(Update: Welcome Dispatches readers. Please also check out my second philippic here.)
Like many of my thoughtful libertarian friends, I am dismayed at the popularity of Ron Paul among the kooks. (Of course, that’s a tough subject, because it’s not really the fault of the candidate when lunatics support him. Paul, however, seems to have gone out of his way to court lunatics, by appearing on conspiracy-theory radio shows, for example.) But it’s even more distressing to see otherwise respectable libertarians showing support for Paul, who is simply not an acceptable spokesman for libertarianism.
I’ve already noted his flirtations with the Di Lorenzo-style neo-confederates, which is distressing enough. But what about his absolutely consistent anti-abortion stand? Paul is almost as bad on the issue of abortion as Jerry Falwell. He himself introduced legislation to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over cases involving “any claim based upon the right of privacy”! And what about his racial views? Paul is (apparently reliably) quoted as saying that ninety-five percent of blacks in Washington D.C. ought to be presumed to be criminals, and that “our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists—and they can be identified by the color of their skin.” (It makes no difference if he wrote these words or if someone else did on his behalf. Note that he has not apologized for them.) He is bad on free trade, a basic libertarian value. One of his close aides is Daniel McAdams, who is outspoken in his hostility to the freedom movement in Russia and to global free trade. And his views on the separation of church and state are awful: he has said that there is “no historical or constitutional basis” for the separation of church and state—when the separation principle is, quite simply, the foundation stone of libertarianism.* His position on gay marriage? He supported the Defense of Marriage Act, and co-sponsored the Marriage Protection Act, to bar federal court jurisdiction to interpret the Defense of Marriage Act, while referring to decisions that uphold gay marriage as “act[s] of social engineering profoundly hostile to liberty.”
In all of these cases, his tactic appears to be the same: use legitimate arguments about state’s rights to cloak a hostility to civil rights for homosexuals, the right to an abortion, religious freedom and other essential liberties. This is typical Doughface Libertarianism of the Lew Rockwell variety: the view that the federal government should leave states free to deprive us of our freedom. What Tom Palmer calls “the Fever Swamp” is to Ron Paul what the briar patch was to Brer Rabbit. Serious libertarians should blush at the mention of his name.
*—Note Paul’s mindboggling reference to “Fisher Ames and Elbridge Gerry” as “the authors of the First Amendment.” This is classic paleo-libertarian pseudo-sophistication. James Madison was the author of the First Amendment, Dr. Paul. You may have heard of him? Little guy? From Virginia?
Update: B. Misc. is right that “Paul will not likely have to deal with [these matters] at length anytime in the near future. Libertarians and independents are too excited that there is someone different than the status quo to actually investigate Paul’s stances in an in depth manner.” True. This is typical of the team-think that is part of all political parties, but it seems particularly true of the LP, which has often looked the other way with regard to its candidates. In this respect it’s not unlike its predecessor, the abolitionist Liberty Party, which nominated, of all people, Martin Van Buren as its candidate in 1844. Why nominate a man whose pro-slavery record was so strong, at the head of an anti-slavery ticket? Name recognition; the chance at publicity trumped their commitment to principle. Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.
Across the ideological spectrum, only one presidential candidate has identified in black-and-white terms the "actual and potential terrorists" who are destroying America. That candidate is Ron Paul (R).
Among those who aspire to the White House, only Paul has informed his closest supporters that "our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists -- and they can be identified by the color of their skin." [FN 1]
The criminals who terrorize our cities -- in riots and on every non-riot day--are not exclusively young black males, but they largely are. As children, they are trained to hate whites, to believe that white oppression is responsible for all black ills, to "fight the power," and to steal and loot as much money from the white enemy as possible. Anything is justified against "The Man." And "The Woman." A lady I know recently saw a black couple in the supermarket with a cute little girl, three years old or so. My friend waved to the tiny child, who scowled, stuck out her tongue, and said (somewhat tautologically): "I hate you, white honkey." And the parents were indulgent. Is any white child taught to hate in this way? I've never heard of it. - Ron Paul
Although Paul's racist screed first appeared under his byline in 1992, he waited nine years to disclaim those words. In 1996, Paul told reporters from the AP and Houston Chronicle that those words were written in the context of "current events and statistical reports of the time." [FN 4] Yet there were no statistical reports claiming that the vast majority of African-American males in our nation's capital were criminals. That was, and is, a racist myth.
Paul attempted to distance himself from those words, telling the Texas Observer in 2001:
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....
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 the 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.' [FN 5]
Writing in the same 1992 issue of his newsletter, Paul opined that government should lower the age at which black children accused of crimes can be prosecuted as adults.
We don't think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That's true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such. [FN 6]
A separate but unequal justice system for African-American children? That is a racist policy outlined under Paul's name. If he has changed his tune since then, he has certainly not gone out of his way to disassociate himself from his white supremacist supporters.
It is entirely reasonable to suppose that Paul did indeed write the racist words that appeared under his byline in his newsletter, which he published. It is also reasonable to inquire why Paul has dragged his feet in distancing himself from white supremacists, such as Don Black and David Duke, who even now continue to solicit funds on his behalf and link to his campaign through the Stormfront white supremacist web site.
The bottom line is that, whether Paul misrepresented his authorship of the racist screed in 1992, or whether he was lying about its authorship in 2001, he is a liar, and he continues to enjoy the full-throated support of white supremacists. Since the current presidential election has focused on Terrorism as a front-burner issue, it is fair game to ask Paul to release all issues of his racist newsletter published since 1985, so the voting public can evaluate whether and how his views of African-American men as so-called "terrorists" have evolved.