Monday, January 21, 2008

On Martin Luther King Weekend, Politics of Race and Gender Simply Refuse to Go Away

Clinton-Obama Contest Opening Up a Potentially Dangerous Split for Democrats, With Women Going for Clinton and Blacks for Obama By Wide Margins, as New Revelations of White Supremacists and Other Far-Right Extremists' Support For Republican Ron Paul Continue to Dog His Campaign

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York (left), who won Saturday's Democratic presidential caucuses in Nevada over fellow Senator Barack Obama of Illinois (center) on the strength of support from women and Latinos, has lost, at least for now, the support of African Americans, who went overwhelmingly for Obama. Meanwhile, Representative Ron Paul of Texas (right), who finished a surprising second in the Nevada Republican caucuses but a distant fourth in the South Carolina GOP primary, must confront mounting suspicions about his attitude toward blacks, as new revelations emerge of white supremacists' extensive support for his candidacy. (Photos courtesy Getty Images)

(Updated 3:15 p.m. EST Tuesday, January 22, 2008)

By Skeeter Sanders

As Americans pause to reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the national holiday honoring his birth, the often-ugly politics of race and gender have come out of the closet for both major parties in the contest to choose a successor to President Bush -- subtly for the Democrats and overtly for at least one Republican.

On the Democratic side, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who won Saturday's Nevada Democratic caucuses, claimed her second win of the presidential race, defeating her closet rival, fellow Senator Barack Obama of Illinois by a narrow 51 percent-to-45 percent margin. Former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina finished a shockingly poor third, with only four percent of the vote.

But entrance polls conducted by The Associated Press showed that Democrats were sharply divided along ethnic, racial, gender and generational lines -- divisions that could be exacerbated in this Saturday's Democratic primary in South Carolina, where half of the Democratic electorate is African American -- and leaning heavily toward Obama.

If these divisions -- fueled by an increasingly bitter feud between Clinton and Obama -- persist by the time the Democrats gather for their August national nominating convention in Denver, it could spell serious trouble for the party in the fall campaign leading to the November 4 general election.

On the Republican side, controversy over racist articles published in a newsletter bearing the name of Representative Ron Paul of Texas continues to dog him, amid new revelations that his campaign is drawing more support from avowed white supremacists and other far-right extremists than was previously thought.

Paul finished a surprising second in the Nevada GOP caucuses, edging out Senator John McCain of Arizona, 14 percent to 13 percent. Former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts coasted to an easy first-place victory in Nevada with 51 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, McCain captured the South Carolina GOP primary, narrowly defeating former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, 33 percent to 30 percent. Former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee finished a disappointing third, with 16 percent of the vote.

(Thompson called it quits on Tuesday, after flying back to his Virginia home even before the polls closed. "I have withdrawn my candidacy... I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort," he said in a short statement.)

Romney -- who had written off South Carolina, with its high concentration of Christian evangelicals, to concentrate on Nevada, with its large Mormon population -- finished fourth, with 15 percent. Paul finished way back in fifth place, with only four percent of the vote, while former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani -- who's concentrating his campaign on Florida's January 29 primary -- finished dead last, at two percent.

(Representative Duncan Hunter of California withdrew from the race just hours before the Nevada caucuses began, but his name remained on the South Carolina ballot and his votes were not counted).

Feud Between Clinton and Obama Boils Over in S.C. Debate

The bad blood and pent-up anger between the rivals as they vie to become either the first woman (Clinton) or first the African American (Obama) to win the Democratic presidential nomination boiled over Monday night as they traded biting insults and accused one another of truth-twisting in a rancorous nationally televised debate at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The third candidate in the Democratic race, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, was virtually a forgotten man in the debate and found himself struggling to get a word in as Clinton and Obama fired verbal missiles at each other. Obama accused Clinton of shilling for anti-union Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. as a corporate lawyer, and Clinton snapped back that Obama did the same for a slum landlord.

