Michael Tomasky: Time for Ron Paul to Fully Answer Racism Charges

The GOP contender should say who wrote the newsletter comments and give a speech on his racial views, says Michael Tomasky.

Chris Carlson / AP Photo

Last week, I mentioned the racism charges against Ron Paul, involving the newsletter he used to publish and some of the vile and witless statements therein. The matter has subsequently become a bigger deal, especially since he of the ill-fitting suit appeared on CNN and endured some questions from Gloria Borger, or perhaps I should say failed to endure them, since he snapped off his lapel mic and walked off the set. Paul says he has answered the charges. He has not. If he really wanted to, there are two very simple things he could do, but he will not do them, for reasons that are themselves illuminating.

If you’re unfamiliar with the particulars, you should read James Kirchick’s original New Republic piece from 2008. These are not your run-of-the-mill euphemisms. These are blatantly racist comments by, I would hope, nearly any measure. Jews and gays get their moment in the sun, and there are code-word comments of the sort we’ve come to expect about matters like secession, the right of which “should be ingrained in a free society”; but all those are just warm-up acts for the race stuff. The “Special Issue on Racial Terrorism,” produced after the Los Angeles riots, offers many gems, including this advice: “I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming.”

I invoke this quote because the “I” in the above sentence is problematic. It would seem, in the pages of something called the Ron Paul Political Report, that that “I” would represent, well, Ron Paul. But he denies authorship—and more. As he said to Borger: “I never read that stuff. I was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written and it’s been going on 20 years that people have pestered me about this...”

So here is the first thing Paul can do, which is to provide an answer to a simple question: If he didn’t write those sentences, who did? Why not say? If he genuinely disagrees with the statements and truly disavows them, there could be no good reason not to name names. He acknowledges that he’s been aware of the sentences for a decade. Well, did he look into the authorship question at the time, when he was made aware? It seems to me that if I were a member of the House of Representatives (as Paul was at the time) and not a racist, and I discovered that racist screeds had been issued under my name, I’d want to know who wrote them. I suppose one could argue that they were written by a friend, and Paul is honorably protecting that friend from scrutiny. I might counter by stating that (again) if I were not a racist and discovered that racist screeds had been penned under my name by someone, it’s not very likely that that someone would still be my friend, on grounds of both his dubious integrity and our incompatibility of world views.

The second thing Paul could do is give a speech, or at least an informal talk, about his actual racial views. Paul has said that he doesn’t hold those views, and that “anyone who knows me” can affirm this to be the case. Well, doctor: a) that’s awfully fuzzy and doesn’t fill in much of the canvas, and b) the vast majority of us don’t know you. So how about filling in that canvas? If his views are as advanced as he assures us they are, there can be no downside.

Or can’t there? Paul will of course take neither of these steps. He won’t do the first because—well, the first theory of the case, hardly discredited to this point, is that he is in fact the author, and he’s clearly not going to admit that. But even if it is someone else, he won’t. It could be someone he’s still close to, someone he’s praised recently, or a dozen other things. And he won’t do the second because among his core supporters, there is utterly no reason for him to answer these questions. Doing so—giving some Obama-style “race speech”—would constitute capitulation to the liberal media, and if he committed that mortal sin, he’d quickly find himself back in the single-digit rooming house where he has flopped down for so many years already. And so, the real reason the truth is likely to remain unexamined, stated directly: Among Republicans and conservatives, there simply aren’t enough people who care whether he’s a racist or not. If there were a demand for an explanation, he would supply one. But there is not.

I recognize that it was all 20 years ago. There should be a statute of limitations on some things. But I humbly suggest that there are some matters on which there should not a statute of limitations. Kind words for Nazis; sympathy for Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and certain other dark eminences of the left; defenses of slavery; I’d say that these matters are on the far side of the Rubicon. Calling a group of people—identifiable only by their race—“animals” belongs in that company. We lack proof that Paul did that, but at the very least we have proof that he has regarded this whole thing very casually. This might not disqualify Paul from serving in Congress. There are all kinds of loons there. But for president, surely we can all agree that we can do better than this.