Ron Paul under fire

Ron Paul speaks about liberty and safety
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Ron Paul came under withering fire over some 20-year-old newsletters. But recent reports exaggerate their “racist” or “anti-Semitic” content.

The Ron Paul newsletters

Ron Paul ended his first career in the House of Representatives in 1985. He ran for President in 1988 on the Libertarian Party ticket, but otherwise returned to his private obstetrical practice. He also set up a company, called Ron Paul Associates, that published several newsletters. They included the Ron Paul Survival Report, the Ron Paul Freedom Report, the Ron Paul Investment Letter, and the Ron Paul Political Report. By all accounts, those two newsletters had a narrow circulation, largely of like-minded people. The Internet (still called Arpanet then) was not then the vast content-delivery system it is today, so Ron Paul Associates never published any of these newsletters on-line. But others have, including Reuters and The New Republic. In addition, one James Kirchik of The Weekly Standard published a piece for the current issue. also published a piece with a link to an eight-page letter asking people to subscribe.

Authorship and copyright questions

Kathleen Gee, a professional writer-for-hire or “ghostwriter,” suggested last Sunday in The Daily Paul that whoever published any of Ron Paul Associates’ newsletters might have violated that company’s copyrights. In fact, US copyright law protects any creative work the moment anyone commits it to any form of recording. This is traditionally true of a printed work, like a newsletter. The Copyright Act definitely forbids one publisher to publish work to which another publisher owns exclusive rights. Less clear is whether publishing a work to illustrate or criticize it violates copyright. In the United States, that comes under the heading of “fair use.”

Ron Paul Associates published all its newsletters under Ron Paul’s by-line. But as Gee points out, this does not mean that Ron Paul himself wrote the newsletters. In fact, Gee says that she read one of the newsletters, compared them to speeches that Ron Paul made on the floor of the House and elsewhere, and says that Ron Paul couldn’t have written it. Whoever did write it, wrote in a style and mode of expression that Ron Paul does not use and never used.

Reason investigated the newsletters in 2008, the last time Ron Paul ran for President. They guessed that the ghostwriter was Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., an officer of Ron Paul Associates. Gee never commented on that possibility, but she did say that executives rarely write their own newsletter copy, and some do not even read it regularly. Furthermore, those who do write such newsletters for others do so to reach a target readership and, in effect, tell them what they want to hear. And any ghostwriter who reveals his role usually must give up his fee.

The content at issue

Ron Paul, official portrait

Representative Ron Paul (R-TX-14). Photo: US House of Representatives

The New Republic published several excerpts, typically a page at a time, on their own servers. Perhaps they did this to stay within what the law defines as fair use. In one excerpt, Ron Paul, or his ghostwriter, describes the 1992 riots after the first verdict in the Rodney King police-beating case. (This is probably the letter that Kathleen Gee said she had read.)

Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began. … What if the checks had never arrived? No doubt the blacks would have fully privatized the welfare state through continued looting. But they were paid off and the violence subsided.

The solicitation letter on Reuters’ server mentions, exactly twice, possible civil disorder in large cities. Once it calls this “race war”; the second time it calls it “welfare riots.”

The New Republic piece links to several letters critical of black and/or homosexual activists. With regard to this, Ron Paul seems to highlight the possible hazard of the spread of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The newsletters do not mention that, in the early 1980s, respected medical journals often called this disease “Gay-Related Immune Deficiency,” or GRID. (Your editor was in medical school at the time and read several of the old articles that used that name in their titles and bodies.)

The New Republic describes Ron Paul as anti-Jewish. Yet it links to only one example: a letter saying that former world chess champion Bobby Fischer came in for unfair treatment after he denied that the Holocaust ever occurred. (General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, said that people would try to deny that those atrocities happened. That Fischer, a Jewish man himself, would be one of them, would strike anyone as strange. CNAV invites anyone who doubts that this event happened, to visit the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, or Yad VaShem on the outskirts of Jerusalem.)

Kirchik, in The Weekly Standard, has no links to any of the Ron Paul letters. He merely describes some of their contents. Concerning Israel, some of the letters describe Israel as “an aggressive national socialist state” (note the lack of capitals). Others suggest that the original 1993 bomb attack on the World Trade Center could have been a Mossad false-flag operation.

Whether it was a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly a retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists, matters little.

Kirchik does not limit himself to the Ron Paul letters alone. He dwells at length on Paul’s association with Alex Jones, an Internet anti-war activist with a large Internet and streaming-radio following. He also mentioned this Ron Paul quote from a November 22 Republican debate:

Why do we have this automatic commitment that we’re going to send our kids and send our money endlessly to Israel?

