Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Trouble with Ron

-- by Sara

Molly Ivins, God bless her big heart, warned us about Ron Paul over a decade ago. Her coverage of this 1996 Texas congressional races included this prescient precis:
Dallas' 5th District, East Texas' 2nd District and the amazing 14th District,which runs all over everywhere, are also in play. In the amazing 14th, Democrat Lefty Morris (his slogan is ''Lefty is Right!'') faces the Republican/Libertarian Ron Paul, who is himself so far right that he's sometimes left, as happens with your Libertarians. I think my favorite issue here is Paul's 1993 newsletter advising ''Frightened Americans'' on how to get their money out of the country. He advised that Peruvian citizenship could be purchased for a mere 25 grand. That we should all become Peruvians is one of the more innovative suggestions of this festive campaign season. But what will the Peruvians think of it?
Molly, with her usual insight, laid out the essential struggle we're having with Paul. As a libertarian leftist, I understand viscerally the charm of Paul's message. Who wouldn't be charmed? He's anti-war, anti-torture, anti-drug war, and anti-corporation -- a real progressive dream date. Until you reflect on the fact that he's also anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-environment, anti-sane immigration policy, and apparently, anti-separation of church and state as well:
The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs. Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion. The establishment clause of the First Amendment was simply intended to forbid the creation of an official state church like the Church of England, not to drive religion out of public life.

-- From a "War on Religion" article Ron Paul wrote in December 2003 (found at Lew
And that's the trouble we're having with Ron. There's just a whole lot going on under that affable exterior that deserves a hard second look before we clutch the man to our collective bosom. The political writers in Texas back in that '96 campaign knew quite a bit about this, and their writing survives to tell some interesting tales. Here, for example, is Clay Robison, writing in the Houston Chronicle the same week Molly wrote the above:
[Democratic candidate] Morris recently distributed copies of political newsletters written by Paul in 1992 in which the Surfside physician endorsed the concept of secession, defended cross burning as an act of free speech and expressed sympathy for a man sentenced to prison for bombing an IRS building.
Cross-burning as free speech? (And sympathy for domestic terrorist bombers?) Um, yeah. Two months later, the Austin American-Statesman let Paul share his views in his own words:
Not all officials express alarm when discussing cross burnings. U.S.Rep.-elect Ron Paul, a Texas Republican from Surfside, described such activity as a form of free speech in some situations.

"Cross burning could be a crime if they were violating somebody's property rights,'' he said during his campaign. But if you go out on your farm some place and it's on your property and you put two sticks together and you burn it, I am not going to send in the federal police."
See, here's that problem again. When Paul explains it, it sounds all nice and reasonable. What you do on your property absolutely should be your business, and nobody should be able to tell you what you can and can't put on your Saturday night bonfire. But Texas was having a huge upswing in cross-burnings that year, which were part of an (all-too-successful) effort to terrorize its African-American community. There's plenty of legal precedent that one person's right to free speech ends when it begins to terrorize others into silence -- and, because of this, cross-burning is recognized as a hate crime in many jurisdictions across the country. But Ron Paul, for all his libertarian talk, apparently doesn't believe in putting any restrictions on speech, even when it damages other individuals and the overall level of civil behavior in society.

And then there's the company he keeps. Dave is going to have more on this soon; but if you want to know someone's character, look at the people he surrounds himself with. (Most of us wish we'd understood more about Bush's friends before the 2000 election -- let's not repeat that mistake here.)

First, there's Tom DeLay. Paul may be loudly anti-corporate and anti-GOP establishment; but that didn't stop him from taking $6,000 from DeLay's ARMPAC. According to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Paul returned the favor by voting to weaken House ethics rules when DeLay proposed doing so as GOP Majority Leader; and to allow DeLay to continue to serve after an indictment. Since DeLay is easily the biggest corporate whore Washington has seen since Mark Hanna, we're not wrong to wonder about Paul's true enthusiasm for curbing corporate excess.

Then, there's the 100% legislative ranking Paul got from Cannabis Culture magazine -- a fact that lifts liberal spirits everywhere, and is very consistent with his libertarian views. But we shouldn't let that blind us to the fact that he also got 100% rankings from both the Christian Coalition and the John Birch Society -- two entities far more powerful and serious than Cannabis Culture,, and which actively wish ill on people like us. Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson actively helped midwife Paul's budding political career: according to the New York Times, his political teams were circulating campaign letters promoting Paul over Bush I as a presidential candidate all the way back in 1988.

