Sunday, January 08, 2012

Ron Paul: I'm Not a Racist and... Look! A bird!

Ron Paul is having a difficult time distancing himself from the racist articles in his newsletters, in no small part because he profited from them, they went out under his name, and he won't disclose who wrote the articles that have no byline (i.e., virtually all of them). In the past Paul has claimed that he didn't know who wrote the content - but he's now a perennial presidential candidate, and it's simply not credible that he has chosen not to look into the issue.

Let me say this: if I were publishing a newsletter under my own name, became bored or disinterested with it to the point that I didn't know or care what went into it (as long as I got a royalty check from whomever was continuing to issue it), and discovered that they were repeatedly publishing offensive, racist drivel with no byline, I would have been livid and I would have found out exactly who was responsible both for writing that content and for deciding to publish it. And I wouldn't be at all coy about identifying them and calling them to the carpet for taking advantage of my distraction in their publishing of odious material under my name. When I hear of a politician who has been discovered to have racist associations, it generally means one of two things: The politician is a racist, or the politician saw the opportunity to advance his position by appearing sympathetic to racism. Paul denies being in the first category, and hopes that his claim of ignorance will keep him out of the second, but I simply don't find his claims of ignorance to be credible.

What do we get from Paul? First we get, "I'm not a racist, so why are we even talking about my newsletters", followed by an effort to change the subject:
In a debate hosted by ABC News, Yahoo! and WMUR, Paul was asked about some controversial newsletters with racist remarks that he sent out under his name in the 1980s and 1990s. Paul said they are distraction from the real issues at hand, which are his record and beliefs regarding race in the United States.

Paul said that Martin Luther King is one his heroes for practicing "the libertarian principle of peaceful resistance and peaceful civil disobedience," and highlighted his understanding that the drug laws in the United States unfairly penalize African Americans.

"True racism in this country is in the judicial system," Paul said, "the percentage of people who use drugs are about the same with blacks and whites. And yet the blacks are arrested way disproportionately."
The MLK comments are likely inspired by the fact that one of the controversial newsletters rails against King:
Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.
Paul opposes the war on drugs, and also opposes the status quo approach to the military, unusual positions for politicians to take and certainly unique among Republican contenders. He does us a favor when he brings some of his contrarian viewpoints to the stage - we're locked into an ideology on certain issues that our political leadership is unwilling to challenge, even though many believe present policies to be misguided or counterproductive. But let's pause for a moment: over the past few decades our nation's legislatures have gone to extraordinary lengths to impose long sentences for drug crimes and to strip judges of their discretion in modifying sentences defined by sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors have a great deal of discretion in choosing what offense to charge, and can have a significant amount of control or influence in how sentencing guidelines are scored. The federal courts have pushed back a bit, but to the extent that long sentences and disproportionate outcomes are a problem it's not appropriate for a legislator to wag his finger at the judiciary.

Case in point: The disparate treatment in sentencing for crimes involving powder cocaine versus crack cocaine were legislated by Congress in 1986. It took almost a quarter century to inspire Congress to address that disparity. To his credit, Paul pushed for parity - but Congress chose simply to reduce the disparity from about 100:1 to about 18:1. If Paul wants to claim that the disparity represents institutionalized racism, he needs to point his finger at his own party and his colleagues in Congress. To the extent that he believes that it is somehow a failure of police agencies that "blacks are arrested way disproportionately" for drug crimes, that also is not the fault of the judicial branch. Police agencies fall under the executive branch or local government. Surely Paul knows all of this, and knew it even before having participated in confirmation votes for the heads of federal law enforcement agencies.

Another case in point: Paul complains that the death penalty is unfair because African Americans "get the death penalty way disproportionately" and that a "rich white person" is unlikely to be executed. Paul's thinking on the death penalty has changed over the years, but only to a point:
I do not believe in the federal death penalty and in my book, “Liberty defined” I explain it in more detail but basically I make the argument for being against the death penalty. But I would not come and say that the federal government and the federal courts to tell the states that they can’t have death penalties anymore, I don’t go that far.
This particular defect in Paul's thinking has been highlighted by many others: although he objects strenuously to certain acts of the federal government in a manner consistent with libertarian thought, his objections do not extend to the exact same actions taken by states. Even if the state action is much more frequent or, if you accept the basis of Paul's objections, a much greater threat to liberty and equality.
I think I read an article yesterday on the penalty, and 68% of the time they make mistakes, and it’s so racist, too; I think more than half the people getting the death penalty are poor blacks. This is the one place, the one remnant of racism in our country is in our court system; enforcing the drug laws or enforcing the death penalty.
So Paul believes that states do a terrible job administering the death penalty, inappropriately sentencing people to death for crimes they did not commit, pursuing the death penalty against "poor blacks", and that its continuation is racist. But that's okay, because it's not federal action? Also, does Paul sincerely believe that it's the judiciary's fault that Congress has expanded the number of death penalty crimes at the federal level and passed legislation such as the "Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996" with the express purpose of making it easier to impose and carry out the death penalty? Surely not. As Paul knows, assuming his party doesn't filibuster in the Senate, Congress can abolish the federal death penalty at any time a majority of the members of both houses vote to end it.

In summary, I'm not impressed with Paul's failure to explain the authorship of the racist content of his newsletters, or why he has not held accountable those responsible. I am not impressed with his effort to change the subject to, "Let's talk about real racism". And I'm not impressed either by his attribution to the judiciary responsibility for injustices caused by or that could be ended by the executive and legislative branches of government, or for how he won't extend his professed concern for protecting people from governmental overreach to the actions of state governments. I understand Ron Paul as a protest vote. I understand Ron Paul as the only candidate for certain single issue voters, particularly those concerned with civil liberties or military overreach. But I've lost track of the number of people I've heard announce support for Ron Paul, only to have to roll back that support when they realize how unhinged and inconsistent he is on some very important issues.

2 comments:

  1. If you aren't satisfied then I suppose you would be happy if he said he wrote them? Perhaps then we can send him to jail and declare him unfit to roam about our pristine streets since he is such a vile menace to society? This is virtually the only issue people can grasp on to in order to try and alienate and discriminate against this candidate. At worst you can state his stance having previously been negligent in those select passages that make racial remarks about our society.Even if he had wrote them himself and he is now a " reformed" racist I suppose that would not be good enough either. Commentary on social opinions and such are rarely there to hold someone accountable to the extent of criminal intent. Indeed this seems like a witch hunt but I will let you on in a little secret. Everyone is racist to a degree and while such can not be justified, it is inherently human based on perception and what are considered social norms among groups of various ethnic backgrounds. He is not perfect but by far one of the most impressive candidates for President in recent years. Obama attended a church of Reveran Right for years who preached about the white devil but I suppose its semantics to argue what is racist unless you want to nit pick everything. :)

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  2. If he wrote them, obviously he should show the integrity of admitting his own actions. Nobody seems to believe that he wrote them - just that he lacks the integrity to admit that he knew what was being distributed in his newsletters under his own name, and that he is being dishonest in relation to his role in their publication.

    Paul's version is not credible. If it's good enough for you, great - but the rest of us haven't swallowed the Kool-Aid.

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