Angry White Man: The Bigoted Past of Ron Paul
James Kirchick, The new Republic, january 8, 2007 http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=e2f15397-a3c7-4720-ac15-4532a7da84ca
If you are a critic of the Bush administration, chances are that, at
some point over the past six months, Ron Paul has said something that
appealed to you. Paul describes himself as a libertarian, but, since
his presidential campaign took off earlier this year, the Republican
congressman has attracted donations and plaudits from across the
ideological spectrum. Antiwar conservatives, disaffected centrists,
even young liberal activists have all flocked to Paul, hailing him as
a throwback to an earlier age, when politicians were less
mealy-mouthed and American government was more modest in its
ambitions, both at home and abroad. In The New York Times Magazine,
conservative writer Christopher Caldwell gushed that Paul is a
"formidable stander on constitutional principle," while The Nation
praised "his full-throated rejection of the imperial project in Iraq."
Former TNR editor Andrew Sullivan endorsed Paul for the GOP
nomination, and ABC's Jake Tapper described the candidate as "the one
true straight-talker in this race." Even The Wall Street Journal, the
newspaper of the elite bankers whom Paul detests, recently advised
other Republican presidential contenders not to "dismiss the passion
Most voters had never heard of Paul before he launched his quixotic
bid for the Republican nomination. But the Texan has been active in
politics for decades. And, long before he was the darling of antiwar
activists on the left and right, Paul was in the newsletter business.
In the age before blogs, newsletters occupied a prominent place in
right-wing political discourse. With the pages of mainstream political
magazines typically off-limits to their views (National Review editor
William F. Buckley having famously denounced the John Birch Society),
hardline conservatives resorted to putting out their own, less glossy
publications. These were often paranoid and rambling--dominated by
talk of international banking conspiracies, the Trilateral
Commission's plans for world government, and warnings about coming
Armageddon--but some of them had wide and devoted audiences. And a few
of the most prominent bore the name of Ron Paul.
Paul's newsletters have carried different titles over the years--Ron
Paul's Freedom Report, Ron Paul Political Report, The Ron Paul
Survival Report--but they generally seem to have been published on a
monthly basis since at least 1978. (Paul, an OB-GYN and former U.S.
Air Force surgeon, was first elected to Congress in 1976.) During some
periods, the newsletters were published by the Foundation for Rational
Economics and Education, a nonprofit Paul founded in 1976; at other
times, they were published by Ron Paul & Associates, a now-defunct
entity in which Paul owned a minority stake, according to his campaign
spokesman. The Freedom Report claimed to have over 100,000 readers in
1984. At one point, Ron Paul & Associates also put out a monthly
publication called The Ron Paul Investment Letter.
The Freedom Report's online archives only go back to 1999, but I was
curious to see older editions of Paul's newsletters, in part because
of a controversy dating to 1996, when Charles "Lefty" Morris, a
Democrat running against Paul for a House seat, released excerpts
stating that "opinion polls consistently show only about 5% of blacks
have sensible political opinions," that "if you have ever been robbed
by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they
can be," and that black representative Barbara Jordan is "the
archetypical half-educated victimologist" whose "race and sex protect
her from criticism." At the time, Paul's campaign said that Morris had
quoted the newsletter out of context. Later, in 2001, Paul would claim
that someone else had written the controversial passages. (Few of the
newsletters contain actual bylines.) Caldwell, writing in the Times
Magazine last year, said he found Paul's explanation believable,
"since the style diverges widely from his own."
Finding the pre-1999 newsletters was no easy task, but I was able to
track many of them down at the libraries of the University of Kansas
and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Of course, with few bylines, it
is difficult to know whether any particular article was written by
Paul himself. Some of the earlier newsletters are signed by him,
though the vast majority of the editions I saw contain no bylines at
all. Complicating matters, many of the unbylined newsletters were
written in the first person, implying that Paul was the author.
