The “racism” charge and Ramesh Ponnuru
a senior editor of National Review
, has always seemed like a mild-mannered, decent sort of person. On May 17 he posted this entry
at the Corner
Race and Ron Paul [Ramesh Ponnuru]
This is pretty bad .
05/17 11:19 AM
Ponnuru puts the words “Race” and “Ron Paul” together, and he adds, “This is pretty bad.” Meaning that Ron Paul is pretty bad on race. Meaning that Ron Paul is a racist. Ponnuru doesn’t supply any evidence or arguments, he just provides a link to some other article. And what is that other article?
It is an item by libertarian columnist Ryan Sager in the May 16 New York Sun, which begins with this:
For all those getting really excited about anti-war, libertarian Republican Ron Paul, it’s worth noting that he’s pretty racist and also an anti-Semite.
So Ponnuru, saying that Paul is “pretty bad” on race, approvingly linked as his authoritative source Sager’s comment that Paul is “pretty racist and also an anti-Semite.” And what is Sager’s source? It is a 1996 column by Alan Bernstein in the Houston Chronicle
. Here is the Bernstein article in its entirety:
9:16 PM 5/22/1996
Newsletter excerpts offer ammunition to Paul’s opponent
GOP hopeful quoted on race, crime
By ALAN BERNSTEIN
Copyright 1996 Houston Chronicle Political Writer
Texas congressional candidate Ron Paul’s 1992 political newsletter highlighted portrayals of blacks as inclined toward crime and lacking sense about top political issues.
Under the headline of “Terrorist Update,” for instance, Paul reported on gang crime in Los Angeles and commented, “If you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be.”
Paul, a Republican obstetrician from Surfside, said Wednesday he opposes racism and that his written commentaries about blacks came in the context of “current events and statistical reports of the time.”
Selected writings by Paul were distributed Wednesday by the campaign of his Democratic opponent, Austin lawyer Charles “Lefty” Morris.
Morris said many of Paul’s views are “out there on the fringe” and that his commentaries will be judged by voters in the November general elections.
Paul said allegations about his writings amounted to name-calling by the Democrats and that his opponents should focus instead on how to shrink government spending and reform welfare.
Morris and Paul are seeking the 14th Congressional District seat held by Greg Laughlin of West Columbia. Laughlin lost the Republican primary to Paul, a former congressman and the Libertarian Party’s 1988 presidential candidate.
Paul, writing in his independent political newsletter in 1992, reported about unspecified surveys of blacks.
“Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty and the end of welfare and affirmative action,” Paul wrote.
Paul continued that politically sensible blacks are outnumbered “as decent people.” Citing reports that 85 percent of all black men in the District of Columbia are arrested, Paul wrote:
“Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the `criminal justice system,’ I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal,” Paul said.
Paul also wrote that although “we are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers.”
A campaign spokesman for Paul said statements about the fear of black males mirror pronouncements by black leaders such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has decried the spread of urban crime.
Paul continues to write the newsletter for an undisclosed number of subscribers, the spokesman said.
Writing in the same 1992 edition, Paul expressed the popular idea that government should lower the age at which accused juvenile criminals can be prosecuted as adults.
He added, “We don’t think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That’s true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such.”
Paul also asserted that “complex embezzling” is conducted exclusively by non-blacks.
“What else do we need to know about the political establishment than that it refuses to discuss the crimes that terrify Americans on grounds that doing so is racist? Why isn’t that true of complex embezzling, which is 100 percent white and Asian?” he wrote.
In later newsletters, Paul aimed criticism at the Israeli government’s U.S. lobbying efforts and reported allegations that President Clinton used cocaine and fathered illegitimate children.
Stating that lobbying groups who seek special favors and handouts are evil, Paul wrote, “By far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government” and that the goal of the Zionist movement is to stifle criticism.
Relaying a rumor that Clinton was a longtime cocaine user, Paul wrote in 1994 that the speculation “would explain certain mysteries” about the president’s scratchy voice and insomnia.
“None of this is conclusive, of course, but it sure is interesting,” he said.
