Commentary Magazine


Ron Paul and Anti-Semitism

John Derbyshire, outraged at a long piece in the American Thinker about the online enthusiasm expressed for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign by neo-Nazi websites and their commenters, asks: “Don’t the American Thinker folk understand how paranoid bullying like that just reinforces the worst stereotypes about ethnocentric Jews?…For heaven’s sake: Does anyone really think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite?”

Well, we have two different questions here, don’t we?

Let’s take the second first — “Does anyone really think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite”? The obvious answer is: Yes, there are people who think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite.

They think this because of a few data points.

One is that a newsletter published in his name featured a bald sentence stating that “by far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.” Now, while it is true that you can be anti-Israel without being anti-Semitic, it is not always true, and more frequently than not it is not true — especially when you endorse the view that Jews comprise a powerful cabal seeking control of non-Jewish institutions. But as Paul told the Texas Monthly in 2001, he did not write that sentence or any sentences in that newsletter. A staffer, ghostwriting under his name, did.

The second is that he cast the sole Republican “No” vote on a House resolution last year reaffirming the nation’s “steadfast support for the nation of Israel” and specifically condemning Hezbollah and Hamas. In his floor statement, Paul explained that “I follow a policy in foreign affairs called non-interventionism. I do not believe we are making the United States more secure when we involve ourselves in conflicts overseas. The Constitution really doesn’t authorize us to be the policemen of the world, much less to favor one side over another in foreign conflicts.” And a spokesman of his has said that in defense of this absolutist principle, Paul has voted in his career against resolutions in praise of, for example, the Pope and Mother Teresa.

I’m inclined to think that Paul, who is not the most careful and prudent of speakers, is not an anti-Semite — because in a public career dating back 30 years he would likely have said something more explicit and unambiguous. Nor do I think he should be held personally responsible for the fact that he might be attracting extremist support from the neo-Nazi Right. He has not expressed their views and he is not his brother’s keeper.

But politics ain’t beanbag, and if he is getting donations from neo-Nazis that he won’t return in full, he and his supporters have to expect they are going to take lumps. And they have to take their lumps as well for echoing shameful voices of the past. The history of right-wing isolationism is that it has been a hotbed of classic and unambiguous anti-Semitism throughout the 20th century, as represented by leading-edge spokesmen from Henry Ford to Father Coughlin to Gerald K. Smith to the America First Committee.

Non-interventionism was the term they preferred, and the fact that Paul echoes them is understandably unsettling to a lot of people.

Which leads me back to Point One — Derbyshire’s statement that the American Thinker piece is “paranoid bullying…that just reinforces the worst stereotypes about ethnocentric Jews.” I would say only to my former colleague on The Corner that he has written here a sentence expressing a sentiment he really might wish to reconsider. There is nothing remotely paranoid or bullying about an investigation into the sentiments or ideas of a presidential candidate on any issue. Derbyshire, who prides himself on standing athwart political correctness, should appreciate this. Or is there a special exemption when it comes to candidates he likes and about issues that do not really interest him?