Saturday, June 16, 2007

Slandering Ron Paul

No good deed goes unpunished. Thanks to Ron Paul shaking up the pre-election season by talking truth to power at the Republican debates, he's become something of a minor celebrity in the pop commentariat circles. It won't last, of course. I rate Paul's chances of actually winning the nomination pretty bleak. And I even have to reluctantly agree with Brian Doherty's prognosis that he won't even get an RNC chair position out of the deal. He's this cycle's Howard Dean, only less so.

But that doesn't mean he isn't attracting his share of unfair criticism while the dog's still huntin', and today I found a sterling example. The link goes to the Suicide Girls take on him - charmingly titled "Fuck Ron Paul."

I get why they don't like him. His record on abortion isn't exactly encouraging for a pro-choicer (and that, indeed, is one of my main problems with him as well). He's got a 0% lifetime rating from NARAL - a definite red flag. But I think it's actually not as bad as they seem to think. One of the problems with the abortion debate, as I've said before, is that so many people fail to separate the issue of whether Roe v. Wade was rightly decided (it was not) with whether abortion should be legal. This is unfortunate for people like Paul, whose position on abortion is actually a lot more nuanced than his NARAL rating would indicate. True, Paul is personally pro-life, advocates the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and would vote to outlaw abortion in his home state - but he is actually opposed to federal abortion laws of any kind (pro or con), something for which, given the skewed terms of the debate, he rarely gets credit.

But I guess the Suicide Girls are of the stripe that will "take what they can get" politically - so Roe v. Wade is just RIGHT because it gives them what they want (safe legal status for abortion throughout the country), never mind that wrongly decided cases can set piss poor precedents that come back to bite you in the ass some other way (see Unintended Consequences, Law of). And since I guess abortion is (one of) their main issue(s), I don't expect them to ever like Ron Paul.

Is it too much to ask, though, that they be fair to him when they trash him? Let's see how this works.

Let me start by saying Ron Paul is a racist. There is just no way around that fact.

Ah, yes, this again. Well, fair enough. Paul definitely said some eyebrow-raising things oh, you know, 20 years ago. Ergo he must continue to hate black people with a firey passion to this day.

Or not. I mean, look, if John Edwards can decide that he was wrong to vote for the war as little as 4 years ago, I think it's really OK for Ron Paul to have made some mistakes in the 80s. But OK - I'm not sure (nor is anyone) what exactly the rules of the commentary wars are these days, but whatever they are making "statements that can be construed as racist" at any point in your professional life is decidedly against them. Paul should have known better, even way back when, and I guess he's off the island for this resaon.

I still think it's telling that Suicide Girls feels the need to start its tirade with this little tidbit, though. It's never a good sign when you have to start off with character assasination before diving into the issues. And that's even doubly telling here when we're talking about people who, I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess, probably think that President Clinton's marital infidelities and possible taste for sexual harassment are irrelevant to his ability to perform his job as prez.

I think it's worth going through some of these horrible things that Paul said.

Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty and the end of welfare and affirmative action.

OUCH! Yup, that's definitely against the Rules of Commentary. Such a flagrant violation, in fact, that this will easily disqualify him from the White House. But now, in the interest of general honesty, look more closely. Is it really in reality racist? I'm not so sure. Certainly the wording is crude, insensitive. Certainly the joke is flippant. But all it really says is that black people are not Libertarians, which is about as true as a political statement can be. Demographically speaking, there just isn't a whole lot of support for dismantling the welfare state in the black community. If it's racist to point out even this basic and obvious truth, then I suppose demographic political information of any kind is not kosher, eh? And why, indeed, should Ron Paul bend over backward to cater to a slice of the population that votes Democrat no matter what? The black vote is about as solid a block as you can get - so solid, in fact, that black community Democratic leaders have even started complaining about it (because the DNC knows it can take the black vote for granted). What I see here is not racism so much as frustration. Admittedly, no politician deserving of the presidency would make a statement this tactless (he has to represent the United States at negotiation tables and diplomatic functions when elected, after all). But c'mon, this is burning steam at the fact that the solid black pro-socialist voting block stacks elections against him. Elections are market-driven like anything else. If your demographic group wants politicians to be nice to them, they need to at least dangle the possibility of support.

Although we are told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers.

Again, stating a demographic fact. The crime stats speak for themselves. The only reason this is "racist" is because it's against whatever bizarre politically correct rules we play by these days. Back over here in reality, though, if you have overwhelming statistical evidence that a particular segment of the population is significantly more criminal than the others, then it is, in fact, OK to say so. Like it or not, the black male's criminal image isn't going anywhere - politically correct force shield protecting him from having to hear about it from politicians or no - until he stops being significantly more criminal that everyone else.

