The Times notes that Ron Paul's racism newsletters are, again, becoming an issue. The standard defense has generally been Paul didn't write the newsletters. I think an honest reckoning with that defense would have someone question the faculties of an adult who would allow a newsletter filled--by Paul's own admission--with bigotry to be published under one's name. Had I spent a decade stewarding an eponymous publication steeped in homophobia and anti-Semitism, I would not expect my friends and colleagues to accept an "I didn't write it"excuse. And I have no (present) designs on the launch codes. It is a peculiar thing when the basic standards of honesty and decency are lowered in direct proportion to the power one seeks to wield. This is especially true of our friends. One has a hard time imagining a President Barack Obama who had done a stint writing for, say, for The Final Call lambasting gays and Jews.
Be that as it may, I think it's extremely important that the discerning consumer understand that the problem isn't merely that Ron Paul claims that the newsletters are a bizarre forgery, but that when initially asked about them Paul actually defended the letters.
Racism, like all forms of bigotry, is what it claims to oppose--victimology. The bigot is never to blame. Always is he besieged--by gays and their radical agenda, by women and their miniskirts, by fleet-footed blacks. It is an ideology of "not my fault." It is not Ron Paul's fault that people with an NAACP view of the world would twist his words. It is not Ron Paul's fault that his newsletter trafficked in racism. It is not Ron Paul's fault that he allowed people to author that racism in his name. It is anonymous political aids and writers, who now cowardly refuse to own their words. There's always someone else to blame--as long as it isn't Ron Paul, if only because it never was Ron Paul.This is not a particular tragedy for black people. The kind of racism which Paul trafficked is neither innovative nor original. Even his denials recall the obfuscations of Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens. But some pity should be reserved for the young and disgruntled, for those who dimly perceive that something is wrong in this country, for those who are earnestly appalled by the madness of our criminal justice policy, for those who have watched a steady erosion of our civil liberties, and have seen their concerns met with an appalling silence on the national stage. That their champion should be, virtually by default, a man of mixed motives and selective courage, is sad.
Do read the whole thing, where incriminating Paul quotes abound.
Maybe here is also a good place to link to Tyler Cowen's thoughts on Ron Paul from four years ago. Quite relevant today.
The Ron Paul phenomenon reminds me of the old America First movement, with Misesian 100 percent reserve banking theory on top. He is making (one version of) libertarianism much more popular by allying it with nationalist and also states’ rights memes. That includes his stances on immigration, NAFTA, China, devolution of powers, and "The Constitution." Even when the policy recommendations stay libertarian, I fear that the wrong emotions will have the staying power. Evaluating a politician is not just about policy positions; for instance personally I am skeptical of most forms of gun control but I worry when a candidate so emphasizes a pro-gun stance.
Many libertarians see the Paul candidacy as their chance to have an impact and they may well be right. There is also no one else for them to support. But, raw milk or not, I am not myself tempted to take a stance this year in favor of any of the candidates, Paul included. Liberty is lacking in the United States but I’d like to see it more closely bundled with reasonableness, moderation, and yes pragmatism; I am looking to advance on all fronts at the same time. Call me fussy if you wish.
I fear that Ron Paul is so taken with his own ideas that he is unable to see how or when his views might ever be wrong; it is in that sense I consider him insufficiently intellectual. (Admittedly all the other candidates are too open to whatever is politically popular at the moment.) Openness also means ability to improvise, which is a critical leadership quality; many of the challenges of the presidency are the surprises, 9/11 being one example of many.
The America Firsters, by the way, were right about many things, but they were very wrong about a few very big things, such as World War II and the civil rights movement. They also suffered a virtually total eclipse for decades. I don’t see nationalist and states’ rights memes as a path toward a future with more human liberty.