Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ron Paul supporters get their wish

Ron Paul is finally getting a lot of press. Some higher power heard the collective prayers (or rants) from Paul supporters, and granted their wish. But as is wont to happen with wishes, it didn't turn out quite as hoped.

Now the media, instead of ignoring Ron Paul's numbers in this straw poll or that conservative conference, is reporting on Paul's surge in the Iowa pre-caucus polls. Mostly, it's "He might win Iowa, but that just shows how marginal Iowa is" or "There's no way he'll win the nomination." There are also a spate of articles on his newsletters from the 1990's with some racist articles that appeared under his byline.

All this gives Ron Paul supporters a new reason to call foul. I'm glad they have a new reason, because the old one was worn thinner than the elbows on my favorite shirt. They are shocked... shocked that the media is not all adulation and hero worship. I don't know how this happened, but every single one of Paul's supporters ignored what happens when the press turns its attention on someone, especially a candidate for president. The anointed Obama excepted, of course.

Now, I think it's a great idea to report on Paul's policies, and give them a real good inspection, because they don't hold up to scrutiny. But the coverage on his newsletter is also plenty fair. Paul has barely explained this ghost from his past. If I have to fill the blanks that he leaves, I'm not giving him much benefit of the doubt. Here goes:
  • Paul is a strict constitutional libertarian, and there aren't many around.
  • He'll hang with anyone who also says that they want the federal government out of their business.
  • There's a concentration of somewhat like-minded people in militias, white-supremacists groups, gun rights/survivalist groups.
  • Ron Paul craves any audience, and this is what came to him. He didn't look too closely at anything else they support and stand for. Why? Because the constitution is all that matters.
  • There is a lot of evidence that Paul is not a racist, but he didn't mind associating with them, or giving them control of his newsletter.
  • I don't want this guy as my president. I'll add this of my pile of reasons.
  • Move over, Tea Party. Cue a new bunch of people screaming about Sen. Byrd being in the KKK.
It's a fair question whether an issue form 20 years ago should matter so much. If it is wasn't a pattern, or was completely disavowed in word and deed, I'd agree. However, Paul has continued the pattern of poor associations with whackos. For him, crazy is OK so long as he gets airtime. I'll repeat, I don't want this guy as president.

Don't get no respect:
"Wow. The second Ron Paul becomes a viable candidate, the slander machine begins. Someone REALLY doesn't want him to win... Don't you find it odd that there was no mention of him before he started polling first, and now that his numbers are rising, every mention is negative?!"
"Now that media's attempt to eliminate Paul haven't worked and he's due to win Iowa, now all of a sudden 'iowa doesn't matter', and here come the tired re-treads of this old canard."
"MSM should stick with what they do best cover Britney Spears or a "sports hero" or any other useless time wasting coverage... " - Atlantic comments
Best defense of Ron Paul:
"Libertarianism is an attractive philosophy to racists... because it states that people should be allowed to freely associate and enter into contracts with whomever they decide. This would mean racists could have a private club and only allow same race people to join... History shows, however, that racists will flock to whatever party serves their interests at the moment. They will switch parties based on superficial reasons. They've switched between Democrats and Republicans." - Atlantic comment

Update 12/29/11. I allude to Paul's continuing pattern of working with whackos, but I should name names. Here goes: Alex Jones, truther and major conspiracy theorist. The New York Times has a longer list. I think this is important because it indicates potential risks in a Ron Paul presidency. All presidencies have risks, and it's good to identify them as well as we can and then choose. By the way, it was almost all Ron Paul all the time in political news today. He's not missing in the media anymore.


Couves said...

MP, don't let us Ronulans get to you so much. ;)

I agree with your analysis, to a point. Yes, this is really bad stuff and proves, at the very least, that Paul was not careful about who he entrusted with his name and that he was a very poor manager of his personal affairs (not good traits for a potential President!).

