Blogs > Liberty and Power > TNR Hit Piece on Ron Paul

Jan 8, 2008 5:28 pm

TNR Hit Piece on Ron Paul

Well the long-awaited Jamie Kirchick hit piece on RP is up at The New Republic. The Paulites are already drilling him a new one in the comments. Kirchick argues that all of RP's old newsletters show he's a racist, homophobic, anti-semitic, cranky loon. We've been down this road before of course, and Paul and the campaign has responded to some of this stuff.

Just a few reactions of my own:

1. Like many of the RP supporting commenters, I'd like to see scans of the actual newsletters so the full context can be seen. UPDATE: the scans are here. (HT: Jason Briggeman.)

2. Some of what those newsletters say I would call racist etc., but certainly not all of it and perhaps not even the majority of it. Criticism of Israel is not ipso facto anti-Semitic and I see nothing in the piece that I would call anti-Semitic. Name calling isn't the same thing as racism - Barbara Jordan frequently did play the victim and was, arguably, a socialist. Some of what Kirchick sees as ugly is also just policy disagreement. Some of it is bad though.

3. I found it interesting that Kirchick made an explicit connection to the Mises Institute and distinguished their"brand" of libertarianism from the more"urbane" of Cato or Reason. That will increase the fund raising at the Mises Institute for sure! As someone more sympathetic to the Cato/Reason brand, I do think differentiating those products is important and I'm glad Kirchick did so.

4. Kirchick's attempt to turn the Mises Institute's work on secession into ipso facto evidence of racism is really pathetic. In and of itself, of course, secession is very much a noble libertarian tradition. I guess it's naive to think that journalists are not so simple-minded as to be unable to separate the general principle of secession from the particulars of the Civil War. A smear job is a smear job. Of course the charge he's leveled here is an obvious risk when the same organization talks about secession and then also engages in Civil War revisionism and Lincoln bashing, and offers kind words about the Confederacy and the culture of the South.

In general, this is a mostly recycled set of charges that the campaign has dealt with before. My own view is that RP is not nearly as guilty as Kirchick would have it but he's also not innocent either. If you have a newsletter with your name on it and you have byline-free commentaries, some of which say some nasty stuff, you best be prepared to be called to account for it. As I said in my earlier series of posts, RP has walked the line with this stuff for a long time, so it's no surprise that it would be fodder for smear job that mixes unfair charges with accurate ones.

Addendum: at some level, the very fact that Paul has a background such that these newsletters and their comments exist is the real problem here. Imagine what a libertarian candidacy without his baggage might have done.

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More Comments:

Anthony Gregory - 1/9/2008

The TNR author supposedly used to call himself a libertarian on Facebook. But he's a Giuliani big-government libertarian, I guess.

Jule R. Herbert - 1/9/2008

I should have written that May 1 fell on a Friday.

Jule R. Herbert - 1/9/2008

I understand your point.

But, in context, the writer goes on to assert that, since the U.S. mail could not be delivered because of the rioting, calm returned, not because the authorites were able to get a handle on matters, but only when those involved realized that they would have to go to the Post Office "to get their handouts... -- and then complained about slow service." Looking at the 1992 calendar, it appears that May 1 fell on a Saturday, May 4 on a Monday. King was convicted on April 29 -- according to the account. I gather that electronic deposits were not widespread at the time. Whether this ia a true account, I don't recall, but the writer is writing as a reporting observer.

I don't care for the tone of the newsletter, and I certainly do question the consistent referral to the color of the various parties under discussion. Nonetheless, on balance, it seems to me not be to objectively racist, in the sense of attributing non-physical inherent characteristics, especially as to intelligence or anti-social behavior, to people on the basis of their color or so-called race.

A more generous view is that the writer is commenting on what he believes to be a real dystopia created by various features of the modern welfare state as it relates to an urban underclass.

Aeon J. Skoble - 1/9/2008

I'm disappointed to see that RP's newsletter, regardless of whatever degree of control RP had, engaged in pandering. But I'm also disappointed in TNR, to which I've subscribed for nearly 25 years, for the shoddy hatchet job. Didn't the NYT already discuss this issue and report that the main author of the objectionable material was fired? While TNR has never been overly sympathetic to libertarianism, they here seem to working overtime to make libertarianism look bad. Steve, you note the distinction the author made between Cato and Reason on the one hand and Mises Institute on the other hand, but they were hardly charitable to anyone! They called Reason people libertines, and I took the use of "urbane" for Cato people to imply, in this context, sufficiently moderate than the author can stand them. So while the contrast had the effect of making LvMI people look bad, it also had the subtle secondary effect of making all libertarians look bad: the ones that aren't racist homophobes are libertines or hacks. Great. Also, in the comments on the TNR site, I noticed several people mention that the author of the piece was a Giuliani supporter. If that's true, it's especially lame.

Bottom line: despite his being "associated with" the LvMI, Paul is still the most libertarian, most individualist, and most sincere candidate running. Unless you're staying home on principle a la Wendy, I don't see why RP doesn't get your vote.

