Ron Paul in Texas Monthly

I vaguely recall reading this Texas Monthly profile of Ron Paul. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember this part:

Then [political adversary] Morris’ subalterns dug up something even more damaging to Paul: copies of a 1992 newsletter he had published that contained racially tinted remarks.

They caused a minor sensation. In one issue of the Ron Paul Survival Report, which he had published since 1985, he called former U.S. representative Barbara Jordan a “fraud” and a “half-educated victimologist.” In another issue, he cited reports that 85 percent of all black men in Washington, D.C., are arrested at some point: “Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the ‘criminal justice system,’ I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” And under the headline “Terrorist Update,” he wrote: “If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be.”

In spite of calls from Gary Bledsoe, the president of the Texas State Conference of the NAACP, and other civil rights leaders for an apology for such obvious racial typecasting, Paul stood his ground. He said only that his remarks about Barbara Jordan related to her stands on affirmative action and that his written comments about blacks were in the context of “current events and statistical reports of the time.” He denied any racist intent. What made the statements in the publication even more puzzling was that, in four terms as a U. S. congressman and one presidential race, Paul had never uttered anything remotely like this.

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.

The article confirms that Paul very foolishly allowed his name to be used on articles he didn’t and wouldn’t write, then through some warped sense of loyalty to the author(s) and undue deference to his advisors opted to try and defend them rather than take immediate responsibility for his mistake. And even though this should have destroyed his campaign, he won a seat in Congress. Having escaped unscathed once before, it’s perhaps understandable why he thinks it’s not a big deal this time around.

But it is a big deal. It’s a huge deal. His failure to see that has not only alienated him from many of his supporters, but tarnished the image of libertarian ideas for people who have been exposed to them for the first time through Paul’s presidential run. We’re all paying now for his unwillingness to repudiate these statements the first time they were used against him. Simply issuing a press release that they are “old news” and declaring that they do not represent his beliefs isn’t going to make them go away; the flippancy with which he’s treating their reappearance shows that his sensitivity to these matters hasn’t much improved since 1996.

In fact, if the Texas Monthly writer is correct that his interview is the first in which Paul publicly denied writing these abhorrent passages, then Paul’s statement yesterday that “for over a decade, I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name” is not true. He seems to be implying that he has taken responsibility since his campaign to return to Congress, or at least since 1998. The profile was published in late 2001.

[Via Virginia Postrel, whose thoughts on the matter are posted here and here.]

Update 1/10: As always, read Jim Henley too.

Update 1/11: Jim points out that Paul had ample opportunity to denounce the statements in 1996 and clearly didn’t. Combined with his thoroughly unconvincing appearance on CNN last night and his continued close association with the probable author of the articles, I no longer think there’s anyway to deny Paul’s culpability in their publication.

Comments

  1. formerbeltwaywonk says:

    How can one not think of conspiracy theories having just observed an improbably simultaneous media attack on Ron Paul the day of the New Hampshire primary? A remarkably successful attack that made him plunge from 14% in the polls to an 8% actual vote? After weeks where we heard little about Paul from the mass media and beltway “libertarian” bloggers? TNR from the left, Fox News and talk radio from the right, and piling on from beltway “libertarians” who made a point of loudly repeating the TNR smears and dumping Ron Paul on the day of the primary. Your eyes and ears did not deceive you, all this happened. It is not the result of a criminal conspiracy, but if one uses “conspiracy” as a metaphor for social networks of vast complexity, there is a strong sense in which conspiracy theories accurately, if metaphorically, explain what happened.

    The reality behind the conspiratorial metaphor is the social networking between denizens of the Beltway, who sport a wide variety of political labels but are, relative to the rest of the country, a monoculture. I lived there. I went to these parties. These denizens range from the journalists who report the mass media news to various think tank and university scholars at the Cato Institute, George Mason University, and so on. They study Ayn Rand, then marry Andrea Mitchell and testify against tax cuts. Vast amounts of federal money, that stuff that is taken out of your paycheck with such automatic ease, flow into the Beltway area. Directly and indirectly, almost every person who lives in or near the Beltway depends on the very income tax that Ron Paul declared he would abolish — with no replacement!

    Many of these paycheck vampires call themselves “libertarians” and inspire us with their libertarian rhetoric to support them with our attention, our blog hits, and our tuition money as well as the tax money that already funds them or their friends. But at the first sign of political incorrectness, all these below-the-Beltway “libertarians” have dumped Ron Paul like yesterday’s garbage. Now they can rest easy that they will still be invited to the parties thrown by their lobbyist and government employee and contractor friends, who for a second or two got worried by all those Google searches that Ron Paul might have some influence, resulting in some of them losing their jobs (end the income tax with no replacement?! The guy is obvioiusly a kook, and we don’t invite the supporters of kooks to our parties!). Now everybody around the Beltway can go back to partying at the taxpayer’s expense. All the money will keep flowing in, hooray!

    The lesson millions of young libertarians have now learned from our mass media and our beltway “libertarians”? Libertarian electioneering is futile. Voting is futile. Democracy is futile. It’s hip to be “libertarian.” But anybody who actually wants liberty is a kook, as can be proven by their association with kooks. Beltway wonks posing as “libertarians” are happy to write things to inflame your hopes for liberty that they don’t really mean. Then they make sure that we elect the politicians their friends want — the ones that will enslave your future to pay for full social security for Baby Boomers. The ones that will send you off to foreign lands to kill and die. Not only the journalists who hang out with the government bureaucrats and lobbyists, and not only the politicians who talk sweet while they drain your paycheck and kill your fellow human beings, but even the beltway “libertarians” are happy to let a whole new generation of libertarians go down the tubes in order to keep their Beltway friends happy.

  2. Jacob Grier says:

    FBW, there’s no doubt that the timing of the article was meant as an attack, but that doesn’t make the criticism that flowed from beltway libertarians afterward a conspiracy. That’s just an honest reaction to finding out that we thought were isolated mistakes turning out to be far more pernicious than we’d imagined.

    I assume this is your first visit to my blog, but if you looked through the archives you’d see that I’ve said many nice things about Ron Paul in the past few months. In fact, I even donated money to his campaign — the first and only time I’ve given money to a politician. To suggest that I’m happy to see him damaged in the media now is ludicrous. I wanted to see him succeed as much as possible because I thought he was doing good work bringing attention to the ideas of liberty. That’s why it’s so deeply disappointing to see his reputation tarnished like this, and to see him doing relatively little to take accountability for how these letters for published. Even now we can only speculate on the author of the statements and his current relationship with Paul. That’s not a strong enough response.

    Also, fwiw, nearly all my friends work for either privately funded non-profits or in restaurants, so I wasn’t too concerned about missing out on invitations to statist parties.

  3. Jim Henley says:

    Hi Jacob: Reading the contemporaneous Texas-media coverage from the 1996 campaign today on H&R, I think we have to consider that it not was because of “undue deference to his advisors [that Paul] opted to try and defend them rather than take immediate responsibility for his mistake.” Rather, we should consider the possibility that Paul’s 1996 campaign team thought the articles were politically advantageous in a conservative Texas district at that time, or at least not disadvantageous.

  4. Jim Henley says:

    Also, FBW is cutting and pasting that exact comment all over the internet, so it’s probably not worth as much response as you put into it.

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