More serious are the friends on the farthest right edges -- the tax patriots, "sovereign citizens," and proto-fascists who have supported him from the beginning and are supporting him still. It's been quite a while since the militia fever of the early 90s acquainted us all the permutations of these loony-right movements (if you can't tell the players without a scorecard, the ADL provides a very good one here); but commenter Hume's Ghost pointed us to this excellent summary:
Many commentators have portrayed the Patriot and militia movements as fascist. We believe it is more accurate to describe them as right-wing populist movements with important fascistic tendencies-thus they are quasifascist or protofascist. Like the America First movement of the early 1940s, the Patriot movement and the militias represented a large-scale convergence of committed fascists with nonfascist activists. Such coalitions enable fascists to gain new recruits, increase their legitimacy among millions of people, and repackage their doctrines for mass consumption.

Mary Rupert dubbed the Patriot movement "A Seedbed for Fascism" and suggested that the "major missing piece in looking at the Patriot Movement in relation to fascism is that it does not overtly advance an authoritarian scheme of government. In fact, its emphasis seems to be on protecting individual rights." According to Rupert, there are two "portents of possibility" that could shift this situation: "First is the below-the-surface disposition of the Patriot Movement towards authoritarianism, and second is the way in which Patrick Buchanan...picked up and played out the Patriots’ grievances." We would add that "individual rights," like states’ rights, can also be a cover for the sort of decentralized social totalitarianism promoted by the neofascists of the Posse Comitatus and Christian Reconstructionism -- both of which helped lay the groundwork for the Patriot movement itself.
This puts a new context around Paul's relationship with The Patriot Network, a South Carolina-based group that's part of the "tax resistance" movement. This crew threw a 2004 banquet in Ron Paul's honor, as I mentioned in an earlier post (their newsletter noted that "most of the state's leading nationalist figures attended,").

Groups like this one aren't just a bunch of Howard Jarvis-type disgruntled taxpayers. The Patriot Network, like others going all the way back to the Posse Comitatus of the 70s, coaches members on how to avoid taxes, bilking them of thousands of dollars by selling them "untax" packages that will enable them -- under their own bizarre theory of government -- to exempt themselves from taxation. These "untax" theories have been repeatedly refuted by the courts across the country over the past couple decades; and several leaders of previous organizations offering similar services have been convicted and jailed for tax fraud. As noted above, the Patriot movement overlaps strongly with a variety of Christian Identity, militia, "sovereign citizen," and other ideologies dear to the heart of the far-right domestic terrorist agenda.

Another site that's endorsed Paul is the Dixie Daily News, a neo-Confederate website full of articles on states' rights, gold-backed currency, and how the South was right all along. Paul writes for this site frequently -- as does his friend and former legislative aide Gary North, who is also R.J. Rushdooney's son-in-law and a leading light of the Christian Reconstructionist movement. At the moment, the headline at the site is promoting Ron Paul's appearance at the group's "FreedomFest" in Las Vegas next month.

If Paul is making public appearances for this group, we need to be asking: why is he running for office in a government he clearly doesn't believe in?

If you doubt that Paul has the support of our proto-fascists, don't take my word for it -- take theirs. This endorsement, for example, recently appeared on national KKK leader David Duke's website. And I'll let an anonymous commenter from Stormfront, the far right's favorite Web watering hole, have the final word:
Anyone who doesn't vote for Paul on this site is an assclown. Sure he doesn't come right out and say he is a WN [white nationalist], who cares! He promotes agendas and ideas that allow Nationalism to flourish. If we "get there" without having to raise hell, who cares; aslong as we finally get what we want. I don't understand why some people do not support this man, Hitler is dead, and we shall probably never see another man like him.

Pat Buchanan's book "Where the Right Went Wrong" is a prime example of getting the point across without having the book banned for anti semitism. The chapters about the war in Iraq sound like a BarMitzvah, but he doesn't have to put the Star of David next to each name for us to know what he means. We are running out of options at this point, and I will take someone is 90% with us versus any of the other choices.

Not to mention if Paul makes a serious run, he legitimizes White Nationalism and Stormfront, for God's sake David Duke is behind this guy!
Bill Maher and Jon Stewart may love the ratings Ron Paul brings in. But the growing pile of evidence is proving that Paul, for all his freedom-loving talk, is in the pocket of the very people this blog has spent the past four years warning about. His links to the murderous brownshirt fringe that brought us the Freemen standoff and the Oklahoma City bombing are too strong to be ignored.

If America ever becomes a fascist state, it will be Ron Paul's long-time followers who bring it about. And we -- progressives, miniorities, feminists, gays, "intellectuals," and Jews like Maher and Stewart -- with be the first ones to feel their genocidal rage. We cannot overlook his long association with far-right extremists just because he agrees with us that the war is wrong and pot should be legal. If Bush has taught us anything, it's that we need to hold ourselves and our candidates to much higher standards than that. What we choose to overlook now, we will live to regret later.

Valuable research assistance for this piece was provided by Hume's Ghost, librarian Dan Harms, and our commenters. -- SR

No comments: