Allen West – a man who, having served over 20 years in the military, and is now currently serving as one of the most outspoken voices of Conservatism in Congress, has certainly seen his share of enemy fire – said recently “You know, we have a saying in the military: You don’t receive flak unless you’re over the target.”
We have seen this play out in the 2012 GOP presidential primaries as well. Candidates who have been saddled with the bull’s-eye “front runner” have been hit with flak from the MSM, the Democratic Party and, of course, rival candidates, usually involving some position and action the candidate held years, or even decades ago;; and often we have seen these campaigns collapse because of it. We have seen it happen to Bachmann, Perry, and Cain; and Newt has seen his support halved by attacks by a constant barrage of negative ads being aired against him.
Ron Paul is no stranger to this truism. In fact, when it comes to firing upon his rivals, Ron Paul is the Red Baron. He has shown deftness at hitting his opponents with harsh criticisms. Paul has hit other frontrunners with attacks, such as calling Rick Perry, whose campaign was much more successful at the time, “Al Gore’s Texas cheerleader.” Paul has also said of Michele Bachmann “She hates Muslims. She wants to go get them.” (Obviously Paul isn’t above harsh but unfair criticisms as well.)
Paul also flooding Iowa with anti-Gingrich ads as well as even saying during one debate that Gingrich’s “influence peddling” for Freddie and Fannie set us upon a path to fascism : “He has a different definition of the private sector than I have, because it’s a GSE, a Government Sponsored Enterprise. It’s completely different. It’s a government agency…If it’s government-sponsored, it’s a mixture of business and government. It’s very, very dangerous. Some people say that if it goes to extreme, it becomes fascism, because Big Business and Big Government get together”.
Yet now, thanks largely to Iowan Democrats who relate strongly to Paul’s “bring them home” message, Ron Paul is finding himself to be a front-runner. According to the latest polls, he is leading in Iowa, or close to it. Paul is over the target, and he is taking flak.
Much of the incoming Paul is receiving is due to his publication of newsletters that many find offensive, racist, homophobic, and/or anti-Semitic. For example, one such newsletter claimed that homosexuals were planning to engage in a sort of mass donation of blood in order to infect the American blood supply with AIDS. Regarding Blacks, the newsletter urged its readers to “know how to use a gun in self-defense. For the animals are coming.” Paul – or the newsletter –called the end of apartheid in South Africa the “destruction of civilization.” Paul – or the newsletter – also claimed that the Mossad (which is sort of the Israeli version of the CIA) had ‘tens of thousands of well-placed friends of Israel in all countries who are willing for work for it,’ as well as speculated that the Mossad may have been responsible for the first World Trade Center attack.
In 1969 Kübler-Ross published On Death And Dying in which she chronicled the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Politicians caught in controversy usually go through similar stages.
The first stage is usually denial, whether its denying having sex with that woman, claiming one’s Twitter account was hacked, or saying that one simply has an extra wide stance in a men’s room stall. Barack Obama attempted to overcome his Jeremiah Wright problem by claiming he sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for 20 years – allowing Wright to marry him and Michelle, baptize their children, and consider Wright to be a family member – without ever hearing Wright make the sort of incendiary remarks.
Ron Paul’s embrace of denial in regard to the newsletter controversy has been grander than most, but still somewhat unfulfilling. He claims that he did not read and was unaware of what was being published in his newsletter, and does not even know who wrote them. Rarely has anyone made a more specious claim than that. The newsletters were eponymous. Paul was the publisher. The publishing company was M&M Graphics, run by Mark Elam, Ron Paul’s congressional campaign manager. Paul earned money from the newsletters, according to some reports as much as one million dollars a year. Members of Paul’s family worked for the newsletters. Paul is shown on video promoting his newsletters, telling his audience the sort of information he puts out in them. A solicitation letter that warned of the “Israeli lobby,” “the federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS,” and “the upcoming race war” has been re-released, featuring Ron Paul’s signature. And in 1996 Ron Paul admitted to writing at least some of the most controversial passages, such as saying that 95% of Black men in Washington, DC were “semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” Paul continues to ally himself with White Supremacist groups. One would have to work very hard to accept that Paul did not even read or write his newsletters.
Paul and especially his supporters has also often shown a willingness to show anger when confronted with the newsletter controversy, as evident by his recent CNN interview in which a journalist pressed him on the issue (though he did not storm out, as CNN tried to portray it). But this anger is more typically expressed as outrage that he would be considered a racist, as he believes he is incapable of racism: “Libertarians are incapable of being a racist because racism is a collectivist idea. You see people in group. A civil libertarian like myself see everybody as an important individual. It’s not the color of their skin that is important. As Martin Luther King said. What is important is the character of the people.”
