Posted by Brad @ 1:49 pm on December 21st 2011

I Don’t Care About…Ron Paul’s Racist Newsletters

We’ve been here before. Every time Ron Paul threatens to break into some kind of national relevance, the subject of his early-90s newsletters pops back up. It’s one of those things, too, for which the significance is just kind of assumed. But for me, the significance is far from self-evident, and as much as I’m biased towards Ron Paul, I legitimately try to put myself in the shoes of the critics on this one, and as much as I try, I can never quite articulate why, exactly, the issue matters that much or why, exactly, it’s relevant either from a 1. policy, 2. politics, or 3. personal perspective. Meaning, why I might feel that the fact of these undeniably racist newsletters being put out in the early 90s under his name signals 1. the possibility of Ron Paul creating racist policies or his candidacy having success resulting in moving American policy towards a more expressly racist direction, 2. the idea that a Paul presidency or a successful Paul candidacy will lead to less stigmatization for racism, or that his relative success will have any but the most marginal impact on the relative racism of American politics or politicians, or 3. that Ron Paul himself is racist, cow-tows to racists (and will thus lead to them having more relative power), or is indicative of a general intolerance that will express itself in some impactful way down the line.

Usually where I end up is the old fall-back of “it reflects poor judgement, in terms of the people he surrounds himself with”. Which, I think, is true…it does. I think that’s a fair knock on Ron Paul, both then, certainly, and now as well. Part of that is just his general indiscrimination (he does not seem to be of the mind, as we sometimes demand of politicians, of denouncing people who hold objectionable views in other contexts, for instance), although I generally find those sorts of critiques of candidates to be really weak relative to everything else that’s wrong with politicians. I wrote an “I don’t care about…Jeremiah Wright” post in the 2008 campaign, could have easily written an “I don’t care about…Jane Fonda” post in 2004, and wrote posts in 2007 about how it didn’t particularly concern me that Paul would appear on Alex Jones’ radio program or that, in combing through a list of all donors to the Paul campaign, some enterprising journalist had discovered a white supremacist, and the Paul campaign didn’t particularly care and couldn’t be goaded into returning the contribution. I am interested primarily in what views, ideologies, and policies a candidate himself is advocating, or whether those things get materially advanced in supporting a candidate, and I was no more worried that Ron Paul’s election would lead to an explosion of 911 Trutherism (whatever that means) or white supremacy than I was that Barack Obama’s election would lead to a resurgance of militant black nationalism or black “separation theology” (spoiler alert: it didn’t).

But part of it too is just that he does, and has, I think, surrounded himself with people whose judgement I don’t trust or respect. Even today, he has a few campaign advisers who I think move him in a direction I don’t like (such as banging on about illegal immigration), and certainly, almost by definition, the rag tag bunch of people who have been in the Paul foxhole for the long haul are not nearly as ironed out as they would have been had they attached themselves to, say, John McCain. Living in the political wilderness does tend to both attract, and turn people into, relative political ferals.

But, in any event, I don’t begrudge people who knock Paul on those grounds. I think it’s a legit critique. I just then weigh that against the people that the other candidates surround themselves with (that Peter Schiff or Dennis Kucinich or Jesse Ventura might be more objectionable than a Kristoff or Poderherst amazes me), and mostly weight that against the policies and philosophies. And, when I do that, the “he has shown flashes of poor judgement in the people he lets into his inner circle” minus, put up against, say, the “he won’t start a war” plus…well, let’s just say it’s not a comparison that I find terribly compelling.

All that said, I’m really talking about the higher level critiques. That being “Ron Paul is racist.” We’ve covered this ground before, and my opinion hasn’t changed much. But just to make a few quick points.

1. Pretty much nobody believes that Ron Paul wrote the objectionable material in the newsletters (smart money has always been on Lew Rockwell), and I am not sure I’ve ever heard anybody even express the opinion that Ron Paul agrees or has ever agreed with that material. Perhaps the closest I’ve seen is this post by Ta-Nehisi Coates (not for Mr. Coates’ opinions, mind, which are too pat by half, but for the quoted material), but even that strikes me more as somebody being prickly and defensive and not, say, proactively trying to advance a white supremacist agenda.

