The real bottom line on the Paul newsletters: race-baiting for power and profit

Ron Paul

Of all the nasty revelations about the newsletters Ron Paul published during the late 1980s and early 90s (for a profit of nearly a million dollars) … Reason Magazine uncovers what is perhaps the ugliest truth of all…

From the must-read piece exploring who might have authored those ugly newsletters (chief suspect: Lew Rockwell) … comes this:

Eric Dondero, Paul’s estranged former volunteer and personal aide, worked for Paul on and off between 1987 and 2004 (back when he was named “Eric Rittberg”), and since the Iraq war has become one of the congressman’s most vociferous and notorious critics. By Dondero’s account, Paul’s inner circle learned between his congressional stints that “the wilder they got, the more bombastic they got with it, the more the checks came in. You think the newsletters were bad? The fundraising letters were just insane from that period.” Cato Institute President Ed Crane told reason he recalls a conversation from some time in the late 1980s in which Paul claimed that his best source of congressional campaign donations was the mailing list for The Spotlight, the conspiracy-mongering, anti-Semitic tabloid run by the Holocaust denier Willis Carto until it folded in 2001.

The newsletters’ obsession with blacks and gays was of a piece with a conscious political strategy adopted at that same time by Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard. After breaking with the Libertarian Party following the 1988 presidential election, Rockwell and Rothbard formed a schismatic “paleolibertarian” movement, which rejected what they saw as the social libertinism and leftist tendencies of mainstream libertarians. In 1990, they launched the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, where they crafted a plan they hoped would midwife a broad new “paleo” coalition.

Rockwell explained the thrust of the idea in a 1990 Liberty essay entitled “The Case for Paleo-Libertarianism.” To Rockwell, the LP was a “party of the stoned,” a halfway house for libertines that had to be “de-loused.” To grow, the movement had to embrace older conservative values. “State-enforced segregation,” Rockwell wrote, “was wrong, but so is State-enforced integration. State-enforced segregation was not wrong because separateness is wrong, however. Wishing to associate with members of one’s own race, nationality, religion, class, sex, or even political party is a natural and normal human impulse.”

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. (Duke, a former Klansman, was discussed in strikingly similar terms in a 1990 Ron Paul Political Report.) These groups could be mobilized to oppose an expansive state, Rothbard posited, by exposing an “unholy alliance of ‘corporate liberal’ Big Business and media elites, who, through big government, have privileged and caused to rise up a parasitic Underclass, who, among them all, are looting and oppressing the bulk of the middle and working classes in America.”

Does that sound familiar? Attracting working class whites by demonizing minorities and “takers” from the underclass? Pinning the tail on “media elites” and “big government?” And getting rich while doing so, even if it gins up racist hatreds? One more clip:

Anyone with doubts about the composition of the “parasitic Underclass” could look to the regular “PC Watch” feature of the Report, in which Rockwell compiled tale after tale of thuggish black men terrifying petite white and Asian women. (Think Birth of a Nation crossed with News of the Weird.) The list of PC outrages in the February 1993 issue, for example, cited a Washington Post column on films that feature “plenty of interracial sex, and nobody noticing,” a news article about black members of the Southern Methodist University marching band “engaged in mass shoplifting while in Japan,” and a sob story about a Korean shop-owner who shot a black shoplifter and assailant in the head: The travesty is that Mrs. Du got five years probation, and must cancel a trip to Korea.

The populist outreach program centered on tax reduction, abolition of welfare, elimination of “the entire ‘civil rights’ structure, which tramples on the property rights of every American,” and a police crackdown on “street criminals.” “Cops must be unleashed,” Rothbard wrote, “and allowed to administer instant punishment, subject of course to liability when they are in error.” While they’re at it, they should “clear the streets of bums and vagrants. Where will they go? Who cares?” To seal the deal with social conservatives, Rothbard urged a federalist compromise in their direction on “pornography, prostitution, or abortion.” And because grassroots organizing is “plodding and boring,” this new paleo coalition would need to be kick-started by “high-level, preferably presidential, political campaigns.”