But, whoever actually wrote them, the newsletters I saw all had one
thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul's
name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter
that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create
the impression that they were written by him--and reflected his views.
What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies,
sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry
against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul
is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they
are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the
oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.
To understand Paul's philosophy, the best place to start is probably
the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a libertarian think tank based in
Auburn, Alabama. The institute is named for a libertarian Austrian
economist, but it was founded by a man named Lew Rockwell, who also
served as Paul's congressional chief of staff from 1978 to 1982. Paul
has had a long and prominent association with the institute, teaching
at its seminars and serving as a "distinguished counselor." The
institute has also published his books.
The politics of the organization are complicated--its philosophy
derives largely from the work of the late Murray Rothbard, a
Bronx-born son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and a self-described
"anarcho-capitalist" who viewed the state as nothing more than "a
criminal gang"--but one aspect of the institute's worldview stands out
as particularly disturbing: its attachment to the Confederacy. Thomas
E. Woods Jr., a member of the institute's senior faculty, is a founder
of the League of the South, a secessionist group, and the author of
The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, a
pro-Confederate, revisionist tract published in 2004. Paul
enthusiastically blurbed Woods's book, saying that it "heroically
rescues real history from the politically correct memory hole." Thomas
DiLorenzo, another senior faculty member and author of The Real
Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary
War, refers to the Civil War as the "War for Southern Independence"
and attacks "Lincoln cultists"; Paul endorsed the book on MSNBC last
month in a debate over whether the Civil War was necessary (Paul
thinks it was not). In April 1995, the institute hosted a conference
on secession at which Paul spoke; previewing the event, Rockwell wrote
to supporters, "We'll explore what causes [secession] and how to
promote it." Paul's newsletters have themselves repeatedly expressed
sympathy for the general concept of secession. In 1992, for instance,
the Survival Report argued that "the right of secession should be
ingrained in a free society" and that "there is nothing wrong with
loosely banding together small units of government. With the
disintegration of the Soviet Union, we too should consider it."
The people surrounding the von Mises Institute--including Paul--may
describe themselves as libertarians, but they are nothing like the
urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute or the libertines at
Reason magazine. Instead, they represent a strain of right-wing
libertarianism that views the Civil War as a catastrophic turning
point in American history--the moment when a tyrannical federal
government established its supremacy over the states. As one prominent
Washington libertarian told me, "There are too many libertarians in
this country ... who, because they are attracted to the great books of
Mises, ... find their way to the Mises Institute and then are told
that a defense of the Confederacy is part of libertarian thought."
Paul's alliance with neo-Confederates helps explain the views his
newsletters have long espoused on race. Take, for instance, a special
issue of the Ron Paul Political Report, published in June 1992,
dedicated to explaining the Los Angeles riots of that year. "Order was
only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up
their welfare checks three days after rioting began," read one typical
passage. According to the newsletter, the looting was a natural
byproduct of government indulging the black community with "'civil
rights,' quotas, mandated hiring preferences, set-asides for
government contracts, gerrymandered voting districts, black
bureaucracies, black mayors, black curricula in schools, black tv
shows, black tv anchors, hate crime laws, and public humiliation for
anyone who dares question the black agenda." It also denounced "the
media" for believing that "America's number one need is an unlimited
white checking account for underclass blacks." To be fair, the
newsletter did praise Asian merchants in Los Angeles, but only because
they had the gumption to resist political correctness and fight back.
Koreans were "the only people to act like real Americans," it
explained, "mainly because they have not yet been assimilated into our
rotten liberal culture, which admonishes whites faced by raging blacks
to lie back and think of England."
This "Special Issue on Racial Terrorism" was hardly the first time one
of Paul's publications had raised these topics. As early as December
1989, a section of his Investment Letter, titled "What To Expect for
the 1990s," predicted that "Racial Violence Will Fill Our Cities"
because "mostly black welfare recipients will feel justified in
stealing from mostly white 'haves.'" Two months later, a newsletter
warned of "The Coming Race War," and, in November 1990, an item
advised readers, "If you live in a major city, and can leave, do so.