2. Pretty much nobody seems to believe that Ron Paul wishes to advance racist policies. Actually, let me rephrase that. There is about 30% of the country or so who will readily believe that of any candidate that, say, pushes welfare reform or doesn’t support affirmative action. And that’s fine, those issues are fair game, but given Paul’s very clear ideological line, saying his lack of support for social or economic justice policies is racist is a little like saying his desire to end all foreign aid is anti-Semitic. Which, of course, plenty of people DO say. But I’m not really interested in those people.

So let me put it another way. The way I see it, one could make a very strong argument that Ron Paul, of any major political figure Republican or Democrat, would do more to roll back racism than anybody. This is a pretty easy case to make.

A. Ron Paul is the only major candidate to advocate an end to the War on Drugs.
B. Ron Paul is the only major candidate to demand that law enforcement strictly adhere to the Bill of Rights first and the wishes of “tough on crime” prosecutors a distant second.

One could have a valid argument on this, but to my mind, those two things alone would do more to quell actual racial harm in this country than any “aye” vote for Black History month or milquetoast support for federal enforcement of affirmative action ever would. Somebody who would rather a candidate not philosophically muse on the underpinnings of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but who also will actively support the War on Drugs, is, I suggest, somebody who is not thinking very deeply about the practical issue of race in America today, or at the very least, someone for whom mainstream political respectability is more important than actually, you know, defending against racial harm.

Don’t get me wrong, there is, I guess, an interesting tertiary debate to be had on the relative impact, on racial equality, of libertarian policies (although, again, you’d have to first and foremost discount civil liberties in terms of crime, law enforcement, and justice). But you have to get pretty far away from the “racist newsletter” thing, or America in 2012 and the political scene as it stands, to even bother having it.

3. In addition to not really hearing the belief that Ron Paul wrote the newsletter content, believes it, or that it will somehow find expression in policy, the final piece I have not heard clearly or compellingly articulating is simply: So what would you have Ron Paul do?

Assuming, that is, that anything Ron Paul might do would make a difference to your ultimate opinion or voting behavior. And for most of the people banging this drum, I quite simply don’t believe that.

But allowing the benefit of the doubt, the most obvious answer, of course, is “Denounce the content. Make clear your position.” Except that Ron Paul has, in pretty clear terms, and nobody seems to care (for the record, he’s done the same in very clear denunciations of the 911 Truther position, but again, nobody seems to care). So if that’s not it, the second answer is, I guess “Out the author and denounce THEM.” And it’s there I think we wind up falling into the “too pat by half” position.

Ironically, one of the best expressions of my own thoughts on this kind of thing is a recurring theme, stated most succinctly here, by none other than Ta-Nehisi Coates.

It’s not a 1:1 fit, of course, but the thought, basically, is that we tend to have unreasonable expectations of how people ought to behave in certain situations, based on a self-aggrandizing and totally unrealistic mythologizing of how we like to think we’d behave, despite it being pretty clear that most people don’t actually ever behave that way.

In this case, let’s assume for the sake of argument that Lew Rockwell is indeed the author of the newsletter content. I think this is one of the most important context posts on the subject – I do believe that, at the time, Lew Rockwell was on a hobbyhorse about trying to appeal to the “right wing militia” survivalist crowd (still is, to some extent), and, largely running the shop by himself, that’s the context by which he wrote this stuff. But after it came to light, and after Paul’s communications moved past the snippy defensiveness, it’s also important to note that Paul and Rockwell — lifelong friends baptized in fire together by trying to spread the gospel of Ludwig Von Mises and sound money — though remaining friends and general supporters, largely divested their professional lives. Rockwell, who had at various times served as Ron’s campaign manager and chief of staff, left the employ of Dr. Paul and went on to do his own thing. Paul denounced the messaging that went out under Rockwell’s tenure, and spent the next 20 years very consistently banging away on the Paulian messaging we know today. The two certainly still run in the same circles – although the common thread isn’t neo-confederalism but sound money – but Lew Rockwell’s actual influence over Ron Paul, at this point, is way, way overblown. Most of Ron’s inner circle now actively try to protect Paul from his old friend, and Lew, for his part, seems more like a fan than an adviser.

