About a year ago, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made provocative comments about “inner-city” men who are “not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” The remarks generated some spirited pushback, and the Republican congressman soon after walked back his criticisms.
But in the same interview, Ryan referenced author Charles Murray’s work, which was apparently a hint of things to come.
Last week, for example, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) twice praised Charles Murray at the National Review Ideas Summit, explaining, “My views on this were shaped a lot by Charles Murray’s book.” The unannounced Republican presidential candidate added, “I like Charles Murray books to be honest with you, which means I’m a total nerd I guess.”
And now we can add Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to the list. The AP reported the other day:
[Paul] said more economic growth and less national debt would mean “everybody does better.” But he said some problems can’t be fixed by the government. He cited the book “Coming Apart” by Charles Murray that argues people are more successful if they wait to have children until they are married.“The No. 1 risk factor for poverty in our country is having your kids before you are married,” Paul said.
According to a Democratic source, the Republican delivered a speech in January in which he also touted a different book from the same author: ”Charles Murray wrote a book called ‘Coming Apart at the Seams,’ and in that he looked at income statistics only for one race, for the white race, and he showed the difference, because he wanted to eliminate race from the judgment of what was the problem.”
It’s worth pausing to ask the obvious question: what’s with all the Charles Murray references?
If the name is unfamiliar to you, Murray is arguably best known for his controversial 1994 book, “The Bell Curve,” which explored racial differences in I.Q.
To reiterate a point from the other day, it’s important to emphasize that there’s no evidence of Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, or Paul Ryan applauding “The Bell Curve” specifically. Rather, these Republicans have referenced Murray’s other works.
But as a political matter, this remains quite awkward. As Benjy Sarlin noted on Twitter, it’s a tough pitch for a national candidate: “Say, have you read this guy’s book? No not the one about racial IQ’s, the one about white America….”
TPM had a report last week that added some helpful context:
Murray is the author of the highly influential 1984 book Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980 which argued that social welfare programs of the 1960s and 1970s actually hurt the poor rather than helped. It was and remains a seminal work in the conservative policy canon.Ten years later Murray authored the highly controversial The Bell Curve, which he co-authored with Richard Herrnstein. Critics denounced it as racist, saying it essentially argued that African-Americans aren’t as intelligent as white Americans because of genetic differences. In 1994 Bob Herbert, then a columnist at The New York Times, described the book as a “scabrous piece of racial pornography masquerading as serious scholarship.”
Given these condemnations, and the racially charged controversy, Republicans tended to put some distance between the party and author of “The Bell Curve,” reluctant to be associated who espoused such an ugly thesis.
And yet, now the opposite seems to be happening, with national GOP figures practically bragging about their appreciation of Murray’s work.