I have two quotes to present to you. They consist of outright swinery, so make sure you’re sitting down.
If you live in a major city, you’ve probably already heard about the newest threat to your life and limb, and your family: carjacking. It is the hip-hop thing to do among the urban youth who play unsuspecting whites like pianos. The youth simply walk up to a car they like, pull a gun, tell the family to get out, steal their jewelry and wallets, and take the car to wreck. Such actions have ballooned in the recent months. In the old days, average people could avoid such youth by staying out of bad neighborhoods. Empowered by media, police, and political complicity, however, the youth now roam everywhere looking for cars to steal and people to rob. What can you do? More and more Americans are carrying a gun in the car. An ex-cop I know advises that if you have to use a gun on a youth, you should leave the scene immediately, disposing of the wiped off gun as soon as possible. Such a gun cannot, of course, be registered to you, but one bought privately (through the classifieds, for example). I frankly don’t know what to make of such advice, but even in my little town of Lake Jackson, Texas, I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming.
Millions of souls have come into this world cursed with a black skin and have been denied the privilege of priesthood and the fullness of the blessings of the Gospel. These are the descendants of Cain. Moreover, they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning. … Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.
The first quote, a vile and appalling piece of race-baiting, is from a Ron Paul newsletter of a little over 2o years ago, which Paul claims he didn’t write. (I’m not sure that excuse passes the smell test. And even if it’s true: Jonathan Chait pointed out, correctly it seems to me, that “If Larry Flynt were running for president, I’m pretty sure people wouldn’t care that much that he did not personally take the photographs that appeared in Hustler.”)
The second quote represents some of the current or former beliefs of Mitt Romney, I’m not sure which. It’s a hybrid passage; the part before the ellipsis is from former Mormon President Joseph Fielding; the part after it is from Brigham Young, the founder of Romney’s faith. During his missionary years, from 1969 to ’71, Romney eagerly spread all manner of church literature containing exactly this poison. Luis Granados notes that “Not only has [Romney] never apologized for any of this, he is still bursting with pride over the entire missionary episode.”
My prediction: In the coming days, we’re going to hear a lot about Ron Paul’s alleged racism, and not a word about Romney’s.
The two things that bother me most about the Paul newsletter quote are that the language veers close to being an endorsement of racist murder; and that these putrid views were expressed just a couple of decades ago, by a man in his late forties or early fifties, long after the heat and turmoil of the Civil Rights era had dissipated. By contrast, perhaps Mitt Romney can claim that his brand of racism was youthful foolishness.
I don’t think either man is, today, a racist, but I’m just guessing. Both would do well to address the issue with clarity and forthrightness — and I’d welcome a soupçon of atonement if they’ve rid themselves of these beliefs. I hope the media, and maybe even the Iowa contenders, also won’t forget to hold Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann accountable for the open discrimination they’d like to mete out to gays and Muslims. Surveying the field of Republican candidates means seeing rather a lot of prejudice and bigotry.
Mostly, I sense, it’s Paul who will have to face the fire — and rightly if painfully so. He’s ahead in the polls and that changes things. The subject of the newsletters may be old news, as the Paulites keep insisting, but given that Paul has been playing coy about their authorship for years, it’s fair game. Frankly, I wouldn’t respect any political journalist who didn’t press him on the matter during the next half-dozen-or-so news cycles.
The Paul campaign should have cauterized this wound in 2008 at the latest. Letting it fester now will almost certainly mean curtains for his candidacy. Unlike Andrew Sullivan, I’m not really sure that it’s worth saving, and at this point I’m too dismayed and disillusioned to give Paul the benefit of the doubt. Doubt is what the libertarian frontrunner must now remove. If he mans up and clears that hurdle — not for my benefit, but for that of the movement he inspired — I can still see myself throwing my support behind him. The odds are getting longer by the day.
Rogier is a Dutch-born, New-England-dwelling multi-media maven (OK, a writer and photographer) whose dead-tree publishing credits include the New York Times, Wired, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Reason.