[End of article.]
Now, let’s list Bernstein’s verbatim quotes and partial quotes of Paul purportedly showing that Paul is racist:
- “If you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be.”
- “Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty and the end of welfare and affirmative action…”
- “Paul continued that politically sensible blacks are outnumbered ‘as decent people.’ Citing reports that 85 percent of all black men in the District of Columbia are arrested…”
- “Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the `criminal justice system,’ I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal…”
- “Paul also wrote that although ‘we are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers.’”
- “We don’t think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That’s true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such.”
Now let’s list Bernstein’s quotes of Paul purportedly showing that Paul is an anti-Semite:
- “Stating that lobbying groups who seek special favors and handouts are evil, Paul wrote, ‘By far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government’ and that the goal of the Zionist movement is to stifle criticism.”
So, Paul in a newsletter in 1992 pointed out the truth that blacks, particularly blacks in D.C., commit fantastically high rates of crime; he pointed out that blacks are at least 90 percent leftist and statist in their political leanings; and he said that “by far” the worst lobby in D.C. is the Israeli government. Bernstein also said, though he doesn’t provide a direct quote, which makes the assertion very questionable, that Paul said that the goal of the Zionist movement is to stifle criticism. And on this basis Sager states conclusively that Paul is “racist” and an “anti-Semite.” All nuance is out. Sager doesn’t merely say that Paul unfairly attacked the Israeli government, which would be an arguable charge. Sager doesn’t merely say that Paul made an anti-Israel statement, which would be an arguable charge. Sager doesn’t merely say that Paul made an anti-Semitic statement, which might just barely be an arguable charge. No. Sager called Paul himself an “anti-Semite
.” Period. Meaning that Paul is a person who has a fixed hostility against Jews as Jews.
And Ramesh Ponnuru, without any qualification or caveat, linked Sager’s article with its summary statement that Paul is a “pretty racist” and “an anti-Semite” and commented, “Race and Ron Paul, this is pretty bad.”
This is not your father’s National Review. It’s not even your older brother’s National Review. This is a National Review that has been by taken over by chestless liberals who casually call people “racist” and “anti-Semite” on the flimsiest of evidence.
The racism charge and Ramesh Ponnuru. Pretty bad.
- end of initial entry -
Dave B. writes:
I am glad that someone has taken the time to point out that the smear campaign against Ron Paul is just that, a smear campaign with no substance behind it. Take this article of his, for example, that says, “Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than individuals.” I don’t think he would be writing such things if he was truly a racist, especially given the fact that he is running on an “individual liberty” campaign. Also, Paul has already denounced that article Ponnuru linked to and stated that it was not even written by him, but a member of his staff.
As a Ron Paul supporter, I guess it should give me some pleasure to see that the establishment sees Ron Paul as a big enough threat that they have to attack him to try to keep his ever growing support from really taking hold.
I am a critic of libertarianism, and I disagree with many of the things I’ve heard Ron Paul say. My article was not about Paul, but about Sager and Ponnuru and their rush to make the most damaging denunciations of a man’s character without the evidence to back it up. Frankly I don’t expect better of Sager. I did expect better of Ponnuru.
Ramesh Ponnuru writes at the Corner:
Lawrence Auster does not think it’s racist to say that 95 percent of black men in D.C. are “semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” He also seems to have missed this post.Far from acknowledging that he and Sager were wrong to call Paul a racist and anti-Semite on the basis of one article 15 years ago, Ponnuru is now saying that a single sentence written by Paul 15 years ago, nay, a single number written by Paul 15 years ago, makes him a racist. Further, because I said that Ponnuru was out of line for approvingly linking Sager’s charge that Paul is a racist, Ponnuru seems to be hinting that I am a racist as well. Lovely.
So let’s look at the substantive issue further.
First, let’s stipulate that it’s untrue that 95 percent of black men in D.C., either in 1992 (when the offending newsletter was written) or today, are “semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” The 95 percent figure was Paul’s guess at a correct figure based on what he said was the official figure of 85 percent. Let’s assume that 85 percent of black men in D.C. had in fact been arrested. Would Paul be a racist for saying it?