Obama also took aim at his rival's husband, former President Bill Clinton, accusing him of distorting his record. "I can't tell who I am running against sometimes," said Obama, who all but accused both Clintons of lying about his opposition to the Iraq war and about a comment the Illinois senator made that the Republicans had recently been the party of ideas, and what was painted as praise for Republican icon Ronald Reagan.

"There's a set of assertions made by Senator Clinton, as well as her husband, that are not factually accurate," Obama said.

In a remark that drew loud boos from the mostly-black studio audience, Clinton turned to Obama and accused him of dodging tough votes on issues, such as sexual abuse, while he an Illinois state legislator. "It is very difficult having a straight-up debate with you, because you never take responsibility for any vote."

What impact Monday night's debate clash between Clinton and Obama will have on South Carolina's primary -- where African Americans make up more than half of the Democratic electorate -- won't be known until Saturday's voting. But polls take before the debate showed African American voters rapidly closing ranks behind Obama as his feud with the Clintons intensified.

Women Powered Clinton's Nevada Win While Blacks Snubbed Ex-First Lady

Women made up nearly 60 percent of those taking part in Saturday's Nevada Democratic contest, according to the AP's entrance poll, and the former first lady led Obama by a margin of 52 percent to 35 percent among those voters.

Clinton, who won last week's New Hampshire primary, swept the Latino vote in the Nevada caucuses by a nearly three-to-one margin. Latinos make up about a quarter of the state's population and 14 percent of caucus participants, the poll found.

Obama led overwhelmingly among the 16 percent of his fellow African Americans who came out to caucus. Nearly 80 percent of black caucus-goers supported Obama, who won the January 3 Iowa caucuses -- and black voters are expected to make up about half of the electorate in South Carolina, the scene of the party's next primary on Saturday.

Even more revealing of a racial split, nearly 70 percent of black voters in Michigan -- who made up more than a third of the votes cast in that state's Democratic primary last Tuesday, which Clinton won -- refused to back the former first lady, choosing the “uncommitted” option instead. According to CNN exit polls, those voters overwhelmingly favored Obama, whose name did not appear on the ballot.

The Michigan Democratic contest was rendered meaningless after the Democratic National Committee stripped the state of its convention delegates in retaliation for the state party violating national party rules by moving its primary ahead of the all-important "Super Tuesday" contests on February 5.

Spat Over Dr. King's Legacy May Have Severely Damaged Clinton's Standing Among African Americans

Black voters -- the Democratic Party's most loyal constituency since the 1960s -- have long been firm supporters of both former President Bill Clinton, whom author Toni Morrison affectionately dubbed the nation's "first black president," and the former first lady. But a high-profile spat earlier this month between the New York senator and Obama over the issue of Dr. King's legacy may have severely damaged Clinton's favorability ratings among many in the African American community.

The dispute erupted over Clinton's comment that the civil rights martyr's dream of racial equality was realized only when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That infuriated African Americans -- particularly those of Clinton's generation and older who lived through the era -- who interpreted Clinton's remark as being denigrating to Dr. King, who led the August 1963 March on Washington to push for passage of the law.

Despite strong lobbying by President John F. Kennedy, the bill languished in Congress because of opposition by southern Democrats. Following Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, Johnson took up the cause, striking a bipartisan deal with congressional Republicans -- then dominated by northern moderates -- and moderate Democrats to get the bill passed.

But Johnson's support for the Civil Rights Act alienated the Democratic Party's 150-year-old conservative southern white voter base -- and began the long realignment of white southerners and other conservatives to the Republican Party.

It didn't help that the former president's put-downs of the Illinois senator -- referring to his opposition to the Iraq war as a "fairy tale," for example -- may have offended African American voters even more deeply, especially those of Obama's generation. Altogether, the scrap between the Clintons and the Obama camp has re-awakened old racial sensitivities in a party that has spent decades cultivating a multiracial, multi-ethnic and cross-gender appeal.

It Could Get Ugly For Democrats in South Carolina This Week. . .

