The Circumstantial Evidence Against Paul

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 23 2011 @ 11:17am

A reader writes:

The thing is that Paul does in fact truck in neo-Confederate historical revisionism, and often directs people to the work of Thomas DiLorenzo, agreeing with his Lincoln-as-tyrant view of history. He discusses this with Tim Russert in the 2007 interview above. 

The assertion is plainly ridiculous. The idea of purchasing the slaves' freedom had been discussed for decades, and rejected. Also, seven states had already seceded by the time Lincoln took office so I don't know how any of that works.

Paul has insisted that the Civil Rights Act made race relations worse which is an absurdity of grand proportions. He voted against renewal of the Voting Rights Act in 2006. I realize he has ideological reasons for this, but none of that changes the fact that after Florida 2000 (and Ohio 2004 even if unrelated to the Voting Rights Act), and continuing voter suppression tactics, this is harmful to minorities. His being against the drug war is purely on federalist grounds. That he has recognized a narrative there to paint this positively from a race relations standpoint is fine. It's good politics. But it doesn't mean he has a lick of consideration for minority issues.

He was also a co-sponsor of the Marriage Protection Act. He is on record being against a constitutional amendment defining marriage, but he's all for protecting a clearly unconstitutional law from judicial review. A trick he's tried to pull with his Orwellian We the People Act (which is my real problem with his candidacy):

The Supreme Court of the United States and each Federal court– (1) shall not adjudicate– (A) any claim involving the laws, regulations, or policies of any State or unit of local government relating to the free exercise or establishment of religion; (B) any claim based upon the right of privacy, including any such claim related to any issue of sexual practices, orientation, or reproduction; or (C) any claim based upon equal protection of the laws to the extent such claim is based upon the right to marry without regard to sex or sexual orientation; and (2) shall not rely on any judicial decision involving any issue referred to in paragraph (1).

This in effect would allow individual states to violate the Establishment Clause, reinstate sodomy laws in spite of Lawrence v. Texas (against which Paul wrote an essay on, complete with "gay rights" derisively in quotation marks ), and outlaw abortion. Paul is on record as not believing that the Bill of Rights applies to state laws, or that there is in fact a Constitutional right to privacy. (His opposition to the Patriot Act and FISA are based on the 4th and 5th Amendment.) While the racial stuff concerns me, it is this rejection of incorporation doctrine that frightens me. In a time where we can plainly see state legislatures going mad in passing anti-Muslim, anti-gay, anti-voting rights laws, to remove the redundancy of the federal court system from the equation is to allow the possibility of localized tyranny. And the fact that he himself may be against racial profiling is of no comfort. (I'd also point out that his criticism of opposition to Park51 was made purely on property rights grounds.)

Paul has also been one of several Congressmen to introduce the Sanctity of Life Act, which is essentially the federal version of the Mississippi personhood amendment that was on the ballot in November.

Yglesias likewise takes Paul to task for Civil War revisionism:

The policy [of buying all the slaves to avoid civil war that] Paul suggests was in fact the policy of the Lincoln administration. Abolitionists didn't like it because, precisely as Zenilman suggests, it seems morally wrong to financially reward slaveowners for participation in a gross moral crime. But this was the position of the initially dominant moderate wing of the Republican Party. It didn't happen because southerners rejected it. And southerners rejected it because — to play Captain Obvious for a minute — slavery was in part about naked financial self-interest but also in large part about an ideological commitment to racism and white supremacy.

Another reader makes related points about Paul's language on race:

You and others have claimed that Ron Paul has never said anything racist in public along the lines of the racist doggerel he published under his name in his infamous newsletter. You've noted the "absence of anything out of his own mouth that echoes them [the newsletter]."

I happened to come across the following Ron Paul quote:

In the Speaker’s Lobby, Paul describes the federal airline security system as an extra-constitutional affront to civil liberties, and thinks security should be handled by the private sector. Then he takes a rather un-presidential jab at the appearance of many TSA screeners, a workforce heavily populated by minorities and immigrants. “We quadrupled the TSA, you know, and hired more people who look more suspicious to me than most Americans who are getting checked,” he says. “Most of them are, well, you know, they just don’t look very American to me. If I’d have been looking, they look suspicious … I mean, a lot of them can’t even speak English, hardly. Not that I’m accusing them of anything, but it’s sort of ironic.”

Would you care to explain how this utterance does not "echo" the racist sentiment of his newsletters? It seems to me that if I can come across something like this very casually, that others are going to find plenty of things that are directly attributable to Paul that are, at the least, very dubious. I am very puzzled by your willingness to give Paul fairly deferential treatment on this point, particularly since it seems fairly probable that he has said plenty of things publicly that echo the racism of the newsletters.

Relatedly, TNR has rounded-up some of the most damning passages from the newsletters. You need to take all of this into consideration, when assessing a candidate. It seems clear to me that Paul has associated with people with some vile views, and profited from it. At best, that is reckless negligence. At worst, it is a blind eye to real ugliness. Neither interpretation flatters Paul. Against that, you have to weigh his character as it has revealed itself over three presidential campaigns, his opponents (whose extremism and bigotry do not need to be ferreted out), and his argument: that domestic liberty requires a drastic re-callibration of our military-industrial complex and an end to the drug war. Voting is not some kind of purist abstraction. Every candidate is flawed. The moment and the argument matter. Viewing it all together, I would not have a problem supporting Paul if I were caucusing in Iowa. And I think a victory will help enormously in reorienting the GOP away from its dangerous foreign policy belligerence.

One final thing: libertarianism, because it is about allowing people to do things, is easily conflated with the things it allows people to do. In that sense, it is always vulnerable to being regarded as indifferent to injustice – not because it is inherently indifferent to injustice (although it may often, in practice, be), but because it puts freedom first.

Much of the left and a great deal of the right has no interest in putting liberty before justice. But I do not believe that that philosophical position renders one a bigot.