This recalls a notion by Ron Paul supporters (see also here) that the United States has a military presence in Israel. This may, or may not, refer to the recent deployment of a US anti-missile radar system and team to Israel to protect against an expected barrage by Iranian nuclear-tipped missiles. This is the first permanent deployment of US troops to Israeli soil and means that US-Israeli military relations just got a lot closer. And it began this last September, before Ron Paul made that statement.

CNAV’s Analysis

CNAV has read the excerpted newsletters. The eight-page solicitation letter (available through Reuters) is typical over-the-top fund-raising copy, with lurid melodrama designed to appeal to already-frightened people. As Kathleen Gee points out, most people who receive letters like these, throw them away, even if they subscribe. The material in them is almost never “evergreen,” or something that will be true for years or decades. This also is true of the excerpts that The New Republic hosts on their servers.

Oddly enough, others now raise the same concerns Ron Paul or his ghostwriter raised, and recommend the same strategies and tactics. The United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing did try to introduce a new multicolored currency. US law (specifically the USA-PATRIOT Act) now does force people to report large cash transactions; this is now a means to catch terrorists, not just drug dealers. Gold and silver have risen in price. (Worse yet, the gold futures contract is no longer keeping pace with the price of gold and silver coins that a dealer delivers to the customer.) And financial commentators, including Neil Cavuto and Stuart Varney on the Fox News and Business Channels, now point often to the riots in the streets of Greece. Ron Paul expected such riots in this country twenty years ago. If he expects them now, no one can truly blame him.

In fact, Ron Paul was not the only one, even twenty years ago, to predict the collapse of Western civilization. Robert J. Ringer, author of Winning Through Intimidation and Looking Out for Number One, wrote a book titled How to Prosper During the Coming Collapse of Western Civilization. In it he recommended buying gold, silver, guns, and bulk foodstuffs, just as many self-described “Patriots” recommend today. He used humor, rather than lurid horror, to make his points. But they were the same points that Ron Paul and his company made.

Still, anyone trying to persuade people to think seriously about riots in the streets and a collapse of Western civilization, will not do so by taking the tone that pervades those newsletters. Lurid hyperbole is good for reaching those who already believe. But it does not substitute for reasoned and sober argument. Only that will persuade those who do not believe.

Kathleen Gee is right. Those newsletters, and that solicitation letter, are far more hyperbolic than Ron Paul has ever been, either in Congress or in the debates. So the worst that anyone can accuse him of, is gross negligence in the management of his name and reputation. Today on Your World with Neil Cavuto, Ron Paul frankly admitted as much. But perhaps that ghostwriter (whether Lew Rockwell or someone else), or Ron Paul, should write to a higher standard than Kathleen Gee recommends. The kind of ghostwriting that Gee describes, strikes CNAV as closely akin to prostitution of the writer’s art. The best commentary that CNAV can offer on the Kathleen Gee vision of niche newsletter writing is a paraphrase of a memorable line that Actor Gary Cooper spoke in Warner Brothers’ film, The Fountainhead, based on Ayn Rand’s novel of the same name (and shot from a script that Rand wrote):

I don’t build in order to have clients; I have clients in order to build.

Likewise, a writer ought not write to have readers, but have readers to write. Anything less than honest, straight-forward reporting and commentary, is the equivalent of cheap fast food, and certainly unbecoming a candidate for the highest office in the land.

The New Republic and The Weekly Standard both have obvious motives to “take Ron Paul down a peg.” has a less-obvious motive:  its publisher, Christopher Ruddy, almost endorsed Newt Gingrich for President three days ago. The New Republic is a liberal magazine; they do not much want a President, or a Congress, who would set up gold-standard banking in the United States. The Weekly Standard is the reputed voice of “neo-conservatives,” that is, of “liberals who got mugged.” They want an aggressive, kill-them-before-they-kill-us-first foreign policy for the United States, and the full protection of the Republic of Israel by the US military. (Ironically, often sells such “survival gear” as a hand-powered radio for use in emergencies that include prolonged cutoff of electric power.)

Nevertheless, Ron Paul should know that anyone propounding radical ideas, true or not, well-founded or not, will make enemies. He has made his enemies’ job easier than he might have done. That is a shame; so many of his ideas are not only good, but urgently and even emergently right (gold-standard banking, slashing government spending).

Ron Paul will likely win the upcoming Iowa caucuses. Iowa is a special case. The kind of impassioned, even over-the-top commentary that those newsletters contain, is tailor-made to motivate people to take part in caucuses, and to sway them. It will not succeed nearly as well in the context of a secret ballot. And if this survey is any indicator, Ron Paul will be a memory several primaries later, Iowa or no.