If not, but you can have a rural retreat, for investment and refuge,
buy it." In June 1991, an entry on racial disturbances in Washington,
DC's Adams Morgan neighborhood was titled, "Animals Take Over the D.C.
Zoo." "This is only the first skirmish in the race war of the 1990s,"
the newsletter predicted. In an October 1992 item about urban crime,
the newsletter's author--presumably Paul--wrote, "I've urged everyone
in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals
are coming." That same year, a newsletter described the aftermath of a
basketball game in which "blacks poured into the streets of Chicago in
celebration. How to celebrate? How else? They broke the windows of
stores to loot." The newsletter inveighed against liberals who "want
to keep white America from taking action against black crime and
welfare," adding, "Jury verdicts, basketball games, and even music are
enough to set off black rage, it seems."
Such views on race also inflected the newsletters' commentary on
foreign affairs. South Africa's transition to multiracial democracy
was portrayed as a "destruction of civilization" that was "the most
tragic [to] ever occur on that continent, at least below the Sahara";
and, in March 1994, a month before Nelson Mandela was elected
president, one item warned of an impending "South African Holocaust."
Martin Luther King Jr. earned special ire from Paul's newsletters,
which attacked the civil rights leader frequently, often to justify
opposition to the federal holiday named after him. ("What an infamy
Ronald Reagan approved it!" one newsletter complained in 1990. "We can
thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.") In the early 1990s, a
newsletter attacked the "X-Rated Martin Luther King" as a "world-class
philanderer who beat up his paramours," "seduced underage girls and
boys," and "made a pass at" fellow civil rights leader Ralph
Abernathy. One newsletter ridiculed black activists who wanted to
rename New York City after King, suggesting that "Welfaria,"
"Zooville," "Rapetown," "Dirtburg," and "Lazyopolis" were better
alternatives. The same year, King was described as "a comsymp, if not
an actual party member, and the man who replaced the evil of forced
segregation with the evil of forced integration."
While bashing King, the newsletters had kind words for the former
Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke. In a passage titled
"The Duke's Victory," a newsletter celebrated Duke's 44 percent
showing in the 1990 Louisiana Senate primary. "Duke lost the
election," it said, "but he scared the blazes out of the
Establishment." In 1991, a newsletter asked, "Is David Duke's new
prominence, despite his losing the gubernatorial election, good for
anti-big government forces?" The conclusion was that "our priority
should be to take the anti-government, anti-tax, anti-crime,
anti-welfare loafers, anti-race privilege, anti-foreign meddling
message of Duke, and enclose it in a more consistent package of
freedom." Duke is now returning the favor, telling me that, while he
will not formally endorse any candidate, he has made information about
Ron Paul available on his website.
