Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ron Paul

Rivals Attack Romney, But to No Avail

At last night’s debate, there were surprisingly few direct attacks on Mitt Romney. This morning, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum finally went after him, but neither was able to land a knockout punch:

Santorum began the morning’s attacks, accusing Romney of abandoning Republicans in Massachusetts by “bailing” from a difficult 2006 reelection campaign. When Romney cast his decision not to run for a second term as a selfless choice – saying he engaged in politics as a “citizen,” not a longtime official – Gingrich pounced. …

But the bad blood between Romney and his foes resurfaced before the debate was out, as Gingrich again went on the offensive – this time accusing Romney of duplicity in distancing himself from negative ads run by a super PAC funded by his “millionaire friends.”

Romney once more avoided a deer-in-the-headlights moment, though his speech was uncharacteristically halting as he explained that he wouldn’t support any attack ads that were inaccurate.

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At last night’s debate, there were surprisingly few direct attacks on Mitt Romney. This morning, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum finally went after him, but neither was able to land a knockout punch:

Santorum began the morning’s attacks, accusing Romney of abandoning Republicans in Massachusetts by “bailing” from a difficult 2006 reelection campaign. When Romney cast his decision not to run for a second term as a selfless choice – saying he engaged in politics as a “citizen,” not a longtime official – Gingrich pounced. …

But the bad blood between Romney and his foes resurfaced before the debate was out, as Gingrich again went on the offensive – this time accusing Romney of duplicity in distancing himself from negative ads run by a super PAC funded by his “millionaire friends.”

Romney once more avoided a deer-in-the-headlights moment, though his speech was uncharacteristically halting as he explained that he wouldn’t support any attack ads that were inaccurate.

Romney’s response to Gingrich’s attack on a pro-Romney super PAC was mystifying – he first said he never saw the PAC’s anti-Gingrich ad, and then went on to recite it blow-by-blow. But he managed to keep his composure,and came out of the dustup without any serious damage.

The question many observers have been asking is why are Romney’s rivals treating him so lightly? At the Daily Caller, Matt Lewis raises an interesting possibility:

Some of the candidates, by now, know they cannot win. As such, they have little incentive to attack Romney. (Perhaps he will give them a position in his administration if they help him? — Why ruin that? Or maybe he would counter-attack them and make them look bad if they criticize him? …. Or maybe they just want to be thought of as “nice”?)

Meanwhile, the candidates who think they can win — Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich — probably believe their best shot at the nomination is to finish second in New Hampshire. And while going “negative” in a debate may hurt Romney, it would also tarnish their reputation, as well.

Lewis’s take makes sense. Perry isn’t hitting Romney because his past attempts to do so have blown up in his face (the convoluted “flip-flop” attack, for example). Whether Perry’s staying in the race because he actually believes he can compete seriously in South Carolina, or whether he’s simply to redeem his national reputation after multiple embarrassments, he has little incentive to go after Romney. The possibility of a future appointment may not even factor into the equation.

As for Huntsman and Paul – could they really be pulling punches with Romney because they’re gunning for administration positions? There’s notoriously bad blood between Huntsman and Romney, and Paul doesn’t have a shot at an appointment.

But at least Huntsman isn’t afraid of sparring with Romney once in awhile. Paul’s unwillingness to attack the frontrunner is actually the most confounding out of all of the candidates. He actually turned down an opportunity to criticize Romney this morning when it was explicitly presented to him. Paul’s polling second in New Hampshire, so why is he spending his time punching down at Santorum and Gingrich, who are both polling at single digits? It makes no sense.

Beyond that, Santorum and Gingrich are going to have to start turning their guns on each other at some point soon. Gingrich is fading in South Carolina, but not fast enough that Santorum can rest easy. Meanwhile, Gingrich can’t allow Santorum’s recent burst of popularity to propel him to the top of the polls there. Of course both of them have to attack Romney – they’re locked in a three-man race with him in South Carolina right now – but one of them will also have to definitively capture the not-Romney title. That means they’ll have to take the gloves off pronto – and with Santorum’s recent fundraising boost and Gingrich’s $5 million cash infusion, they now have the money to do it.

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Is Ron Paul the New Lyndon LaRouche?

Lyndon LaRouche was a prolific writer who developed a cult-like following and eight times, between 1976 and 2004, sought the presidency, seven times for the Democratic ticket. He wrote and spoke often about the economy and spun wild conspiracy theories. For example, he said Queen Elizabeth was a drug dealer. The Nation’s Bob Dreyfuss, a LaRouche acolyte who dedicated his first book to his former boss and had it published by LaRouche’s publisher, argued in it that Bernard Lewis, perhaps the most influential living historian of the Middle East, was a nefarious force behind Ayatollah Khomeini and Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

LaRouche achieved a particularly loyal following among college students. He anchored enough of his writing in fact that the 30 percent or so that was pure bunk became, for the gullible or willingly blind, believable. His writings adhered to the idea that falsehoods spoken with conviction and precision became credible. Like Ron Paul, he certainly was consistent in his willingness to believe the worst motivations of government officials or his opponents. While LaRouche reached the pinnacle of his influence in the pre-internet age, he managed to spread his conspiracies not only through teaching classes, but also through myriad pamphlets, leaflets, and newspapers. LaRouche is still around, of course, but a conviction for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and tax code violations has undercut his credibility among the young and disaffected enough so that he has returned to purely marginal status.

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Lyndon LaRouche was a prolific writer who developed a cult-like following and eight times, between 1976 and 2004, sought the presidency, seven times for the Democratic ticket. He wrote and spoke often about the economy and spun wild conspiracy theories. For example, he said Queen Elizabeth was a drug dealer. The Nation’s Bob Dreyfuss, a LaRouche acolyte who dedicated his first book to his former boss and had it published by LaRouche’s publisher, argued in it that Bernard Lewis, perhaps the most influential living historian of the Middle East, was a nefarious force behind Ayatollah Khomeini and Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

LaRouche achieved a particularly loyal following among college students. He anchored enough of his writing in fact that the 30 percent or so that was pure bunk became, for the gullible or willingly blind, believable. His writings adhered to the idea that falsehoods spoken with conviction and precision became credible. Like Ron Paul, he certainly was consistent in his willingness to believe the worst motivations of government officials or his opponents. While LaRouche reached the pinnacle of his influence in the pre-internet age, he managed to spread his conspiracies not only through teaching classes, but also through myriad pamphlets, leaflets, and newspapers. LaRouche is still around, of course, but a conviction for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and tax code violations has undercut his credibility among the young and disaffected enough so that he has returned to purely marginal status.

Into the vacuum left by LaRouche came Ron Paul. Without doubt, some of what Paul says makes sense. Americans are concerned with tremendous government waste and the intrusion of nanny-state governance into our daily lives. But, on foreign policy and defense, Paul supplements his isolationism with the same mold of conspiracy as LaRouche. Many of “the Bush lied, Americans died, Cheney led a secret cabal” conspiracies which Paul’s followers—if not Dr. Paul himself—seize upon have their origins with LaRouche acolytes like Dreyfuss or former Pentagon official and congressional candidate Karen Kwiatkowski, who seemingly hopped from the LaRouche bandwagon to Paul’s. Paul may not publish so many newsletters any more—with good reason—but his followers have certainly taken full advantage of cyberspace to connect imaginary dots and weave creative conspiracies that put the old LaRouchites and even Maxine Waters to shame.

The Iowa Caucus results suggest Paul has peaked. Good conspiracies never die, however. Paul has become the Lyndon LaRouche of the 21st century, an increasingly marginal figure with a disproportionately poisonous and vocal following, one which will never win elections, but will satisfy itself by spinning wild conspiracy theories and trolling comments pages on internet news sites for decades to come.

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Does Near-Tie With Santorum Actually Benefit Romney?