I guess where I’m getting at is: put yourself in Ron’s position. Here is a lifelong friend who made a mistake – Paul has rectified that mistake (which is no longer hurting anybody) and gently moved on. He’s stopped the harm, quietly rectified the situation, and gone forward. What, really, is the impetus then to go one step further and out Lew Rockwell? Vindictiveness? Career advancement? From Ron Paul’s perspective, what’s the case for throwing Lew under the bus?

I can’t quite think of one (of course, I can think of MANY for Lew Rockwell outing himself, or for people close to Paul going rouge and doing it themselves in a way more significant than anonymous sourcing). It would certainly help him, politically, but that has never struck me as being Paul’s overriding MO. He strikes me as an old school, decent man. And, more to the point, I’m not sure why the fact that Ron Paul hasn’t thrown the newsletter author to the wolves must of course be evidence that Ron Paul is racist, or has bad judgement, or is a Trojan horse for neo-confederacy, or whatever. Isn’t the simplest explanation the more human one?

So, yeah. I don’t care about Ron Paul’s racist newsletters. And, more to the point, I’m not quite sure why I should.

20 Comments »

  1. This is effective stuff, and it points the way forward where the Paul campaign’s strategy on the newsletters is concerned.

    If they get defensive, they’ll get swamped. It must be an attacking strategy: status quo policies are devestating to members of racial minorities, and Ron Paul will do more to promote the rights of minority Americans than his opponents will.

    Comment by Rojas — 12/21/2011 @ 2:40 pm

  2. Sidestepping the complex Ron Paul questions on this: Since all evidence and opinion points to Lew Rockwell, and we apparently all agree that there are in fact years of clearly gross and offensive material in those newsletters, can we also agree that Lew Rockwell is a gigantic bigoted race baiting douchbag? A fuckwad jackass homophobic shitbird that thinks that 95% of the blacks in D.C. are fleet-footed criminals? I mean if we are gonna give Ron Paul a pass on this, then we should at least call out the true ass, right?

    Comment by Jack — 12/21/2011 @ 9:43 pm

  3. Yes – I’ve had friendly dealings with Lew in the past, but you won’t get any argument from me.

    There are a couple of old school Ron Paul guys of Lew’s ilk, too – people who decided (after being run out of the Libertarian Party, mind) that they were going to move about as far from the left-libertarian side of the libertarian spectrum as possible and try to corner the paleo-conservative market. Again, read Weigel’s post hyperlinked above for more context, but essentially they decided that instead of appealing to college kids and anti-war freaks and ex-hippies (who, again, kicked them out immediately prior to this decision), they would shoot for the neo-confederate, survivalist, and paleo-conservative crowd. That wasn’t, incidentally, irrational, and actually did a lot of good (it took a historically militant, socially conservative, and blue collar liberal crowd and really educated generations of them towards a more libertarian bent), but it did certainly lead to some patronizingly offensive stuff, some of which still sneaks its way into Ron Paul’s campaign to this day.

    Ron, for the most part, chose to stay the course, rather than peg himself or try to over-stratergy it. Lew, for his part, also kind of backed off, although still remains really rooted in that stuff – less in his philosophy and agenda and more just in his crowd and general petulant defensiveness regarding issues like race. Their common thread is economics, and on balance, I’d say even Lew has been a force for good in the world (really).

    But do I think Lew Rockwell has actively and consciously waded into outright racism? I do. In the grand schemes of things, I think the Venn Diagram of stuff that both Lew and Ron have advanced has been instrumental in keeping libertarianism alive and holding the torch for guys like Mises and Hayek. But I also think, of all that is objectionable in the whole Paul/Rockwell millieu, overwhelmingly that stuff falls on the Lew side.

    Comment by Brad — 12/21/2011 @ 10:23 pm

  4. This is a complete aside, but I feel like a lot of casual followers of this story probably think the same thing. A comment on another message board:

    But Paul’s name is on it. Which means either he supported it, or he’s too incompetent to run a newsletter with his name on it. Either way, not fit for the Presidency.