Like blacks, gays earn plenty of animus in Paul's newsletters. They
frequently quoted Paul's "old colleague," Representative William
Dannemeyer--who advocated quarantining people with AIDS--praising him
for "speak[ing] out fearlessly despite the organized power of the gay
lobby." In 1990, one newsletter mentioned a reporter from a gay
magazine "who certainly had an axe to grind, and that's not easy with
a limp wrist." In an item titled, "The Pink House?" the author of a
newsletter--again, presumably Paul--complained about President George
H.W. Bush's decision to sign a hate crimes bill and invite "the heads
of homosexual lobbying groups to the White House for the ceremony,"
adding, "I miss the closet." "Homosexuals," it said, "not to speak of
the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced
them to hide their activities." When Marvin Liebman, a founder of the
conservative Young Americans for Freedom and a longtime political
activist, announced that he was gay in the pages of National Review, a
Paul newsletter implored, "Bring Back the Closet!" Surprisingly, one
item expressed ambivalence about the contentious issue of gays in the
military, but ultimately concluded, "Homosexuals, if admitted, should
be put in a special category and not allowed in close physical contact
The newsletters were particularly obsessed with AIDS, "a politically
protected disease thanks to payola and the influence of the homosexual
lobby," and used it as a rhetorical club to beat gay people in
general. In 1990, one newsletter approvingly quoted "a well-known
Libertarian editor" as saying, "The ACT-UP slogan, on stickers
plastered all over Manhattan, is 'Silence = Death.' But shouldn't it
be 'Sodomy = Death'?" Readers were warned to avoid blood transfusions
because gays were trying to "poison the blood supply." "Am I the only
one sick of hearing about the 'rights' of AIDS carriers?" a newsletter
asked in 1990. That same year, citing a Christian-right fringe
publication, an item suggested that "the AIDS patient" should not be
allowed to eat in restaurants and that "AIDS can be transmitted by
saliva," which is false. Paul's newsletters advertised a book,
Surviving the AIDS Plague--also based upon the casual-transmission
thesis--and defended "parents who worry about sending their healthy
kids to school with AIDS victims." Commenting on a rise in AIDS
infections, one newsletter said that "gays in San Francisco do not
obey the dictates of good sense," adding: "[T]hese men don't really
see a reason to live past their fifties. They are not married, they
have no children, and their lives are centered on new sexual
partners." Also, "they enjoy the attention and pity that comes with
The rhetoric when it came to Jews was little better. The newsletters
display an obsession with Israel; no other country is mentioned more
often in the editions I saw, or with more vitriol. A 1987 issue of
Paul's Investment Letter called Israel "an aggressive, national
socialist state," and a 1990 newsletter discussed the "tens of
thousands of well-placed friends of Israel in all countries who are
willing to wok [sic] for the Mossad in their area of expertise." Of
the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, a newsletter said, "Whether it
was a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine
suspects, or was truly a retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists,
Paul's newsletters didn't just contain bigotry. They also contained
paranoia--specifically, the brand of anti-government paranoia that
festered among right-wing militia groups during the 1980s and '90s.
Indeed, the newsletters seemed to hint that armed revolution against
the federal government would be justified. In January 1995, three
months before right-wing militants bombed the Murrah Federal Building
in Oklahoma City, a newsletter listed "Ten Militia Commandments,"
describing "the 1,500 local militias now training to defend liberty"
as "one of the most encouraging developments in America." It warned
militia members that they were "possibly under BATF [Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] or other totalitarian federal
surveillance" and printed bits of advice from the Sons of Liberty, an
anti-government militia based in Alabama--among them, "You can't kill
a Hydra by cutting off its head," "Keep the group size down," "Keep
quiet and you're harder to find," "Leave no clues," "Avoid the phone
as much as possible," and "Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they
mean to have a war, let it begin here."
The newsletters are chock-full of shopworn conspiracies, reflecting
Paul's obsession with the "industrial-banking-political elite" and
promoting his distrust of a federally regulated monetary system
utilizing paper bills. They contain frequent and bristling references
to the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, and the Council on
Foreign Relations--organizations that conspiracy theorists have long
accused of seeking world domination. In 1978, a newsletter blamed
David Rockefeller, the Trilateral Commission, and "fascist-oriented,
international banking and business interests" for the Panama Canal
Treaty, which it called "one of the saddest events in the history of
the United States." A 1988 newsletter cited a doctor who believed that
AIDS was created in a World Health Organization laboratory in Fort
Detrick, Maryland. In addition, Ron Paul & Associates sold a video
about Waco produced by "patriotic Indiana lawyer Linda Thompson"--as
one of the newsletters called her--who maintained that Waco was a
conspiracy to kill ATF agents who had previously worked for President
Clinton as bodyguards. As with many of the more outlandish theories
the newsletters cited over the years, the video received a qualified
endorsement: "I can't vouch for every single judgment by the narrator,
but the film does show the depths of government perfidy, and the
national police's tricks and crimes," the newsletter said, adding,
"Send your check for $24.95 to our Houston office, or charge the tape
to your credit card at 1-800-RON-PAUL."