S.E. Cupp at the New York Daily News makes an interesting case for why Mitt Romney benefits from his close call with Rick Santorum:

Now, prepare to see Santorum in every headline, on every news show, rising in every poll. The other candidates (what’s left of them) have him to go after him this week. And Santorum has his third place finisher, Ron Paul to attack (we got a preview of that last week). The pundits and odds makers will devote a substantial amount of airtime to hyperventilating about whether the Santorum surge can stick, and whether Paul’s rabid fans will follow him from Iowa to New Hampshire.

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S.E. Cupp at the New York Daily News makes an interesting case for why Mitt Romney benefits from his close call with Rick Santorum:

Now, prepare to see Santorum in every headline, on every news show, rising in every poll. The other candidates (what’s left of them) have him to go after him this week. And Santorum has his third place finisher, Ron Paul to attack (we got a preview of that last week). The pundits and odds makers will devote a substantial amount of airtime to hyperventilating about whether the Santorum surge can stick, and whether Paul’s rabid fans will follow him from Iowa to New Hampshire.

I’m not so sure Santorum will forgo attacking Romney in order to go after Ron Paul. (What’s the point? Paul has no chance at the nomination, and his supporters aren’t exactly Santorum’s target audience.) As for Newt Gingrich – really the only other candidate left, since Paul is untenable, and Bachmann and Perry both seem to be on the way out – he’ll certainly have no reservations attacking Romney at the upcoming debate.

But Cupp’s main point, that the bulk of the media scrutiny will be on Santorum, is a good one. Romney is boring, squeaky clean, and whatever skeletons might remain in his closet probably aren’t the salacious type. Santorum, on the other hand – just Google him. He’s the boogeyman of the gay rights and pro-choice movements; he’s said some provocative things about gay marriage. And he’s a part of the whole Religious Right cadre that the left always worries is resurgent. If you have any doubts the knives are out, just watch this video of Alan Colmes mocking the way Santorum handled the death of his child.

TPM and HuffPo have probably already dispatched entire teams of reporters to dig into Santorum’s religious and family background. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing; it’s just a fever pitch of hysterical left-wing scrutiny that Romney probably wouldn’t start to see until after he secured the nomination.

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What Would a Romney Loss Tonight in Iowa Look Like?

Mitt Romney is in a prime position heading into the Iowa caucuses tonight. But even though he’ll almost certainly finish in the top three, that doesn’t mean he can’t “lose.” Obviously, the best case scenario is Romney takes the top slot, and the second best is he finishes second to the untenable Ron Paul. A slightly worse outcome is if Romney comes in second to Rick Santorum, and the losing scenario is if he finishes in third, behind both of them.

The Washington Post sums up the impact a third-place showing would have on the Romney campaign:

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Mitt Romney is in a prime position heading into the Iowa caucuses tonight. But even though he’ll almost certainly finish in the top three, that doesn’t mean he can’t “lose.” Obviously, the best case scenario is Romney takes the top slot, and the second best is he finishes second to the untenable Ron Paul. A slightly worse outcome is if Romney comes in second to Rick Santorum, and the losing scenario is if he finishes in third, behind both of them.

The Washington Post sums up the impact a third-place showing would have on the Romney campaign:

If he places second to Paul or Santorum, Romney would still have outperformed expectations, and the narrative out of Iowa would be that he is poised to make a strong showing in the upcoming nominating contests.

But a third-place finish in Iowa – particularly since Romney has gained so much in the polls — could prove problematic.

It would fuel the argument that Romney is not the top choice for many conservatives, who still distrust Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts. It would shatter Romney’s air of inevitability. And it would likely give his rivals a foothold in fundraising, which could mean a lengthier primary fight than originally expected.

Romney’s recent rise in the Iowa polls was unanticipated, but now that his campaign has set the expectation he’ll finish in the top two, anything short of that will be seen as somewhat of a failure. It wouldn’t be a crisis for his campaign by any means, but it would portend a longer, drawn-out primary and undermine the perception of inevitability that Romney’s been building back up.

The less problematic, but still not ideal, scenario for Romney would be if he came in second behind Santorum. While a Paul victory in Iowa would likely discredit the caucuses altogether, Romney would have to take Santorum more seriously as a challenger. It could mean sparring with Santorum at the upcoming debate, potentially sinking more money into attack ads, competing seriously in states Romney otherwise might not have to worry about, and, above all, drag out the primary battle.

That’s not to say the race is over if Romney wins the top spot tonight. But it would create a snowball effect of inevitability, especially heading into New Hampshire, which Romney already has locked up.

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Ron Paul Gets the Rod Serling Treatment

Not only is Jon Huntsman’s latest attack ad on Ron Paul pretty pitch-perfect, it also comes at a great time. After watching the annual New Year’s 48-hour “Twilight Zone” marathon on the SciFi network, Ron Paul’s creepy conspiracy theories and crackpot foreign policy sound exactly like something the horror genius Rod Serling would concoct to terrify us.

Only one gripe: how could Huntsman’s team have left out this classic clip from the Reagan debate over the summer?

As the rest of the GOP field focuses on Iowa, Huntsman’s been stumping in New Hampshire, and in the latest Suffolk University survey he ties Newt Gingrich for third place, with Ron Paul in second. Huntsman currently has the state to himself, and there’s no reason to think he can’t edge out Gingrich in the quickly-approaching primary. More videos like this one can’t hurt.

Not only is Jon Huntsman’s latest attack ad on Ron Paul pretty pitch-perfect, it also comes at a great time. After watching the annual New Year’s 48-hour “Twilight Zone” marathon on the SciFi network, Ron Paul’s creepy conspiracy theories and crackpot foreign policy sound exactly like something the horror genius Rod Serling would concoct to terrify us.

Only one gripe: how could Huntsman’s team have left out this classic clip from the Reagan debate over the summer?

As the rest of the GOP field focuses on Iowa, Huntsman’s been stumping in New Hampshire, and in the latest Suffolk University survey he ties Newt Gingrich for third place, with Ron Paul in second. Huntsman currently has the state to himself, and there’s no reason to think he can’t edge out Gingrich in the quickly-approaching primary. More videos like this one can’t hurt.

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Are We Heading for a Photo Finish in Iowa?

Most of the recent polls have shown Ron Paul fading fast in Iowa, which is why this Public Policy Polling survey showing him, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in a statistical dead-heat has been greeted with some surprise today:

The Republican caucus in Iowa is headed for a photo finish, with the three leading contenders all within two points of each other. Ron Paul is at 20 percent, Mitt Romney at 19 percent, and Rick Santorum at 18 percent. Rounding out the field are Newt Gingrich at 14 percent, Rick Perry at 10 percent, Michele Bachmann at 8 percent, Jon Huntsman at 4 percent, and Buddy Roemer at 2 percent.

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Most of the recent polls have shown Ron Paul fading fast in Iowa, which is why this Public Policy Polling survey showing him, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in a statistical dead-heat has been greeted with some surprise today:

The Republican caucus in Iowa is headed for a photo finish, with the three leading contenders all within two points of each other. Ron Paul is at 20 percent, Mitt Romney at 19 percent, and Rick Santorum at 18 percent. Rounding out the field are Newt Gingrich at 14 percent, Rick Perry at 10 percent, Michele Bachmann at 8 percent, Jon Huntsman at 4 percent, and Buddy Roemer at 2 percent.

The poll still shows Paul dropping – down 4 percent since earlier in the week – and his favorability numbers have fallen 21 points. But is it possible that his downward momentum is coming late enough that he can still eke out a win in Iowa?

At HotAir, Ed Morrissey is dubious, and notes the strange makeup of PPP’s “like caucus-goer” demographic:

More to the point, though, only half of the “1,340 likely Republican caucus voters” surveyed by PPP caucused with Republicans in 2008.  Sixteen percent caucused with Democrats in that cycle, and over a third (34 percent) didn’t caucus with either party in 2008.  Not shockingly, Paul wins 23 percent of those who didn’t caucus at all in 2008, and 28 percent among those who caucused with the Democrats.

