Should a U.S. senator hang out with a 9/11 conspiracy theory champion?
That's a question for Rand Paul, the Tea Party favorite who this week won the Republican Senate primary in Kentucky. While Paul was still celebrating, he created a media-political tempest
by declaring that he opposed the provision of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 that bans discrimination by private businesses. But Paul, with his die-hard libertarianism and connections to extremists, is a veritable political kerfuffle-creating machine. Take his hobnobbing with Alex Jones, an anti-government activist and one of the most prominent advocates of the notion that the Bush administration was complicit
in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The New Republic has referred
to Jones as "one of the country's most significant purveyors of parnoia" who "purports to reveal an eugenics-obsessed global elite bent on eliminating most of the earth's population and enslaving the rest." Jones claims -- seriously -- that a Satanic international cabal has been "steering planetary affairs for hundreds of years." Its current goal: world government.
In the past year, Paul has appeared several times
for long segments as a guest on Jones' radio show, during which Jones routinely decried the plots and machinations of "globalists" and the New World Order. Paul didn't endorse Jones' 9/11 views, but he did agree with Jones on the big picture: It's us Constitution-loving truth-seekers versus the international conspiracy.
No wonder that Jones is a big fan of Rand Paul and his father Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican congressman from Texas who ran for president in 2008. On his show, Jones has repeatedly urged his followers to contribute to Rand Paul's Senate campaign -- when not denouncing shadowy world-government schemers and their allies in the United States (such as the Federal Reserve and President Obama) for aiming to wipe out American freedom and destroy the United States.
Is it wrong for Paul to be a Jones radio buddy? Politicians and commentators routinely appear on shows hosted by personalities with whom they have political or policy disagreements. (Heck, I've gone on Bill O'Reilly's show.) But there ought to be some discretion. Should a candidate be the guest of a host who is a white supremacist? Or a Holocaust denier? No. But where is the line? Wherever it is, for a Senate hopeful, Jones is probably on the wrong side of it.
Rand Paul does have a 9/11 problem. In December, Chris Hightower, his campaign communications director, resigned
after the news hit that his personal website contained racist material and suggestions that the U.S. government was involved in the 9/11 attacks. Afterward, when Paul's campaign was asked if he agreed with Hightower regarding 9/11, the campaign said
it was a "complicated situation" with "truth on both sides." Given all this, Paul's connection with Jones is a bit suspicious. (CLARIFICATION: Hightower had written a letter supporting
Ron Paul's claim that 9/11 had been the result of U.S. policy overseas, and the Rand Paul campaign was partly defending Hightower on this point.)
Moreover, whether or not Rand shares Jones' 9/11 notions, he has helped legitimize Jones (who defies easy political categorization). As I noted elsewhere
after watching several of the shows where the two men discussed international and economic matters, Paul gave the impression that he and Jones were like-minded foes of the globalists and international financiers plotting to undermine, if not destroy, the United States for their own gain.
Paul noted [on one particular show] that career politicians are no match for the enemy identified by Jones: "the ones that evolve to the top of the Republican and the Democratic Party end up being the people who don't believe in anything . . . and they get pushed around by the New World Order types."
By treating Jones, who asserts
that the United States is now "one of the most oppressive police states on earth," as a legitimate and insightful observer of international and national affairs, Paul has conveyed credibility on a fellow who claims on his website
that "Death Camps Are Real" -- to sell copies of a "documentary."
That film, Jones maintains, "conclusively proves the existence of a secret network of FEMA camps, now being expanded nationwide. The military industrial complex is transforming our once free nation into a giant prison camp. A cashless society control grid, constructed in the name of fighting terrorism, was actually built to enslave the American people. Body scanners, sound cannons, citizen spies, staged terror and cameras on every street corner -- it's only the beginning of the New World Order's hellish plan."
Rand doesn't have to echo all of Jones' outlandish opinions to aid him.
Appearing on Jones' show as a supportive and appreciate guest, Paul has helped Jones peddle his conspiracy swill. This is not the place for a potential senator. But the significant question for voters and reporters is this: How much overlap is there between Jones' paranoid view of the New World Order and Paul's own beliefs? The answer to that query may be far more important than how Rand might have voted on the Civil Rights Act 46 years ago.
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