Paul's Pause

by James Kirchick | January 17, 2008

Since my article “Angry White Man” was posted on our website last Tuesday, many have asked who the author of Ron Paul’s newsletters could have been. Published since at least the late 1970s--and at their most incendiary from 1987 to 1996--these newsletters have at times been filled with conspiratorial warnings about the Trilateral Commission and Bilderberg Group, animus towards black and gay people, and sympathy for right-wing, anti-government militia movements. Many libertarian bloggers have intimated or concluded that the man chiefly responsible for this content was Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., Paul’s former congressional chief of staff and the founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama. John Robbins, who succeeded Rockwell as Paul’s chief of staff, released an “Open Letter to Lew Rockwell” on the Internet last week. “This week, for the third time, the puerile, racist, and completely un-Pauline comments that all informed people say you have caused to appear in Ron’s newsletters over the course of several years have become an issue in his campaign,” Robbins wrote. “Your callous disregard for both Ron and his millions of supporters is unconscionable.” Rockwell, however, in an interview conducted before “Angry White Man” was published, denied that he had any role in writing the newsletters.

Hours after my article appeared on the TNR website, the Paul campaign released a statement. "The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed," Paul said. "I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts." Moreover, he insisted that he didn't even know who wrote those words. On Thursday, two days after the statement appeared, Paul campaignspokesman Jesse Benton reiterated Paul's denial to CNN's Brian Todd. When Todd asked if Paul would attempt to find out who could have written the newsletters, Benton replied, "No, what's the point?"

Later that day, Paul submitted to an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Here's an excerpt from their exchange:

BLITZER: Congressman, there's a lot of material there. Let me just try figure out, how did this stuff get in these Ron Paul newsletters? Who wrote it?

PAUL: I have no idea. Have you ever heard a publisher of a magazine not knowing every single thing? The editor is responsible for the daily activities. People came and gone. And there were people who were hired. I don't know any of their names. I absolutely honestly do not know who wrote those things.

Since then, the Paul campaign has remained silent on the subject of the newsletters.

But this Wednesday, I spoke with Tom Lizardo, Paul’s congressional chief of staff. He now says that Paul was prepared to finger Rockwell in anticipation of “Angry White Man.” Lizardo says that last week--either on Monday or Tuesday--Paul and Benton agreed that the campaign would release a statement acknowledging that Rockwell was a principal in the production of the newsletters. The statement was drafted by Benton and approved by Paul himself, Lizardo told me. Shortly before Paul was about to go public, however, Lizardo says Kent Snyder, the campaign’s chairman, stepped in and “stopped the outing of Rockwell’s involvement.” (Snyder didn’t respond to a phone message asking for a comment, and Benton said, “We are not going to talk to you anymore,” when I attempted to question him about Lizardo’s claims.)

According to several people I have interviewed, and according to this heavily reported investigation published on Reason’s website Wednesday, all signs point to Rockwell’s being the lead author of the newsletters. Though most issues of the newsletter did not contain mastheads, he is nonetheless listed as “Editor” in the May 1988 Ron Paul Investment Letter. (Others, including Paul himself, have been listed as editors throughout the newsletter’s history.) “I don’t know anyone else it would be,” Robbins told me. “As I understand the arrangement, he had trusted, in particular, Rockwell--and there may have been another business partner involved--and he left them pretty much a free hand. I think it’s a case of bad judgment on his part. … He should not have trusted Rockwell and his friends.” Lizardo says that the content of the newsletters demonstrates “what happens when someone takes advantage of someone else’s trust.”

Lizardo said that he doesn’t “disbelieve” his boss because the author or authors probably weren’t “in Ron Paul’s presence, pen in hand.” But the chronology here nonetheless raises a question: If Paul was prepared to name Rockwell as having a principal role in the production of the newsletter on Monday or Tuesday of last week, how could he have told Blitzer on Thursday that he “absolutely honestly” did not know who the responsible parties could be? “What’s the point?” doesn’t seem like an acceptable response this time around.

James Kirchick is an assistant editor of The New Republic.

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