January 10, 2008

James Kirchick’s putative exposé of Ron Paul “€“ in which the reader is led to conclude that the 10-term congressman is an “€œangry white male”€ and “€œfilled with hate”€ “€“ has been released online, and we”€™ve learned some important things.  

Most importantly, we”€™ve learned that Paul made some serious errors of judgment. Statements such “€œthe animals are coming”€ and “€œzooville”€ in reference to blacks are disgraceful and embarrassing. Contentions that the L.A. riots prefaced a “€œcoming race war”€ on a national scale or that David Duke’s message could be transformed into one of libertarianism (and not Nazi-nostalgia and Holocaust denial) are not only offensive but wrong. Speculations that Mossad was behind the first world trade center attack indulge in the worst kind of conspiracy theorizing.

Paul is right to apologize, he’s right to take moral responsibility.

Still, it is patently obvious that Paul himself is not the author of the passages cited in Kirchick’s article. None of the language even resembles the kind Paul has used on the campaign trail, and Kirchick has no evidence that Paul has ever uttered anything like “€œzoo-ville”€ in his life. Moreover, the most offensive passages come from a specific 1988-1992 time period and most likely from the pen of one particularly poorly chosen ghostwriter.

But by no means does everything in Paul’s newsletter, or even everything that Kirchick cited, amount to racist propaganda or extremism. As I noted in my earlier post, treating any criticism of Lincoln as “€œextremism”€ is evidence only Kirchick’s own intellectual shallowness. Furthermore, while some have praised Kirchick’s research, he actually uncovered nothing new. The newsletter scandal first broke more than ten years ago; there’s even a section dedicated to it on Paul’s wikipedia page.

But then, Kirchick has never been interested in defending Lincoln, rethinking the L.A. rioters, or anything else of this matter. He’s interested in purging Ron Paul. 

Kirchick ends his essay lamenting that Paul “€œhas found himself increasingly permitted inside the boundaries of respectable debate.”€ And yet when the gatekeepers actually have let Paul have his say, he has put forth nothing even resembling name-calling or racial hysteria. What he has talked about is limited government, the erosion of the U.S. dollar, and the consequences of massive overseas military commitments. It seems that Kirchick is much more comfortable with a “€œconservatism”€ based on 100-year commitments to Iraq and the “€œexpansion of freedom in all the world.”€ In releasing the article online the day of the New Hampshire primary, TNR wanted to make sure that dissatisfied Democrats wouldn”€™t even think about abandoning the Clinton-Obama machine.

The idea that a Paul presidency would be one of racial violence and confederate revival is beyond absurd. But his long-shot campaign has brought to the fore some political ideas that for the TNR crowd are strictly verboten


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