Obviously, that composition favors Paul, who’s popular with an unusual coalition of young, Democratic-leaning voters in Iowa. But the question has always been whether he would be able to get this eclectic group out to the polls. That’s why Paul’s modest drop in support in the PPP poll may not be as worrying for him as his massive drop in favorability. It appears that few, if any, voters will be open to supporting him if they haven’t decided to already.

Santorum, in contrast, is the candidate who’s most poised to make gains, according to PPP. And the opposition research that’s just started trickling out on him is probably coming too late to make a difference:

Santorum’s net favorability of 60/30 makes him easily the most popular candidate in the field. No one else’s favorability exceeds 52 percent. He may also have more room to grow in the final 48 hours of the campaign than the other front runners: 14 percent of voters say he’s their second choice to 11 percent for Romney and only 8 percent for Paul.

Unlike Santorum and Paul, Romney’s support is holding steady, and his campaign is clearly unfazed by the shuffling momentum of his two closest competitors. “If we win, it’s fantastic. If Santorum wins and we are second, it’s good. If Paul wins and we are second, it’s great. Any of the likely outcomes is positive for us,” one top Romney advisor told Mike Allen. Out of the top three, Romney is the only candidate with a clear path to the nomination, which is probably why he’s taken an increasingly confident attitude heading into the caucuses.

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Hypocritical Dems In No Position to Blast GOP Over Paul

For years, Democrats have been on the defensive about the not inconsiderable portion of their party that was hostile to the State of Israel. But the attention and support being given Ron Paul in the Republican presidential race is giving them an opportunity to roast members of the GOP for refusing to treat the libertarian extremist as being beyond the pale of American politics. Thus, it was no surprise to read that the National Jewish Democratic Council condemned Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum for saying they would vote for Paul if he turned out to be the Republican nominee.

But to say this stance is hypocritical is an understatement. Did Jewish Democrats denounce their mainstream candidates for cozying up to racial hucksters and foes of Israel such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and pretending, as Romney and Santorum now do for Paul, that these persons were preferable to any Republican? Did they denounce their party for treating Jimmy Carter as a respected elder statesman? Of course not. Though it is troubling to see the other GOP candidates treat Paul as if he were a reasonable presidential choice, that is the way the game is played. Democrats are no more righteous in this respect than Republicans.

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For years, Democrats have been on the defensive about the not inconsiderable portion of their party that was hostile to the State of Israel. But the attention and support being given Ron Paul in the Republican presidential race is giving them an opportunity to roast members of the GOP for refusing to treat the libertarian extremist as being beyond the pale of American politics. Thus, it was no surprise to read that the National Jewish Democratic Council condemned Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum for saying they would vote for Paul if he turned out to be the Republican nominee.

But to say this stance is hypocritical is an understatement. Did Jewish Democrats denounce their mainstream candidates for cozying up to racial hucksters and foes of Israel such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and pretending, as Romney and Santorum now do for Paul, that these persons were preferable to any Republican? Did they denounce their party for treating Jimmy Carter as a respected elder statesman? Of course not. Though it is troubling to see the other GOP candidates treat Paul as if he were a reasonable presidential choice, that is the way the game is played. Democrats are no more righteous in this respect than Republicans.

In truth, much of the Republican Party has rightly treated Paul as anathema. The Republican Jewish Coalition rightly refused to invite him to their presidential forum. It is also reassuring to see that the other candidates are finally shifting from a strategy of ignoring Paul’s radical approach to foreign policy and instead pointing out just how dangerous he and his ideas are.

But to expect the leading candidates to go out of their way to snub Paul or to declare him unfit for the presidency is unrealistic. Just as Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry held their noses and pretended that Jackson and Sharpton were reasonable alternatives for the presidency because they wanted their supporters’ votes in the fall, so, too, do Republicans pander to Paul.

The emergence of Paul is a worrisome sign not just for Republicans but all Americans. The limited success he has enjoyed so far illustrates that despite the overwhelming support of most Americans across the political spectrum for Israel, there is still a good-sized minority on the margins of both the left and the right that must be confronted. It is to be hoped Paul’s numbers will decline as his connections with racist and extremist forces get more exposure.

It is some consolation to Republicans that Paul does far better in the polls with Democrats and independents than he does with Republicans, a point that should give partisans like the NJDC pause before they speak too loudly about the libertarian’s source of support. Given that polls also show Republicans to be even more devoted to Israel than most Democrats, there is no chance he will be the nominee.

But it takes an extra helping of chutzpah for the NJDC, a group that has relentlessly defended every swipe at Israel on the part of the Obama administration, to start demanding Republicans take loyalty tests to the Jewish state. Though the NJDC claims Republicans who refuse to condemn Paul are putting party above principle, their endless apologias for Obama and other liberal Democrats who have distanced themselves from Israel are no different than the trimming being done by Romney and Santorum about Paul.

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Ron Paul: Where Left Meets Right

It has long been apparent that Ron Paul’s isolationist foreign policy has far more to do with the agenda of the anti-American left than anything resembling the ideas conservatives support. But, surprisingly, that confluence of far left and far right may also apply to his domestic concerns. As the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack reports, yesterday Paul threw a bouquet to the Occupy Wall Street movement and even compared it favorably with the Tea Party.

According to Paul, both the Tea Party and the Occupiers are citizens upset with the status quo, seek to overturn the political establishment and have far more in common than they suspect. This is, of course, nonsense. The Tea Party is about individual responsibility (remember, it started over mortgage defaulters having their bills paid by other citizens who pay their way) while Occupy is about entitlement and envy. They only look like the same thing if you are, like Paul, someone who is so obsessed with things like the Federal Reserve and opposing the defense of American interests and values abroad, that you lose perspective about how we can defend the freedom he says he believes in so deeply.

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It has long been apparent that Ron Paul’s isolationist foreign policy has far more to do with the agenda of the anti-American left than anything resembling the ideas conservatives support. But, surprisingly, that confluence of far left and far right may also apply to his domestic concerns. As the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack reports, yesterday Paul threw a bouquet to the Occupy Wall Street movement and even compared it favorably with the Tea Party.

According to Paul, both the Tea Party and the Occupiers are citizens upset with the status quo, seek to overturn the political establishment and have far more in common than they suspect. This is, of course, nonsense. The Tea Party is about individual responsibility (remember, it started over mortgage defaulters having their bills paid by other citizens who pay their way) while Occupy is about entitlement and envy. They only look like the same thing if you are, like Paul, someone who is so obsessed with things like the Federal Reserve and opposing the defense of American interests and values abroad, that you lose perspective about how we can defend the freedom he says he believes in so deeply.

The point here is not just that Paul is far removed from the Republican mainstream though, of course, he is. Every poll shows the group he does most poorly with is registered Republicans. His bow to the Occupy Wall Street crowd makes sense, because left-wingers are far more likely to view him favorably than Republicans, even those with libertarian leanings. While some in the GOP share his instinctive distrust of government, Paul’s all-purpose extremism is easy to understand, because as far as he is concerned, there is really no difference between his rationalizing the Taliban and Iran and his sympathy for the neo-Marxist Occupiers. As Paul said:

I think some people like to paint Occupy left and the Tea Party people right, but I think it makes my point. There’s a lot of people unhappy, and they’re not so happy with the two party system because we have had people go in and out of office, Congress changes, the presidency changes, they run on one thing, they do something else. Nothing ever changes. And I sort of like it because I make the point that if you’re a Republican or Democrat the foreign policy doesn’t really change, even though there’s a strong Republican tradition of the foreign policy I’ve been talking about where we don’t get involved in policing the world. Does the monetary policy change? Do they really care about reining in the Fed? Would the Fed bail out all these countries around the world? More and more people know that now. But monetary policy doesn’t change.