But I think it's clear that Paul doesn't believe the things found in his newsletter. The man seems physiologically incapable of not saying exactly what he thinks. If he believed anything like what was found in the newsletter, he would have said something like it at some point in his long public career. Even compared to other Republicans, Paul doesn't seem to use red meat or ugly partisanship to appeal to voters. I think it matters that Paul is the only candidate who will dare mention the racial inequities of the War on Drugs. He also has a morally courageous sensitivity to the death and suffering of innocent foreigners caused by our foreign policy. So yes, I do think he's "disavowed in work and deed" the racism found in his newsletters.

Hopefully, the media will compare him to his fellow Republicans, who have been known to refer to Obama as the "food stamp President" or say that he's "never had a real job in his life." Then there's the "illegals" who are somehow blamed for nearly every problem in our society. And looking at the specific candidates -- Newt has once called for the death penalty for minor drug offenses. And have you SEEN Rick Perry's new TV ad? He goes after gays, liberals and even other Christians (if you "know the code"). So yes, by all means, let's talk about everyone's "associations" (you know Obama's will come up again), but let's also look at what people actually profess to believe.

ModeratePoli said...

@Couves, I study Romulans from safe confines. I'm impervious to their mind tricks, so you needn't worry.

I didn't focus on the specific racial slurs, because I also believe that they don't represent Paul's thoughts. As I read somewhere, if these slurs were directly from Paul, he'd be out of the campaign for sure.

But the whole incident means something, and I'm trying to put my finger on it. Perhaps it's that Paul will do anything for these principles, including hang with hate-filled people.

I just noticed that his truth-telling (which you call physiological) does have limits, in that he hasn't been painfully truthful about how this newsletter stuff happened. In fact, he's ended interviews on the subject.

As for the media comparing him to others, a lot of people have been called on what they say, but not usually in comparison to other candidates. When Perry had his brain-fart, it stood on its own. Same with Bachmann and her vaccine lie. Paul will have to weather this. He won't be able to avoid it with a "Look over there, something worse" defense.

ModeratePoli said...

Corrected "work and deed" to "word and deed." @Couves quoted the older typo.

Couves said...

I saw the video of Paul "ending" his recent CNN interview... Yes, he did end the conversation, but the reporter was no longer asking him questions at that point. She even thanked him for "answering the questions."

Plain Blog links to an article by Friedersdorf on the Paul story that you might appreciate:

ModeratePoli said...


After reading today's various commentary on this issue (including this), I agree that the people should be held responsible much more for what they say today than what they didn't say 20 years ago.

But to people who highly value the protection of civil rights, this is another indicator that it's not the highest priority for Paul. By itself, not important. But in conjunction with what he's said about the Civil Rights Act and states' rights, they have ample reason not to support him.

There is a lot I like about Ron Paul, but I see a big difference in what we value the most. I value safety and a clean environment more than I value small government, so I'm going to vote accordingly. For someone else, knowing the federal government is committed to enforcing non-discrimination may be a very high concern, and I'd respect how they vote. If small government is the most important issue to you, Ron Paul is definitely your guy. Different strokes, right?

ModeratePoli said...

I've done some more thinking, and I want the federal government enforcing equal civil rights. So that hypothetical other person, that's me. I wouldn't trust him to do the right thing on discrimination, and he would work to reverse the progress that's been made on guaranteeing equal rights. His personal guarantee isn't nearly enough.

Couves said...

MP, I appreciate your comments. Yes, I can understand your perspective. I just can't agree with it. We currently imprison people for selling plant matter. While all races participate in this activity equally, minorities are vastly overrepresented as those who receive lengthy jail sentences. Minorities also disproportionately live in communities dominated by prohibition-fueled crime. The War on Drugs is a war on Americans, particularly black ones. That's not the intention, but that is the outcome. The taint of past racist associations is less important to me than changing failed policies going forward.

Couves said...

One more thing -- the War on Terror poses a real threat to our basic Constitutional rights and only Ron Paul and Gary Johnson have shown a willingness to stop it. Glenn Greenwald is great on these issues, including the soon-to-be law that allows for the indefinite military detention of US citizens on US soil:

With such a basic freedom lost, I would argue that the right of minorities to be free from discrimination is not at all secure.

ModeratePoli said...

I think most people balance the danger from the government against the danger from terrorist, criminals, etc.

