apparently because he doesn’t say “gay” enough in an interview than an Obama who claims to bleed rainbows for gays, and does nothing for them, merely using them as political capital. Sorry, I have a functioning brain, and I will vote for the candidate that serves my interests (and the interests of America) best (and yes I am gay) and that is Ron Paul.

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