Far from representing the values of conservative Tea Partiers who respect the Constitution, Paul’s obsessive hatred for the institutions of government and America’s place in the world is the antithesis of their world view.

The nexus of the far right and the far left has always been a dangerous place where extremists of all kinds, including racists and anti-Semites, linger. So it’s no surprise that Paul has pandered to these groups with his newsletters as well as his isolationism and conspiracy theories about 9/11. While he may be enjoying a momentary surge in Iowa, his politics of destruction are part of a long-failed tradition of populist extremism that has little appeal to most Republicans or mainstream America.

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Maybe Ron Paul Should Have Been Nicer to the Trilateral Commission

Some of the die-hard Ron Paul supporters have come up with a few imaginative ideas about the origins of the ongoing “anti-Paul smear campaign” (their term for the totally legitimate investigation into Paul’s racist newsletters). Take, for example, this comically delusional “oppo” file on Jamie Kirchick, the journalist who broke the newsletter story in 2008, that’s apparently being emailed to reporters. I won’t give it all away, but the thesis is that Kirchick and Newt Gingrich orchestrated the scandal at the behest of the military industrial complex (there are charts).

But Paul himself may have come up with an even more convoluted theory about why some presidential candidates get bad press. On Feb. 18, 2001, Paul reportedly appeared on the now-defunct Radio Free America, a talk show created by prolific Holocaust denier Willis Carto. Here’s part of the transcript of the show, which was published in Carto’s anti-Semitic newsletter in March of 2001:

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Some of the die-hard Ron Paul supporters have come up with a few imaginative ideas about the origins of the ongoing “anti-Paul smear campaign” (their term for the totally legitimate investigation into Paul’s racist newsletters). Take, for example, this comically delusional “oppo” file on Jamie Kirchick, the journalist who broke the newsletter story in 2008, that’s apparently being emailed to reporters. I won’t give it all away, but the thesis is that Kirchick and Newt Gingrich orchestrated the scandal at the behest of the military industrial complex (there are charts).

But Paul himself may have come up with an even more convoluted theory about why some presidential candidates get bad press. On Feb. 18, 2001, Paul reportedly appeared on the now-defunct Radio Free America, a talk show created by prolific Holocaust denier Willis Carto. Here’s part of the transcript of the show, which was published in Carto’s anti-Semitic newsletter in March of 2001:

Radio Free America host Tom Valentine: Here’s Mack calling from Georgia.

Mack (Caller): The Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations have a lot of power in choosing the American president. Do you think our elections are just a fraud on the people?

Ron Paul: Almost no one gets elected who isn’t friendly with the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations. If you are not in tune with them, the national media would crucify you. So you wouldn’t win. I think the people allow themselves to be deceived.

I asked Paul’s campaign press secretary whether the congressman currently believes that presidential candidates need support from the Trilateral Commission and CFR in order to get elected, but haven’t received a response yet.

Conspiracy theories aside, it’s hard to imagine why Paul would ever agree to go on Radio Free America in the first place. The show was a division of Carto’s Liberty Lobby, a group that often came under fire from the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee (Carto, by the way, also founded the Institute for Historical Review, an infamous Holocaust denial organization). The ADL wrote that Radio Free America’s “skin-deep populism covered vintage Carto-ite anti-Semitism, paranoid-style politics, Holocaust denial and anti-Israel conspiracy theories.” Probably not the best crowd to associate with if you have presidential aspirations.

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Santorum’s Moment Finally Arrives

Two months ago, just as Herman Cain’s campaign was about to start to unravel, I wrote that perhaps it was Rick Santorum’s turn for a surge. I was, of course, wrong. It was Newt Gingrich’s turn back at the end of October and the beginning of November to take off and to be, at least for a few weeks, something of a frontrunner. But with only days to go before voters in Iowa cast the first actual votes of the caucus/primary season, it looks like Santorum’s moment has arrived. A CNN/Time/ORC poll released on Wednesday shows Santorum surging ahead of his competitors for the social conservative vote into third place among likely caucus goers with 16 percent.

Santorum’s timing is impeccable. With Gingrich collapsing (the poll shows him fading to fourth place with only 14 percent, which is down from 33 percent less than a month ago) and Michele Bachmann’s campaign in chaos as her Iowa chairman defected to Ron Paul yesterday, the former Pennsylvania senator looks to be in excellent shape to win what he called the “conservative primary” over Bachmann and Rick Perry.

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Two months ago, just as Herman Cain’s campaign was about to start to unravel, I wrote that perhaps it was Rick Santorum’s turn for a surge. I was, of course, wrong. It was Newt Gingrich’s turn back at the end of October and the beginning of November to take off and to be, at least for a few weeks, something of a frontrunner. But with only days to go before voters in Iowa cast the first actual votes of the caucus/primary season, it looks like Santorum’s moment has arrived. A CNN/Time/ORC poll released on Wednesday shows Santorum surging ahead of his competitors for the social conservative vote into third place among likely caucus goers with 16 percent.

Santorum’s timing is impeccable. With Gingrich collapsing (the poll shows him fading to fourth place with only 14 percent, which is down from 33 percent less than a month ago) and Michele Bachmann’s campaign in chaos as her Iowa chairman defected to Ron Paul yesterday, the former Pennsylvania senator looks to be in excellent shape to win what he called the “conservative primary” over Bachmann and Rick Perry.

Though it is probably a reach to think Santorum could overtake Mitt Romney, who finds himself in first with 25 percent, it is not out of the question in such a volatile environment. Just as possible is for him to leap over Paul, who is currently in second with 22 percent.

While the long term impact of a result next Tuesday that would mirror these poll numbers would probably mean Romney was the inevitable nominee, just by getting himself into third, Santorum ensures his campaign will not end on Jan. 4. Having concentrated all of his meager resources on Iowa, it’s not clear what his next step will be other than that he will have one.

The same can’t be said for Bachmann, who has also gone all in on Iowa. She was already slipping even further back in the polls before this latest setback, but this stab in the back from Kent Sorenson, her state chairman, must be considered the coup de grace for her hopes of getting back into the race. While Rick Perry’s deep pockets will enable him to keep at it for at least a few more weeks even if he has little chance, Bachmann is toast.

An Iowa result that left Romney on top, Paul with considerable support and Santorum as top social conservative left with a chance would set up an interesting three-way battle as the race progresses to Super Tuesday and the later primaries. As was the case in 2008, Paul will not go away. Indeed, despite his extremism and the fact that he has no chance to be the nominee, he will again hang around for as long as he wants even if his chances of winning a primary after Iowa are slim.

As for Santorum, he can put himself in position to be the Mike Huckabee of 2012, giving social conservatives and Tea Partiers a more responsible protest vote against the inevitability of Romney than Paul would provide. The proportional delegate vote in most states is set up to avoid an early sweep for the frontrunner, so there will be no reason for him to drop out, especially since a good showing in Iowa will help him raise money. It probably won’t be enough to stop Romney in the end, but it will give him hope and help keep the race interesting.

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How Inevitable is Romney?

With just one week to go before the Iowa caucuses, uncertainty is the word that can best describe the situation in the Republican presidential race. The polls have been all over the place in recent months as one candidate after another took turns trying on the mantle of frontrunner. Newt Gingrich’s moment appears to have come and gone. The affections of the social conservative and Tea Party wings of the party are split between three candidates who can’t seem to shake each other. Libertarian Ron Paul is making a splash — largely on the strength on non-GOP voters — but revelations about his extremist connections and hate-filled newsletters may limit his chances at a first place finish. Which leaves us with the same guy whom the media anointed as the frontrunner back in the spring as the most likely to be nominated: Mitt Romney.

New York Times statistical analyst Nate Silver asks today whether it is possible for Romney to lose. The answer is yes he can, but the odds still favor him for the same reason they have the past few months: none of the alternatives turned out to be viable. A poor showing in Iowa would be a setback for Romney, but it is still difficult to construct a scenario by which any of his rivals can chart a path to the nomination. For all of his manifest flaws as a candidate and his inability to convince conservatives that he is one of them, it’s hard to envision Romney losing at this point.

