- A series of different newsletters published using Ron Paul's name (many by a company in which Ron owned only a minority stake) included statements that Kirchick finds offensive.
- Some of these statements are truly odious.
- Some are merely politically incorrect (but accurate) and/or contradict Kirchick's ignorant, knee-jerk misconceptions of American history.
- Not a single one of these statements is actually attributed to Ron Paul himself.
- All the stylistic evidence suggests just the contrary: that these statements were written by someone other than Dr. Paul.
But Why Should We Trust Kirchick's Gut Instinct? Indeed, why should anyone trust him at all ever again? As I mentioned in my post last night, when I asked Kirchick weeks ago whether he actually thought Paul was a homophobe, he responded (by email):
I don’t think Ron Paul is a homophobe; I’m just cynical and enjoy getting supporters of political candidates riled up. If you were a Giuliani guy I’d have called him a fascist.Kirchick's jaunty candor about his true motives makes him resemble a caricature of the classic Shakespearean villain who proudly confesses his depravity in an aside to the audience.
Lest one doubt Kirchick's utter lack of journalistic scruples, consider again the timing of this piece: having gloated publicly for weeks, Kirchick delivered the thrust of his attack the night before the New Hampshire primary, then waited till noon on the Paul Campaign's big day to show his cards. This was a transparent, shameless attempt by Kirchick to sabotage Paul's campaign--which seems to have accomplished its goal, given current voter returns in New Hampshire. No doubt Kirchick will delight if his piece saves his cherished Rudy Giuliani from once again finishing behind Paul--and ensure himself a lofty place in the history of American journalism.
In a written response released earlier today, Paul denied writing any of these statements but took full "moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name." He said much the same today in an interview with Reason Magazine. But these statements are not the real issue.
The Bait-and-Switch. When Tucker Carlson asked Kirchick last night whether he had any evidence that Paul had himself ever said anything racist or offensive, Kirchick pulled a classic bait-and-switch, accusing Paul of "speaking in code" to bigots:
You mean, said it out loud, or in person?.... I haven't seen that.... No, we do know however, I have found out that [Paul] spoke at a pro-secession conference in 1995. This was a neo-Confederate organization putting this on.... Just this last week on MSNBC, he touted a book called The Real Lincoln, by Thomas DiLorenzo, who is a neo-Confederate.... And what does, Tucker, is he speaks in code. He's a transmitter. He'll say certain things that might not, at first, appear to be overtly racist, but to certain audiences, they know what he's talking about. So when he talks about secession, he says it in a way that isn't exactly neo-Confederate, or it isn't exactly explicitly neo-Confederate, but to people who are in the know and to people who are a part of those neo-Confederate communities, know exactly what he's talking about.Suddenly, the issue is not who wrote any of Paul's newsletters, but Paul's flirtation with the dangerous notion of "secession." But here, it is really Kirchick who speaks in code. Rather than engage those with whom he disagrees on history and political philosophy (read Tom DiLorenzo's excellent response on response to Kirchick's attack), Kirchick simply brands his opponents with the "neo-Confederate" label to imply that anyone who believes in the decentralization of power wants to re-enslave African-Americans (and probably gays and Jews, as well). You see, Tucker, that's just what those Neo-Confederates really want--but they dare not say it!
The allegedly "neo-Confederate" organization he attacks at greater length in his article is the Mises Institute, which for twenty-five years has been dedicated to advancing the intellectual legacy of the great Austrian Jewish economist Ludwig von Mises, whose recent biography aptly dubbed him the Last Knight of Liberalism. For Mises, the history of liberalism was a struggle against the consolidation of power. He supported secession down to the lowest level practical as a vital check against the centralizing tendencies of the State. Mises' work was continued by Murray Rothbard, another libertarian Jew committed to the principle of secession.
Given Kirchick's equation of decentralization and secession with some grand "neo-Confederate" axis of hate, one can only assume that, back in 1991, he would have cheered alongside Prof. Eric Foner of Columbia University (a former president of the American Historical Association) in urging Gorbachev to "Save the Union!"--the Soviet Union, that is--by preventing the secession of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia. You see, Tucker, those damnable little Baltics wanted to enslave blacks, gays and Jews, but they had to speak in code using words like "Freedom" and "Independence."