This sounds great until one realizes the author of the following quote from one of Paul’s newsletters – whether it be Paul or some other person – is someone who considers himself or herself to be a libertarian: “I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” It seems as though the color of skin can be important to civil libertarians after all.
Paul also resorts to a crude form of bargaining to African Americans, essentially offering a bargain to Blacks that in return for their vote and their silence on the issues of racism he will reward them with a more coddling judicial system: “I am the antiracist because I am the only candidate, Republican or Democrat who were protect the minority against these vicious drug laws.” While we can hold a good debate on the benefits of drug legalization, it does seem odd and offensive that Paul would choose this issue, and not for example a more equitable educational system, to emphasize. Is the freeing of the Black drug criminal really the primary concern of the Black community?
The depression phase of a politician’s response to scandal is the most difficult to identify as it is usually the least likely to be displayed in the public eye. Typically however one can see it in the expression of the view that one has become a victim of a conspiracy, whether it be a “vast right-wing conspiracy” or conspiracy of some other sort. Paul clearly feels hounded by being asked repeatedly about the newsletters, blaming the continuing questions about them not on his unsatisfactory and sometimes contradictory responses but rather on an effort to get him: “Maybe this is part of the ‘knock down Ron Paul’ (effort) because he’s gaining grounds with the blacks. I’m getting more support right now, more votes from the blacks because they understand what I’m talking about and they trust me.”
As in Kubler-Ross’ model, the last phase of a politician’s response to scandal– acceptance – is the healthiest. It in this stage where the politician finally realizes that s/he has done or said things that are unacceptable to his/her electorate, and that s/he will not be able to make the issue just go away. Some do. President Clinton did. So did Barack Obama. But this requires the cooperation of the media and one’s party. Paul enjoys neither luxury.
This will ultimately be the most important thing Paul can do in response to Newsletter-gate if he is to be our next president. Reluctant and hesitant confessions under duress from Ron Paul that he ‘may have had some responsibility for what was being published in the Ron Paul newsletters’ and that he did write for the newsletters but ‘only the good parts’ are not enough. He has to move away from his specious disavowals of the regrettable portions written within the newsletters, admit to writing and being aware of what was being written by others – and say what many of his supporters have been longing to hear, that those views are no longer his.
Once we at AACONS interviewed Virginia’s George Allen, and Marie Stroughter confronted him about some of his past racial comments, including the allegations that he regularly used the word “nigger” while in college. Allen didn’t try to deny it or blame someone else for it. He instead spoke of his growth as a person since his youth, even quoting Muhammad Ali in saying “Anybody who looks at the world at age 50 the way they did at age 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
This is an approach Paul should mimic. While it is a good thing to say that Martin Luther King is your “personal hero”, as Paul has made a habit of doing recently, but without a confession that Paul approved a characterization of King in his newsletter as a “pedophile”, Paul’s praise of King rings hollow, regardless of how much support Paul claims he is getting from “the blacks”.
Paul must also acknowledge the support his campaign receives from KKK, Neo-Nazi, and White Supremacist groups, and firmly denounce them. Paul is not a member or supporter of any of these groups, but they are inspired by Paul’s rhetoric, particularly his stance on Israel, which, according to attendees of the last CPAC, led to swarms of Paul supporters to, quoting David Horowitz, “vent their spleen against Israel as a Nazi state”, simply saying ‘these people support my ideas, I do not support theirs’ does not go far enough, especially when he continues to accept their campaign donations. One example of this sort of Paul supporter is Jules Manson, who claims that “Ron Paul is my god” and adds of our president that we should “assassinate that nigger and his family of monkeys.” Other Ron Paul supporters include Don Black of the American Nazi Party, former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke (whose gubernatorial race was endorsed by one of Paul’s newsletters), and, of course, Lew Rockwell, the supposed author of many of the newsletters.
Paul’s weaknesses are his views on foreign policy, which many see as isolationist and naïve, and, I would argue, his character, as revealed by both his newsletters and his inability to accept his role in the publication of those newsletters. His strength is his ability to articulate the libertarian arguments on issues on our ever increasing and ever encroaching size of the government. Though Paul has become synonymous with the libertarian movement, the movement could and would survive on the power of its ideas, without such a shady figurehead whose flaws would ultimately endanger the success of both the Libertarian and Conservative movement. Hopefully Ron Paul will soon falter from his current high perch and will allow other, more worthy speakers to succeed him as a spokesman for Libertarianism; perhaps it will be Paul’s son, Rand. Until that day, libertarians of conscience should look for others who would better lead this country in a better direction, and many are undoubtedly already doing so.
To that last point, let me point out that one of the premier libertarian intellects alive today is Dr. Thomas Sowell. Recently, Dr. Sowell has endorsed Newt Gingrich.