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Dennis Perrin Headshot

The Liberal's Ron Paul Problem

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The liberal attacks on Ron Paul, fueled by a recent hit piece in the New Republic, are so transparently cynical that it almost makes me smile.

Almost.

To quote James Ridgeway, liberals can be and often are the meanest motherfuckers around. Criticize any of their scared beliefs, then watch out. They'll come at you with anything they've got, doesn't matter if it's truthful, accurate, or even sane. American liberals truly feel that they are humanity's Final Word. If you dispute that, you're a bigot, a hater, a piece of slime that deserves only the nastiest treatment. And baby, you'll get it.

At issue is Ron Paul's supposed racism and queer-phobia, reflected in newsletters that bore his name. Paul has distanced himself from the newsletters, saying that others penned the toxic rhetoric, without his direct knowledge or approval. Maybe Paul's telling the truth. Maybe he's not. Maybe he really does despise those of darker hue and same-sexers. Maybe he's like the worst racist you've ever seen. Maybe he eats black children for breakfast.

Whatever Paul actually believes about minorities and queers is not the real concern here. What bothers liberals, TNR's James Kirchik among them, is that Paul is the only presidential candidate who is seriously running against the state. This includes anti-imperialism and calls to end the Drug War. Given that Hillary and Obama are nowhere near this mindset -- quite the opposite -- means that anyone who is must be a bad person. If those newsletters didn't exist, hit men like Kirchik and the libloggers who support him would find something else to smear Paul with. Because, at bottom, they oppose any dismantling of the war state (recall Kos' shitting all over Kucinich). They simply want their preferred candidates to run the machine instead.

For TNR, there's another angle to its anti-Paul attack: Israel. Paul wants to end U.S. military aid to Israel, and is critical of Israeli aggression (he's also critical of Hezbollah and Hamas, but that doesn't count). This simply won't do for Democrats and many liberals, who either support Israeli violence and occupation, or are at best mum on the topic. When Israeli fighter jets were pounding Lebanon in 2006, it took weeks for leading libloggers to type the slightest negative word, which for them was "disproportionate." It was okay to bury Lebanese in rubble, just so long as it wasn't too much rubble. By opposing this and other uses of American tax dollars to kill and maim Arabs, Ron Paul shows that he's probably anti-Semitic as well.

The funny thing about TNR attacking Paul for being racist is that TNR has published plenty of racist musings itself. Martin Peretz alone contributed much of this, his belief that the "primitive" Palestinians are genetically and culturally incapable of achieving peace (for which no one is to blame, added Peretz in a tender moment) merely one of many racist screeds that TNR had no problem pushing. Then there was former editor Andrew Sullivan inviting Charles Murray to explain at length his "Bell Curve" theory in TNR's pages, a decision that Sullivan defended by writing, "The notion that there might be resilient ethnic differences in intelligence is not, we believe, an inherently racist belief." Of course not. Ron Paul, on the other hand . . .

I might be mistaken, but so far as I know, Ron Paul has not left the campaign trail to oversee the killing of a black man. Liberal hero Bill Clinton did in 1992, flying back to Arkansas from New Hampshire to witness Rickey Ray Rector take the lethal needle. (Since Clinton was our first black president, did that constitute black-on-black violence?) Clinton also expanded the police and prison state, in which a large number of African-Americans are trapped, and shredded the safety net for the poor, among whom reside many African-Americans. Does this make Bill Clinton a racist? Hush yo' mouf!

Racism isn't Paul's only sin. According to Kirchik, those newsletters exhibited acute paranoia:

[S]pecifically, the brand of anti-government paranoia that festered among right-wing militia groups during the 1980s and '90s. Indeed, the newsletters seemed to hint that armed revolution against the federal government would be justified. In January 1995, three months before right-wing militants bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, a newsletter listed 'Ten Militia Commandments,' describing 'the 1,500 local militias now training to defend liberty' as 'one of the most encouraging developments in America.' It warned militia members that they were 'possibly under BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] or other totalitarian federal surveillance' and printed bits of advice from the Sons of Liberty, an anti-government militia based in Alabama--among them, 'You can't kill a Hydra by cutting off its head,' 'Keep the group size down,' 'Keep quiet and you're harder to find,' 'Leave no clues,' 'Avoid the phone as much as possible,' and 'Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.'

Yikes. Scary stuff. Sane people know that there is no American surveillance state -- or there wasn't one during the hallowed Clinton era, when all that crazy militia activity was taking place. According to liberal history, police state measures (torture, too) only occur during Republican presidencies, the past seven years being the most recent example. For Paul's newsletter to say otherwise is simple lunacy.

I'll tell you this: I've studied various strands of American right wing political philosophy and beliefs, and have had many conversations with rightists of different temperaments, and when it comes to seriously defending First and Fourth Amendment rights (what remain, anyway), I'll stand with libertarians like Ron Paul. I may not agree with most of his beliefs, nor that of the anti-statist right overall, but I know that Paul and others like him aren't looking to tap my phone or break down my door in the middle of the night.

Think the Branch Davidians were paranoid? Then vote Hillary or Obama. And sleep tight.

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