If you’re not a regular surfer in the libertarian blogosphere, you probably haven’t been following the big Ron Paul story, which is that around a decade ago he published a newsletter and a few issues had some stuff that seems pretty racist.
The libertarian blogs have been posting a lot about this story, and every time they do, a bunch of Paul’s supporters chime in with rather a lot of criticism, even to pieces that are mostly constructive advice. Having waded through a lot of their comments, I’ve seen a few that make me understand why Wonkette (a political blogger I’ve heard of but rarely read) calls these people Paultards.
I’d like to address a few of their arguments, starting with some of the sensible ones.
This is old news.
Paul’s supporters in libertarian circles have been hauling this out ever since Paul himself first used it in response to a few questions by Reason‘s David Weigel:
reason: Do you have any response to The New Republic’s article about your newsletters?
Ron Paul: All it is–it’s old stuff. It’s all been rehashed. It’s all political stuff.
reason: Why don’t you release all the old letters?
Paul: I don’t even have copies of them, because it’s ancient history.
reason: Do you stand by what appears in the letters? Did you write these…?
Paul: No. I’ve discussed all of that in the past. It’s just old news.
This may be old news to Paul’s supporters, but it’s not old news to a lot of other people.
The big story about Ron Paul in libertarian circles is that he’s attracted a much larger following to the movemenent than any other libertarian figure. His supporters bring this up all the time.
Guess what? All those new followers weren’t paying attention the first time this was news, back when Paul was running for Congress in Texas.
Virginia Postrel posts an excerpt from a message she received:
My wife and I were big Ron Paul supporters (until yesterday, in fact). We’re also 29 and 30 years old, which means we weren’t paying attention to Ron Paul in the 90’s. We donated money to the campaign, and I suppose we failed to do the due diligence on Paul, as we didn’t dig through archives of his old newsletters. We feel terrifically betrayed, not only by Ron Paul, but by older libertarians like yourself for not publicly warning us about him.
This was not old news to those people.
Paul didn’t even write those articles.
Yeah, we got that. As nearly every libertarian writer on the subject has acknowledged, nobody has ever heard Paul say anything like what’s in those letters. Everyone involved says that a lot of those articles were written by other people. We’re all willing to believe that someone else wrote a lot of that stuff.
We’re even somewhat willing to believe that Paul didn’t read the newsletters before they went out. It was a fundraising operation, and he probably had other things to do besides read the newsletter. But you’ve got to admit it was pretty careless to allow stuff line that to be sent out in his name.
Paul has already taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under his name.
Yes, he has. But some of us don’t just want him to take responsibility, we want an explanation of how this happened.
Paul says he didn’t know what was in the newsletters. Maybe the people writing the newsletters were using them to advance their own agenda, but surely at some point one of Paul’s friends or staffers came up to him and said, “Ron, you need to see what’s in the newsletter. I think we have a problem…”
However, if that happened, Paul seemingly never did anything about it. He claims he doesn’t even know who the writers were.
“It’s obvious that you’re out to get Ron Paul. Why don’t you do equal reporting on the TRUCKLOADS of skeletons and evil things that the other candidates and media don’t discuss?” (source)
If a woman is dating a man who never takes her anyplace nice, why does she complain only about him to her girlfriends when there are billions of other men who aren’t taking her anyplace at all?
Paul’s the one who’s asking us to dance.
You’re going after Paul about the newsletters just like you did about the Don Black donation.
That wasn’t a libertarian issue at all. Paul didn’t take Don Black’s money. Don Black sent some money to the Paul campaign, at which point it stopped being Don Black’s money and became Paul’s money. Paul could do whatever he wanted with his money. Most libertarians got that.
“Kirchick is a Yalie bonesman — that should explain all to discredit the story!” (source)
I suppose whatever that means could be a reaon for Kirchick to lie. But since the Ron Paul campaign has acknowledged the newsletters were sent out, what exactly would he be lying about?
Kirchick saved all this until right before the New Hampshire primary. Kirchick is just out to get Ron Paul.
Of course he is. We’d never hear anything bad about politicians if it weren’t for their enemies. Do you think the Clinton whitehouse would ever have said anything about Monica Lewinsky if someone else hadn’t brought it up first?
“The Lavander Mafia along with the Israel firsters are trying to destroy Ron Paul.” (source) “The ‘libertarians’ at tReason have shown their true colors. Anything to service your neocon masters, eh?” (source) “Here is an anatomy of the spread of the smear campaign against Ron Paul just prior to and on the crucial “king-making” New Hampshire primary day…” (source)
So it’s all a conspiracy? The gays, the Jews, the neocons, the Beltway libertarians…all out to get Ron Paul?
I have several responses here:
- That’s exactly the sort of crazy talk that got us here in the first place.
- Even if there were a conspiracy against Paul, that doesn’t actually make him a better candidate.
- It still doesn’t explain the newsletters.
- The writers at Reason are hardly out to get Ron Paul. They’ve been glossing over his anti-libertarian positions on some issues for months, and now that the newsletters are big news, they’re not exactly beating on Ron Paul so much as begging him to explain.
“We will remember your actions in this campaign, and we will never support Reason or CATO again if you continue down this path.” (source)
I guess when you can’t make arguments, you give ultimatums.
You’re just beating a dead horse.
Oh, but that comment never gets old…
Paul has said he didn’t write the newsletters and that he takes moral responsibility. What more do you want?
An actual explanation of what happened.
Saying it’s old news, shooting the messenger, and crying “Conspiracy!” are not explanations. They’re attempts to avoid an explanation.
Explaining that someone else wrote the newsletters is only part of the explanation. Here are a few questions for Dr. Paul that might fill in some details:
- When did you first find out what was in the news letters? Who pointed it out to you? What was your first reaction?
- Who wrote the letters? If you don’t know, why not? Didn’t you think it was important at the time to find out who the author was? If not, why not?
- If you don’t know who the author was, then who had final editorial control of the newsletters? Not you, but the person who actually made the decision to let this stuff run?
- Did you confront the author/editor about this? What did they say?
- Why did you let this go on so long? Did you not notice? Did you not think it was important?
- Was it a matter of free speech? Were you reluctant to censor the writers? Was that a mistake?
- Was the appeal to racists a big-tent strategy? Were you pandering to the racists just to get their money? Weren’t you concerned how that would make you look?
One more thing:
Ron Paul is a fearless advocate of libertarianism. He wants to end the war on drugs, bring the troops back home, shut down the Federal Reserve bank, abolish income taxes, and eliminate half the cabinet. He says more crazy things in a 10-minute interview than most candidates say all year.
Ron Paul is not afraid to say what he believes, and he clearly believes that the American people will agree with him once they understand what he’s saying.
So why doesn’t he trust us with the explanation for the newsletters?
[Note: I think this story has played itself out, at least for the moment, and now that I’ve got this out of my system, I’m tired of writing about it.]