The divides among Democrats between Clinton and Obama have taken a heavy toll on Edwards -- the party's 2004 vice-presidential nominee -- whose support has been in a virtual free-fall since the Iowa caucuses on January 3. His dismal four percent showing in Nevada -- the worst of his campaign to date -- came as a shock to most observers and might spell doom to Edwards' financially-strapped campaign.

The former North Carolina senator must now face the prospect of a do-or-die last stand in his native South Carolina on Saturday, but with African Americans making up half of the state's Democratic electorate and heavily favoring Obama, according to pre-primary polls there, Edwards' chances of winning his native state's primary -- as he did four years ago -- appear bleak.

But South Carolina is notorious for dirty tricks by independent groups that are beyond the control of the candidates' campaigns. And there's no guarantee that there won't be a repeat of the kind of nasty campaign tactics that have plagued past primaries in the Palmetto State.

. . .Just As It Was For Republicans Last Week

The Republicans know it all too well: In an attack against McCain reminiscent of the so-called "swift-boating" of Senator John Kerry four years ago, a group claiming to be McCain's fellow Vietnam War veterans distributed a leaflet that accused McCain of collaborating with the communist North Vietnamese during his years as a prisoner of war.

And a group that promotes protection of the Confederate battle flag aired radio ads during conservative talk shows that praised Huckabee and blasted McCain and Romney for voicing objections to the flag -- which is considered by African Americans a racist symbol as offensive to them as the Nazi swastika flag is to Jews.

The "Stars and Bars" Confederate battle flag once flew atop the state Capitol building in Columbia. A compromise reached among the state's lawmakers in 2000 removed it from the dome, although it remains on the Statehouse grounds as part of a Confederate soldier memorial.

The flag issue -- combined with a controversy over a ban on interracial dating among students at South Carolina's Christian fundamentalist Bob Jones University -- roiled the 2000 GOP primary in the Palmetto State, derailing McCain's campaign and causing great embarrassment for then-Texas Governor George W. Bush en route to the White House. The university's president, Bob Jones III, had endorsed Bush.

The interracial dating ban -- which cost the school its tax-exempt status in 1978 -- was finally lifted, but only after much prodding by Bush.

More 'White Nationalists' and Other Far-Right Extremists Flock to Paul's Campaign

While the Democrats worry about a black-white divide opening up among its ranks, the Republicans must by now be wondering if one of their candidates is becoming as poisonous to them as kryptonite is to Superman -- even though he has little chance of winning the GOP nomination.

Despite mounting adverse publicity over racist articles published in Ron Paul's newsletter, or, perhaps, because of it, a growing number of self-avowed "white nationalists" and other far-right extremists -- some with ties to the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups -- continue to flock to Paul's long-shot campaign.

Among Paul's growing stable of supporters include Willis Carto, who founded the now-defunct far-right group, the Liberty Lobby, in 1955. The Liberty Lobby attempted to promote a public image of being a conservative anti-Communist group, along the lines of the John Birch Society. But while the Birchers took great pains to disavow white supremacy and anti-Semitism, the Liberty Lobby openly promoted them.

The Liberty Lobby, perhaps best known for publishing its radical-right newspaper, The Spotlight,from 1975 to 2001, was forced into bankruptcy as a result of a lawsuit brought against it by, ironically, a rival far-right group.

Carto, now 81, publishes another newspaper, the American Free Press, which, like its predecessor, focuses on conspiracy theories and economics -- and is virulently anti-Israel. A Holocaust denier, Carto's anti-Semitism was heavily influenced by philosopher Francis Parker Yockey…who sympathized with Nazi war criminals even as he prosecuted them at the post-World War II Nuremberg war-crimes trials in 1946.