    My response (which I was not able to post):

    This is an interesting point. I actually do communications for a living, and think this often gets misunderstood.

    Your average university president, senior VP of a Fortune 500 company, congressman, Mayor, CEO, and a whole host of bigshots never actually see a percentage of things that get published in their names. I guarantee you that Barack Obama, for instance, has never laid eyes on probably better than 75% of the things that leave the White House with his signature on it. Probably more.

    Do you really believe that every congressman either personally writes or reads and approves every publication or communication that leaves their office? Hell man, they don’t even personally write or read the vast majority of LAWS.

    Clearly, Paul made a mistake in trusting a guy like Lew Rockwell to oversee his communications shop. No argument there. But it’s a lazy, naive read of the situation to just glance at the evidence and say he either wrote it or is somehow singularly incompetent to let something go out with his name on it that he might not agree with.

    Comment by Brad — 12/21/2011 @ 10:43 pm

  5. As is often the case, I think Conor gets it right. The analogy to Obama-Wright/Ayers is also one that I made yesterday in that above comment thread. And, note too that Conor answers the question that only his supporters – not his critics – seem interested in asking but which, really, ought to be the overwhelmingly relevant one. Namely, would a Ron Paul presidency be a racist one or materially advance racism?

    For me, the disconnect between the Ron Paul newsletters, which make me sick, and Paul’s words and actions in public life, which I often admire, put me in mind of the way I reacted when candidate Barack Obama was found to associate with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, both of whom had said execrable things. I couldn’t defend any of it. But I could never get exercised about the association in exactly the way that writers like Victor Davis Hanson wanted, because it seemed totally implausible that if Obama was elected he would turn out to secretly share the convictions of the Weather Underground, or hope for God to damn America. It always seemed to me that those relationships were the unsavory product of personal ambition. I don’t mean to suggest that the two circumstances are entirely analogous, but I do find it hard to believe that if Paul were elected, he’d turn out to be a secret racist, implement policies that targeted minorities, or drum up support by giving speeches with hateful rhetoric.

    If those ugly impulses didn’t emerge after 9/11, when xenophobia was rewarded, or during the ascent to the presidency of Barack Obama, whose victory stoked racial paranoia in so many Americans prone to that disease, when would they emerge in Paul? The post 9/11 decade has been one of attacks on minority groups and pandering to Birthers. In some quarters, Paul is accused of pandering to Truthers. Is there an instance aside from the one at issue when he has pandered to racists?

    If a single speech or policy proposal of that sort were unearthed, it would substantially change my attitude — is there ever just one speech of that sort? — and its apparent absence in so long, verbose, and Internet-accessible a career strikes me as circumstantial evidence that Paul’s wrongdoing is rooted in political opportunism, negligence, and failure to disassociate himself with racists, not racism itself. And certainly not in any desire to implement racist policies if elected president.

    And his riff after that is even more to the point.

    “How could you vote for someone who…”

    Isn’t that a thorny formulation? I’m sometimes drawn to it. And yet. We’re all choosing among a deeply compromised pool of candidates, at least when the field is narrowed to folks who poll above 5 percent. Put it this way. How can you vote for someone who wages an undeclared drone war that kills scores of Pakistani children? Or someone who righteously insisted that indefinite detention is an illegitimate transgression against our civilizational values, and proceeded to support that very practice once he was elected? How can you vote for someone who has claimed to be deeply convicted about abortion on both sides of the issue, constantly misrepresents his record, and demagogues important matters of foreign policy at every opportunity? Or someone who suggests a religious minority group should be discriminated against? Or who insists that even given the benefit of hindsight, the Iraq War was a just and prudent one?

    And yet many of you, Republicans and Democrats, will do just that — just as you and I have voted for a long line of past presidents who’ve deliberately pursued policies of questionable-at-best morality.

    From there, he goes on to my main points in the post above.

    Comment by Brad — 12/22/2011 @ 10:22 am

  6. I thought I recognized you in that thread over there, Brad.

    I’m not going to get into the racist/not racist, words matter/don’t matter argument, but you are not doing yourself any favors with that comment.