When I asked Jesse Benton, Paul's campaign spokesman, about the
newsletters, he said that, over the years, Paul had granted "various
levels of approval" to what appeared in his publications--ranging from
"no approval" to instances where he "actually wrote it himself." After
I read Benton some of the more offensive passages, he said, "A lot of
[the newsletters] he did not see. Most of the incendiary stuff, no."
He added that he was surprised to hear about the insults hurled at
Martin Luther King, because "Ron thinks Martin Luther King is a hero."
In other words, Paul's campaign wants to depict its candidate as a
naïve, absentee overseer, with minimal knowledge of what his
underlings were doing on his behalf. This portrayal might be more
believable if extremist views had cropped up in the newsletters only
sporadically--or if the newsletters had just been published for a
short time. But it is difficult to imagine how Paul could allow
material consistently saturated in racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism,
and conspiracy-mongering to be printed under his name for so long if
he did not share these views. In that respect, whether or not Paul
personally wrote the most offensive passages is almost beside the
point. If he disagreed with what was being written under his name, you
would think that at some point--over the course of decades--he would
have done something about it.
What's more, Paul's connections to extremism go beyond the
newsletters. He has given extensive interviews to the magazine of the
John Birch Society, and has frequently been a guest of Alex Jones, a
radio host and perhaps the most famous conspiracy theorist in America.
Jones--whose recent documentary, Endgame: Blueprint for Global
Enslavement, details the plans of George Pataki, David Rockefeller,
and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, among others, to exterminate
most of humanity and develop themselves into "superhuman" computer
hybrids able to "travel throughout the cosmos"--estimates that Paul
has appeared on his radio program about 40 times over the past twelve
Then there is Gary North, who has worked on Paul's congressional
staff. North is a central figure in Christian Reconstructionism, which
advocates the implementation of Biblical law in modern society.
Christian Reconstructionists share common ground with libertarians,
since both groups dislike the central government. North has advocated
the execution of women who have abortions and people who curse their
parents. In a 1986 book, North argued for stoning as a form of capital
punishment--because "the implements of execution are available to
everyone at virtually no cost." North is perhaps best known for Gary
North's Remnant Review, a "Christian and pro free-market" newsletter.
In a 1983 letter Paul wrote on behalf of an organization called the
Committee to Stop the Bail-Out of Multinational Banks (known by the
acronym CSBOMB), he bragged, "Perhaps you already read in Gary North's
Remnant Review about my exposes of government abuse."
Ron Paul is not going to be president. But, as his campaign has
gathered steam, he has found himself increasingly permitted inside the
boundaries of respectable debate. He sat for an extensive interview
with Tim Russert recently. He has raised almost $20 million in just
three months, much of it online. And he received nearly three times as
many votes as erstwhile front-runner Rudy Giuliani in last week's Iowa
caucus. All the while he has generally been portrayed by the media as
principled and serious, while garnering praise for being a
From his newsletters, however, a different picture of Paul
emerges--that of someone who is either himself deeply embittered or,
for a long time, allowed others to write bitterly on his behalf. His
adversaries are often described in harsh terms: Barbara Jordan is
called "Barbara Morondon," Eleanor Holmes Norton is a "black pinko,"
Donna Shalala is a "short lesbian," Ron Brown is a "racial
victimologist," and Roberta Achtenberg, the first openly gay public
official confirmed by the United States Senate, is a "far-left,
normal-hating lesbian activist." Maybe such outbursts mean Ron Paul
really is a straight-talker. Or maybe they just mean he is a man
filled with hate.
--James Kirchick is an assistant editor at The New Republic.
"I want justice...There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that
said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive,'"
- G.W. Bush, 9/17/01, UPI
"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care.
It's not that important. It's not our priority."
- G.W. Bush, 3/13/02
Pay your taxes so the rich don't have to.
For the best in liberal/leftist commentary, visit www.zeppscommentaries.com