Ron Paul seems to be the man of the hour -- the real winner of the GOP debates to date, the darling of Americans on both sides of the bar who prefer their political talk straight-up and undiluted.
He's everywhere, it seems. I haven't read a comments thread in the past two days that didn't include at least one or two people making passionate statements of undying affection for the man. More surprising, I was on the table last week at my physical therapist's office (finally getting a two-year-old knee injury put right) here in Vancouver -- and even he couldn't stop asking questions about him. "He's all my progressive friends talk about. What can you tell me?"
When a minor American political figure even gets Canadians talking, he's definitely not minor any more.
What I can tell you -- what all of us need to know before we run out and sign on for a summer of Ron Paul Love Feasts -- is that Paul has some long-standing ties to early-90s Patriot groups -- and some ugly attitudes on race and equality -- that should give us all long and serious pause. Diarist phenry at Daily Kos lays out the particulars here and here.
According to phenry, Paul's newsletter, The Ron Paul Political Report (renamed The Ron Paul Survival Report in 1993, in a bid to pander to the militia audience that was peaking that year) was a Patriot movement must-read, full of helpful advice on tax protest, gold-backed currency, urban race war and other pet legal and social theories of the extremist right. While content is very hard to come by now (Paul has scrubbed much of what was on the Web, and refuses to release the newsletter to the media), phenry dug up a few choice samples, including:
* A 1992 screed on African-American"racial terrorism" in Los Angeles, in which Paul insists 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."
* Another 1992 article, this one asserting that "complex embezzling" is "100% white and Asian;" and noting that young black male muggers are "unbelievably fleet-footed."
* A Houston Chronicle citation from 1996, in which he asserts that Barbara Jordan was a "fraud." Paul wrote: "Everything from her imitation British accent, to her supposed expertise in law, to her distinguished career in public service, is made up. If there were ever a modern case of the empress without clothes, this is it. She is the archetypical half-educated victimologist, yet her race and sex protect her from criticism."
In the second post, phenry outlines Paul's connections to various white supremacists groups. In 1996, Paul was one of only two candidates endorsed by Christian Identity leader Larry Pratt (who had previously worked with David Duke, and resigned from Pat Buchanan's team when his Identity role became public). Paul refused to repudiate the endorsement; and Pratt has stepped forward again with a quasi-endorsement of Paul's current campaign.
Through the 90s, Paul was also a regular on the far-right talk circuit. He spoke to Texas secessionists in 1995 on the "once and future Republic of Texas"; has appeared on a radio program affiliated with the Council of Conservative Citizens; and is a frequent speaker at John Birch Society functions -- the group has given him a perfect 100 in its legislative rankings. These days, those who monitor CCC, David Duke, and Stormfront say they can't get enough of him. They know he's one of their own.
Those of us who are interested in getting to a sane and functional immigration policy should also reflect on the fact that he stands right next to Tom Tancredo on that issue.
Which brings us to the Big Question: How can someone who's been such a darling of the extremist right for over 20 years now become the Next Big Thing on the left as well?
Straight talk is powerful. Americans are addicted to it -- and, too often, addled by it. We've seen this before with Ross Perot and John McCain, two other right-wing candidates who charmed us with their apparent penchant for telling us uncomfortable but necessary truths. (And to give the man his due: pointing out that 9/11 was the inevitable outcome of decades of monstrous US foreign policy was a very necessary truth.)
But -- as we learned the hard way on both those earlier occasions -- just because someone can cut through the political drivel and speak with some clarity now and again, it doesn't mean they're someone we should dump our principles and better judgment out the window for, and rush right out and follow. The fact is that Ron Paul has built a political career pandering to the far fringes of the proto-fascist right. There's twenty-plus years of documentary evidence that he does not believe in democracy as we progressives understand it. No amount of disarming straight talk should blind us to that core fact.
Update: Several apologists note that Paul now claims that the newsletter was written by a ghostwriter -- as though this somehow absolves him of responsibility for over a decade of hate speech.
This argument, all on its own, should be enough to disabuse anyone of the idea that Paul is a "straight talker." The newsletter went out under his name. If he didn't read the copy first, he should have. He owns the words in it -- either because he wrote them, or he bought and paid for them to be written for his own purposes. To claim now that he's somehow not responsible is like a politician saying, "That thing I said? I don't really believe it -- it's just something my speechwriter cooked up." Or a businessman claiming he's not party to a contract because his lawyer, acting as his agent, signed it for him.
Either argument would be laughed out of court. Paul deserves to be laughed off the public stage: either he means what he says, or he doesn't.
You may think you like what you see today. But, given what we already know, it may be wise to do your homework before you decide this man is worthy to hold power in America. And the media needs to be asking serious questions about his past, probing him to see if he's still committed to bringing about that New World Order he spent so much of his early career promoting.
Update II: Commenter Hume's Ghost provides this link demonstrating Ron Paul's more recent Patriot connections. I've replaced the image at the top of this post with the 2004 photo of Paul with Dr. Ron Clarkson of The Patriot Network. The caption on this photo pretty much says it all:
AS many of you know, Congressman Ron Paul from Texas is one of the most conservative members of Congress and very sympathetic to the patriot's cause. Here we find Dr Robert Clarkson with Congressman Ron Paul in Columbia, SC at Libertarian-Patriot Banquet on April 2, 2004.Yes, sir. Paul's their boy.