    While it may be true that CEOs, even VPs do not read everything that is sent out in their own names (I work with a few VPs in my Fortune 500 company and they do at least read their communications before letting them be sent out), they are still held accountable for the words. In the event that someone says something on their behalf that is false and/or bigoted and/or etc. the situation is rectified immediately.

    It may not be the CEO’s fault if someone writes something on her behalf that is offensive (although that’s debatable), but it is her fault if she lets it continue. Ron Paul chose not to. So assuming that he didn’t write that stuff, a reasonable conclusion, not a naive one, is that he didn’t care that vile things were being said in his name or he mismanaged the situation, or maybe a little of both.

    We all know that you don’t care about the racist newsletters, but you’re wrong in chalking it up to how basic management works. It isn’t.

    Comment by Liz — 12/22/2011 @ 1:28 pm

  7. The question was whether Ron Paul’s answer that he didn’t actually write the newsletters was true or not. There were a lot of blanket assertions of “How it could not be!? It was under his name!” The general assumption is OF COURSE he either wrote or read the newsletters at the time of their production or shortly thereafter, and anybody for whom that might not be true must be so incompetent an executive as to be, bam, right there disqualified from further executive office. That’s the notion I was referring to.

    I do not believe that Ron Paul wrote it – and I don’t think anybody really does, actually. And I find it reasonable to assume that he probably wasn’t aware of the content for awhile either, operating on a higher level of trust to his communications manager (at the time, Lew Rockwell) than I think is advisable but is nevertheless not uncommon.

    It is perfectly valid, btw, to say that he was still ultimately responsible – which is exactly what Ron Paul says. It is also perfectly reasonable to assume that it’s poor management for a high level executive to not at least have an approval process in place (many do, and should) wherein they at least get a glance at everything. It is further reasonable to knock Ron Paul’s judgment in giving that power to Lew Rockwell. All of those things is valid.

    The question is: is it so out of bounds of management to be insane, such an indicator of total incompetence as to, in itself, be a disqualifier? That’s the thought I think is naive. By comparison, roughly 95% of Congress – including the authors – did not READ, for instance, the Patriot Act, BEFORE THEY MADE IT LAW. Indeed, your average congressman literally never sees the laws he passed, including the ones he writes and sponsors (and, for that matter, how many federal judges do you think write their opinions?).

    And, to my mind, ALL of this is really a sidebar to the question: does this history tip the scales for a vote for Ron Paul, to one that advances an ideal of America you want, to one that doesn’t. Would a Ron Paul administration on balance be worse for civil rights than a Barack Obama or Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich one (and that’s just civil rights). We can get down and dirty on the production of these newsletters all we want, but why aren’t we talking about that? You are welcome to convince me that this incident proves that a vote for Ron Paul will be bad, on balance, to what’s important to me: liberty in America. I have been soliciting explanations for that in every comment I’ve posted at Ta-Nehisi’s site.

    I’m listening.

    Comment by Brad — 12/22/2011 @ 4:04 pm

  8. Oh, and I need to reiterate, because I spend most of my word count on what I think is important.

    I think this incident indicates that Ron Paul runs a bad office. I think he litmus tests his advisers based on things like Austrian economics, and then has a wide, wide tolerance for their deviation of views on things that don’t particularly move him (which includes most civil rights questions). I think, because of that, he has put way too much faith, and let himself be way too taken advantage of, by opportunistic people who have often displayed ideological or prejudicial tendencies that I don’t like and would myself consider dealbreakers for people I let into my inner circle. And his defense here – all of which I think is cover for him not wanting to throw Lew to the wolves – is poor, petulant, indicative of a lack of understanding of the depth of offense at the content, etc. All of those are legit knocks on Ron Paul. I begrudge no one that.

    The question, for me, is how I weigh that, and in particular how I weigh that in the context of a candidate who, let’s face it, will never actually win the Presidency of the United States but who exists purely as a vehicle for a certain message. And on that, I’ve seen nothing compelling as to why I ought to care. In short, yes, it reflects poorly on Ron Paul personally, circa the early 90s – with a very wide variation on HOW poorly, depending on how you read it. Does it follow that it reflects poorly on a Ron Paul vote?

