How Responsible Is Paul For His Newsletters? Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 22 2011 @ 6:53pm

Paul's earlier response to the controversy:

Readers keep the pressure on me:

I just recalled that, in the '08 run-up, you made much of the fact that Romney's LDS church, during his formative years and young adulthood in the 1970s and before, did not allow men of African descent to enter its priesthood.  I believe that you thought Romney should have protested this vigorously, perhaps should even have left his church over it. You felt Romney might still be tinged with that racist view, as I recall. Now you endorse Ron Paul, whose own newsletter has spouted racism. I don't get it.

Aforementioned posts on Romney here and here. You will notice that my point is that Romney once belonged to a church that barred African-Americans from some positions, but that my main gist was that this was "a matter that will require addressing". I hold the same position on Paul and the newsletters. Another reader:

You say, "I’ve made my call." But you were not the object of the racism, were you? He’s ok on gay stuff, so you’re ok with him?

There was plenty of homophobia in those newsletters as well. And yet I find Paul one of the least homophobic candidates on offer among the Republicans. Compared with a candidate who wants to cure us, and others who want to stigmatize us in the Constitution, Paul is a moral leader. Another asks:

Why are you simply saying, "Is he a racist?  I don't see any evidence," when you've been much tougher with other candidates with less questionable records?  (Sarah Palin, for all her lies and nastiness, never went so far as to peddle racist literature bearing her name on a regular basis.) Even if you assume he is not a racist, why not engage with the broader issues about character that this raises?  Was Ron Paul a completely hands-off manager?  Did he know that he was peddling hateful speech and continue to do so because it was profitable?  Do such questions render him unfit for office?

Does it not bother you to endorse someone for the highest office in the land without trying to get the answers?

But I do believe in getting all the answers and don't believe Paul has handled this well this week. And re-reading and reading the newsletters has made me physically sick. They're truly vile emanations from the fringe right, his association with them in any way is disturbing, and I don't blame others for viewing this as a deal-breaker. But I stand by the arguments I made in my endorsement and point to Paul's open disavowal of those newsletters and absence of anything out of his own mouth that echoes them. Let me point out that Jamie Kirchick, who exposed the newsletters, writes: "It’s true that Paul has not said anything explicitly racist in public". Over decades in public life, and three presidential campaigns, is this not something to be weighed in the balance? Another:

I am sympathetic to your support for Paul in the GOP primaries. However, I think you are rationalizing away the newsletter issue. You wrote: "Paul has taken two stands on it: the first was to take formal responsibility, even though he claims he didn't know about the contents; the second was to insist he didn't write them or know who did." However, Paul has, in fact, had a third stance: defending what he wrote as TNC noted in his piece and as Matt Welch documented back in 2008. As Steven L. Taylor wrote this week:

I know some folks think that this stuff doesn't matter, but I think that it does. It raises issues about what Paul actually believed vis-a-vis some pretty vile stuff (for example, see here specifically) and about his honesty (at one point he defended these writings and now claims to have had little-to-no knowledge about them), not to mention his ability to act as a manager (the best case scenario here is that he farmed out his name for cash and paid no attention what was published in association with it).

I am sincerely curious as to your views of the way Paul and his campaign handled this issue back in the 1996 campaign.

More from readers here. Welch rounds up recent commentary on the newsletters. His takeaway:

[T]he movement Paul has helped inspire, to say nothing of the broader libertarian/limited government/classical liberal tendency in America, is not animated by this bizarro-world Archie Bunker crap, nor is Paul himself (in my observation). I'd also say that his campaign has had four years to come up with a better answer than "I don't know who wrote those things," and it hasn't. Front-runners get–and richly deserve–scrutiny, including by adversaries.

I don't begrudge anyone's reasons for voting against anyone, especially if you think he's the type of guy to consciously lunge for power by whipping up race hatred against the descendants of former American slaves. I don't think Ron Paul is that type of guy. I don't (and Reason doesn't) do endorsements, and I would have been happy to see a better GOP primary season from Gary Johnson, whose pragmatic, less hyperbolic, and less socially conservative case for libertarianism I have more natural affinity with.

But I'm rooting for Paul to do well in Iowa and New Hampshire and beyond, because his candidacy offers the only sharp course corrective to the pressing national issues of runaway government spending, bailout economics, entitlement time-bombs, foreign policy overreach, civil liberties intrusions, and the Drug War. These are not small issues, for me or for the country, and 99 percent of politicians are terrible on them.

That's where I am too at this point.