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I don’t want to pick a fight with Ron Paul’s spambots supporters, which who seem to be among the most annoying passionate on the web. But I will say this: their guy is more than a little nuts. Seriously, on Meet the Press earlier today he suggested that Lincoln was wrong to go to war in 1861.

Here’s the exchange:

MR. RUSSERT: I was intrigued by your comments about Abe Lincoln. “According to Paul, Abe Lincoln should never have gone to war; there were better ways of getting rid of slavery.”

REP. PAUL: Absolutely. Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war. No, he shouldn’t have gone, gone to war. He did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic. I mean, it was the–that iron, iron fist..

MR. RUSSERT: We’d still have slavery.

REP. PAUL: Oh, come on, Tim. Slavery was phased out in every other country of the world. And the way I’m advising that it should have been done is do like the British empire did. You, you buy the slaves and release them. How much would that cost compared to killing 600,000 Americans and where it lingered for 100 years? I mean, the hatred and all that existed. So every other major country in the world got rid of slavery without a civil war. I mean, that doesn’t sound too radical to me. That sounds like a pretty reasonable approach.

There are so many things wrong with this line of argument that I don’t even know where to start. Oh wait, yes I do. Let’s begin with: Lincoln didn’t go to war to “get rid of the original intent of the republic.” You have to know even less about history than Tim Russert — I wouldn’t have thought it possible — to say such a ridiculous thing. Or you have to be a bit too willing, eager even, to marry libertarian political ideology with neo-Confederate historical revisionism. Just to be clear: Lincoln went to war to preserve the Union. That’s it. End of story. Full stop.

Also: Lincoln didn’t start the Civil War. To clarify his position throughout the 1860 campaign and well into 1861, long after he was elected president without his name having appeared on a single Southern ballot, Lincoln said that slavery shoudn’t be allowed to expand into the West — a position that was part of the Republican Party (Paul’s party) platform.

Because of his incredibly bold lukewarm stance — again, not for emancipation and certainly not for immediate abolition but only against the further expansion of slavery — South Carolina seceded after the 1860 election results became clear. Six other Confederate States soon followed. This was still prior to Lincoln’s inauguration, mind you, and the president-elect needed to try to persuade the Border States to reject rebellion. So he kept promising, as he had throughout the electoral season, not to prune back the peculiar institution where it already had taken root, but only to insure that it would spread no further.

Which compromised position, by the way, wasn’t good enough for many loyal Republicans (the Ron Pauls of their era, I suppose), who asked that Lincoln forestall war by allowing slavery unfettered access to Western soil. Lincoln, to his credit, replied that such a move would have rendered the Republican Party and his administration a “mere sucked egg, all shell and no principle in it.”

And then, to reitterate, South Carolina seceded. Still, the war didn’t actually start until Confederate artillery began bombarding Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor on April 12, 1861. Then and only then did Lincoln call for troops.

So, because Tim Russert is such an ignorant gassbag, here are my questions for Paul: given that Lincoln didn’t start the war, what should he have done? Allowed the Union to blow apart to avoid bloodshed? And for how much longer, Dr. Paul, you exquisite champion of freedom, would it have been okay to enslave African-Americans in the United States? Another generation? Two? More than that?

And what of denying African-Americans the rights guaranteed in the Constitution, which document, I’ve heard, you admire? (What do I mean, gentle reader? Well, it seems that Paul’s also no fan of the Civil Rights Act.)

Roll tape:

MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you about race, because I, I read a speech you gave in 2004, the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. And you said this: “Contrary to the claims of” “supporters of the Civil Rights Act of” ’64, “the act did not improve race relations or enhance freedom. Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of” ’64 “increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty.” That act gave equal rights to African-Americans to vote, to live, to go to lunch counters, and you seem to be criticizing it.

REP. PAUL: Well, we should do, we should do this at a federal level, at a federal lunch counter it’d be OK or for the military. Just think of how the government, you know, caused all the segregation in the military until after World War II. But when it comes, Tim, you’re, you’re, you’re not compelled in your house to invade strangers that you don’t like. So it’s a property rights issue. And this idea that all private property is under the domain of the federal government I think is wrong. So this–I think even Barry Goldwater opposed that bill on the same property rights position, and that–and now this thing is totally out of control. If you happen to like to smoke a cigar, you know, the federal government’s going to come down and say you’re not allowed to do this.

MR. RUSSERT: But you would vote against…

REP. PAUL: So it’s…

MR. RUSSERT: You would vote against the Civil Rights Act if, if it was today?

REP. PAUL: If it were written the same way, where the federal government’s taken over property–has nothing to do with race relations. It just happens, Tim, that I get more support from black people today than any other Republican candidate, according to some statistics. And I have a great appeal to people who care about personal liberties and to those individuals who would like to get us out of wars. So it has nothing to do with racism, it has to do with the Constitution and private property rights.

For anyone considering voting for Ron Paul, please think again. I know that you’re fed up with the war. So am I. I know that you distrust politicians. So do I. I know that you crave change. Me too. But Ron Paul is either a lunatic, a stone-cold racist (seemingly an in-the-hip-pocket-of-the-Slaveocracy racist, which, to be fair, isn’t very different from some other prominent Republicans — see Trent Lott and his recent defenders) or both. And, by the way, what happened to supporting the troops? Calling the Civil War “senseless”; what will that do to morale?

Update: Matthew Yglesias, as usual, beat me to punch. I’d say that I’m getting tired of this. But I’d better get used to it. I’m old and slow. He’s young and nimble.

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