Well, he wanted to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. And with leading status comes scrutiny.

First it was the racist newsletters. Now it’s the direct mail advertising them. In a signed appeal to potential subscribers in 1993, Ron Paul urged people to read his publications in order to prepare for a “race war,” military rule, and a conspiracy to use a new $100 bill to track Americans.

The eight-page mailer obtained by Reuters via Jamie Kirchick, who unearthed Paul’s newsletter archives in 2008, is mostly focused on a rambling conspiracy theory about changes to the dollar. But Paul tries to bolster his credibility on the issue by noting that his newsletters have also “laid bare the coming race war in our big cities” as well as the “federal-homosexual coverup on AIDS,” adding that “my training as a physician helps me see through this one.”

This mailer, like the racist newsletters that went out under Paul’s name, includes some truly insane ideas, including warnings that American currency would soon feature chemical tracking agents as part of an authoritarian plot. Indeed, Paul claims to have learned directly about this scheme as a member of Congress.

Paul’s presidential campaign, of course, denies the Republican candidate saw and/or endorsed this.

Even if one accepts Paul’s defense at face value — a step that strikes me as foolish — it doesn’t exactly speak well of the radical congressman’s skills. Apparently, a large operation existed over the course of many years, which distributed racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic propaganda and fundraising appeals. Ron Paul was the head of this operation, and yet he had no idea what messages were going out under his name, or why people who agreed with this garbage kept sending checks to support Paul’s venture.

That’s not what critics are saying; that’s what Paul and his staff are saying.

For more on this, I found Rachel Maddow’s coverage of the story last night very compelling.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.