And, yes, again, unfortunately for Ron Paul, by the Rules of Commentary you're simply not allowed to say this. If you do, commentators are allowed to call you a racist with impunity. (If anyone read my blog, no doubt there would be a comment accusing me of same within minutes of the posting.)

So Suicide Girls can get away with this. But one has the impression that there are more important things to talk about all the same.

The mainstream media has yet to be able to track down a copy of the newsletter because it was largely only sent to nut jobs. Ron Paul still has copies, but he refuses to make them public because of the horrifying words contained in those pages.

Well, duh! He's running a political campaign here and might, oh, maybe, want it to be about his positions on issues rather than his dirty laundry from the 80s?

Oh, right, and then they quote this other allegedly scary lines, which have nothing to do with the race issue we're supposedly talking about, but never mind:

Why do we need the federal government? There's no Cold War and no Communist threat. Many other nations are breaking into smaller and smaller pieces. The centralization of power in Washington occurred in a different time. Why not think about getting rid of the federal government, returning to the system of our Founders, and breaking up the United States into smaller government units?

Why not indeed? I completely fail to see what is "scary" about this. It's simple common sense, really.

Or this:

The Earth Summit is the creepiest meeting of politicos since the first gathering of Bolsheviks. Officially known as the UN Conference for Environment and Development, it will be held in Brazil in June; bad guys from all over the globe will attend.

Again, hardly tactful, but right on point. The Earth Summit is indeed a place where Socialists go to plan an ersatz world government where they get to decide what wealthy nations do with their money. "The Environment" is indeed just an excuse to bring in a trans-national welfare state by stealth. Kudos to Paul for speaking truth here.

Now, having included these two quotes that have nothing whatever to do with race, the article picks back up where it left off:

The dude is a fucking racist. Case closed. Oh, it's not? Well then lets also take a look at the company he keeps.

At which point we get a laundry list of as many as THREE - count 'em, THREE - "unsavory" political organizations Paul has spoken to over a 30-year political career. After which point they've run out of steam and have to resort to noting that David Duke supports Ron Paul, as do a handful of commentators on Stormfront's website. And THIS is supposed to be our open-and-shut case that Paul is a racist? Because some commentators on Stormfront like him? Note the tricky sleight-of-hand here. We're told that the "company he keeps" is going to close the case that Paul is a racist, but then we can't even keep to THAT topic. Paul isn't "keeping company" with Stormfront or David Duke, you moron. That these people happen to like him has essentially nothing to do with anything, in fact, since I'm sure, for example, that the Nation of Islam will support Barack Obama just 'cause he's black.

By this point, note, the article is halfway finished, and we're still in character assassination territory, and no longer even doing THAT fairly.

Ron Paul is a Libertarian! Weeeee! That means he would like to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency, Social Security, Medicare, the Department of Energy, the Federal Reserve, the IRS, aid to foreign nations, and the Department of Education as well as remove the US from the United Nations and NATO. Man, that would be so great. Maybe we could also get rid of everyone's cars and we could ride around on magic unicorns.

HUH? What does getting rid of government agencies have to do with getting rid of people's cars? In any case, this isn't an argument, nor does it ever become one. The bulk of the second half is just a litany of similar jabs. There's a quote from Paul on some issue, and then our "commentator" responds by calling Paul some kind of name (he's selfish, or greedy, or immature, or what have you), but never once does he actually spell out a rational case against the position in the quote.

The closest we come, in fact, is this bit on Social Security. They quote Paul saying:

We didn't have it until 1935. I mean, do you read stories about how many people were laying in the streets and dying and didn't have medical treatment?...Prices were low and the country was productive and families took care of themselves and churches built hospitals and there was no starvation.

To which comes the highly intelligent:

Fucking read a book, man. How stupid are you? Ever hear of a fucking Hooverville?

Brilliant. At least in this case our commentator bothers to quote someone with a counterargument, though - showing us that he has (at least in theory) "read a book" about this issue. The trouble, I think, is that he seems to have only read this one book. There is a huge diversity of opinion about whether the New Deal program did anything to alleviate the Depression - with the consensus, as I understand it, actually in the "no" camp. There are plenty of books from competent economists and historians outlining Paul's case against Social Security and every other New Deal program on the books, in fact. A useful thing for our commentator to do would be to read some of them and tell us why they're wrong. In any case, it's disingenuous in the extreme to note the existence of "Hoovervilles" and assume that ends the discussion on the Depression, FDR, and whether the New Deal was of any benefit to anyone!

