Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Why can't the Pauls get past their race problems?

Another day, another associate of the Ron/Rand Paul political camp in race trouble. Yesterday, Sen. Rand Paul's new media chief, Jack Hunter, was outed (to those of us who ignore such people) as “The Southern Avenger,” a Confederate battle flag luchador mask wearing Southern apologist who used to host a radio show. Instead of owning up to his clear, unambiguous, and appalling behavior in his past career, Mr. Avenger Hunter blames unbalanced reporting at the Washington Free Beacon for his unceremonious unmasking:

My Statement on Recent Attacks
Today’s article that brought my not-very-hidden radio pundit background to light does not accurately reflect me or my full, or true, views.
The role of a radio host is different from that of a political operative. In radio, sometimes you’re encouraged to be provocative and inflammatory. I’ve been guilty of both, and am embarrassed by some of the comments I made precisely because they do not represent me today. I was embarrassed by some of them even then.
I am also no longer a guy who judges beer drinking contests in a wrestling mask. Things change. We all hopefully grow up.
I abhor racism and have always treated everyone I’ve met with dignity and respect as individuals. This was true in the past and it is true now.
The controversial comments are also but a fraction of my decade of writing and talking about conservative, Tea Party and libertarian causes.
I have also written columns over the years promoting African-American history and politics, and many other writings that tell a far different story than what the headlines portray today. Not surprisingly, the reporter chose not to balance her piece by citing any of those columns.
“Attacks” on “not-very-hidden” punditry, as if those of us who inhabit a social world free from nostalgic slavery-apologia were supposed to assume that a United States senator would knowingly hire a man known as “The Southern Avenger”—a hostile, vengeful, character who equates the NAACP and the Ku Klux Klan—and that hiring should or would be assumed to be common knowledge without much fanfare.

I can't speak to Mr. Hunter's past or current embarrassment about what he said or did as a pundit, but many of us seem to make our names without inflaming racial tensions that have haunted its country since its inception, don't also take charge of local chapters of slavery apologist organizations, and continue using that nickname as one progresses through our professional careers as he has. As recently as 2010, Hunter gave airtime to Tom Woods, a fellow-traveler in Civil War revisionism, on his radio show. Perhaps more telling, the above non-apology is listed on “,” supporting his contention his past is not very hidden, but it doesn't really explain how he's attempted at all to put his youthful indiscretion behind him, save scrubbing the many iterations of the Confederate battle flag off his website.

What exactly is he avenging now, anyway?

I find the Paul/Hunter issue interesting in a broader context because here you have a man who, by his own admission, did and said things to be inflammatory—and let's call it what it is: race baiting and dog whistling—in support of conservative (and purportedly libertarian) ends “in his 20s.” (If the birth date in his Wikipedia bio is accurate, Hunter was 30 when he called the NAACP a “malicious hate group” on par with the KKK, but I digress.) Dave Wiegel tweeted that last spoke to Hunter en route to Rand Paul's infamous Howard speech, in which Paul essentially blamed black people for turning on the Republican party. As I mentioned in my post at the time, Paul glossed over GOP tactics and politics since the Civil Rights Era, in which people—such as Lee Atwater, his father Ron, and, apparently, Jack Hunter—unabashedly used white fear and resentment to unify Republican votes. This is a glaring omission of history, to which Paul has two direct ties which he has not, to my knowledge, ever addressed.

Where is the explanation and contrition for this? Where is the final, unequivocal rejection of the Confederacy, which has no legal, moral, or “libertarian” justification whatsoever? How is it that the Pauls seem to seek out and surround themselves with these people who have and continued to be so stridently on the wrong side of history?

I want to know what specifically Jack Hunter is "embarrassed" about now, why he now rejects it, and what brought him to this way of thinking. I want to know why, despite this purported embarrassment, he continues to hold onto the website and moniker “Southern Avenger,” what that name means to him, and how, if at all, that differs from the personality he now distances himself from. I also would like to know why these words that embarrassed him both then and now—if he and Paul have always rejected racism and its trappings—were ever used in the first place?

These questions get to the heart of the omissions in Paul's Howard speech about how the GOP has operated over the past 40 years, both with respect to blacks and its fanning the flames of white resentment. If Paul and Hunter want to deal with these questions head on, it could, in fact, be a teachable moment for the Paul campaign and the GOP generally.

Pardon me, however, if I don't hold my breath waiting.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

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