Friday, December 23, 2011

The Ron Paul newsletters

I think Conor Friedersdorf nails it:

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 these newsletters didn't exist I would have never even considered whether Ron Paul was a racist. Given his stances on civil liberties I would have thought the complete opposite. So like Conor I think the most I can say about this is that he was complicit in the profiting off of racist ideas. That makes me respect him less, and makes me question his integrity. But I don't think that rises to the level of being a racist. As Conor says, I don't think Obama hates America because his pastor did.

But what if Paul secretly is racist? Well, I'm not sure it would matter much. He seems pretty firm in his libertarian ideas. I have a hard time seeing him changing his stated opinion on civil liberties in order to implement racist policy. It would immediately raise a red flag and cause the kind of discontent among his supporters that Obama is experiencing now. So even if he is a racist I don't think it would mean anything other than he personally dislikes black people. I'm not saying that is good. It's not. But I don't think it would hurt public policy. If he is racist he seems to hold his libertarianism in higher regard.

Still, that's pretty faint praise for a presidential candidate. And it again shows how ridiculously bad the rest of the GOP candidates are.

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