Ron Paul, Racist?

CNN is picking up on the horribly racist content of Ron Paul’s newsletters, a story first broke by The New Republic earlier this week. The content of these newsletters is appalling, and although the Paul campaign is disavowing them, it’s likely that it will only further marginalize Paul as a candidate:

The controversial newsletters include rants against the Israeli lobby, gays, AIDS victims and Martin Luther King Jr. — described as a “pro-Communist philanderer.” One newsletter, from June 1992, right after the LA riots, says “order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.”

Another says, “The criminals who terrorize our cities — in riots and on every non-riot day — are not exclusively young black males, but they largely are. As children, they are trained to hate whites, to believe that white oppression is responsible for all black ills, to ‘fight the power,’ to steal and loot as much money from the white enemy as possible.”

In some excerpts, the reader may be led to believe the words are indeed from Paul, a resident of Lake Jackson, Texas. In the “Ron Paul Political Report” from October 1992, the writer describes carjacking as the “hip-hop thing to do among the urban youth who play unsuspecting whites like pianos.”

Paul’s excuse is exceedingly lame. On one hand, he wants to argue that he’s not a bigot, racist, or anti-Semite. On the other hand, he wants to argue that that sort of material was published under his own name for over a decade and not once did he bother to see what those newsletters said. In other words, either Ron Paul is a racist, or he’s borrowed his name for racist diatribes for well over 10 years and never bothered to put a stop to it. There’s simply no way to spin this that doesn’t made Paul look bad.

That Paul might have believed what was printed under his name would be horrendous. That he let it be printed is grossly negligent. In either case, it was printed under his name, and he bears responsibility for it.

The YouTube GOP Debate

I managed to catch the CNN/YouTube debate tonight, and it certainly was different from most others. The problem was that the questions that weren’t planted tended to be questions based more on Republican stereotypes rather than on substantive issues. Yes, it’s somewhat interesting to know whether a candidate believes in the Bible or not—but is it the sort of question that should come up at a national debate?

The Good

I think this debate was “won” by Mike Huckabee and John McCain. Huckabee came off as the candidate I’d most like to have a beer with some time, and John McCain came off as the elder statesman. McCain put Ron Paul in his place (which is always a good thing for a Republican to do), and he spoke with great moral authority on torture against Romney’s non-answer. Huckabee’s answer that Jesus was too smart to run for public office was a great line. Huckabee came off as very natural and very personable. McCain came off as a man of integrity and honor.

Mitt Romney was also confident and poised. He confidently failed to give a clear answer with great poise. Both he and Giuliani hurt themselves by fighting over abortion—neither one of them are strong on that issue, and both hurt themselves there. Romney’s a very poised candidate, and he has an impressive business background. His honesty on the abortion issue was questioning. It’s nice to have a candidate willing to come out and admit his mistakes.

There were some decent questions that wouldn’t normally be asked in a Presidential debate. As a space exploration fan, I liked the question about the candidate’s vision for space exploration. NASA consumes a very small amount of the federal budget, and the candidates missed the opportunity to talk about private space exploration. Huckabee’s answer wasn’t bad, but it could have been better.

Fred Thompson was very poised and gave very responsive answers. He didn’t knock it out of the park, but he showed the best mastery of the issues. The problem is that he needs to do better—it’s a crowded field and he needs to stand out more. He’s got the substance, but he needs more flash. He has some great ads out that would have done much better than the attack ad he used.

The Bad

First of all, I think Rudy hurt himself with his exchange with Romney. He’s the front-runner (at least nationally), so he doesn’t need to go on the offensive. Hitting Romney below the belt won’t help him, and made him look like a bully. Overall, his answers weren’t a strong as they could be. Rudy needs to get a boost, and this wasn’t it. While he’s still ahead nationally, he’s vulnerable.

The same applies to Fred Thompson’s attack ad. While all the others talked about themselves, Thompson’s offensive seemed out of place. Not only that, but Romney came back with a very human answer that helped him. Huckabee also had a good response. The other campaigns are calling the video an act of “desperation”—and while I don’t think that’s the case, it wasn’t the right call. I’m in Fred’s corner, but even I don’t think that running an attack ad at that point helped him at all.