    Comment by Brad — 12/22/2011 @ 4:10 pm

  9. Final thought: I guess I should state clearly my motive here.

    I do not honestly believe that the critiques here from Ta-Nehisi et al really boil down, at all, to Ron Paul’s management practices. Do you?

    And I kind of find having the conversation on that level to be disingenuous. Those commentators don’t give a sh*t a out the chain of review of Ron Paul’s communications in the early 90s and what that says about how Paul might run an executive office. If this were, say, Mitt Romney letting a series of low-level direct mail pieces go out, electronically signed by him, that contained discussions about the erotic benefits of donkey genitalia, would we be having this same level of conversation?

    The real issue is the not-entirely-unwarranted hunch, particularly on the left, that conservatism, and libertarianism, are somehow inherently racist, that those that believe in those ideologies have a higher burden of proof as to whether they’re racists themselves or not, and the sneaking suspicion that any given one of them probably is. And, of course, when something comes along that appears to confirm those suspicions – or even if might not but can be spun that way to such an extent that it’s too good an opportunity to pass up, the level of schadenfreude, an almost “I TOLD you so!” dogpile, starts getting under my skin. For the record this isn’t about Ron Paul – I had the exact same unease about the reaction to the Tea Party.

    And that’s a lot larger conversation to have, but it certainly doesn’t have to do with best practices in communications review.

    I don’t believe Ron Paul is racist, in any way that matters (at least I don’t believe he’s any more racist than, say, most kind and decent white guys of his generation, most of whom I find to be guilty of a fair bit of soft racism of a kind that’s more generational than ideological; but I digress). What’s more, I don’t believe most of his CRITICS on this issue believe that, in their heart of hearts, at least the ones that have read into the matter with any depth beyond catching the headline. So what are we really talking about here? That’s why I keep banging away on my questions. And again, still waiting on answers.

    Comment by Brad — 12/22/2011 @ 4:38 pm

  10. Was not the period in question years, though? I mean I get it when your “managerial oversight” fails for some contained period due to misplaced trust and all, but when it is happening for that long, do we not get to seriously consider if RP had at least sympathy for the strategy of Rockwell and Rothbard, and perhaps a chunk of that particular strain of white libertarian victemhood?

    Comment by Jack — 12/22/2011 @ 6:26 pm

  11. That’s an open question, I suppose. Again, I think there’s a real world way to judge it. On the one hand, there’s the fact of these newsletters. On the other, there’s his entire platform and public statements in the three presidential campaigns he’s run, his ten terms in Congress, his two dozen or whatever books, and the movement he’s inspired.

    Do you get where I’m coming from here?

    If you want my honest guess, I would bet a slim amount of money that Ron, in a very vague way, knew at least the tenor of the newsletters and, yes, probably did, again in a general sense, have sympathy with the strategy of Rockwell and Rothbard (and, later, Buchanan, who he also respected). I would bet heavily he never had much line-by-line knowledge of it, but I also think he wasn’t too interested one way or the other. I think that he did eventually get uncomfortable with Rockwell and Rothbard, both politically and personally, and in his way gently divested himself of them. But at the time, I think he probably signed on in a very general sense, went about his OBGYN / low level political career and more or less let Rockwell run his newsletter business, somebody else run his gold/coin stuff (which also included, incidentally, some malfeasance), and didn’t worry too much about either until he started getting seriously interested in politics again.

    That’s my honest guess.

    But again, and I hate to keep banging this drum, short of him sitting at a desk every week and writing the stuff himself, I don’t know where on the spectrum of his approval/knowledge it might fall to where I ought to start caring too much. At what point should “at least had sympathy, in the early 90s, for the strategy of trying to appeal to paleo-conservatives, in part by playing up white victimhood, to try and bring them to a sound money / libertarian point of view” sway me, and why?