Edgar Steele: A Racist Lawyer Who Defended Aryan Nations Leader

Another "white nationalist" backer of the Paul campaign is Edgar J. Steele, a self-styled "attorney for the damned," who's best known as the chief defense counsel for Richard Butler, the late leader of the Aryan Nations Church, which lost its Idaho compound in 2000 in a civil lawsuit that was brought against the neo-Nazi group after Aryan Nations guards attacked a woman and her son outside the compound.

Steele now runs a Web site called Conspiracy Pen Pal, where he posts his anti-Semitic and racist rants as well as his support for Ron Paul. According to the Anti-Defamation League, "Steele’s open association with white supremacists has become well-known, and he is a sought-after speaker at conferences of right-wing extremists, including those conducted by the National Alliance, Volksfront, and the Institute for Historical Review."

Clay Douglas: An Anti-Semitic Biker Well Known in Militia Circles

Yet another supporter of Congressman Paul is Clay Douglas. While not known as an anti-black racist per se, Douglas is anti-Semitic -- virulently so -- and is well known in militia circles.

For the past nine years, Douglas has been editing and publishing a militia-friendly magazine called The Free American, which, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is "a compendium of conspiracy theories about hot topics from the 'New World Order' to the Oklahoma City bombing, weird notions about health and sickness, survivalist paranoia and, especially in recent years, wildly anti-Semitic rants and ideology."

An avid motorcyclist, Douglas was a biker with a pen, writing bad poetry and getting articles published in almost a dozen biker lifestyle magazines, including Easyriders and Motorcycle News.

Douglas also has a criminal record. He was sentenced in 1972 to seven years in a Texas prison after being arrested for possession of marijuana by an undercover narcotics agent. Today, Douglas suggests that drugs are part of a government plot.

Douglas first endorsed the anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the early 1990s, and in the years since has, like many in the so-called "Patriot" movement, adopted a wholesale hatred of Jews.

Since helping in 2001 to set up the radical-right American Media Association, which includes several anti-Semitic publications, Douglas' The Free American has run stories like "Are the Jews Behind the Destruction of America?" and has reproduced the Protocols on his Web page.

In 1994, Douglas became information officer for the New Mexico Militia. In the years since then, he has traveled the country, attending anti-government militia and "patriot" events and selling magazines and books. Now the mayor of the tiny hamlet of Bingham, New Mexico, Douglas broadcasts a daily shortwave radio program and puts on survivalist expos.

Ron Doggett: A Klansman and Neo-Nazi Since Age 17

Next to former Klansmen David Duke and Don Black, the most prominent Ron Paul supporter still active in the KKK is Ron Doggett of Virginia. He joined the Klan at the age of 17 and has been a key racist organizer in Virginia ever since — even testifying to the state Senate and badly embarrassing conservative Republican Governor Jim Gilmore in 2001.

The lifelong Richmond resident signed up with the Klan after reading a newspaper published by Duke, moving on to the White Patriot Party, a paramilitary offshoot of the Klan, in the 1980s and, in the early 1990s, the neo-Nazi National Alliance. For most of the latter decade, Doggett also hosted a public-access cable television show called "Race and Reality," making himself infamous in the Richmond area.

In February 2001, Doggett testified to the Virginia Senate Rules Committee in favor of maintaining the state's law against interracial marriage -- which was unanimously declared unconstitutional and rendered unenforceble by the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark Loving v. Virginia decision in 1967.

Doggett pulled off an even more remarkable coup a month later, when he convinced then-Governor Gilmore -- who was also the chairman of the Republican National Committee -- to declare the month of May "European American Heritage and History Month." Two months later, after African American community leaders protested, a red-faced Gilmore rescinded his proclamation.

If Ron Paul isn't a Racist, Then Why Won't He Distance Himself From These Extremists?

In the week after revealing that Congressman Paul's denial to CNN of being the author of those racist newsletter articles was in direct contradiction to his admission that he did write them in an interview with The Dallas Morning News published on May 22, 1996, this blogger has been inundated with e-mails and message board postings by hard-core supporters of his candidacy who adamantly insist that Paul is not a racist and that the newsletters are part of a "conspiracy" by the mainstream news media to smear him.