The presidential campaign Rothbard and Rockwell supported in 1988 was Ron Paul’s run on the Libertarian Party ticket. In 1992, they were again ready to back Paul, until Pat Buchanan convinced the obstetrician to withdraw and back his conservative challenge to then-president Bush. “We have a dream,” Rockwell wrote in that same January 1992 edition of RRR, “and perhaps someday it will come to pass. (Hell, if ‘Dr.’ King can have a dream, why can’t we?) Our dream is that, one day, we Buchananites can present Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the liberal and conservative and centrist elites, with a dramatic choice….We can say: ‘Look, gang: you have a choice, it’s either Pat Buchanan or David Duke.’”

Sounds a lot like the Tea Party and the entire Koch-fueled right wing “populist” dynamic at work, only a generation ago. Scary. So in the end, whether Ron Paul actually wrote the stuff or not (and I don’t buy that he has no idea who did, by the way) — he can accurately be said to have consciously profited from a strategy put forward by his friends, to grow the Libertarian movement by bringing people with racist views and easily tapped racial anxieties and rage into it. Paul aggressively pursued that strategy for financial gain, and used it to fuel at least one run at the White House. Now he’s disavowing it, and shifting his strategy toward a “purer” libertarianism, stripped of the ugly, Buchananite bits (but keeping the anti-abortion “compromise” on federalism.)

Paul shouldn’t be allowed to simply walk away from this really ugly past. If he felt comfortable taking the money, he should be willing to answer for the content. The idea that he had no idea what the strategy was for his own political movement, and his own presidential run, is absurd on its face.

Meanwhile, all of this makes you a bit queasy that liberal libertarians still truck with the Paulites. Then again, my working theory is that liberal libertarians are single-issue (well double issue: civil liberties and legalizing weed…) they’re not terribly concerned about issues of race.

Back to Paul; he’d better start thinking up some better answers. Ripping off the microphone won’t make this go away.

UPDATE: But wait! There’s more! Ron Paul’s investments reveal he’s preparing for doomsday

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10 Responses to The real bottom line on the Paul newsletters: race-baiting for power and profit

  1. Liberty Freedom says:

    What a boatload of crap. This is right-wing smear because he is gaining in the polls and the Dems. are laughing and loving it. Newsflash: In 1979, Congress voted whether or not to have a Martin Luther King Day; Gingrich voted NO, Dick Cheney voted NO, Ron Paul voted YES. Ron Paul is a champion for our Constitution and Civil Liberties. Anyone can see 40 years of this if they just look for themselves. Think for yourself, right?!

  2. The truth will set you free says:

    Yes this is another attempt to smear Ron Paul. It is a same misinformation that many Americans get thier info from flame rags (blogs) such as this. If you love freedom, be you black, white, yellow, brown, or whatever, then you need to back Dr. Paul. If anyone has promoted racism it is BO. Remember the cops that were trying to protect a home from a possible break in. Recall how our leader jumped on the white police officers before he had the facts? Who is racist it that incident? Ron Paul believes that everyone should have the oppertunity to make the most of their lives without big goverment getting in the way. If any race feels that it is being demonized then they should look at the root cause. It is, many cases due to one parent families, parents not making sure their children finish thier education, and the “my kid could do no wrong” attitudes of parents. Raise your children with the hope that they will be good Americans not welfare baby producing leeches on society. Yes these leaches come from all races. I am tired of paying for your poor decisions in life.

  3. Scott says:

    Joy, I see the Paulbots have descended to try to shut down the conversation again. When someone comments you can see their IP address, correct? I’d bet that the two comments above mine came from the same connection.

  4. Funny how Paul’s defenders — allegedly big proponents of personal responsibility — never actually hold Paul accountable for the racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic filth published under his name. You folks can pound the table about how it doesn’t matter all you want. The fact is, Paul disqualified himself from consideration with the newsletters. He’s toast, and rightly so.

  5. ABL says:

    Ron Paul has a black friend. President Obama is the real racist.

  6. Woody says:

    Thanks for mentioning Rothbard. I thought it was interesting that shortly after he died, the controversial stuff in the newsletters disappeared.

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  8. MJ says:

    Thank you for this extremely well written article, Joy! Please keep them coming.
    I’m also hoping to see more & more of your smart commentary on MSNBC.

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