Sudha Shenoy - 1/9/2008

Ron Paul has a response up on his presidential campaign website.

Sudha Shenoy - 1/9/2008

The following appears to be the most readily available direct response from Ron Paul or his staff, to the 'racist newsletters' charge. As far as I can tell, perhaps two issues of the newsletter were involved, in 1992.

1. The Muckraker Report 28 June 2007: 'An interview with...Ron Paul'. Scroll down to Q16. RP gives a brief response to the newsletter question: he took responsibility for something someone else had written, which he nevertheless disagreed with. This was in a very busy period.

2. Free Market News Network, 8th Jan 08: 'Ron Paul smear ended?' Includes substantial quotes from RP interview in Texas Monthly Oct 2001: extends material in (1) above. Also points/comments from RP staff.

3. Free Market News Network 21 May 07: 'Ron Paul a racist?' First responses from Paul & staff.

Comment: These paras from 1992 are the _only_ (only) instance I have been able to find about Ron Paul's 'racism'. I have not been able to find anything else: just these same paras, over & over. RP has been a public figure for some decades now.

(For what it's worth, they do not seem to me to be in Ron Paul's style. But that is not really an objective point.)

Also: See Ron Paul on Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, etc. Also note his stress on people as _individuals_ -- not as members of a group, on whatever basis (colour, gender, etc.)

Robert Hugh Hodges - 1/9/2008

I found the section in the newsletter bemoaning David Duke's baggage ironic given that it's now part of Ron Paul's own baggage.

My impression of Ron Paul is that he is a decent and probably not bigoted man, but I fear the association of libertarianism with pro-life and anti-immigration stances as well as strict constitutionalism and homophobia will hurt this movement of ours.


Russell Hanneken - 1/9/2008

Jule, you don't think a sentence like "Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks" exhibits any kind of racial animus?

Stephan Kinsella - 1/8/2008

Newbern writes, "Maybe this will finally wake libertarians up to the fact that as long as we allow collectivist, racist cranks like the LRC crowd to hang around, we'll never get anywhere."

Wow, so this blog tolerates libel and slander by cult-crank Objectivist hacks. Too bad.

Note to Newbern re the "collectivist" epithet: 1986 called, its wants its silly Randroid formulations back.

Greg Newburn - 1/8/2008

Maybe this will finally wake libertarians up to the fact that as long as we allow collectivist, racist cranks like the LRC crowd to hang around, we'll never get anywhere.

Paul - Rockwell = Very good candidate.

The problem now is: who can we turn to next time?

Seriously, IHS, Cato, Koch Foundation, somebody: let's put some resources into politics (and NOT through the LP). Enough think tanks and policy internships; we need savvy political operators.

Bill Woolsey - 1/8/2008

They weren't written over a 20 year period.

The racism, homophobia, and milita nonsense was in the early 90's.

He had newsletters for 30 years. And there is some Bircher, conspiracy theory stuff quoted from the seventies. The author claimed the newsletters or that period were full of the conspiracy theory business.

As Steve pointed out, there is really nothing more here than was already known. (Well, some additional offensive quotes from the same period of time.)

At least, that is what I see.

On the positive side, Paul's official response to this is a bit clearer than anything I had seen before.

David T. Beito - 1/8/2008

Steve: This is a very painful day for me in more ways than one. I have an invested a lot emotionally in this.

Paul made a disasterous mistake in contracting out this newsletter and not supervising it. Combined with the low showing in NH, it will probably be the end of the campaign.

Having said that. I do not for a minute believe that he wrote the things attributed to him and hope he can address this issue fully and identify the author. I am not optimistic, however, because he is not the type of man to betray a confidence. He is human and flawed but then the other alternatives are far worse.

Jule R. Herbert - 1/8/2008

Paul, of course, is who he is. He is as he appears to be: courageous and sincere.

Further, on reading the scanned, cherry-picked newsletters as posted by TNR, I am convinced of three things: Paul didn't write them; whoever did write them was no racist; Kirchick is a cad who should be called out and dressed down.

Greg Newburn - 1/8/2008

Your last sentence is the true tragedy f this whole thing. Think about Barack Obama's candidacy. Why is he winning? Is it because he supports bigger government? Of course not. It's his message of "hope" and "change." A libertarian running in the Democratic party, without Paul's baggage, and running on a strong, principled anti-interventionism, could have really shaken things up.

Russell Hanneken - 1/8/2008

"The worst consequence is that thoughtful people who might have been attracted to the libertarian movement may be put off now."

Another worry: some of Paul's not-so-thoughtful supporters might be attracted to the libertarian movement.

Did you read any of the comments linked to the New Republic article? Some Paulistas seem determined not to see a problem.

Sheldon Richman - 1/8/2008

I am disturbed by the article because it shows a pattern over a long period. This is not good. The worst consequence is that thoughtful people who might have been attracted to the libertarian movement may be put off now. If you are going to praise David Duke for proposing tax cuts, you'd better make sure 1) that your newsletter hasn't repeatedly referred to blacks in a racist tone and 2) that you condemn Duke up-front for his racism and anti-Semitism.