December 21, 2011 | 5:09 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
We are nearly a year out from the next presidential election and there have been about a dozen Republican debates——more than enough time for the 24/7 news cycle and voracious cable news channels to inspect, examine and scour each candidate for every present and former wart. The fascination with the sensational and the media’s compulsion to “inform” the public seems endless.
Four years ago, Tom Brokaw, one of the elder statesmen of the news business, in a post New Hampshire moment of insight admonished his colleagues that “we have too many hours to fill and too little imagination to fill them creatively.” One might have hoped, after the Brokaw quip, for a little introspection this time around and, perhaps, an interest by the cable mavens to probe beyond the sensational and actually offer insight as to what the candidates are all about. No chance.
The news channels and others in the media have demonstrated a continued interest in the trivial and the sensational, while ignoring the vital. Recent discussions of Gingrich’s marriages, Romney’s stiffness, or Gov. Perry’s gaffes—- might make for great TV and amusing YouTube clips, but they aren’t all that media should be focusing their attention on.
There is no better example of the media’s glossing over the fundamentals to focus on the superficial than the candidacy of Congressman Ron Paul.
Less sensational, and probably videotape-less, is the troubling evidence of racism and insensitivity by Ron Paul that has gone virtually unremarked on and, until this week, largely ignored. When Paul was just a cranky figure decorating the debate stages, one might excuse the lapse. When he appears to be the leader in the Iowa caucuses, the oversight has been inexcusable.
Congressman Ron Paul, the Republican/libertarian candidate, is treated in the press, and in the countless debates of the Republican candidates, as if he were simply an eccentric uncle. His musings about returning to the gold standard and the evils of the IRS are interludes where the other candidates seem to catch their collective breath and figure out a witty riposte to the questions that he doesn’t respond to. The moderators don’t accord him much attention, though he fully exploits the platform he is onto reach millions of viewers with his bizarre views.
In fact, his quirkiness is seen as endearing by young voters on the right and the left who seem to have bought the media’s portrayal of him as a sage truth teller who doesn’t bend to the vagaries of what’s “in” or “out”.
He is neither a harmless eccentric nor just a bit offbeat; Cong. Paul has a long, well documented track record of racial and religious insensitivity and bigotry that has gone largely unexamined.
As The New Republic observed in 2008, Paul’s newsletters reveal,
“decades’ worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing—-but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.”
The instances of outrageous comments in his newsletters over thirty years are virtually endless. For example, the Ron Paul Political Report opined that the 1992 Los Angeles riots, “ended when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began;” the media was denounced for believing that “America’s number one need is an unlimited white checking account for underclass blacks;” an article about a racial disturbance in Washington, D.C. was titled “Animals Take Over the D.C. Zoo”; Martin Luther King is accused of having “seduced underage girls and boys”; regarding gays, the newsletter suggested, “homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities;” and vis a vis Israel, “it is an aggressive, national socialist state;” a newsletter questioned (whether) the 1993 World Trade Center bombing may have been “a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists, (it) matters little.”
The quotes from Paul’s newsletters are truly incendiary—-not manufactured slights that one needs to “decode”. The libertarian magazine Reason, in its on-line website, concluded that through his newsletters, Ron Paul, “became complicit in a strategy of pandering to racists.” With limited exceptions most noteworthy The New Republic,—- and this week, The Weekly Standard, The Atlantic and The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times—-the media have simply not adequately scrutinized Paul and his sordid record.
Paul has excused the newsletter outrages as having been done “under my name that I did not edit.” However, The Weekly Standard revealed that the company that published the newsletters, Ron Paul & Associates, had millions of dollars in income—-and Paul and his wife were officers of the company. If the newsletters’ comments troubled him, he could have, and should have, objected to what was going out over his name. Failure to do so indicates, at a minimum, terrible judgment, if not acquiescence.
That the media has failed to scrutinize Paul can’t be rationalized away simply because Paul won’t be the next president of the United States. He is a serious player—-he has raised millions of dollars, he is a potential winner in the Iowa caucuses, and young voters seem to be attracted to his avuncular quirkiness. Paul’s seeming “frankness” ought not allow him to be cleansed of the taint of having tolerated and promoted bigotry.
Whatever his views on the gold standard, the Fed or the deficit are irrelevant to his incendiary musings on race, religion, sexual orientation and related topics. Congressman Paul is an extremist who is legitimized every time he shares a stage with national leaders.
His very presence seems to model for young people that intolerant views on race, religion and sexual orientation can be parsed from economic and other positions. America’s message for decades has been that bigotry taints a political figure and ought to lead to ignominy and ostracism.
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