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With just one week to go before the Iowa caucuses, uncertainty is the word that can best describe the situation in the Republican presidential race. The polls have been all over the place in recent months as one candidate after another took turns trying on the mantle of frontrunner. Newt Gingrich’s moment appears to have come and gone. The affections of the social conservative and Tea Party wings of the party are split between three candidates who can’t seem to shake each other. Libertarian Ron Paul is making a splash — largely on the strength on non-GOP voters — but revelations about his extremist connections and hate-filled newsletters may limit his chances at a first place finish. Which leaves us with the same guy whom the media anointed as the frontrunner back in the spring as the most likely to be nominated: Mitt Romney.

New York Times statistical analyst Nate Silver asks today whether it is possible for Romney to lose. The answer is yes he can, but the odds still favor him for the same reason they have the past few months: none of the alternatives turned out to be viable. A poor showing in Iowa would be a setback for Romney, but it is still difficult to construct a scenario by which any of his rivals can chart a path to the nomination. For all of his manifest flaws as a candidate and his inability to convince conservatives that he is one of them, it’s hard to envision Romney losing at this point.

The worst-case scenario for Romney in Iowa would be for Newt Gingrich to finish first there. Such an outcome would undermine Romney’s argument for inevitability and give Gingrich momentum going into New Hampshire and South Carolina, the one state that the former speaker must win. But with Gingrich sinking in the polls as voters come to grips with his record, the next most likely first place finisher is someone who presents no long term threat to Romney: Ron Paul. Though a Paul victory would be embarrassing for Republicans and diminish the reputation of the Iowa caucus itself, the chances of the Texas congressman getting the nomination are nil.

The other possibility in Iowa is that one of the current members of the second tier was to pull off a last-minute upset victory. Given the volatility of the polls and the nature of the caucus, that is also not an impossible dream. Both Rick Santorum, who has shown some life after months of hard work in the state and Michele Bachmann, who won the Iowa Straw Poll back in August, have some ardent supporters, but they’re essentially competing for the same votes which may make it impossible for either to break through.

More intriguing is the possibility that Rick Perry, the third member of the conservative troika in Iowa, could somehow catch lightening in a bottle and vault to the top. A Perry win in Iowa could turn the race around and give him back some of the luster he lost virtually every time he opened his mouth in the GOP debates. But since he, too, is competing for the same voters as Santorum and Bachmann, it’s hard to see how he can do it. While it is not out of the question one of the three could ride a last-minute surge into third place all that would accomplish would be to prolong their campaigns. It would take a win in Iowa to make Republicans believe in any one of them, and that’s a long shot at best.

Which leaves us with just one more scenario: a Romney victory in Iowa. Silver estimates that the range of possible outcomes in the Hawkeye state for Romney to be from a high of 36 percent of the vote to a low of 8 percent. But the chances of him getting closer to the higher number are far greater than a lesser result. In the final days, enough Republicans may decide that voting for a loose cannon (Gingrich) or an extremist (Paul) is not the way to beat Barack Obama while the social conservative vote is split three ways. A Romney win in Iowa would not completely end the race before it has hardly begun, but it would take a lot of the mystery out of what would follow.

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An Inside Look at Ron Paul’s Extremism

One of the interesting ironies of the current Republican presidential race is that anytime a website publishes articles discussing Ron Paul’s extremist connections, they are bombarded by a flood of e-mails from his supporters denouncing the premise of the piece while often expressing the same kind of rhetoric that the article mentioned. Paul’s surge in the polls has brought with it the kind of scrutiny that has brought his ties to hate groups such as the John Birch Society and 9/11 “truthers” out into the open. But for those wanting to learn a little bit more about the man’s own views, a former staffer has now written a piece that makes it clear that while he claims to abhor prejudice, Paul is not, as some of his backers absurdly claim, a friend of Israel:

He is however, most certainly Anti-Israel, and Anti-Israeli in general. He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all. He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations. His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the America taxpayer. He sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs.

It should be specified that the congressman has described the writer, Eric Dondero, as a “disgruntled ex-employee” who was fired. So perhaps we can take his words with a grain of salt. But Dondero, a Navy veteran who worked for Paul off and on from 1987 to 2003, does know a thing or two about the candidate. He turned on Paul because of his opposition to the war in Iraq and has become a virulent foe. Nonetheless, Dondero’s comments about Paul’s feelings about Israel ring true for two reasons.

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One of the interesting ironies of the current Republican presidential race is that anytime a website publishes articles discussing Ron Paul’s extremist connections, they are bombarded by a flood of e-mails from his supporters denouncing the premise of the piece while often expressing the same kind of rhetoric that the article mentioned. Paul’s surge in the polls has brought with it the kind of scrutiny that has brought his ties to hate groups such as the John Birch Society and 9/11 “truthers” out into the open. But for those wanting to learn a little bit more about the man’s own views, a former staffer has now written a piece that makes it clear that while he claims to abhor prejudice, Paul is not, as some of his backers absurdly claim, a friend of Israel:

He is however, most certainly Anti-Israel, and Anti-Israeli in general. He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all. He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations. His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the America taxpayer. He sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs.

It should be specified that the congressman has described the writer, Eric Dondero, as a “disgruntled ex-employee” who was fired. So perhaps we can take his words with a grain of salt. But Dondero, a Navy veteran who worked for Paul off and on from 1987 to 2003, does know a thing or two about the candidate. He turned on Paul because of his opposition to the war in Iraq and has become a virulent foe. Nonetheless, Dondero’s comments about Paul’s feelings about Israel ring true for two reasons.

One is that Dondero has not penned an all-out hit piece. He acquits Paul of racist sentiments as well as of anti-Semitism and homophobia. Though he admits the racist newsletters are troubling, he says the “liberal media” that is attacking Paul has it all wrong, because he thinks those are insignificant charges that don’t say much about the man.

Dondero believes the real problem with Paul is his isolationist foreign policy that led him to think the United States should not have fought in World War II.

He expressed to me countless times, that “saving the Jews,” was absolutely none of our business. When pressed, he often times brings up conspiracy theories like FDR knew about the attacks of Pearl Harbor weeks before hand, or that WWII was just “blowback,” for Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy errors, and such.

As for 9/11:

He engaged in conspiracy theories including perhaps the attacks were coordinated with the CIA, and that the Bush administration might have known about the attacks ahead of time. He expressed no sympathies whatsoever for those who died on 9/11, and pretty much forbade us staffers from engaging in any sort of memorial expressions, or openly asserting pro-military statements in support of the Bush administration.

The problem with Paul is not just that he refuses to disavow the support of hate groups and other extremists, but that he is one himself. The fact that a liberal provocateur like Andrew Sullivan who despises Israel would endorse him speaks volumes about his appeal. As I have noted previously, Paul’s views about Israel seem very much of a piece with the anti-Semitic “America First” movement that tried to prevent U.S. involvement in the war against Nazism. His isolationism isn’t merely an expression of distaste for war but is part of a belief system that is ready to rationalize Islamist regimes and movements at war with America and American ideals. His extremism places him beyond the pale and renders him unfit for high office.

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Newsletter Controversy Not Isolated Affair

Some Ron Paul supporters act as if the newsletter controversy is the only real obstacle to him being taken seriously as a Republican contender. A few have even argued, in the comment section here and other places, that the content in the newsletters doesn’t match anything Paul has otherwise ever said or done.

On the last argument, these supporters have a point. The worst of the bigotry in the newsletters – i.e., mocking black people as lazy criminals and defending Holocaust deniers – goes well beyond anything Paul has said publicly, at least that we are aware of.

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Some Ron Paul supporters act as if the newsletter controversy is the only real obstacle to him being taken seriously as a Republican contender. A few have even argued, in the comment section here and other places, that the content in the newsletters doesn’t match anything Paul has otherwise ever said or done.

