A few weeks ago, an unknown Ron Paul’s supporter (or supporters) created a stir with a video attacking John Huntsman. Reuters reports:
Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman and members of his family expressed outrage on Friday at an advertisement targeted at his adopted daughters by a group supporting rival Ron Paul.
An online ad authored by “NHLiberty4Paul” shows footage of Huntsman with daughters Gracie, who was adopted from China, and Asha, adopted from India, when they were infants.
“American values. Or Chinese,” the ad asks to a soundtrack of Chinese music. It calls Huntsman “the Manchurian Candidate” and ends with an image of Huntsman dressed as China’s former communist leader Mao Zedong, and the words “Vote Ron Paul.”
Here’s the video, and I definitely recommend watching it:
So what is Ron Paul’s response?
Paul, a Texas congressman, disavowed the ad during an interview on Friday on CNN, but said he could not control the actions of all his supporters.
“I couldn’t even hear it, haven’t looked at it, but people do that, and they do it in all campaigns,” Paul said.
(Update: Apparently, Ron Paul’s campaign did attempt to sue to discover the author of the video, but they were rebuffed by the courts.)
Unfortunately, Ron Paul has a long history of tolerating these and other varieties of racist, homophobic, and otherwise disreputable supporters. He distances himself in tepid terms, and refuses to condemn them in anything remotely like the strong language that they deserve. That’s why he’s got problem after problem with downright frightening supporters.
Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign had such problems in spades, particularly for refusing reject donations from neo-Nazis. In this 2010 campaign, Ron Paul’s campaign welcomed the endorsement of a Christian dominionist pastor in Iowa who — consistent with his overall theology — advocates the death penalty (!!!) for homosexuality. (Please go read the whole story, because it’s quite remarkable.) The announcement on Ron Paul’s web site welcoming this fothermucker’s endorsement was deleted, but as far as I can tell, Ron Paul never repudiated the endorsement.
Moreover, Ron Paul has never adequately explained or repudiated the viciously racist and homophobic comments in his newsletters.
How should the lunatic fringe be handled in a campaign? Consider the reaction of Bob Barr’s campaign to a racist endorsement when he ran for president in 2008 on the Libertarian Party ticket:
The Barr campaign is not going to be a vehicle for every fringe and hate group to promote itself. We do not want and will not accept the support of haters. Anyone with love in their heart for our country and for every resident of our country regardless of race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation is welcome with open arms.
Tell the haters I said don’t let the door hit you on the backside on your way out!
I’m not a fan of Bob Barr, but *pow* *pow* *pow* — that’s how it’s done!
Instead of doing that — or anything like it — Ron Paul tolerates dangerous idiots, only setting them at arm’s length when exposed by the media. This pattern of actions reveals something amiss with Ron Paul’s character and judgment, I fear. He’s not a racist, I don’t think: he’s said and done too much too clearly against that. So is he just willing to tolerate and pander to dangerous nonsense in the hope of a few more votes? I don’t think that explains the pattern, not when he sticks to his guns on economics.
I suspect that a major cause of these problems is that he’s got a serious but mostly hidden penchant for conspiracy theories. This fascinating NY Times article explores that in some detail. For example:
In a 1990 C-Span appearance, taped between Congressional stints, Paul was asked by a caller to comment on the “treasonous, Marxist, alcoholic dictators that pull the strings in our country.” Rather than roll his eyes, Paul responded, “there’s pretty good evidence that those who are involved in the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations usually end up in positions of power. And I believe this is true.”
Paul then went on to stress the negligible differences between various “Rockefeller Trilateralists.” The notion that these three specific groups — the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Rockefeller family — run the world has been at the center of far-right conspiracy theorizing for a long time, promoted especially by the extremist John Birch Society, whose 50th anniversary gala dinner Paul keynoted in 2008.
Wow, just wow. By all means, go watch the video for yourself. He just smooth talks right in and out of the conspiracies.
Judged by the standards of a rational epistemology, conspiracy-theorism is nearly at the bottom of the barrel. The mind of the conspiracy theorist is in complete disarray, utterly unable to evaluate evidence or stick to facts. It’s engaging in a constant process of invention, and then confusing those inventions with facts.
For that to be the basic psycho-epistemology of the US President… well, that would be frightening.