Let's switch gears and ask ourselves what we can celebrate about the Ron Paul candidacy.
Last week's post about Ron Paul, discrimination, and conspiracy elicited a familiar but frustrating response from supporters of the good doctor. I've replied to a lot of those responses here, but let’s take a second to consider a solicitation letter from Ron Paul, apparently written while out of office, during the first Bush presidency:
"I've been told not to talk, but these stooges don't scare me. Threats or no threats, I've laid bare the coming race war in our big cities. The federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS (my training as a physician helps me see through this one.) [sic] The Bohemian-Grove—perverted, pagan playground of the powerful. Skull & Bones: the demonic fraternity that includes George Bush and leftist Senator John Kerry, Congress's Mr. New Money. The Israeli lobby, which plays Congress like a cheap harmonica. And the Soviet-style "smartcard" the Justice Department has in mind for you."
Now, forget it. Let's indulge the certain-to-be-leveled assertion that we cannot pin these on Paul because we don't have notarized signed pictures of him writing them by hand while holding up a copy of that day’s newspaper. Instead, let's switch gears and ask ourselves what we can celebrate about the Ron Paul candidacy.
If there's one thing Paul owns that should embarrass Barack Obama—it's policy on the Global War on Terror. You might recognize his opinions on the GWOT as "all the parts of the Republican debates where the audience boos something other than gay people."
First, his most sinister apostasy: Israel. The American foreign policy debate on Israel is so fraught with the potential to be accused of anti-Semitism that it's far easier to be critical of Israel in Israel. Haaretz routinely posts editorials that, penned by an American official, would send AIPAC on a crusade to force his resignation. Paul’s one of the few figures from either party who’s willing to entertain the notion that America's uncritical support of Israel generates negative perceptions that can radicalize Muslims—an idea he probably got from a 2004 Department of Defense analysis commissioned by Donald Rumsfeld.
That same DoD analysis didn't just single out Israel, but also included the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and our propping up of sclerotic dictatorships, like those of Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi, the bedouin-tent bunkmate of John McCain.
Every time Paul argues foreign policy in a GOP debate, he drops another fact-based turd in the punchbowl. He actually mentioned the 1953 Iranian coup while explaining our complicity in enraging Iran—which, by Republican debate standards, is like reciting pi to the 500th decimal. Newt Gingrich can spew his verbal chaff and rattle off vague bullet-point plans, but it's clear that Paul is the only one who's come to class on book report day after having done any of the fucking reading. The most embarrassing part is that the assignment was a Pentagon report from the previous Republican administration.
Paul's attitude toward the GWOT on American soil is also in conflict with those of his fellow candidates. Last week, a bipartisan Senate vote passed the Levin/McCain bill, which extends the United States' ability to indefinitely detain American citizens for "terrorism" charges so amorphous as "substantially [supporting]" Al-Qaeda or "associated forces." The conduct of the last two administrations shows that "associated forces" is a meaningless modifier, an exploitable ambiguity whose purpose is preemptively excusing abuse of the Fourth Amendment. Paul, to his credit—unlike Obama and the other GOP candidates—violently opposes indefinite imprisonment of American citizens without due process.
And that's why Paul will never win. His insistence on being just on these issues makes him unelectable by his own party. So why focus on those racist newsletters? Why do they matter? Well, they matter because there's something to cheer here.
If we accept, as we must, that Paul can never win, then we have to ask what purpose he serves. In this case, it's injecting positive ideas into the discourse and challenging a complacent corporatist two-party system. But, if those things matter, it matters who brands those ideas and who opens them to the easiest dismissal.
If you want to reevaluate America's attitude toward Israel, don't use as your representative someone who published anti-Semitic comments in a newsletter. If you want to calm fears about the existential threat foreign Muslims pose to America, your best speaker is not someone who's printed warnings about inevitable race war. When you assert that the security state is becoming a problem, don't cite a man warning against a fascist occupation of the United States in the 1980s.
Whoever wins this next election will assuredly continue America's global killing and domestic assaults on liberty. That moral catastrophe is inevitable. What we can do morally, however, is refuse to add more shame to the tally. Whether it was Ron Paul himself who wrote those letters or a staffer who saw the value in selling homophobia, racism and violent paranoia, that history and audience exists.
When you opt to support anti-imperialist and civil liberties ideals by supporting Paul the Candidate, you end up supporting everything else about him. That includes those newsletters and the unambiguous message to those who enjoy them: You can write these things and succeed; this works. The other good ideas to which he's signatory can't erase the fact that he put his name to those words printed above. The moral weight of those newsletters drags down even the most high-minded aspirations he has about civil liberties, and everything crashes down on all of us.