Well, one problem is that being arrested doesn’t make one a criminal. So the statement that 85 percent are criminal or semi-criminal would be untrue and unfair.
At the same time, the 85 percent arrest figure in 1992 was not unlikely, given that a staggeringly high percentage of all black males in the U.S. as of the mid-1990s—between one quarter and one third—were convicted felons. In D.C., one of the two or three most crime-ridden cities in America, the percentage of black men who were felons was surely higher. Let’s make a conservative estimate and say it was 40 percent. If 40 percent of the black male population of D.C. as of 1992 were convicted felons, it’s entirely likely that 85 percent of black males in D.C. had been arrested. In any case it means that a staggeringly high proportion of the black population were either criminals, or the friends and relatives of criminals, which means that you had a largely criminal and pro-criminal population. Which explains, among other things, the hostility of many blacks for the police. Which further explains why, after blacks’ mass expression of ecstasy at the O.J. Simpson acquittal in 1995, which was so shocking to white America, one black after another came on tv and justified the black attitude on the basis that blacks “have a different perspective than whites” and “live in a different reality than whites.” Well, that’s certainly correct. Blacks live in a largely criminal and pro-criminal environment where hostility to police is the norm.
So, the fact that Paul, in one article in a newsletter 15 years ago, engaged in the hyperbole of saying 95 percent rather than (say) 40 percent, would not make Paul or anyone a racist. It would mean that he made one sloppy comment in the course of pointing to a fundamental truth about blacks and crime in this country.
James G. writes:
One thing that’s interesting is that no one has produced a copy of the actual newsletter that purportedly said all those nasty things in 1992. So until that happens (and until we can be sure that the copy that’s produced didn’t come from the same shop as those Texas Air National Guard memos about George W. Bush), I’m reserving judgment.
But turning to Mr. Ponnuru, this isn’t the first time he’s been trigger-happy with an accusation of anti-Semitism. At the time of David Frum’s NR cover story on “Unpatriotic Conservatives,” Ponnuru accused Robert Novak of having “a fevered, and anti-Semitic, imagination,” because of Novak’s suggestion that Frum was “more uncompromising in support of Israel [than he was in his position] on any other issue, raising the inescapable question of whether this was the real reason he entered the White House.” Now I can accept a statement that Novak is wrong, that he was libeling Frum, even that he has a fevered imagination, but to call that imagination anti-Semitic is just comical, because it shows how blissfully ignorant Ponnuru is of Novak’s ethnic background.
First, being of Jewish background (as Novak apparently is) is no defense against being anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitic Jews are a common phenomenon.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 22, 2007 06:52 PM | Send
I am of Jewish background, but I have never used that as a defense for the critical things I’ve written about Jews. I’ve never said, “I’m Jewish, therefore I am automatically non-anti-Semitic.” I’ve always argued that my arguments were not anti-Semitic on the basis of the arguments themselves, not on the basis of my background. I don’t feel that I should have a license to say things about Jews that non-Jews do not have.
Second, Novak of course is very anti-Israel; he never makes a comment about the Mideast problem except to take the anti-Israel side.
Third, Israel is naturally an intense topic of concern because most of the world, including all of Europe, ruthlessly demonize Israel and support the people seeking to destroy it. If half the world weren’t seeking to destroy Israel, then Israel’s friends, both Jewish and non-Jewish, would not be so concerned about her.
Fourth, Frum, while concerned about Israel, is concerned about all kinds of issues. Israel is hardly the main subject of his political writings. Novak’s suggestion that Frum’s concern about Israel is the secret, driving force of all his politics—and his real motive for wanting to work as a White House speechwriter—attributes to Frum a motive (a motive Novak sees as sinister) which Frum has solely because he is Jewish, and Novak makes this wild statement in the absence of any evidence for it. Therefore Novak’s statement is indeed over the top, and arguably shows an anti-Semitic thought process at work.
So in this instance I do not object to what Ponnuru said.
I do object to what he said about Paul, for all the reasons I gave.