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The Weblog at The View from the Core - Fri. 01/11/08 03:06:37 PM
The Ron Paul Affair
James Kirchick looked into Ron Paul's old newsletters:
.... Finding the pre-1999 newsletters was no easy task, but I was able to track many of them down at the libraries of the University of Kansas and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Of course, with few bylines, it is difficult to know whether any particular article was written by Paul himself. Some of the earlier newsletters are signed by him, though the vast majority of the editions I saw contain no bylines at all. Complicating matters, many of the unbylined newsletters were written in the first person, implying that Paul was the author.
But, whoever actually wrote them, the newsletters I saw all had one thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul's name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics....
The Ron Paul presidential campaign issued a press release in response:
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. As I stated on the floor of the U.S. House on April 20, 1999: "I rise in great respect for the courage and high ideals of Rosa Parks who stood steadfastly for the rights of individuals against unjust laws and oppressive governmental policies."
This story is old news and has been rehashed for over a decade. It's once again being resurrected for obvious political reasons on the day of the New Hampshire primary.
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 publically taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.
The concluding paragraph is especially important. Why? Because Matt Welch has been looking into what Paul had had to say a long time ago about the quotations from his newsletter; Welch found that throughout 1996, neither Dr. Ron Paul nor his congressional campaign ever denied that he had written the quotations in question. In fact, they both explicitly and implicitly accepted his authorship.
Here is what Welch found in an article in the Houston Chronicle, May 23, 1996:
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." [...] Paul also wrote that although "we are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers." 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. Writing in the same 1992 edition, Paul expressed the popular idea that government should lower the age at which accused juvenile criminals can be prosecuted as adults....
And this, from the same newspaper, October 11, 1996:
Paul, who earlier this week said he still wrote the newsletter for subscribers, was unavailable for comment Thursday. But his spokesman, Michael Quinn Sullivan, accused Morris of "gutter-level politics." ....
Welch presents quotations from ten other articles, too.
By 2001, though, Paul had disclaimed authorship and repudiated the ideas; his motivations are explored in this article in Texas Monthly, October 2001:
.... 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....
So, as late as 1996, Paul and his congressional campaign consistently accepted Paul as author of the quotations in question. By 2001, though, Paul had changed his story, finally disclaiming authorship though accepting "moral responsibility", whatever that might mean.
My take is this. First, Paul was quite content to let his newsletter subscribers believe that he was its author as well as its publisher, even if he was not its author or not always. Thus, he declined to deny authorship in 1996. By 2001, he decided that would no longer fly and chose to disclaim authorship. Whether he was dissembling in 1996 or in 2001, or at both times, is impossible to determine without further evidence. But we know with certainty that he has dissembled about the authorship of the articles in question.
Second, whether he wrote them or not, and whether he is telling the truth when he denies or when he accepts authorship, is irrelevant: in either case, he is responsible for the dissemination of racist, anti-Semitic kookery. In the former scenario, he himself is the racist, anti-Semitic kook; in the latter, he is merely so incompetent, clueless, and out-of-touch that he allowed racist, anti-Semitic kooks to run his newsletter for many, many years.
And he wants us to let him run the entire federal government?
A question nags me, though: in all those years when, according to Paul, somebody else was running his newsletter and publishing vile ideas under his name... did nobody write to Dr. Paul ever and complain? Did none of his friends, neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances, patients, or constituents ever say to him, why are you writing crap like that, Dr. Paul? I mean, how could he remain invincibly ignorant of such activities going on in his name?
Unless nobody, indeed, ever complained. And that would tell us a lot about the intended audience of his newsletter, no?
Finally, the Ron Paul Affair is as good an example as we could get of Core's Law of New Media in action: There Is No Such Thing As Local News Anymore: In the Internet Age, anything anybody has said, or written, or done — anywhere, anytime — can sooner or later become known everywhere else.
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