    Comment by Brad — 12/22/2011 @ 8:21 pm

  12. Andrew Sullivan and I, who have been largely divergent since 2008, converge again:

    In supporting Ron Paul, I am backing one of the few candidates in the GOP field not to have exploited racial code words, homophobia, illegal immigration, or generalizations about Muslims that come easily to the mind of, say, Newt Gingrich or Herman Cain, who actually said he wouldn’t appoint a Muslim to his cabinet! I am backing one of the few GOP candidates not to have endorsed torture and to have opposed the Iraq war. To pick Paul out as the core bigot in this crowd, and to regard anyone who backs him as tainted by bigotry … seems to me to be perverse.

    That’s the position of myself and Conor as well. I still haven’t heard a remotely compelling counter-argument, but really am soliciting one.

    Comment by Brad — 12/22/2011 @ 8:36 pm

  13. Not to triple up on every reply, but I should also note that I recognize that I may be being a complete asshole here. Truly, I’m not generally tone deaf about these things, and in this case I’m already coming from a position where Ron Paul is a personal hero of mine, and where the prospect of him being in the mix for the Republican nomination for president is, for me, a genuinely hopeful prospect. I am, in a word, blinkered, from the outset, and I’m not unaware of that.

    But I also feel like I’ve engaged with this ugliness up, down, and sideways, and I’ve sat with it, and I generally really try to walk a mile in the shoes of those who disagree with me. And, in this case, I can’t come up with answers that satisfy me to the questions I’m banging on about. And, as much as racism, ethnicism, religiousism, and all the rest really are at right angles to the core of my personal, philosophical, and political philosophy, I just can’t get too excised on this.

    It is not unsubstantial – really, it’s not. It is a profound black mark on Ron Paul, both personally and in terms of his political legacy. But the question I keep coming back to is does it matter. And I’ve tried to answer that question from dozens of different perspectives, and haven’t yet come across an affirmative one that I find compelling.

    At the end of the day, I keep thinking, is America a worse place for it being an Obama vs. Romney/Paul/Gingrich showdown, versus any other conceivable variant of people polling over 1%? Is there any scenario where deleting Paul from that calculus represents a better country, or better direction for the Republican corner?

    But, again, it is very possible that I’m just the asshole here.

    Comment by Brad — 12/22/2011 @ 11:00 pm

  14. I never said that “a vote for Ron Paul will be bad, on balance, to what’s important to me”. That’s subjective. I just said that you are making a bad argument to prove your point.

    You don’t think anybody really believes Ron Paul wrote the newsletters? I honestly have no idea if he did or not, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that nobody thinks that.

    You don’t think he was aware of it? That’s much more questionable and, if he wasn’t, it is not nearly as common as you are trying to make it out to be that people in positions of power just allow things to get published in their name without at least knowing the gist of it.

    Is it so out of the bounds of good management to allow bigoted things to get published in your name that it’s disqualifying? Well I guess that depends on where you are and what you do. It sure as hell would be in my company. We’re not talking about someone making a slip on the risk management report and reporting an issue as low as opposed to medium here.

    No one is going to convince you that Ron Paul as President will be bad for civil liberties. I agree with some of what he says and think he might have some positive influence in some aspects, namely the war on drugs and foreign policy. He might. Does this incident in particular give me pause. Yes, because who Paul would choose to appoint to the cabinet, to the Supreme Court, to various Federal courts is important to me. That he might pay attention to only the things that interest him concerns me. That he’s comfortable letting other people deal with the nitty gritty so that he can be free to be lofty and idealist concerns me.

    To your point in comment 8 – Crazy as it may sound to you, I put a lot of stock into boring things like well run offices and organization – it’s the corporate automaton in me.

    And you’ve just shifted the question from ‘is this incident disqualifying for a president’ to ‘is this disqualifying for a protest vote to bring more awareness to the abysmal state of civil rights in this country’, which is another question entirely and strays fully into ‘what are we even talking about.’ Do I want Ron Paul as my president? No. Will I throw my vote to him in the primaries as a protest? Not sure, but it’s possible.