But "most people" arguments have limited value, since most people don't care about aspects of rule of law.

However, I think it's good to examine why we have different rules in war, and how to adapt those rules to terrorists who are war-like and would exploit provisions of our law to continue war-like activities.

You say that our civil liberties are under threat, but I don't expect these laws to affect me or anyone I know. They certainly will have less effect than a military draft or mandatory rationing, which I would accept as necessary in wartime.

One reason that this isn't a huge issue for me is that I don't think the Bush or Obama administrations overly abused the rights they took. They aren't treating lots of people as "spies," that is, in the shadowing way that spies are dealt with. Long ago I accepted the need to have different rules for spies, so I use the same thinking with terrorists.

Couves said...

I don't expect these policies to effect me either... so what? Liberties are most important for the helpless and discriminated against -- ie, racial minorities, immigrants, etc…. which is what we were talking about. If we have another terrorist attack on this country, there will be a collective yawn as American citizens are rounded up and held indefinitely without trial. This new law permits that.

I don't expect everyone to agree with me about the war on drugs, but I do expect every freedom-loving American to be repulsed when giant exceptions are made to our most basic Constitutional rights -- habeas corpus, due process, heck any civilian process at all. This is an issue in which I see no gray area, only a red line that's about to be crossed. Yes, some freedoms and comforts have to be sacrificed in times of war, but our Constitutional liberties are inviolable and protected by law. And as Rand Paul has pointed out, this is a war that may never end, so the suspension of liberties would be effectively indefinite:

Couves said...

I thought this was interesting: 13% of African-American men have been disenfranchised in this country.

ModeratePoli said...

The federal government is at the forefront of enforcing voting rights, but not if Ron Paul decides the issue. This is a serious weakness for Ron Paul--he doesn't believe in federal government enforcing civil liberties.

By the way, I am a freedom-loving American, and I'm concerned about the erosion of habeas corpus. However, what I'd like to see are the limits and exception CODIFIED and mechanisms for reviews also codified.

I don't even know what Ron Paul proposes to do with the inmates at Gitmo. It's easy to complain but much harder to think through an operational plan (as Obama found out).

Couves said...

Paul only opposes the parts of the civil rights act that he believes violate private property rights. The other parts he supports strongly, as you'd expect from a libertarian... Ron Paul is the only candidate who wants to stop the minority disenfranchisement brought about by the war on drugs.

"By the way, I am a freedom-loving American, and I'm concerned about the erosion of habeas corpus. However, what I'd like to see are the limits and exception CODIFIED and mechanisms for reviews also codified."

There are legal ways to proactively fight the war on terror without shredding the Constitution (watch the Rand Paul video I linked to above).

ModeratePoli said...

I'd like clear answers to a few questions about Dr. Paul's proposed policies, and I haven't gotten them elsewhere. If (emphasis on if) you can answer, please do, without spin. (It's OK for Paul to be weak in some areas--but let's just be upfront about it.)

1. Is Paul for or against equal rights in hiring and employment, including private businesses?

2. If Paul is for equal rights in hiring and employment, is he for or against enforcing those rights through the federal government authority?

3. Is Paul for or against enforcing voting rights through federal government authority?

Since I've asked blunt questions and requested blunt answers, I'll certainly return the favor, though I don't advocate for any particular politician.

Couves said...

I believe that Paul does not want to tell private citizens, even racist ones, what to do with their businesses. He opposes this part of the civil rights act, although he also opposes government-mandated segregation and other forms of institutional racism, which obviously violate the Constitution. I’m sorry that I can’t answer your questions more specifically than that. Your questions are very good ones and I can think of many others along those lines.

I share Paul's libertarian philosophy, but I think his rigid interpretation of it, even within the historical context of race in America, is stupid. In another time I would never have voted for someone who didn’t show unqualified support for the civil rights act. But in today's America, there are far greater threats to minorities and individual freedom that Paul alone is willing to address. It's a very strange irony, I'll admit... and I can understand how others would reach very different conclusions. But those who attack Paul as a racist are not only factually wrong, but blind to the current state of racial justice in this country.

