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Moral Responsibility

Ron Paul, Don Black, and Derek Black, January 2007

Unsurprisingly, Ron Paul’s defense regarding the revelations in The New Republic about his newsletters was of a piece with his previous dubious defenses regarding this subject. As we noted, all the newsletters really do is confirm what we already know about Paul: that he built his political career around making appeals to the most noxious far-right elements in American society.

Here’s the press release he issued in response:

"The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts.

"In fact, I have always agreed with Martin Luther King, Jr. that we should only be concerned with the content of a person’s character, not the color of their skin. As I stated on the floor of the U.S. House on April 20, 1999: ‘I rise in great respect for the courage and high ideals of Rosa Parks who stood steadfastly for the rights of individuals against unjust laws and oppressive governmental policies.’

"This story is old news and has been rehashed for over a decade. It’s once again being resurrected for obvious political reasons on the day of the New Hampshire primary.

"When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name."

Well, we have two choices here:

— Paul allowed racists and homophobes to publish material under his name for over a decade and did nothing about it until called on it, at which point he in fact denied any responsibility for its publication (his response at the time: "I could never say this in the campaign, but those words weren’t really written by me. It wasn’t my language at all."); or

— Paul is lying, and these newsletters really do reflect his longtime views.

Either choice, as it happens, should disqualify the man from the presidency.

The first makes clear that he operates as a kind of "absentee overseer" when it comes to the views he promotes in the public sphere and elsewhere — in a way that makes the current holder of the White House look downright responsible. Indeed, Paul’s version of "taking responsibility" in this matter looks a lot like Bush’s: say you’ll "take responsibility" but then blame everything on underlings.

The second — well, that’s fairly obvious. And there’s reason to believe it might be the case. Ed Brayton has a post with commentary from Paul’s former staffer Eric Dondero, who writes that Paul indeed was intimately involved — and that his cohort was Lew Rockwell:

Lew Rockwell was 80% the Ghost writer for Ron Paul’s Newsletters. Again, key word "Ghost writer."

I’d say Ron himself authored about half the Newsletter.

He’d have a yellow pad, and every time we traveled by car, he’d break it out while I was driving and scribble on it for hours.

When we got back from Houston, he’d either giver it to his daughter Lori in Clute, or Jean McCiver in Houston. They were the only two who could interpret his hand-writing. If it was Lori, she’d fax the draft to Marc Elam at his office on Fuqua in south Houston.

Jean McCiver worked out of that office directly for Elam.

She was the one who edited and put the Newsletter together. She would gather all the various items faxed from Rockwell, and faxed from Ron to input into the word processing program.

As Nick Baumann at Mother Jones observed:

After all, the newsletters have names like "Paul’s Freedom Report," "Ron Paul Political Report," and "The Ron Paul Survival Report," and a lot of them are written in the first person, which, as Kirchick points out, implies authorship. Kirchick’s best point is that, whatever the source, the publications "seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him–and reflected his views."

You can see some of the newsletters here, here, here, here, and here.

If Ron Paul were serious about assuming "moral responsibility" for more than a decade’s worth of allowing vile xenophobic hate and conspiracy-mongering to be published under his name, he’d be doing his utmost to decry the racists and xenophobes who have been supporting his campaign. He would have avoided, during the "decade" of "taking moral responsibility" he now claims, appearing before (and accepting money from) white-nationalist groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens and the Patriot Network. And he would return that $500 donation from Stormfront’s Don Black.

Instead, he’s refused. Instead, he happily poses for pictures with Don Black and his son at the January 10, 2007, "Values Voters" Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as he does in the photo atop this post. [Source: Stormfront. For those interested in seeing the URL, feel free to e-mail me, but only go there if you must. I’ve had the photo examined for authenticity and it appears to be genuine.]

As Chip Berlet observed: "Those neo-Nazis have a First Amendment right to endorse Ron Paul, but Ron Paul has a moral obligation to disavow that donation.

"There’s two issues: Why would anyone have to ask Ron Paul to disassociate himself from the endorsement of neo-Nazis? And the second is that when they did ask him, his silence spoke volumes about his values. You know, ‘I don’t enjoy the endorsement of neo-Nazis’ — how hard is that to say? And why hasn’t he refunded it? It’s not like this is a gray area."

Somehow, his followers seem to think it is. And so does Ron Paul.

Not that it’s likely to make any difference at this point: Paul’s poll numbers are in free-fall. A thrid-party run is very likely, which should make Democrats happy. But the rest of us should be fully aware of what the man represents, especially in terms of the mainstreaming of extremist ideas from the fringe right.

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David Neiwert

David Neiwert

David Neiwert is the managing editor of Firedoglake. He's a freelance journalist based in Seattle and the author/editor of the blog Orcinus. He also is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000.