On the last argument, these supporters have a point. The worst of the bigotry in the newsletters – i.e., mocking black people as lazy criminals and defending Holocaust deniers – goes well beyond anything Paul has said publicly, at least that we are aware of.

But keep in mind that the most inflammatory comments were written during a rare lull in Paul’s political career when he wasn’t in or running for public office, between 1990 and 1994. He had renounced his affiliation with the Republican Party, and beyond an advisory role for the controversial Pat Buchanan’s campaign, he wasn’t under the glare of the public spotlight. He was moving in circles that often engaged in bordlerline-racist rhetoric. And there are few speeches or outside columns that Paul wrote during this time period with which to compare his newsletter.

Even if you ignore the newsletters, it’s difficult to deny that Paul is a conspiracy theorist and an extremist who indulges bigots, crackpots and anti-Semites, based on statements he’s made much more recently. Many of his positions also put him at odds with the Republican electorate. Politico outlines just six of his stances that will haunt him this election cycle, if the newsletter controversy ever dies down:

The “disaster” of Ronald Reagan’s conservative agenda

“I think we can further thank Ronald Reagan for doing a good job [on furthering the Libertarian Party]. He certainly did a good job in 1980 pointing out the fallacies of the Democratic liberal agenda and he certainly did a good job on following up to show the disaster of the conservative agenda as well.”

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are unconstitutional

Fox News’s Chris Wallace: You talk a lot about the Constitution. You say Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are all unconstitutional.

Ron Paul: Technically, they are. … There’s no authority [in the Constitution]. Article I, Section 8 doesn’t say I can set up an insurance program for people. What part of the Constitution are you getting it from? The liberals are the ones who use this General Welfare Clause….

American drug laws are designed to fund rogue governments, CIA programs

“I think that might be the No. 1 reason for the drug laws … to raise the funds necessary for government to do illegal things, whether it’s some terrorist government someplace or whether it’s our own CIA to fund programs that they can’t get Congress to fund. I think it’s tragic and the sooner we get rid of the drug laws, the sooner this will end.” …

U.S. foreign policy “significantly contributed” to 9/11 attacks

“The flawed foreign policy of interventionism that we have followed for decades significantly contributed to the attacks. Warnings had been sounded by the more astute that our meddling in the affairs of others would come to no good.” …

Returning white supremacist donation is “pandering”

“I think it is pandering. I think it is playing the political correctness.” …

The Civil Rights Act “violated the Constitution”

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty, it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society.”

This list doesn’t even include his vehemently anti-Israel comments, his opposition to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, his close relationship with unhinged conspiracy-monger Alex Jones, and his wild claims that there’s a conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government and institute a “New World Order.”

So Paul’s supporters are right, to an extent – other than the newsletters, there is no evidence that he’s ever praised David Duke or decried the “evil of forced integration.” But there is plenty of evidence that for years Paul has aligned himself with – and benefited greatly from – the same movement that has spawned much of the racism and anti-Semitism on the right. Looking at his record and hearing his recent controversial comments, the content in the newsletters isn’t as “out of character” as some have tried to argue.

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Libertarians Must Confront Paul’s Hate

Reason Magazine’s Nick Gillespie attempted yesterday to confront the dirty little secret about Ron Paul. The libertarian hero may be leading in some Iowa polls, but as the story about the racist newsletters that were published under his name in the 1980s and 90s catches fire, his more respectable backers need to face up to their candidate’s past. To his credit, Gillespie admits that it’s not a “smear” to bring up the issue of the Texas congressman’s connections to hate literature as well as to 9/11 truthers, the John Birch Society and conspiracy mongers like Alex Jones. Gillespie even owns up to the fact that Paul has had as many different answers to the question of his connections to hate as Herman Cain did about allegations of sexual harassment.

But rather than fess up to the fact that their presidential standard-bearer has been a magnet for crackpot racists who regard the United States government as the enemy, Gillespie tried to argue that this ought not to “invalidate” his candidacy because a) Paul is a nice guy; and b) the hate he promoted and the lunatics in his camp are not as bad as the system he’s trying to destroy. Like a good Marxist, all Gillespie can do is to claim that the end justifies the means. But as anyone who listens to him discuss foreign policy, far from being tangential to Paul’s crusade, his hate connections are integral to his appeal on the margins of society.

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Reason Magazine’s Nick Gillespie attempted yesterday to confront the dirty little secret about Ron Paul. The libertarian hero may be leading in some Iowa polls, but as the story about the racist newsletters that were published under his name in the 1980s and 90s catches fire, his more respectable backers need to face up to their candidate’s past. To his credit, Gillespie admits that it’s not a “smear” to bring up the issue of the Texas congressman’s connections to hate literature as well as to 9/11 truthers, the John Birch Society and conspiracy mongers like Alex Jones. Gillespie even owns up to the fact that Paul has had as many different answers to the question of his connections to hate as Herman Cain did about allegations of sexual harassment.

But rather than fess up to the fact that their presidential standard-bearer has been a magnet for crackpot racists who regard the United States government as the enemy, Gillespie tried to argue that this ought not to “invalidate” his candidacy because a) Paul is a nice guy; and b) the hate he promoted and the lunatics in his camp are not as bad as the system he’s trying to destroy. Like a good Marxist, all Gillespie can do is to claim that the end justifies the means. But as anyone who listens to him discuss foreign policy, far from being tangential to Paul’s crusade, his hate connections are integral to his appeal on the margins of society.

Gillespie is right that many libertarians and even Republicans will vote for Paul in spite of his troubling connections and not because of them. Many conservatives share with libertarians their disgust for big government and the compromises some Republicans have made in order to buy popularity. But Paul’s isolationism on foreign policy speaks to the conspiracy crowd precisely because his view of the world conforms to their vision of an evil America rampaging across the globe. Given his own extremism — which extends to his rationalizations of the Taliban and the Iranian regime — it’s little surprise that wingnuts of the extreme right and left flock to his cause (and deluge the websites of journalists who point out their candidate’s shortcomings with hate mail). Try as they might, respectable writers like Gillespie can’t explain away the fact that there is a straight line between the newsletters and many of his other views.

I understand that libertarians want to overturn the system, not just to reform it. There’s a facile logic to Paul’s approach, but that is exactly why the haters love him. As much as libertarians and anti-establishment Republicans want to believe in him, he is a product of the John Birch milieu of the far right, and that leaves them twisting themselves into pretzels trying to justify supporting a candidate for president who is irredeemably damaged by the lunatic fringe with which he has long associated himself.

In defense of Paul’s candidacy, Gillespie seems to be arguing that libertarians need to rally around him despite his imperfections because he is the most viable spokesman for their ideas:

Paul is not the perfect vessel for a libertarian message, but waiting for perfection is something ideologues insist on. Most of us are far more interested in someone who at least has shown he understands the most pressing issues of the moment — and the future.

With all due respect to Gillespie, you have to be taking some of the drugs that Paul wants to legalize in order to believe he has even a remote chance of being the Republican nominee, let alone elected president. Far from a pragmatic attempt to get him into the White House, his campaign is still very much the stuff of ideologues. Moreover, libertarians also need to face up to the fact that their little coalition of fellow travelers is populated by those to whom Paul’s disturbing record is an attraction rather than a drawback.

Principled libertarians need to rethink a decision to tie their ideas to such a flawed vessel. It’s more than obvious to all but his zealots that the vast majority of Americans want nothing to do with a candidate like Paul even if some aspects of his libertarian beliefs are attractive. Those intellectuals who try to justify supporting such a person’s futile run despite his long involvement with a hateful lunatic fringe are trashing their movement’s integrity for very little in return.

