WASHINGTON -- Texas Rep. Ron Paul's old newsletters continue to dog the Republican presidential contender, even though he's disavowed the racist and homophobic passages within them. Part of the reason the newsletters may be too big a hurdle for him to overcome is that they reinforce Paul's previous writing and speeches in which he frequent dabbled in conspiracy theories.
In Thursday's The New York Times, James Kirchick highlighted Paul's enthusiastic trips down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory, black helicopters and trilateral commissions. Kirchick seizes on the fact that so many 9/11 "truthers" have jumped on Paul's campaign -- and the presidential candidate has not repudiated the group's views.
Paul knows where his bread is buttered. He regularly appears on the radio program of Alex Jones, a vocal 9/11 and New World Order conspiracy theorist based in his home state of Texas. On Jones's show earlier this month, Paul alleged that the Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador on United States soil was a “propaganda stunt” perpetrated by the Obama administration.
The Huffington Post also examined Paul's previous writings, speeches and interviews. The presidential candidate, who has become a top-tier contender in Iowa, has left a substantial video archive and paper trail -- much of it can be found on a website run by his former chief of staff, Lew Rockwell. Some of the nuggets are predictable. For instance, Paul believed in the anchor-baby conspiracy. He has railed against vaccine mandates. He described a federal program providing mental-health screenings for school children as "Orwellian," defended Branch Davidian sect leader David Koresh, and saw an insidious conspiracy that brought down Eliot Spitzer.
But in both Paul's writings and in his speeches popping up on YouTube, there are still moments that shock. Here are some of the other highlights of Paul's wacky theories:
At the 1987 Libertarian convention in Seattle, Paul, the party's presidential nominee, gave a speech in which he touched on his theory of a new form of slavery in this country: social security and welfare. "We had a civil war to get rid of slavery," Paul said. "We have substituted that form of slavery with a new form of slavery involving with the social system and the social security and the welfare state and the warfare state." He went on to advocate to "change all that and to release the slaves."
But Paul then takes his slavery theory one step further -- into outright historical revisionism. "The one thing that is very important though -- there has never been in the history of mankind a slave revolt," Paul declared. "That doesn't happen. What usually happened is that men of principle who are free, free the slaves and then they join the revolution." Had Paul not heard of the Underground Railroad, Nat Turner, or say, the Haitian Revolution?
Paul believed that then-President Bill Clinton's AmeriCorps program was tantamount to liberal enslavement. The program could potentially, according to the congressman's 1997 press release, "further open the way to American teenagers being conscripted into national service for liberal programs like trash cleanup details and other 'social conscience' activities."
Any program, no matter how pragmatic and small, could draw Paul's conspiratorial eye. In a 1998 column for his newsletter, the congressman wrote that a federal needle-exchange program was more than just "immoral." He argued, without citing a single study, that the program would lead to more illicit behavior.
Paul saw the fight over the program as a monumental struggle: "This socialistic approach to sharing health care costs is completely at odds with a society which values freedom. ...This is the socialist's dream. As government assumes the responsibility of paying the costs associated with irresponsible behavior, the more legitimately government can justify its involvement in dictating the behavior."
At times, Paul started to sound more and more like a late-night television quack -- never more so then when he opined in favor of keeping the FDA from regulating dietary supplements. In a piece from 2005, Paul sounded like the perfect pitchman for diet potions, male enhancement pills and muscle-building protein powders, writing:
Millions of Americans take dietary supplements every day, and the numbers are growing as the Baby Boom generation ages. More and more Americans understandably are frustrated with our government-controlled health care system. They have concluded that vitamins, minerals and other supplements might help them stay healthy and less dependent on the system. They use supplements because they can buy them freely at stores and research them freely on the Internet, without government interference in the form of doctors, prescriptions, HMOs and licenses.
Paul practically advocates for a return to medicine shows:
The health nannies insist that many dietary supplements are untested and unproven, and therefore dangerous. But the track record for FDA-approved drugs hardly inspires confidence. In fact, far more Americans have died using approved pharmaceuticals than supplements. Not every dietary supplement performs as claimed, but neither does every FDA drug.
The FDA simply gives people a false sense of security, while crowding out private watchdog groups that might provide truly disinterested consumer information. It fosters a complacent attitude and a lack of personal responsibility among people who assume a government stamp of approval means a drug must be safe, and that they need not study a drug before taking it.
And inevitably, like all good modern conspiracy theorists, Paul may have been one of the first to believe in the "war against Christmas." He wrote on Dec. 30, 2003:
"As we celebrate another Yuletide season, it's hard not to notice that Christmas in America simply doesn't feel the same anymore. Although an overwhelming majority of Americans celebrate Christmas, and those who don't celebrate it overwhelmingly accept and respect our nation's Christmas traditions, a certain shared public sentiment slowly has disappeared. The Christmas spirit, marked by a wonderful feeling of goodwill among men, is in danger of being lost in the ongoing war against religion. ...
Most noticeably, however, the once commonplace refrain of "Merry Christmas" has been replaced by the vague, ubiquitous "Happy Holidays." But what holiday? Is Christmas some kind of secret, a word that cannot be uttered in public? Why have we allowed the secularists to intimidate us into downplaying our most cherished and meaningful Christian celebration?"
Of course, Paul didn't have an answer for that.
Sam Stein contributed reporting to this piece.