ModeratePoli said...

@Couves, thanks for the forthright answers. I owe you.

Couves said...

MP - No prob, I'm happy to answer honest questions.

On Alex Jones -- Paul is regularly interviewed there, as are Gary Johnson, Jesse Ventura, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel -- I don't like it, but I understand it. The media is mostly controlled by people who want to ignore or deride these non-mainstream leaders... I can't blame them for trying to reach people any way they can (within reason).

ModeratePoli said...

@Couves, I also understand why someone would be desperate to reach an audience with a critically important message, but at what point do you get contaminated by the people you hang out with?

I still find it curious that Paul treats the words of these colleagues so gently when he reams his fellow Republicans quite thoroughly. Is his personal loyalty to media friends and co-believers more important than the negative content of their words and ideas? Evidently it is for Paul.

I don't believe in 100% purity or humiliating people by demanding they denounce someone close to them, but I do notice the strange difference in how Paul treats these friends.

Anonymous said...

The more I read of Ron Paul's writings, the less I like his philosophy. Unlike most people, I've read some of his newsletters, and it's hard to imagine that he couldn't have overseen what was included in them. They came out only once a month, and they measured about 4-8 pages (8 1/2-11 pages). It would have taken Ron Paul all of 10 minutes to ascertain that his ghostwriter actually voiced his (Ron Paul's) views. But it was Ron Paul's views on pregnancy and abortion that really turned me off. See his 1983 tract on the subject, where he specifies that the fetus has all the rights and the woman just has obligations. He said that she consented to carry the fetus when she had sex and thus gave up all her rights in the matter. Pregnancy after rape? Doesn't happen, Ron Paul says. Dangerous pregnancy? Doesn't happen, Ron Paul says; "pregnancy is healthy" and women feel delightfully well. Pregnancy after birth control failure--thus abrogating his argument about the woman consenting to carry the fetus? Ron Paul doesn't even try to address this question, because his philosophy leaves no room for the answer he wants. In this tract, he says that he supports a Constitutional amendment to ban abortion. But now he says "leave it to the states"--hoping that all the states will ban abortion as he advocates. So much for his vaunted "consistency." And his libertarian views, which do not extend to women.

ModeratePoli said...

@Anon, I think he could've overseen the publication of these newsletters, but left it the hands of someone he'd been working with and trusted. I think he won't name this person out of personal loyalty and not wanting the person to suffer the consequences of his actions--not exactly the libertarian credo. More like cronyism. It shows the limits of Paul's idealism. More about the 1980's libertarian strategy here and the likely culprit here.

I also disagree with his ideas on pregnancy, and wouldn't want him handling a pregnancy of a family member.

It's blind faith not to acknowledge that things can go wrong with a pregnancy. I also believe that the choices reside with the person who will bear responsibility, and that includes a woman who has the responsibility of pregnancy. It should be a choice, not a requirement (though I support some restrictions when the fetus is getting close to viability). That seems more consistent with libertarian ideals too, and many libertarians are pro-choice because of this. For those who aren't, I'm not sure how they square the logic.

Anonymous said...

@MP, I think you're too generous in your characterization of Ron Paul's motive in not disclosing the identity of the trusted staffer who wrote the scandalously racist articles. According to press reports, the ghostwriter was Lew Rockwell, then listed as the "editor" of the newsletters, and now the director of the Mises Institute. Ron Paul has a long and deep relationship with this pseudo-intellectual anarcho-capitalist thinktank. He publishes articles there frequently, and they peddle his books. It is the "authoritative" source that RP supporters cite for their evidence and it provides ready talking-points for them to post on, well, blogs like this. So Ron Paul doesn't want to jeopardize his relationship with the Mises Institute,and he doesn't want to undercut its influence, which works to his benefit. So he can't out Rockwell.

ModeratePoli said...

@Anon, you're right. Paul may also be trying to avoid damage to himself. This link puts it best:

"In other words, [libertarians] are experiencing 'blowback,' and Ron Paul supporters of all people should understand that when you poke at sleeping dogs, you should not be surprised when they turn around and attack you, even if it takes a couple of decades."