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Ron Paul CNN Interview Raises More Newsletter Questions

Ron Paul’s racist newsletters have officially become a full-blown political controversy. Yesterday, he walked out of an interview with CNN’s Gloria Borger after she pressed him on the issue:

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Ron Paul’s racist newsletters have officially become a full-blown political controversy. Yesterday, he walked out of an interview with CNN’s Gloria Borger after she pressed him on the issue:

The video speaks for itself; Paul has questions he needs to answer, and the media isn’t going to stop hounding him until he does.

One quick point to add, though. As USA Today points out, Paul’s ever-shifting story on the newsletters changed yet again during the Borger interview yesterday. The issue first came up back in 1996, when Paul was running for Congress. At the time, he defended the racist content published in one of his newsletters from 1992, insisting it was taken out of context. But on CNN yesterday, Paul told Borger that “I never read that stuff, I was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written.” Paul needs to be asked about this discrepancy in the timeline.

Also, today’s USA Today story reports that Paul claimed in 1996 his racist comments about black people were actually taken from a study by the National Center on Incarceration and Alternatives:

In 1996, Paul told the Dallas Morning News that his comment about black men in Washington came while writing about a 1992 study by the National Center on Incarceration and Alternatives, a criminal justice think tank in Virginia.

But back in 1996, when the Austin-American Statesman tried to track down this think tank, it was unable to find it:

Paul’s spokesman, Michael Sullivan, said Paul’s comments about black men in Washington was based on a 1992 study by the National Center on Incarceration and Alternatives, a think tank in the Washington area. A search for the center, however, proved fruitless. No organization with that name is registered in Washington or its suburbs.

A Nexis search for the “National Center on Incarceration and Alternatives” turns up eight articles, all on the Ron Paul newsletter controversy from 1996 and later. Which raises the questions: Did this think tank ever exist? Or was it manufactured by the Paul campaign?

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Content Aside, Newsletters Show Ron Paul’s Incompetence

Alana Goodman makes an excellent point about Ron Paul’s disinterest in finding out who wrote racist and hateful material in newsletters put out in his name. There’s a larger point, though, that the episode demonstrates: Ron Paul may want to disassociate himself from his newsletters.

Hence his excuse that “Twenty years ago I had six or eight people helping with the letter, and I was practicing medicine, to tell you the truth, and, I do not know” [who wrote them].  So here we have a candidate whose attempt to sidestep the controversy seems to be that his focus was elsewhere. Eight people exceeded his ability to supervise and yet, as president, he wants to supervise thousands?

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Alana Goodman makes an excellent point about Ron Paul’s disinterest in finding out who wrote racist and hateful material in newsletters put out in his name. There’s a larger point, though, that the episode demonstrates: Ron Paul may want to disassociate himself from his newsletters.

Hence his excuse that “Twenty years ago I had six or eight people helping with the letter, and I was practicing medicine, to tell you the truth, and, I do not know” [who wrote them].  So here we have a candidate whose attempt to sidestep the controversy seems to be that his focus was elsewhere. Eight people exceeded his ability to supervise and yet, as president, he wants to supervise thousands?

I’m not attached to any candidate, but if there is one lesson we can draw from President Obama’s tenure, it is that the United States cannot afford a commander-in-chief who has no management experience.

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Inside Romney’s Rise to Top of GOP Heap

The latest survey of Iowa Republican caucus goers confirms the rapid decline in Newt Gingrich’s fortunes. A Rasmussen poll conducted Monday and published today shows Mitt Romney vaulting into the lead with 25 percent, Ron Paul in second with 20 percent, and Newt Gingrich lagging behind in third with 17 percent.

There are a few notable elements about this poll. First is the continuation of Gingrich’s slide which shows him with only about half as much support as he had just about a month ago in Iowa. Second are the steady gains that both Romney and Paul have made with each advancing 2 points in the last week. Third is the fact that for the first time, Rick Santorum is finally gaining some traction in Iowa and most specifically passing Michele Bachmann. But last and perhaps most significant is the fact that Romney is, according to Rasmussen, leading among those voters who “consider themselves Republicans,” while Paul is ahead among non-Republicans likely to participate in the caucus. That bodes well for the former Massachusetts governor and illustrates again how implausible Paul’s hopes for the nomination really are.

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The latest survey of Iowa Republican caucus goers confirms the rapid decline in Newt Gingrich’s fortunes. A Rasmussen poll conducted Monday and published today shows Mitt Romney vaulting into the lead with 25 percent, Ron Paul in second with 20 percent, and Newt Gingrich lagging behind in third with 17 percent.

There are a few notable elements about this poll. First is the continuation of Gingrich’s slide which shows him with only about half as much support as he had just about a month ago in Iowa. Second are the steady gains that both Romney and Paul have made with each advancing 2 points in the last week. Third is the fact that for the first time, Rick Santorum is finally gaining some traction in Iowa and most specifically passing Michele Bachmann. But last and perhaps most significant is the fact that Romney is, according to Rasmussen, leading among those voters who “consider themselves Republicans,” while Paul is ahead among non-Republicans likely to participate in the caucus. That bodes well for the former Massachusetts governor and illustrates again how implausible Paul’s hopes for the nomination really are.

Examining these trends in greater detail, it’s clear that Gingrich’s decline is no longer in doubt. Since his campaign was always something of a house of cards, the final two weeks before the caucus may see his support decline even further. That will mean not only an ignominious end for what seemed only a month ago to be a campaign headed to victory in Iowa but the harbinger of a swift end to his hopes elsewhere.

Some may interpret Romney’s progress as more evidence of his inability to gain more than a quarter of the vote, but his slow creep toward the top illustrates that he has reversed the negative momentum that seemed to stall his campaign a few weeks ago. Paul’s gains will be greeted with dismay by mainstream Republicans who are unhappy about this extremist’s prominence in the party, but if he is taking away votes from conservatives who want anyone but Romney, that will merely strengthen the former Massachusetts governor in the long run because any outcome in Iowa other than a Gingrich win makes his nomination more likely.

As for Santorum, it appears his months of beating the bushes in Iowa and going to every county in the state to appeal to social conservatives is finally paying off. His support has doubled in the last month and, though it still leaves him with only 10 percent, it is clear that five percent probably came from Gingrich. Even more, it finally pushes him ahead of Bachmann, who is largely competing for the same voters as the former Pennsylvania senator. Bachmann’s decline from nine percent a week ago to six today is significant. Combined with the endorsement from a major evangelical figure in the state (which did not figure into responses in this poll) this gives Santorum hope that his momentum will grow in the campaign’s final days. I have already written that I thought one of those two will finish in the top three in Iowa and I’m standing by that prediction, though it appears more likely now the one to do so will be Santorum rather than Bachmann (as I thought a couple of days ago).

Lastly, the figures that show Romney winning among Republican voters should pour cold water on the expectation that the party’s grass roots won’t support him. This may be more a matter of a belief in his greater electability over any of the other candidates than affection for Romney, but the effect is the same. Once Iowa and New Hampshire have finished voting, most of the next states up for competition won’t be open enrollment, which means the GOP core will decide this nomination.

This is also a reminder that support for Paul is not coming so much from Tea Party or social conservative activists but from more marginal and disaffected elements. One would hope that as more voters learn about the extremist nature of his views, and of his connection to hate literature, that his share of the vote would decline. But no matter what happens in Iowa, Paul still has no chance of winning over most Republicans. It also should illustrate my belief that the possibility of him running as a third party candidate is more of a threat to the Democrats than to the Republicans.

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Ron Paul: “I Could” Find Out Who Wrote Newsletters

Isn’t it interesting that the person who seems least concerned with tracking down the “real” author behind the Ron Paul newsletters is Ron Paul? On CNN yesterday, the presidential candidate looked honestly dumbfounded when anchor Ali Velshi pointed out that Paul could just put this issue to rest by asking his former newsletter employees whether any of them wrote the controversial articles (via Matt Welch at Reason):

Ali Velshi: Are you comfortable in telling us who did write them? You haven’t been able to sort of tell us specifically who wrote them.

