Throughout the Obama presidency, members of the GOP have been quick to compare the President to Hitler. Many of the party’s current presidential hopefuls have engaged in this kind of inflammatory rhetoric. In 2009, Michele Bachman enthusiastically endorsed a fundraiser with Maria Anne Hirschmann, who has compared Obama’s policies to those that brought about the rise of the Third Reich. In 2010, Newt Gingrich described Democrats as a “secular-socialist machine” that posed as much of a “threat” to American democracy as the Nazis posed in Germany. He later backed down from the claim, but there it was, part and parcel of the GOP’s paranoia machine. Just yesterday, Rick Santorum defended a statement he made in December in an address to the Republican Jewish Coalition Candidates Forum. He’d alleged that Obama’s foreign policy amounted to World War II-style Nazi “appeasement.”
Nazi paranoia has reached epic proportions among influential members of the GOP over the past few years. So, you’d think they’d be quick shut down actual Nazi sympathizing when it emerges within their ranks. But they’re doing quite the opposite. Rather than speaking out about Ron Paul’s extremism, they’ve mostly been criticizing him as a “moderate” because he’s against imperialistic war policies.
Not one Republican candidate has mentioned this photograph, circulated via social media by an #occupy protest group last week:
It shows Paul posing with Don Black, a former American Nazi Party member turned KKK Grand Wizard and owner of the white supremacist Stormfront.org. And it’s not just a matter of unfortunate photo ops.
First, there are the racist newsletters. Paul launched three of them during the mid- to late 1980’s, one each on investment, survivalism and politics. He would act as their publisher well into the 1990s. Recent scrutiny of the newsletters revealed all sorts of shocking views that Paul has since renounced. Things like this, on the 1992 LA riots:
Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began. … What if the checks had never arrived? No doubt the blacks would have fully privatized the welfare state through continued looting. But they were paid off and the violence subsided.
In 1990, Paul accused Martin Luther King, Jr. of pedophilia and said King “helped replace the evil of forced segregation with the evil of forced integration.” He’d go on to excoriate former President Ronald Reagan for endorsing the national holiday in King’s honor, calling it “hate whitey day.”
The newsletters also revealed shocking anti-Semitic and homophobic beliefs. In one, Paul theorized that the state of Israel was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Elsewhere, he alleged that gay men “enjoy the attention” that supposedly comes with AIDS diagnosis.
Paul denies writing any of these letters himself. He says members of his five- or six-person staff wrote them and claims that he had no idea what they said. It seems pretty implausible, this claim that he never once perused the publications that bore his name.
But it’s just as troubling if Paul is telling the truth. This was a man unable to keep track of a five-person team? A man who never managed to read the long-running newsletter he published? Who was ostensibly unaware that he was courting white supremacists? This kind of irresponsibility on the job at best suggests stunning incompetence.
Of course, the the candidate’s response grows more unbelievable by the hour. Newsone reports that Paul has always courted a white supremacist base. He even appeared on Radio Free America, the brainchild of neo-Nazi Willis Carto in 2001. In 2006, he was slated for an appearance on the radio program of James Edwards, “a rising star in the white nationalist movement” who “idolizes former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.” He had to cancel that day because of a last-minute flight, but Edwards wrote that Paul indicated he “would be happy to reschedule with us at a later time.” In recent days, Edwards sent Paul a letter urging him to “stay the course” and ignore the “cultural Marxists that hate our values and seek to destroy the country we know and love.”
And, of course, Paul has continued to be a popular topic of conversation on Stormfront.org, where Black said, “Everybody, all of us back in the 80′s and 90′s, felt Ron Paul was, you know, unusual in that he had actually been a Congressman, that he was one of us (white supremacist) and now, of course, that he has this broad demographic–broad base of support. They went out under his name in the first person and most people receiving these newsletters, including me, thought he really did write them.”
And Duke has endorsed Paul because two share similar perspectives on “the powers of international Zionism–a power in banking, a power in media, a power in government influence, in campaign finance–a power that’s, you know, hurting the values of this country on behalf of Israel.”
Bill White, founder of the American National Socialist Movement, claims that Paul’s disavowal of white supremacy is insincere. White opened a recent blog post noting that he felt “compelled to tell the truth about Ron Paul’s extensive involvement in white nationalism.” He writes:
…Congressman Paul and his aides regularly meet with members of the [white supremacist] Stormfront set, American Renaissance, the Institute for Historic Review, and others…in Arlington, Virginia, usually on Wednesdays. This is part of a dinner that was originally organized by [white nationalists] Pat Buchanan, Sam Francis and Joe Sobran, and has since been mostly taken over by the Council of Conservative Citizens.
I have attended these dinners, seen Paul and his aides there, and been invited to his offices in Washington to discuss policy.
For his spokesman to call white racialism a “small ideology” and claim white activists are “wasting their money” trying to influence Paul is ridiculous. Paul is a white nationalist of the Stormfront type who has always kept his racial views and his views about world Judaism quiet because of his political position.
To date, Newt Gingrich is the only GOP presidential contender to make headlines for condemning Paul’s ugliest connections. The others continue to paint him as the “moderate” – not the extremist – GOP candidate in the race. Instead of telling people about his long and storied relationship with white supremacy, they criticize him for not being conservative enough.
It’s all pretty astounding. Unlike the fantastical claims leveled at the President, those against Paul are sound. His connections to white nationalism are well-established and easy to prove. But for the many on the Right, Obama is still the “Nazi” and Paul the “moderate.”
It all begs the question, “What has happened to political discourse in the United States?” At least one of two major parties in this country is controlled by people who barely recognize that one of their major candidates is, in fact, a Nazi, or at least a Nazi-sympathizer. They’re so busy drawing Hitler mustaches on images of Obama that they don’t notice the real danger within their ranks.
And no one is talking about the larger problem illustrated here: This is how we talk about politics in the United States these days. That is, facts have very little to do with what we say – and probably even less to do with the way we choose candidates. Many of us just shrug our shoulders when we hear conservatives describe liberals as “Nazis.” It isn’t shocking. It feels as if Hitler insults have always been a part of the national political conversation.
But why is it so easy for us to compare people who are very clearly not Nazis to Hitler? Why are we unable to see the forest for the trees when a white supremacist who wants to dismantle the US government is approaching a possible win in Iowa? Words seem hollowed-out. They lack meaning. We all know that it is very bad to be a Nazi, but we lack much context to tell us what a Nazi is. So, we reserve the term for politicians we dislike.
This is nothing new. People have always been drawn to extremism when facing economic difficulty and downward mobility. But it’s time for the Right to start offering substantive critiques of Paul. And it’s time for progressives to stop speaking so highly of Ron Paul just because he opposes war and challenges Republican orthodoxy.
Paul was such a long shot for so long that we became accustomed to ignoring him. Well, we need to stop ignoring. He is the most extreme candidate currently running for President. His beliefs have been laid out, and they appear to be pretty consistent from at least the 1980s. If we continue engaging in histrionic name-calling and refusing to deal with political substance, we will run the risk of electing a President who is a Nazi in 2012. Maybe I’m being optimistic here, but I don’t really think either party wants that to happen. Not even the Republicans.