The Ron Paul controversy -- a postmortem

Congressman Ron Paul's campaign website refers to him as "the leading advocate for freedom in our nationís capital" -- a man who "tirelessly works for limited constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, and a return to sound monetary policies" and who "is known among his congressional colleagues and his constituents for his consistent voting record."

As many of you know, I've been a harsh critic of Congressman Paul, who has emerged as a minor but highly visible candidate for the GOP presidential nomination -- especially for his foreign policy views.

As editor of The New Individualist, I also published a cover feature about Cong. Paul in our current, January-February issue. Written by popular blogger Stephen Green, "The Abominable Dr. Paul" takes apart Cong. Paul's positions on a host of issues. The article and the magazine's cover (a deliberately garish, humorously intended parody of a poster for an old Vincent Price horror film, "The Abominable Dr. Phibes") have received a great deal of attention all over the Blogosphere and also in the mainstream press. The latter includes articles in the Washington Times, the Seattle Times (which reprinted our cover), and the Tampa Tribune, whose editorial board issued a brief rejection of Cong. Paul's candidacy, favorably quoting our magazine's criticism of his "utopian silliness."

However, my publication of Steve Green's article in TNI has also generated an outpouring of criticism from Ron Paul supporters, as one might imagine. I won't bother here to catalogue the criticisms, but they can be summarized as condemning the magazine, Steve Green, and me for smearing the one true friend of liberty on Capitol Hill.

A couple of weeks after our magazine had reached subscribers, an investigative expose in The New Republic, quickly picked up by other MSM and online outlets, revealed the sickening content of newsletters published for several decades under Ron Paul's name. The New Republic article summarizes their content thus:

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.

For just a sample of the kind of tinfoil-hat conspiratorialism, nutter "survivalism," and odious bigotry that Ron Paul has allowed to be published under his name, consider this solicitation letter for subscriptions to one of those newsletters.

Cong. Paul now disavows authorship of this material, most or all of which was ghostwritten, and says it doesn't represent his actual views. But even though these screeds were published under his own name for decades, he claims not to have been aware of their content -- a claim that many, me included, find to be transparently unbelievable. It is impossible to read this garbage and not come to one of two conclusions. Either Ron Paul does not believe this repugnant nonsense, but nonetheless allowed it to go out under his name -- as a cynical ploy to sell newsletters by means of scaremongering, collectivist race-baiting, and homosexual-bashing -- or he actually does believe this stuff. You can decide for yourself which alternative is more disgusting and alarming.

Cong. Paul also refuses to name the real author of this outpouring of manipulative venom, except to say that he was "a former aide." However, that person has since been "outed," and it's no surprise that the congressman would prefer that his identity had been kept secret. It turns out that these repulsive newsletters were edited -- and apparently many of their articles penned -- by none other than Ron Paulís longtime ideological mentor, business partner, and former congressional aide Lew Rockwell.

Rockwell is a pro-Confederacy, "paleolibertarian," blame-America-first, Rothbardian-anarchist kook who founded and heads the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama. He also runs the online website, where Ron Paul is listed and posts regularly as a contributor, and which has become an unofficial cheering section for Paulís campaign. In the past, Iíve blasted the Rockwell cult repeatedly on my blog for its vicious anti-Americanism -- see, for example, here. Rockwell and his fellow scumbags also have been exposed relentlessly by Cato's Tom Palmer (see here for my list of links to Tomís many commentaries about the Rockwell cult).

Rockwell's role as the editor and frequent ghostwriter of the material in Paul's newsletters apparently has been an open secret in libertarian circles for decades, and here are links to a number of online pieces exposing that involvement -- from The Economist, The New Republic, and from the websites of Wendy McElroy and Tom Palmer.

These revelations about Cong. Paul's more outrageous views and his intimate association with a disreputable fringe cult within the libertarian movement have touched off an explosion of media scorn and expressions of outrage in recent days -- much coming from the more responsible libertarian circles. For example, the editors of Reason magazine -- who, in sharp contrast to TNI, published a glowing cover feature about "the Ron Paul phenomenon" in their latest issue -- are now expressing their disgust and distancing themselves from his candidacy. (Here are comments from the magazine's editors, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch. Reason contributor Jesse Walker weighs in here, and former contributor Tim Cavanaugh here, while past editor Virginia Postrel comments here and here.) Likewise, Cato's David Boaz offers his own repudiation here. (I could cite many, many more denunciations from various prominent libertarians.)

In the meantime, many commentators are also taking Cong. Paul to task for views that thoroughly refute his claim to being a consistent champion of individual rights, liberty, and the Constitution.

Steve Green's article in TNI cited Paul's highly restrictive position on immigration (to the right of Tom Tancredo), his hypocritical support of pork-barrel earmarks for his own congressional district, his opposition to various free-trade agreements (like NAFTA) on wacko-conspiratorial grounds that they surrender U.S. sovereignty to Evil International Institutions, and his appalling, blame-America-first version of "noninterventionism" in foreign policy.

To that, Wendy McElroy points to Cong. Paul's pro-federal-interventionist anti-abortion bill (read her whole commentary), which would deny women the right to end a pregnancy and even deny the courts the power of judicial review in the matter -- a clear violation of separation of powers, which is a curious position for this self-proclaimed champion of the Constitution.

But what can you expect from a religious conservative who, on Lew Rockwell's website, rejected the Jeffersonian principle of a "wall of separation" between religion and government? As the congressman put it, "The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers." For Ron Paul, then, "Far from mandating strict secularism in schools, it [the First Amendment] instead bars the federal government from prohibiting the Pledge of Allegiance, school prayer, or any other religious expression. The politicians and judges pushing the removal of religion from public life are violating the First amendment, not upholding it." In other words, "libertarian" Dr. Paul believes the First Amendment was meant to allow state governments to promote religion in their laws and public institutions.

Thus, he supported legislation keeping the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and has voted in favor of a bill that, in defiance of a federal court decision, would allow a courthouse to maintain a display of the Ten Commandments. Such a display, of course, expresses specifically Judeo-Christian religious views, and represents government endorsing "an establishment of religion" -- a particular religion. Like a fellow Baptist, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Cong. Paul rejects the scientific theory of evolution and accepts the scientific rubbish of "Creationism." One can only imagine what he would allow to be taught as "science" in state and local public schools.

This is not a political record or a philosophy of consistent support for individual rights and freedom. Rather, it is a record of support for an extreme "states' rights" brand of federalism that -- contrary to all legal precedents established in accordance with the 14th Amendment -- would give a green light to wholesale violations of individual rights at the state and local level.

For several weeks prior to the revelations about Ron Paul's even-uglier views, The New Individualist dared to stand virtually alone within pro-freedom community in challenging Cong. Paul's credentials as a standard-bearer for liberty. The point of our article, as Steve Green put it, was that Ron Paul "only discredits the cause of liberty by associating it with his own weird and dangerous brand of utopianism." That conclusion is proving to be not only a correct assessment but a considerable understatement.

Many libertarians and free-market supporters now openly worry about the damage that his candidacy has caused to the public reputation of their ideas and movement. The outpouring of public criticism against Ron Paul by responsible libertarians and mainstream media now makes our TNI feature -- even that satirical "monster" cover, reprinted below -- look increasingly accurate, if not downright prescient.

I think we stand vindicated.