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Maybe it's finally time to read those Ron Paul newsletters

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Paul has said that he didn't write part of the bigoted newsletters sent out under his name, but he hasn't said which parts, or who wrote them.

Ron Paul's history of publishing racist, homophobic and conspiratorial newsletters didn't seem to hurt him in the Iowa caucuses, where he surged from the back of the polls to finish in the top three among Republican candidates for president.

Have you read the Paul newsletters? The singer Kelly Clarkson hadn't read them until after she endorsed Paul and some of her fans on Twitter pointed them out to her. Perhaps that's one sign that that public awareness remains low even while some may consider the newsletters "old news."

The largest news organizations arrived late on this story, mostly ignoring it when the newsletters were described in detail in 2008. The story was "rediscovered" around the Christmas holiday as Paul rose in the Iowa opinion polls.

Slate reporter Dave Weigel, who has covered the story for years, summarized this phenomenon derisively as "Ron Paul and extremism: Discover it again, for the first time."

Below are links to the available newsletters and the main coverage, principally in the libertarian magazine Reason, the liberal magazine The New Republic, and Slate. Others have chimed in recently, but these are the essential reading if you want to know what's in the newsletters and how the story has developed.

A few questions for discussion: Have you taken the time to read the newsletter issues that are available? Do they affect your views of Paul? If you're a Paul supporter, how do you factor them into your thinking? Is it sufficient to say, I disavow the parts that you don't like, without explaining why they were sent out under his name, which parts he wrote, and who wrote the rest?


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Stories by Jamie Kirchick
Jamie Kirchick has led the coverage. Although some of the newsletters had been quoted previously by a Democratic congressional candidate opposing Paul in Texas, he tracked down nearly a full set in archives of extremist literature at the University of Kansas and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Not all of those have been published still. Here are links to his coverage, from oldest to newest:

Angry White Man: The bigoted past of Ron Paul, James Kirchick, The New Republic, Jan. 8, 2008

"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."

Copies of the Ron Paul newsletters, via The New Republic, Jan. 8, 2008

Selections from Ron Paul newsletters, The New Republic, Jan. 8, 2008

More selections from Ron Paul newsletters, The New Republic, Jan. 14, 2008

A collection of Ron Paul's most incendiary newsletters, The New Republic, Dec. 23, 2011

Examples:

A Special Issue on Racial Terrorism” analyzes the Los Angeles riots of 1992: “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. ... What if the checks had never arrived? No doubt the blacks would have fully privatized the welfare state through continued looting. But they were paid off and the violence subsided.

The June 1990 issue of the Political Report says: “I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities.”

In an undated solicitation letter for The Ron Paul Investment Letter and the Ron Paul Political Report, Paul writes: "I've been told not to talk, but these stooges don't scare me. Threats or no threats, I've laid bare the coming race war in our big cities. The federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS (my training as a physician helps me see through this one.) The Bohemian Grove--perverted, pagan playground of the powerful. Skull & Bones: the demonic fraternity that includes George Bush and leftist Senator John Kerry, Congress's Mr. New Money. The Israeli lobby, which plays Congress like a cheap harmonica."

Why don't Libertarians care about Paul's bigoted newsletters?, James Kirchick, The New Republic, Dec. 22, 2011

It’s not simply that Paul’s supporters are ignoring the manifest evidence of his moral failings. More fundamentally, their very awareness of such failings is crowded out by the atmosphere of outright fervor that pervades Paul’s candidacy. This is not the fervor of a healthy body politic—this is a less savory type of political devotion, one that escapes the bounds of sober reasoning. Indeed, Paul’s absolutist notion of libertarian rigor has always been coupled with an attraction to fantasies of political apocalypse.

The company Ron Paul keeps, James Kirchick, The Weekly Standard, Dec. 26, 2011

This sordid history would not bear repeating but for the fact that the media love to portray Paul as a truth-telling, antiwar Republican standing up to the “hawkish” conservative establishment. Otherwise, the newsletters, and Paul’s continued failure to name their author, would be mentioned in every story about him, and he would be relegated to the fringe where he belongs. But Paul has escaped the sort of media scrutiny that would bury other political figures

Ron Paul's world, James Kirchick, op-ed piece, The New York Times, Dec. 29, 2011

Of course, it is impossible to know what Ron Paul truly thinks about black or gay people or the other groups so viciously disparaged in his newsletters. What we do know with absolute certainty, however, is that Ron Paul is a paranoid conspiracy theorist who regularly imputes the worst possible motives to the very government he wants to lead.