But let's skip down to the slander. When we finally get on to talking about some real issues, the author can't even properly represent Paul's position.

For example:

He does has a delightful voting record. He voted against the war. Wow! Holy shit! What a maverick! Doesn't mean very much when you realize he votes against everything.

Oh please. That hardly disqualifies Paul's anti-war vote. It isn't as though he flippantly votes against everything because he's too thick to figure out a position and decided to just "go with no" or whatever else. He votes against everything because most of what comes across the table he considers unconstitutional. Paul believes in a smaller government - and since most bills exist to create ever more government, it's really not surprising that he generally opposes things. In other words - his vote against the war was about as far from flippant or shallow as you can get. It was based on a coherent philosophy - i.e. we could count on him to do similar things if elected. This stands in contradistinction to, say, Johns Edwards and Kerry, who vote for the war when it's cool and against it when it's not. A particularly telling line here:

He voted against hurricane relief funding, even though most of his district is on the Texas gulf coast.

In other words, he has integrity. You know what you're getting when you vote for Paul because he sticks to his principles regardless of how much in his personal interest it might be to do otherwise.

But then we get some outright lies:

For instance, in July of 1999 he voted to ban gay adoptions in DC. He has also voted to ban partial-birth abortions and to ban Family Planning funding in US aid abroad. (Remember, AIDS will work itself out) Paul also supports a constitutional amendment to allow prayer in schools.

No, Paul supported a 1997 amendment to forbid banning individual prayer on school property. What they inconveniently leave out is that he turned around in 2001 and voted AGAINST temporarily allowing prayer in schools during the War on Terror. To see that these positions are consistent, all one need to is actually read the text of the amendment Paul supported. It specifically PROHIBITS official school prayer. Sorry folks, but here it is:

To secure the people's right to acknowledge God: The right to pray or acknowledge religious belief, heritage or tradition on public property, including public schools, shall not be infringed. The government shall not compel joining in prayer, initiate or compose school prayers, discriminate against or deny a benefit on account of religion.

Let's play that last bit again, shall we? "The government shall not ... initiate or compose school prayers." I mean, that's even clearer than the origianl First Amendment, no? Instead of just saying "Congress shall make no law...," it actually specifically forbids official school prayer. All this amendment says, really, is that people are allowed to pray on their own on school property. Now, personally I'm not all that gung ho about this because I don't see the big issue. Right, the First Amendment doesn't prohibit people praying on their own on school property, and the courts that have ruled otherwise have clearly misinterpreted it. But I don't see an issue substantive enough here to require an amendment to fix it. So in that sense, I agree. My beef is simply that it's disingenuous in the extreme to say things like "Ron Paul supports a constitutional amentment to allow prayer in schools" and let your readers get the impression that he's a pro-school-prayer religious nut, when in fact the ammendment he supports would make it clearer than ever that there are to be no official prayers in schools. Ditto this crap on gay adoption. True that Paul voted against gay adoption in DC, but he's also consistently voted against constitutional amendments prohibiting gay marriage (twice, in fact). So fine, cherry pick your issues if you like, but Paul's record on gay civil liberties isn't anything like what's implied here. And I LOVE how earlier their complaint was that Paul votes against everything, only now it's supposed to mean something truly evil when he votes against Family Planning Funding in US Aid abroad. Ron Paul votes against ALL international aid, you moron! OF COURSE he also voted against this kind of aid!

In any case, we (Ron Paul supporters - I stand by my earlier statement that I'll vote for him if he gets the nomination) should batten down the hatches and get ready for this because this seems to be the typical response to Paul on any issue. I have yet to hear anyone actually talk to him about his positions. What we get instead tends to be this kind of incoherent mudslinging, bordering on slander.

It's moot, of course. Ron Paul isn't going to win anything, let alone the White House. And for what it's worth, I'm not comfortable with his past statements on race either. Though I largely agree with the rational sentiment (namely, it's a shame that the black community votes as a block for the continuation of failed welfare state programs, and we should be allowed to draw attention to the racial disparities in violent crime rates in public without automatically being accused of being racist), I fully acknowledge that the way in which he expressed these opinions is enough to raise suspicious that he just doesn't like black people. Ron Paul is far from perfect, this is clear. But if that's so clear, why the need for these kinds of juvinile arguments? I mean, since Ron Paul isn't going to win the Republican nomination (let alone the White House!!!) anyway - where is all this vitriol coming from? Don't you usually save that for someone who is an actual threat?

Someting about Ron Paul is scaring Democrats, and I'm really curious to know what. I mean, they can't HONESTLY be afraid he'll steal votes from them? Can they?


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