Ron Paul did rather poorly in yesterday's New Hampshire primary. He barely matched hist poll results. In Iowa, which is much less fertile ground for Paul and his views, he got nearly double what the polls predicted. The campaign blog blames an article in the New Republic on the newsletters that were published in Paul's name in the '90s containing racist content and the like. The blog links to Paul's issue page against racism and a campaign press release to clarify the campaign's positions on the subject.
When I first read the campaign's response, not having seen the New Republic article, I was quite satisfied with it. I was glad that the campaign had addressed the issue and clarified Paul's stance, and I was fairly impressed with the press release. Here is an excerpt from Paul's statement:
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.’
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 publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.
Unfortunately for those of us who have supported Paul, the earlier reports don't seem to have communicated the full scope of the problem. In comments to my previous post, Jeremy points to analysis at the Volokh Conspiracy which links to the article itself. For those of you who, like me, are libertarians and skeptical of political correctness, read the whole article. In a few places, the author's quotations do not fully justify his claims, and he occasionally jumps to conclusions or leaves out important information (for instance, the author fails to state that when, on Meet the Press, Ron Paul recently said he opposed Lincoln should not have gone to war, Paul was quite clear that he believed slavery could have been ended peacefully; whether he is factually right or wrong, such a view is not racist or pro-slavery). Nevertheless, in the context of all the provided quotations, most of the author's conclusions are quite justified.
In short, the quotations from Paul's newsletters are horrible, hateful, and offensive, and they took place not in a single letter but over the course of several years (the author states that they went on for "decades" but unless you count negative remarks about the government of Israel in 1987, all of the racist quotations in the provided selections are between 1990 and 1994 - the Salman Rushdie article is a red herring). In this context, Paul's explanation and semi-apology ring hollow, to say the least.
On the other hand, nothing of this sort has come directly from Paul's own mouth, as far as we know, and the statements that have come from his own mouth don't appear ad hoc - they fit very neatly with his overall political theory. He says on the previously mentioned issue page that "Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than as individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike: as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups." This is exactly the sort of statement we would expect someone like Paul, an adamant individualist, to say. Racism would be inconsistent with the rest of his positions (well, except perhaps his position on immigration, which also troubles me).
This leads me to suppose that his explanation is at least more or less true. During the period in question, Paul probably thought of himself as retired from politics (it wouldn't surprise me if he was frustrated and apathetic during this time, which was shortly after his unsuccessful 1988 Libertarian presidential run), but some fellow libertarians (or so he thought) wanted to use his name to promote libertarian political views so he told them they could go ahead, and then didn't pay any more attention. This turned out to be a big mistake, as the management turned out not to be so trustworthy as he thought.
Now, if this narrative is correct, there is still more explaining to do. As some Volokh Conspiracy readers asked, why were there no lawsuits? Why is there not documentation of Paul demanding that these people to stop printing this hate-filled garbage in his name? Well, one plausible answer to these two questions is simply that Paul felt that he was responsible for having trusted them with his name, and shouldn't complain in court or demand damages for his own failure of oversight.
This, however, only plays further into the biggest problem. If Paul really does accept "moral responsibility" for the propagation of hatred and bigotry that took place in his name, then why has he not made a real apology? You would expect a person of firm morals and high ideals - as Paul has appeared to be during his time in Congress and his presidential campaign - to be horrified to discover that his own negligence had led to this sort of thing. Granted, it happened a long time ago, and for Paul himself the shock has probably long-since worn off, but if he's been taking responsibility for "decades," where is the record of his initial response when he first discovered what had happened? Ron Paul will not receive my primary election vote unless, between now and Washington's primary, he can produce a more complete explanation and a convincing, sincere, heart-felt apology. He must provide details which corroborate his claim not to have been aware of what was happening, and he must show that he is truly grieved by the hatred propagated in his name.Posted by Kenny at January 9, 2008 7:42 PM
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