[See also: Then They Came For Jack Hunter. They Can Have Him].
It’s fair to say that Beltway Right columnist Jack Hunter, once known as the Southern Avenger, no longer views General Robert E. Lee as an inspiration. After all, General Lee once advised his son Custis:
You must study to be frank with the world: frankness is the child of honesty and courage. Say just what you mean to do on every occasion, and take it for granted that you mean to do right.
Jack Hunter was a staffer for Senator Rand Paul and a leading light of the Ron Paul-led “liberty movement.” Prior to his association with the Pauls, Hunter hosted a Charleston, SC talk show called The Southern Avenger and wrote for Dissident Right publications like Takimag.com. [SouthernAvenger website 2005 | 2007 | 2013] During this time, he made mildly politically incorrect statements about race, homosexuality, and immigration. However, for the past few years, he has deliberately moderated or even outright reversed his positions to create the most media-friendly image possible for Rand Paul.
But this past summer, the neoconservative Washington Free Beacon dug up his Southern Avenger columns and broadcasts for a hit piece [Rebel Yell: Rand Paul aide has history of neo-Confederate sympathies, inflammatory statements, by Alana Goodman, July 9, 2013]. The neoconservative-Leftist echo chamber made Hunter their focus of a two-minute hate. Hunter apologized, resigned from Paul’s staff and fell off the grid. [See Paul Gottfried’s The SOUTHERN AVENGER Stuff-Up: Conservatism Inc. /Goldbergism 1—Rand Paul/ “Liberty Movement” 0]
Hunter reemerged last week in an attempt to reinvent himself, yet again, as a changed man. The soft launch of Hunter 3.0 came with his review of Dallas Buyers Club, a movie about an AIDS-infected man who smuggles medication across the Mexican border. For good measure, there’s a transgendered romance. Because the film shows the FDA as the homophobic bad guys (though in reality, the FDA allowed the smuggling), Hunter called it a “libertarian epic.” For good measure, he smiles upon a time “where for a new generation government becomes more suspect and diversity, more attractive.”
This was just the amuse-bouche to the main course: a rambling and repetitive 3,500 word missive in the Politico entitled Confessions of a Right Wing Shock Jock [November 25, 2013] The subtitle was “I`m not a racist; I just played one on the radio,” and the piece went downhill from there. A summary:
Of course, the first comment is completely defensible, even from a mainstream conservative perspective. While the second comment seems harsh, Hunter made it in response to Lee’s complaint that there were not sufficient depictions of the horrors of slavery in Mel Gibson’s The Patriot. Hunter sarcastically suggested that Gibson recut the film with a scene of Gibson whipping Lee—who, by the way, had once called for Charlton Heston to be shot. (See The Confederacy Loses Again, Washington Free Beacon, July 22, 2013 for quotes and audio.)
But rather than provide context for these quotes, Hunter apologized—over and over again. They were “awful” and “terrible.” He “disavows” and is “embarrassed” by his former views, which are “painful to revisit.” Additionally, “the Jack Hunter of 2013 would have condemned the Southern Avenger of 2003 for making them.”
2. The Jack Hunter of 2013 not only condemns his own intolerance, but also the racial insensitivity of non-libertarian Republicans: “Let’s be honest: My commentary wasn’t all that different from what more mainstream conservatives were saying—at the time and still today.” Though he does not consider most conservatives racists, “many have displayed a disregard for minorities.”
While Hunter rhetorically acknowledges there’s a “border security problem” (who doesn’t?), he asks if it is really “part of a La Raza takeover of the United States.” While Obama is “awful” (though probably not as awful as the racists who oppose him), “is it necessary to call him a food-stamp president?”
3. Hunter says Ron Paul Republicans “changed me” and he shed his previously “awful” and “terrible” views: “As I listened to Paul, my worldview began to evolve. Paul was serious about border security, but unlike other Republicans, he didn’t seem angry or hateful. Libertarianism, after all, is based on the relationship between the state and the individual, often with little regard for culture or groups.”
In addition to learning from Paul to stop “scapegoating Hispanic immigrants themselves,” Hunter also learned that the war on drugs was racist, and he goes on to quote Ron Paul’s incorrect assertion that blacks make up only 14% of illegal drug users, but “36 percent of those arrested are black, and it ends up that 63 percent of those who finally end up in prison.” By 2009, when someone asked him a question about illegal immigration, he responded: “I changed.”
4. The racially-insensitive GOP Establishment needs to follow Jack Hunter’s lead by shedding their racism and embracing libertarianism: “The Republican establishment should look at how he can lead the way in creating a broader, more diverse coalition of conservatives—including more minorities.” “The diverse group of young people Ron and Rand Paul have managed to mobilize represents the best hope for the Republican Party. If the GOP wants to attract more minorities, independents and young voters, it is libertarian-Republicans who can lead the way.”
Frankly, I have my doubts as to whether Hunter’s apology is sincere. I generally adhere to Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” That said, I reject the corollary “Never attribute to cowardice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
This said, I cannot be sure of what Hunter really thinks, so I cannot speak to his points One and Three. However, points two and four are simply wrong. While Hunter did not name any names about the racially-insensitive comments, he alluded to Newt Gingrich with his “Food Stamp President” rhetoric—that’s the same racially-insensitive Gingrich who sabotaged GOP opposition to Affirmative Action and started a “conservative” Spanish-language news site.
Hunter contrasts Rand Paul to John McCain. However, McCain’s prescription for GOP outreach—never criticizing Obama in any manner that could construed as “racist” and never saying anything more substantive about immigration beyond “border security”—is identical to Hunter’s.Despite his attempt to synthesize his born-again anti-racism with his preexisting anti-neoconservative rhetoric, Jack Hunter 3.0 is little more than an anti-war version of John McCain or David Frum.
For the hundredth time: the reason blacks and Hispanics do not support the GOP or libertarians are not because conservatives are racially insensitive. It’s because blacks and Hispanics benefit from government programs generally, and racial entitlements specifically. The real objection to “Aztlan” is it would deny Hispanics the opportunity to extract welfare and affirmative action benefits from productive Americans.
Since Hunter has moved past his Southern heroes, I will close with someone closer to his new stated beliefs: D’Angelo Barksdale, the black drug dealer with a heart of gold from the crime drama TV series The Wire. In his reflection on F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s idea that “there are no second acts in American lives” and the ending of The Great Gatsby, Barksdale says:
[T]he past is always with us. . .Where we come from, what we go through, how we go through it — all that s**t matters…
It’s like, you can change up. You can say you somebody new. You can give yourself a whole new story. But what came first is who you really are, and what happened before is what really happened. It doesn’t matter that some fool say you different, ’cause the only thing that make you different is what you really do, or what you really go through.
Like all them books in his library. Now, he frontin’ with all them books. But if we pull one down off the shelf, ain’t none of the pages ever been opened. He got all them books, and he ain’t read one of ‘em.
Gatsby, he was who he was, and he did what he did, and ’cause he wasn’t ready to get real with the story, that s**t caught up to him.
Alexander Hart (email him) is a conservative journalist