Two Libertarianisms. Here, finally, we "strike at the root" of the issue, as Thoreau said. While Kirchick currently describes his political views on Facebook as "Other," he until recently used the word "libertarian." So it's hardly surprising that Kirchick is careful to distinguish the Baltic-loving neo-Confederate Paul/Mises secessionist "libertarians" from the "urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute." The split between these two organizations has never been more public than it is today. In a recent profile in the Nation, Cato Vice President for Research Brink Lindsey said, of Paul, "He doesn't strike me as the kind of person that's tapping into those elements of American public opinion that might lead towards a sustainable move in the libertarian direction."
For some at Cato (though certainly not all) and perhaps for Kirchick, libertarianism is simply about maximizing personal autonomy for the individual on any and every issue. This "libertarianism of autonomy" (if you will) holds a natural and powerful appeal for those who, like gays and lesbians, have been victimized (however recently) by the state and by private actors. Thus, someone like Kirchick might genuinely believe that Giuliani would be a "libertarian" president because of his record as mayor on "gay issues" like marriage or adoption. (Never mind his recent pandering to social traditionalists.) It also becomes easy to marry such a focus on social policy issues with a foreign policy that attempts to promote personal autonomy by invading countries like Iraq and "teaching them to elect good men," as President Wilson put it. One can even see how those who question heavy U.S. subsidies for Israel--a bastion of personal autonomy surrounded by people who probably don't like the Jews, gays, blacks or the Baltic states--could only seem like anti-semites "speaking in code."
The libertarianism of Ron Paul and the Mises Institute is different. While Ron has always been outspoken in defense of personal autonomy (see, for example, this terrific 1988 clip of him defending drug legalization), he is as concerned about the liberties of the individual as he is about the institutional structure that protects liberty. When he describes himself as a "constitutionalist," he is not "speaking in code" to express some kind of bigotry, but to defend the liberalism for which the American Revolution was fought: the restraint and diffusion of power through constitutionally limited government.
The Ongoing Battle. Kirchick's attacks on Paul begin by attempting to attribute to him statements that no one can reasonably believe Paul actually wrote and--which is more--that are completely antithetical to the principles of individual liberty consistently expressed by Paul throughout his career. When pressed, Kirchick reveals his true colors: as he told me, he doesn't seriously believe that Paul is a homophobe (or, presumably, any other sort of bigot). If one assumes that anything other than personal advancement motivates his attack, it is genuine and fundamental disagreement about the nature of political power.
For Kirchick and those like him, it seems that the State could be a powerful instrument for good--if only it would spend less time picking on gays and more time picking on those gay/Israeli/Baltic-hating Muslims. To such persons, Cato's personal autonomy libertarianism makes sense--even if it might go a bit too far. But for Paul and the Mises Institute, our Constitution is our first line of defense against the natural centralizing tendencies of political power. For them, the essential struggle of liberalism in American history has been fought against the "consolidationists"--starting with Alexander Hamilton, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and, yes, Tucker... Abraham Lincoln (and the list goes on). Secession is merely the natural extension of Jefferson's battle with Hamilton over the proper role and size of the Federal government--which continues to this day. Without the possibility of secession, the strongest check on the consolidation of power in Washington disappears.
As gays and lesbians, we should be able to see through the smear tactics of people like Kirchick to appreciate the true friends of freedom. Yes, Ron Paul should have exercised much closer scrutiny of things written in his name. One might fairly question his managerial skills--but he is no bigot. Paul articulates a consistent and coherent philosophy of politics that is deeply rooted in the liberal tradition. Those gays and lesbians who reject Paul's Constitutionalism in favor of candidates who might promise greater personal autonomy do themselves a great disservice. Institutions, constitutions and decentralization matter profoundly to sustainability of personal autonomy, as the doomed liberals of 1920s Weimer Germany would learn at the expense of Germany's gays, Jews and other minorities.