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Isn’t it interesting that the person who seems least concerned with tracking down the “real” author behind the Ron Paul newsletters is Ron Paul? On CNN yesterday, the presidential candidate looked honestly dumbfounded when anchor Ali Velshi pointed out that Paul could just put this issue to rest by asking his former newsletter employees whether any of them wrote the controversial articles (via Matt Welch at Reason):

Ali Velshi: Are you comfortable in telling us who did write them? You haven’t been able to sort of tell us specifically who wrote them.

Paul: No. I don’t, I really don’t know. Twenty years ago I had six or eight people helping with the letter, and I was practicing medicine, to tell you the truth, and, I do not know.

Ali Velshi: Well, we could find out. Because you had six or eight people, is it one of those six or eight people?

Paul: [extended pause] Well, possibly, I could, but …

Ali Velshi: I guess, as you get closer to being president of the United States, folks will want to know that you don’t really dislike black people or people with AIDS, and things like that.

Paul’s answer here stretches credulity: You mean just flat-out ask the eight people who were writing the newsletter at the time which one of them wrote the racist comments? Well, possibly I could, but…

But what? Why hasn’t that already been done? It seems like a fairly simple way to get to the bottom of this.

Amazingly, Paul’s fans also seem to have little interest in clearing his name. While many of them acknowledge that the content in the newsletters was abhorrent, they also dismiss it as something that happened “twenty years ago.” But there’s no statute of limitation on racism for politicians, and Paul has voiced his controversial positions on civil rights and the Jewish state throughout his career.

It shouldn’t be difficult to track down the six or eight people who allegedly worked for Paul’s newsletters in the early 1990s. If Paul hasn’t questioned them yet, it probably won’t be long before someone in the media does this for him.

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GOP Shouldn’t Fear a Paul Third-Party Run

Alana’s right when she says there really is no telling what Ron Paul will do once his quixotic run for the Republican presidential nomination is finished. If, as Paul did four years ago, he continues fighting for the GOP nod in primaries across the country long after the race is sewn up by one of the other contenders, he may not have the time or the money to make the transition to a third-party run. But even if he does, I think it is incorrect to consider such an effort as a deadly threat to whichever of the other Republicans gets the nomination. Though Paul has generated some enthusiasm in Iowa, the notion that he could draw off enough GOP voters to re-elect President Obama is based on a misunderstanding about the base of his support.

Were Paul to run next fall as an alternative to the Democratic and Republican nominees, the main focus of his campaign would inevitably be his isolationist approach to foreign policy and libertarian views on social issues. Though some Tea Partiers looking for a “not Romney” may wind up voting for him in Iowa, the bulk of his support comes from disenchanted youmg voters who like his anti-establishment approach, not mainstream conservatives. That means a Paul third party would present far more of a danger to Obama and the Democrats than to the Republicans.

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Alana’s right when she says there really is no telling what Ron Paul will do once his quixotic run for the Republican presidential nomination is finished. If, as Paul did four years ago, he continues fighting for the GOP nod in primaries across the country long after the race is sewn up by one of the other contenders, he may not have the time or the money to make the transition to a third-party run. But even if he does, I think it is incorrect to consider such an effort as a deadly threat to whichever of the other Republicans gets the nomination. Though Paul has generated some enthusiasm in Iowa, the notion that he could draw off enough GOP voters to re-elect President Obama is based on a misunderstanding about the base of his support.

Were Paul to run next fall as an alternative to the Democratic and Republican nominees, the main focus of his campaign would inevitably be his isolationist approach to foreign policy and libertarian views on social issues. Though some Tea Partiers looking for a “not Romney” may wind up voting for him in Iowa, the bulk of his support comes from disenchanted youmg voters who like his anti-establishment approach, not mainstream conservatives. That means a Paul third party would present far more of a danger to Obama and the Democrats than to the Republicans.

Paul’s anti-war isolationism is tailor-made to appeal to exactly the sort of young voter who backed Obama in 2008. As anyone who reads the comments from his supporters on websites that run articles critical of the Texas congressman, many of his backers are extremists who would fit in better at an Occupy Wall Street demonstration than a Tea Party protest let alone a Republican parlor meeting. Like the Libertarian Party that once nominated Paul for president, the Paul movement attracts those who are generally more interested in legalizing marijuana and agree with the candidate’s justification of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Islamist terror than in opposing higher taxes and spending. Such people didn’t vote for the Republican candidate in 2008 and won’t do so in 2012 either.

An independent run by Paul would most likely attract votes from disaffected youth or libertarians who normally don’t vote at all. But though it might skim off a tiny percentage of Republicans, it is the Democrats who stand to lose the most. Most Republicans deplore his isolationism and lack of interest in social issues. But the Democrats are counting on mobilizing young voters attracted to an anti-war candidate who is also in favor of the legalization of drugs. Paul might also get a boost from Arab and Muslim voters who share his opposition to Israel and who generally go for the Democrats, not the GOP.

While it is difficult to tell whether Paul will run or how well he will ultimately do, the prototypical Ron Paul voter next fall is someone who would, if they voted at all, be more likely to vote for Obama than any Republican. Far from a revenge scenario against the party that will almost certainly reject him in the primaries, an independent candidacy for Paul stands to do real damage to the Democrats.

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Ron Paul’s Revenge: A Third-Party Run?

It’s not even worth pretending Ron Paul has any shot at winning the GOP nomination, even if he does manage to pull off a victory in Iowa. As Dave Weigel outlines at Slate, if Paul wins the caucuses it will probably only boost Romney’s chances of wrapping up the nomination.

Because Paul’s such a no-shot, most of his Republican critics are fairly blasé about his steady upward creep in the Iowa polls. But they should consider this nightmare scenario: Paul wins the caucuses. He then uses his heightened visibility – and his substantial cash reserves – to set the stage for a general election third-party run.

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It’s not even worth pretending Ron Paul has any shot at winning the GOP nomination, even if he does manage to pull off a victory in Iowa. As Dave Weigel outlines at Slate, if Paul wins the caucuses it will probably only boost Romney’s chances of wrapping up the nomination.

Because Paul’s such a no-shot, most of his Republican critics are fairly blasé about his steady upward creep in the Iowa polls. But they should consider this nightmare scenario: Paul wins the caucuses. He then uses his heightened visibility – and his substantial cash reserves – to set the stage for a general election third-party run.

If you don’t think he’ll have enough public support to cause serious damage in the general election, you’re fooling yourself. There will be plenty of Republican voters who will be disillusioned enough by Romney’s likely nomination to consider voting third-party, which would severely complicate the GOP’s path to the White House.

Politico reports that this possibility is already causing anxiety in Iowa Republican circles:

The most troubling eventuality that Iowa Republicans are bracing for is that Paul wins the caucuses only to lose the nomination and run as a third-party candidate in November — all but ensuring President Obama is re-elected.

“If we empower somebody who turns around and elects Obama, then that’s a major problem for the caucuses,” said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

Iowa Republicans have reason to be concerned. When Sean Hannity asked Paul, point blank, last week whether he would mount a third-party bid, the candidate said he had “no intention of doing that,” but was careful to keep the door open: “I don’t like absolutes — I don’t like to say: ‘I absolutely will never do such and such,’” Paul added.

Thanks to Republican primary rules that try to discourage exactly this scenario, Paul won’t be able to get on all the state ballots as a third-party candidate. But that may not matter. Paul’s an ideologue first, and the point of his run would be to get his message out to a broad national audience – winning is a secondary concern.

From Paul’s perspective, the time may seem ripe. He’s stated that this will be his final presidential run. And he’s even announced that he won’t run again for the congressional seat he’s held for more than a decade.

Once Republicans reject Paul and choose their nominee, will he cheerfully fade away into retirement and the quieter life of activist politics? Or will Paul – no longer beholden to the Republican Party that has long treated him like a sideshow – seek out third-party vindication at the GOP’s expense?

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