Ron Paul was on CNN, talking to Wolf Blitzer about the racist material in his newsletters. He repudiates the content of the offending pieces, but he still says he has no idea who wrote them. I have a lot of trouble with that statement.
Paul must have known there was racist material in the newsletter, but he appears not to have done anything about it. In fact, he claims not to even know which of his staff wrote those parts.
Does that seem reasonable to you? If you were a politician—or anybody with a newsletter, really—and someone showed you that the newsletter had racist statements going out in your name, wouldn’t you have wanted to find out who was doing it?
Either Paul does know who wrote those articles and he’s lying when he says he doesn’t, or else Paul read those newsletters and didn’t see anything that alarmed him. Neither of those is a very reassuring answer.
You can watch the whole Paul interview here. Be warned, it’s about 8 minutes long, and parts of it are painful to watch. Paul is not a slick public speaker. Blitzer actually takes pity on him and tries to coach him through the interview. It’s a little like going to dinner with your great uncle Herb who calls all black males “colored boys,” and you know he probably doesn’t mean anything by it, but you really hope nobody you know is sitting in the next booth.
Except that Paul isn’t family, so I can kick him to the curb any time I want, and maybe it’s time I do. That’s too bad, because it’s been nice seeing libertarian ideas getting airtime, so I’ve kind of been rooting for Paul even though I disagree with him on a number of his pet issues.
Blogger Kip Esquire has been all over Paul for months about his opposition to gay marriage. I probably should have been paying more attention. It’s not a libertarian position to say the government should only give special legal status to pairs of people if they are of an acceptable gender combination.
Paul’s also not much of a libertarian when it comes to immigration, with all his talk about enforcing immigration laws, ending the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship to all persons born in the United States, and “securing our borders,” whatever that means.
Ron Paul is also an advocate for putting our currency back on the gold standard and abolishing the Federal Reserve Bank. Both those ideas seem a little crazy to me, but I have to admit I don’t understand the issues well enough to be sure.
More recently, I’ve heard that Paul wants the United States to remove our military forces from all foreign countries. The argument is that having forces in other countries is costly and risks involving us in battles that are not our own. But withdrawing certain of our forces could allow other free nations to fall, which is clearly a bad thing for freedom. Also, it’s a lot better to fight an enemy on foreign soil than on our own.
Some of Paul’s supporters have defended the racist material in the newsletters—or at least Paul’s response to it—by saying that even if Paul has racists thoughts, he would never use the government to do racists acts, because that goes against libertarian principles.
I think they are confusing policy and personal values. For example, I think the principle of free speech means that Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps should be not be prevented by force of government from saying the hateful things he says. But I would not want to elect him to office, or invite him into my home, or be photographed standing anywhere near him in case people get the wrong idea. Paul’s not anywhere near that bad, but these newsletters still worry me.
Another response from Paul’s supporters is that no candidate is perfect, and Ron Paul is the best there is. Sadly, this could be true.
Think about this for a minute: In the CNN interview above, Ron Paul says that if he wins the election he’ll pardon everyone who’s in federal prison for a non-violent drug offense. So by not supporting Paul, am I really saying that my distaste for a few racist newsletters is more important than freeing 80,000 people from bondage?
It’s a haunting thought. Or it would be, except for one thing: Ron Paul is not going to be our next president. The Ron Paul presidency isn’t going to serve the libertarian cause because there isn’t going to be a Ron Paul presidency. It’s just not going to happen, and it never was.
On the other hand, the Ron Paul candidacy has been serving the libertarian cause fairly well. Paul and his supporters have put a lot of great libertarian ideas out in front of the public, and that’s a good thing. Among other accomplishments, Paul has gone a long way toward making drug war opposition an acceptable policy. That’s a tremendous contribution to freedom.
Ron Paul’s run for president has been a great publicity stunt for the libertarian movement, but if the newsletters start to make libertarianism look bad, it’s going to undo some of our gains. In that case, it would be better if the public stopped hearing so much about Ron Paul.
We’ll see what happens, but maybe it’s time to bring the Ron Paul revolution to a quiet end.