    And no, I think the argument from Ta-Nehisi boils down to ‘Ron Paul’s a racist’. I don’t know that he’s wrong. You say that you don’t think he’s a racist “in any way that matters” but that’s a judgment call from you, as a person who isn’t subjected to racism. It’s the soft bigotry that permeates society and is often looked at indulgently and left without critique because it’s just a generational thing, or it doesn’t matter, or it’s turned into an indictment on the people subject to the soft bigotry as being too sensitive. That’s a total cop out and a diversion of responsibility. You don’t think it’s important. So what? People subject to that kind of ugly nonsense everyday do, and that’s probably who you should listen to when deciding if someone’s gently bigoted views should be labeled as offensive or not.

    In the end, I doubt I answered anything to your satisfaction and rambled quite a bit. I think I said 1 – Racist is bad, 2 – Bad management is bad, 3 – I want a president who is not racist and is organized 4 – thresholds for protest votes is different 5 – racism is bad even when it’s soft and indulged because a person is older and 6 – listen to the people who actually are subject to the bigotry before deciding on their behalf whether it matters or not.

    Comment by Liz — 12/23/2011 @ 9:01 am

  15. I also wrote all that without reading everything past comment 9

    Comment by Liz — 12/23/2011 @ 9:02 am

  16. All that’s pretty fair, I think. I could go line-by-line and disagree with a lot of it, but between your posts and my posts I think both cases are laid out well enough for anybody to make up their own minds.

    At the end of the day, I’m likely to vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primary, and Gary Johnson in the general. As much as I agree that this reflects poorly on Ron Paul, at the end of the day I’m still looking for a reason to vote for any other Republican candidate, or any other Presidential candidate, and not finding one. If my personal vote were appointing an emperor, I might care more. But for this choice? You’re right, thresholds are different, but I’m not understanding any possible threshold that this might broach.

    Comment by Brad — 12/23/2011 @ 11:58 pm

  17. More to the point: there is no threshhold that this doesn’t broach that isn’t utterly ruptured by the open advocacy of other candidates for 1. the mass incarceration of African-American men and 2. the indefinite detention without trial or outright extra-judicial assassination of scores of Arabs, including numerous citizens.

    I took the newsletters more seriously than most, and I actually walk away from this discussion more willing to vote for Ron Paul than I was before. Racist POLICY matters most.

    Comment by Rojas — 12/24/2011 @ 12:08 am

  18. On the other hand, here is Andrew Sullivan retracting his endorsement of Ron Paul, because after being berated by his readers he has decided that the content of the newsletters is too hurtful and divisive to be connected even by association with the President of the United States.

    So instead, he endorses a candidate who says the right things about persons of color while supporting policies involving their murder and mass incarceration.

    Democracy really does give us the government we collectively deserve.

    Comment by Rojas — 12/24/2011 @ 7:02 pm

  19. The solution for republicans is to acknowledge their racism, as they in time acknowledge their adultery, alcohol/drug abuse and religious failings.

    “at the end of the day I’m still looking for a reason to vote for any other Republican candidate”

    This stance borders on madness, recent history considered.

    Comment by fred — 12/25/2011 @ 6:23 am

  20. As far as that Sullivan retraction goes, it is worth noting that every fifth post of the last 500 has been a Paul endorsement. He can’t shake his gut.

    David Weigel wrote a really interesting post about why liberal gays don’t tend to view Paul’s newsletters – which were as homophobic as they were racist – as, in and of themselves, disqualifying (at least those gays who hadn’t already disqualified him on some other grounds).

    There is no comparing Paul and Santorum, said [Dan] Savage, because Paul is a leave-us-alone libertarian. “Ron is older than my father, far less toxic than Santorum, and, as he isn’t beloved of religious conservatives, he isn’t out there stoking the hatreds of our social and political enemies,” he explained. “And Ron may not like gay people, and may not want to hang out with us or use our toilets, but he’s content to leave us the fuck alone and recognizes that gay citizens are entitled to the same rights as all other citizens. Santorum, on the other hand, believes that his bigotry must be given the force of law. That’s an important difference.”

    I’ll keep begging questions, so:

    1. Is this viewpoint wrong (Savage on Paul, I mean)?

    2. If it is not wrong, why doesn’t it apply to race as well?

    Comment by Brad — 12/30/2011 @ 2:16 am

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