Rep. Ron Paul of Texas speaks during Thursday's Republican presidential… (Eric Gay / Associated Press )
In 1992, Ron Paul, now a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, published a newsletter called the "Ron Paul Political Report." That year, the report published a special edition on "racial terrorism," a favorite theme. It included an observation about the Los Angeles riots, which erupted after a Ventura County jury acquitted four police officers charged with beating Rodney G. King.
"Order was only restored in L.A.," the publication opined, "when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks."
That passage — reprised in recent days by the conservative magazine the Weekly Standard and the New York Times, among others — is stunning for its racism ("the blacks" has an especially pejorative ring to it) and laughable in its argument. Indeed, so ludicrous is the conclusion that it's tempting to ignore it, were it not printed under the name of a man contending for the presidency.
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To be clear, then: The Los Angeles riots erupted on the afternoon of April 29, 1992, when the jury in the King case found four police officers not guilty on all but one charge (the jury hung on that count), despite a widely seen videotape that showed them kicking and striking King with batons while he writhed on the ground. The conflagrations began downtown and quickly spread, with the most memorable attacks coming that afternoon at the intersection of Florence and Normandie. The Los Angeles Police Department, handicapped by the absence of its chief (Daryl Gates was attending a fundraiser to defeat police reform when the riots began), hesitated rather than responding in force. By nightfall, fires and looting were destroying large swaths of the city. Dozens died. More than 1,000 fires were set.
Gates and Mayor Tom Bradley could not agree on a response, and the rioting spread the next day until, at last, the National Guard was deployed throughout the city. Once the guardsmen were in place, authorities regained the upper hand, and the riots gradually subsided. The Guard, and eventually the Police Department, restored order. It had nothing to do with welfare checks.
Ron Paul (or his people, perhaps) were just using code to perpetuate the old racist canard that African Americans are lazy and shiftless. Paul has disavowed the ranting of the newsletter published under his name (just as he did when the subject came up in 2008) and his spokesman says that Paul didn't write it and "disagrees with it totally." That's comforting. Sort of. It helps distance Paul from these lunatic scribblings, but it fails to answer the question of why he allowed them to be published in the first place. He and his admirers complain bitterly when he's ignored, then protest when he's scrutinized. Paul should answer for these writings.