A look at Ron Paul’s controversial past. Texas presidential candidate with libertarian views has taken controversial positions on issues from immigration to AIDS.
WASHINGTON — Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s fervent opposition to the Iraq war and his denunciations of Big Government have made him the Internet darling of the 2008 presidential campaign and have earned him more than $10 million in contributions.
Less known to Paul’s many Internet-driven supporters are earlier writings and speeches by the Lake Jackson Republican in which he made incendiary comments about African-Americans, immigration, AIDS patients and alleged victims of sexual harassment.
“Why don’t they quit once the so-called harassment starts?” Paul wrote in a 1988 book, Freedom Under Siege.
In 1997, Paul took issue with the concept of global warming, arguing “the temperatures are getting cooler, on the average.”
Ten years earlier, in 1987, he wrote that the United States should not have a national immigration policy and “should welcome everyone who wants to come here and work.”
While some supporters say Paul’s controversial views would not affect their support for his presidential run, some academics begged to differ.
Paul, a 10-term congressman who was the 1988 Libertarian Party nominee for president, has emerged from the rear of the 2008 presidential pack to reach double digits in some polls in New Hampshire, the first state to hold a presidential primary. The early front-runners have avoided clashing with him because they did not see him as a threat to win the nomination.
But if Paul continues to gain in the polls, “the more likely that some of his off-the-wall views will get known,” said Bruce Buchanan, a University of Texas political science professor.
Paul’s campaign spokesman, Jesse Benton, said in response to questions that criticisms of the congressman’s writings were recycled political attacks.
Benton said Paul has changed his position on immigration over the past two decades, now backing government action such as building a fence on the border. Paul still opposes the Kyoto climate change protocol, but now believes “temperatures are rising in some places and falling in others, and that human activity plays a role,” the spokesman said.
Paul outlined many of his ideas in his current weekly column, “Texas Straight Talk.” He also gave numerous speeches and wrote or co-wrote 11 books.
Among other provocative stands, Paul has advocated decriminalizing drugs, returning to the gold standard and eliminating the Federal Reserve, CIA, IRS and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
More recently he slammed government bureaucrats for using the Sept. 11 attacks as “an excuse to seize police powers sought for decades.” And he labeled the neoconservatives who built the case for invading Iraq “Trotskyites.”
Earlier this year, Paul said the Civil War did not have to be fought, arguing that there were better ways of ending slavery. “We could have paid for the slaves and released them,” he said on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.
Some of Paul’s most provocative stands are included in his book Freedom Under Siege, published in 1988. In it, Paul took issue with people seeking government redress based on their affiliation with certain groups.
In one chapter, he questioned those employees who claim sexual harassment is a violation of their rights.
“Employee rights are said to be valid when employers pressure employees into sexual activity,” he wrote. “Why don’t they quit once the so-called harassment starts? Obviously the morals of the harasser cannot be defended, but how can the harassee escape some responsibility for the problem? Seeking protection under civil rights legislation is hardily acceptable.”
The Paul campaign did not respond to questions about the passage.
AIDS stance explained
In the same chapter, Paul also singled out people with AIDS, saying they “demand health care and scream AIDS ‘discrimination’ if insurance companies claim they have a right to refuse to issue a policy to someone already infected with the AIDS virus.”
“The rights of the insurance company owners are not considered, while legislation is passed forcing insurance companies to provide insurance demanded by the victims,” he wrote.
Campaign spokesman Benton said Paul, an obstetrician, believes “government mandates on insurance companies always push up costs and drive down quality.”
An August 1992 edition of the Ron Paul report newsletter described former Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-Houston, as “the archetypal half-educated victimologist, yet her race and sex protect her from criticism.”
Benton said that even though the writings appeared under Paul’s name, the articles were written by others without Paul’s approval. Benton said Paul was “especially upset with the Barbara Jordan comments because he respected her and liked her.” Jordan died in 1996.
Libertarian at heart
A number of Paul’s writings underscore his libertarian leanings.
While Paul does not talk about legalizing drugs on the campaign trail, he wrote in 1988 during his bid for president on the Libertarian ticket that “all drugs should be decriminalized.”
In recent years Paul has criticized the war on drugs but largely directed his ire at what he argues is the government’s zeal in going after physicians who prescribe drugs for pain management.