I rarely use blunt language in my commentaries, but for this one time, I'm going to break my own rule: Ron Paul's supporters need to get a life. Ask yourselves this question: If Ron Paul isn't a racist, why won't he renounce the racist backers of his campaign and sever all ties to them? Why is his campaign accepting donations from them? Why is he refusing to return those donations after they were exposed?

Excuse me for being blunt here, but no one who truly opposes racism would in his or her right mind have anything to do with those scumbags.

Ron Paul: The New Lyndon LaRouche?

The "Paulites'" vehement protests against this and other bloggers who have exposed the Paul campaign's ties to known racists, anti-Semites, white supremacists and other extremists -- as well as my having caught the candidate in an outright lie about his racist newsletter writings -- are a colossal waste of time and energy. They clearly are in denial of the truth and are both unwilling to accept it and unable to refute it.

Their actions are painfully reminiscent of the followers of another infamous political extremist of the 1970s and 1980s: Lyndon LaRouche.

Indeed, for a self-proclaimed "libertarian," Ron Paul's ideas bear a disturbingly close resemblance to those of LaRouche, who did a 180-degree U-turn from a far-left extremist as leader of the now-defunct National Caucus of Labor Committees and the U.S. Labor Party in the 1970s, to a far-right extremist who twice attempted to have AIDS patients quarantined in California by placing quarantine measures -- Propositions 64 and 102 -- on the California ballot in the 1980s and has since has given speeches and written articles in virulent opposition to extending civil rights protections to gays.

And just as Lyndon LaRouche was a thorn in the side of the Democrats by running for its presidential nomination seven times since 1980, Ron Paul is proving to be a thorn in the side of the Republicans with his run for the GOP presidential nod.

At the same time, Paul -- and his supporters -- are proving to be a disgrace to Dr. King's legacy.

# # #

The Full Ron Paul Interview With The Dallas Morning News

Paul's interview, which is in the Morning News' archives, can be accessed online only through a paywall established by the newspaper.

However, here is the 1996 article in its entirety, written by Morning News reporter Catalina Camia of the newspaper's Washington bureau:

WASHINGTON - Dr. Ron Paul, a Republican congressional candidate from Texas, wrote in his political newsletter in 1992 that 95 percent of the black men in Washington, D.C., are "semi-criminal or entirely criminal."

He also wrote that black teenagers can be "unbelievably fleet of foot."

An official with the NAACP in Texas said the comments were racist and offensive.

Dr. Paul, who is running in Texas' 14th Congressional District, defended his writings in an interview Tuesday. He said they were being taken out of context.

"It's typical political demagoguery," he said. "If people are interested in my character . . . come and talk to my neighbors."

Dr. Paul, an ex-congressman and former Libertarian Party presidential candidate, defeated Rep. Greg Laughlin, R-West Columbia, in April for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House.

An obstetrician from Surfside, he faces Democratic lawyer Charles "Lefty" ! Morris of Bee Cave in the November general election. Mr. Morris, who said he was familiar with the writings in question, declined to comment about the specifics.

"Many of his views are out on the fringe," Mr. Morris said. "But voters in the 14th District have to characterize these the way they see it. His statements speak for themselves."

According to a Dallas Morning News review of documents circulating among Texas Democrats, Dr. Paul wrote in a 1992 issue of the Ron Paul Political Report: "If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet of foot they can be."

Dr. Paul, who served in Congress in the late 1970s and early 1980s, said Tuesday that he has produced the newsletter since 1985 and distributes it to an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 subscribers. A phone call to the newsletter's toll-free number was answered by his campaign staff.

Dr. Paul also said he did not know how his newsletter came to be ! included in a directory by the Heritage Front, a neo-Nazi group based in Canada. The newsletter was listed on the Internet under the directory's heading "Racialists and Freedom Fighters."

No one answered calls to the Heritage Front, which lists only a hotline connected to a tape-recorded message in the Toronto telephone directory.

Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP, urged Dr. Paul to apologize for his comments about blacks and asked Republicans to denounce their nominee.

"We need someone who can represent all the constituents of Texas, not someone who is negative or engages in stereotypes," Mr. Bledsoe said. "Someone who holds those views signals or indicates an inability to represent all constituents without regard to race, creed or color."

About 11 percent of the population in the 14th District, stretching from near Austin to the Gulf Coast, is black.

Dr. Paul denied suggestions that he was a racist and said he was not evoking stereotypes when he wrote the columns. He said they should be r! ead and quoted in their entirety to avoid


Dr. Paul also took exception to the comments of Mr. Bledsoe, saying that the voters in the 14th District and the people who know him best would be the final judges of his character.

"If someone challenges your character and takes the

interpretation of the NAACP as proof of a man's character, what kind of a world do you live in?" Dr. Paul asked.

In the interview, he did not deny he made the statement about the swiftness of black men.

"If you try to catch someone that has stolen a purse from you, there is no chance to catch them," Dr. Paul said.

He also said the comment about black men in the nation's capital was made while writing about a 1992 study produced by the National Center on Incarceration and Alternatives, a criminal justice think tank based in Virginia.

Citing statistics from the study, Dr. Paul then concluded in his column: `Given the inef! ficiencies of what DC 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."

"These aren't my figures," Dr. Paul said Tuesday. "That is the assumption you can gather from" the report.

# # #

Volume III, Number 7
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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George Dance said...

Your criticism of the Ron Paul campaign is quite detailed, but it boils down to three objections:

1) You note that some people with dubious histories are promoting the Paul campaign in their own publications and on their own websites; your criticism being that Ron Paul isn't denouncing these "scum", and the only possible reason you can see for that is that he is a racist himself.

Let me suggest one other explanation: a candidate for president has more pressing things to think about, and to use his campaign's time and funds for, than conducting witch hunts among his grassroots supporters.

He's denounced racism several times, and even has a statement to that effect on the campaign website. If some racists can read that and still support the campaign, that's their problem, not the Paul campaign's.

2) You report having "caught the candidate in an outright lie about his racist newsletter writings". That lie, I take it, being "Paul's denial to CNN of being the author of those racist newsletter articles [which] was in direct contradiction to his admission that he did write them in a 1996 interview with The Dallas Morning News".

Obviously, those statements cannot both be true; if Paul claimed both, he did contradict himself. And there's video evidence of Paul making the CNN statement; I've seen the video myself. But there is none of Paul making the second; there are quotes from Paul defending the statements in question, but no quote from Paul saying that he wrote any of them.

These are the only statements that the Dallas Morning News article quotes:
May 22, 1996 Dallas Morning News:
"It's typical political demagoguery." "If people are interested in my character ... come and talk to my neighbors." [...]
"If someone challenges your character and takes the interpretation of the NAACP as proof of a man's character, what kind of a world do you live in?"
"If you try to catch someone that has stolen a purse from you, there is no chance to catch them."
"These aren't my figures," "That is the assumption you can gather from" [the report cited in the article].

Without even a quote from Paul saying he wrote the statements in question, you have no evidence, much less no proof, that Paul either "lied" or "contradicted himself."

3) You make a rather strained analogy between Ron Paul and Lyndon LaRouche, presumably based on the fact that LaRouche once wanted "AIDS patients quarantined", and there's a similar comment in one of the old newsletters. Which begs the previous question, since that is one of the very articles that Paul has denied writing. In fact, the evidence is that, since that article contains one medically incorrect claim - that HIV can be transmitted by saliva - it was not written by a doctor.

Presumably the point of your analogy was that, just as LaRouche has changed positions wildly over the years, so has Ron Paul. But that's easily disproven, just by comparing his speeches from his two presidential campaigns. it's remarkable how little change there is in these two messages, from 20 years apart. It's fair to say that Paul has been the most consistent candidate of any in the current presidential race.