Stories by Dave Weigel
Dave Weigel has advanced the story repeatedly, first in the libertarian magazine Reason in 2008, and then in articles on Slate.

Who wrote Ron Paul's newsletters?, Julian Sanchez and David Weigel, Reason.com, Jan. 16, 2008

The most detailed description of the strategy came in an essay Rothbard wrote for the January 1992 Rothbard-Rockwell Report, titled "Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement." Lamenting that mainstream intellectuals and opinion leaders were too invested in the status quo to be brought around to a libertarian view, Rothbard pointed to David Duke and Joseph McCarthy as models for an "Outreach to the Rednecks," which would fashion a broad libertarian/paleoconservative coalition by targeting the disaffected working and middle classes.

What if he wins? Imagining a Ron Paul victory in Iowa, Dave Weigel, Slate, Dec. 19, 2011

If Paul wins Iowa, that stops. The conservative press, which has been bored but hostile to Paul all year (just see the National Review’s cover story), will remind its readers that Paul wants to legalize prostitution and narcotics, end aid to Israel (as part of a general no-aid-for-anyone policy), and end unconstitutional programs like Medicare and social security. The liberal press will discover that he’s a John Birch Society supporter who for years published lucrative newsletters studded with racist gunk. In 2008, when the media didn’t take him seriously, Paul was able to get past the newsletter story with a soft-gummed Wolf Blitzer interview. (“Certainly didn't sound like the Ron Paul that I've come to know and our viewers have come to know all this time,” said Blitzer.) This was when Paul was on track to lose every primary. It’ll be different if the man wins Iowa.

The secret origin of Ron Paul's newsletters, Dave Weigel, Slate, Dec. 20, 2011

The political press has rediscovered Ron Paul's wilderness years as a former congressman selling investment and political newsletters. (Classic NYT hed: "Bias in Ron Paul's Newsletters Draws New Attention." From you, guys!) No one has dug for anything new since James Kirchick first investigated the old newsletters, pulling gems -- ostensibly written by Paul -- along the lines of "if you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet of foot they can be," and "opinion polls consistently show that only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions." Instead, we're getting some low-heat follow up stories. Calls to Paul's campaign are not returned.

Ron Paul is done talking about the newsletters, Dave Weigel, Slate, Dec. 21, 2011

Video of Paul ending a CNN interview when asked about the newsletters.

Ron Paul is blowing it on the newsletter story, Dave Weigel, Slate, Dec. 22, 2011

News flash: The media doesn't just want to run fun pieces about how great your best ideas are. No one, in any kind of public life, could get away with publishing content under his own name then saying he had no idea who wrote it. He obviously has some idea. Will he have to admit that he's still friends with the people who wrote it? Will he have a story about how he ostracized those people? Either one of those admissions would answer the questions.

Ron Paul on the Trilateral Commission, Dave Weigel, Slate, Dec. 23, 2011

Video from a C-SPAN interview with Ron Paul, when he responds to a caller's question about the Trilateral Commission, riffing on the Federal Reserve, the World Bank, the Rockefeller trilateralists and the oil companies.

Fifteen years ago, Ron Paul wasn't claiming somebody else wrote his newsletters, Dave Weigel, Slate, Dec. 26, 2011

Videos of Paul discussing the newsletter business in 1995.

Ron Paul: I wrote parts of the newsletters, just not those parts, Dave Weigel, Slate, Dec. 29, 2011

This is the most detail Paul's ever provided about the composition of the newsletters. He benefits from the format, and a host not very interested in following up; he savvily argues that the only offensive pieces of the newsletters were the ones that TV hosts et al keep talking about. The less-discussed survivalist talk? He doesn't back off that at all. And he doesn't say who's to blame for any of it, if not him.

Major papers
Larger news organizations recently started to cover the newsletter story as Paul has risen in the polls. One example:

Paul disowns extremists' veiws but doesn't disavow the support, Jim Rutenberg and Serge F. Kovaleski, The New York Times, Dec. 26, 2011

Mr. Paul’s calls for the end of the Federal Reserve system, a cessation of aid to Israel and all other nations and an overall diminishment of government power have natural appeal among far-right, niche political groups. Aides say that much of the support is unsolicited and that it is unfair to overlook the larger number of mainstream voters now backing him.

But a look at the trajectory of Mr. Paul’s career shows that he and his closest political allies either wittingly or unwittingly courted disaffected white voters with extreme views as they sought to forge a movement from the nether region of American politics, where the far right and the far left sometimes converge.

Your thoughts? What role do Paul's newsletters play in the way you view him? Have you read the newsletters? What do you think?