Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Ron Paul: Friend of Stock Scamsters

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has been making a lot of noise lately for being in the very uncommon position of being right. He was unfairly excluded from a Fox News debate Sunday night.

But before you shed too many tears for Paul, or even bother to read through his ultra-right position on the issues, there's a couple of things you may want to peruse. Seems that Paul has a long history of promoting bigotry and a more recent, equally creepy record of climbing in the sack with corporate cretins.

First read the devastating exploration of Ron Paul's bigoted past in the New Republic website today.

Then peruse Paul's ringing endorsement (see left side of page) of a book by a stock promoter named Anthony Wile. But be sure to read that slap on the back with the SEC press release charging Wile with stock manipulation.

No surprise there, given Paul's generally half-baked worldview, and neither is his endorsement of beefed-up SEC rules against the phantom menace of naked short selling. That is contrary to his smaller-government ethos, but in league with his sympathy for stock scamsters.

Another sleazeball to be embraced by Paul is Overstock.com's SEC-investigated CEO Patrick Byrne. The loopy Byrne, famed for his stock market conspiracy theories, recently used Overstock corporate resources to tout Paul's candidacy.

Byrne vigorously endorsed this friend of Wall Street as follows:

In October Dr. Paul came to Utah, and he and I visited for an hour in my office. After that meeting, I gave him the largest donation I could under federal law: it is rare to meet a politician who understands the Constitution, and rarer still to meet one who thinks it binds the government meaningfully (I would give Dr. Paul more were there not now a federal blackout on free speech known as “McCain-Feingold”). In a television interview last week I stated that, while for the first time in my life I felt there are several candidates qualified to be president, my #1 choice would be Dr. Paul.
No surprise here either, as the notoriously paranoid Byrne has found a kindred spirit: a candidate who thrives on paranoia.

The New Republic article today observed that "Paul's newsletters didn't just contain bigotry. They also contained paranoia--specifically, the brand of anti-government paranoia that festered among right-wing militia groups during the 1980s and '90s." Paul and his supporters continue to embrace conspiracy theories. So there's real synergy here with Byrne's famous "Sith Lord" conspiracy theory and the crackpot websites he supports.

Paul's history of racially tinged comments has raised eyebrows even before the New Republic article, such as this blog by black conservative Bob Parks.

I imagine that more than a few Overstock customers would not appreciate getting a political spam such as that email, particularly on behalf of a candidate with a record of extremist positions and, according to the New Republic article today, a "bigoted past." Even without knowing that, no doubt many Overstock customers are offended by Paul's position on the Iraq war, and his view that U.S. policies prompted the Sept. 11 attacks. Hardly the kind of person most companies would want to flaunt before their customers.

But what the hey, Byrne is not a perennial on "worst CEO" lists for nothing.

UPDATE: Paul's response to the New Republic article, quoted today in Bloggingstocks, can be found here. He says the views in the newsletter are not his and (classic P.R. spin here) that this is "old news." He says that “when I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product."

This is what is known as the "Sergeant Schultz defense," after the "I know nothing" character in Hogan's Heroes, and it is not convincing. Even if you believe him, as Zac Bissonnette points out: "If this guy can't run a newsletter without racist tirades showing up, can we seriously consider him for the role of leader of the free world. Delegating is a big part of being president -- Ron Paul appears to have delegated his newsletter to complete wackjobs."

An intriguing blog item, meanwhile, has further insights into the credibility of Paul's Sergeant Schultz defense.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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Wall Street Versus America was published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its Amazon.com listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site, gary-weiss.com.

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