Ron Paul is a nut. When given a question that basically asked him whether he believes in a bizarre conspiracy theory, he basically said “yes.” I’ll give him some credit for eschewing an independent run, but he’s still the sort of paleoconservative on national defense issues that we don’t need now.

Rudy also hurt himself with his Second Amendment answer. This was not the right crowd to split hairs on regulating guns. This was not a good night for Rudy, and it may hurt him.

This was a solid and substantive debate (at least on the part of the candidates, if not CNN), and it could end up changing the dynamics of the race. Rudy and Romney, the two frontrunners, engaged in a fight that ended up making them both look bad. Mike Huckabee demonstrated once again why he’s gaining the most traction—he was confident and had a decent command of the issues. Fred Thompson did nothing to take him out of the race. John McCain’s campaign was on life support only a few months ago, but he’s not out of the race by any chance, and many may be willing to take a new look at him after tonight.

The biggest loser: CNN. Having a Clinton campaign advisor not only be allowed to ask a question, but then to follow up live demonstrated incredibly poor judgment. At the very least CNN could have Googled the people they were having speak. Either they were trying to bias the debate or they were simply asleep at the wheel—either way it reflects badly on them.

This race is still entirely up in the air, and even with weeks left until the Iowa Caucuses the rankings could change dramatically. Fortunately, the Republican Party has a solid group of candidates to pick from. The problem is that eventually the field must be narrowed to one—and who that may be is anyone’s guess.

Ron Paul’s Big Take

The big political news is that Ron Paul managed to rake in $4 million in 24 hours yesterday. 40,000 people donated an average of $98 each to bring in that money. What was impressive about the take is that Paul spend so little to get it—usually it costs a lot of money to get more money in a Presidential campaign.

However, in due fashion, Power Line throws some cold water on the whole thing:

The candidate understands his campaign very well — it’s an anti-war candidacy and little else. Notice how during debates, he routinely turns questions about domestic policy — normally meat and drink for a libertarian — back to Iraq

The only other seriously distinguishing feature of the campaign is that it’s nutty. Being anti-war is respectable, but Paul’s opposition to the war is founded on conspiracy theories, over-the-top isolationism, and an unhealthy dose of hostility to Israel. Paul’s opposition to big government is not a distinguishing feature. There are plenty of other Republican candidates this cycle who embrace small government conservatism. Again, the only only distinguishing feature of Paul’s small government platform is its nuttiness — the gold standard, the Federal Reserve conspiracy stuff, etc.

I’ll put it more simply: Ron Paul is the Republican’s Lyndon LaRouche. He represents a radical fringe, if a highly motivated one. He is not a serious candidate. If anyone honestly think that a kook like Ron Paul has a chance against any of the Democratic candidates other than Kucinich or Gravel, they’ve got a screw loose.

Yes, 40,000 people gave him a lot of money. That doesn’t mean that he’s got a shot in hell of winning, and that doesn’t make him any less of a kook.

Ron Paul’s support is primarily coming from a radical fringe. The GOP doesn’t need to embrace this fringe because elections aren’t won by courting radicals. They’re won by capturing the center. The more the real Ron Paul speaks out, the crazier he looks. What little sense he speaks on issues like small government are far outweighed by his crazy and conspiratorial nonsense.

Good for Ron Paul for getting a big take. He’s proven P.T. Barnum correct: there’s a sucker born every minute, and he managed to get 40,000 people to shell out to demonstrate it.

UPDATE: David Freddoso shows a scenario that has Ron Paul getting major traction in New Hampshire. Is such a thing possible? Certainly. Is it likely? Not very.

I don’t think Ron Paul can attract more than 10% support. He’s a niche candidate playing to a niche audience. What attraction does he have to the mainstream of the Republican Party? He’s rabidly anti-war. He’s an economic protectionist. He attracts the kind of “too-cool-for-school” Daily Show-watching college kids that are anathema to Middle America (which is why Howard Dean never got much real traction even before the “I Have A Scream” debacle). He has very strong support within his movement, but being the king of the fringe doesn’t put you in a position to win.