What Did Ron Paul Know, and When Did He Know It?

The Washington Post is reporting that Ron Paul actively signed off on the not-so-veiled racism in the newsletters published under his name in the 1980s.  I'm sure that in the next few days, there will be some hot denials, and some Paulistas and paleolibertarians complaining about the Koch-funded conspiracy to destroy him.  (See, liberals?  You're not the only ones who think that Charles Koch is spending his massive fortune to destroy America).  


I think the arguments and counter-arguments about what he knew and when he knew it will be rather beside the point.  It is simply not credible that Ron Paul never saw any of the newsletters published under his name, and so the minimum working thesis has to be that whether or not Ron Paul believed that the biggest problem America faced was all those black folks getting one over on the white man, he was perfectly willing to encourage such sentiments if doing so would advance his political goals.  This alone should disqualify him from office, so we shouldn't need to waste time litigating other charges on the indictment.

Now, if Ron Paul were to sorrowfully admit that he had once harbored such beliefs--or failed to understand what it really meant to encourage such thoughts in others--then I would probably agree that we should forgive and forget.  But that is not what he has done.  What he has done is to cravenly attempt to avoid responsibility by blaming his subordinates.

Even if it were actually true that Ron Paul had allowed a newsletter to be published under his name without ever reading it, this would not do; the first thing that any aspiring leader should learn is that you are responsible for what is done by your subordinates, whether you knew about it or not.  "I am the kind of leader who allows my subordinates to run a multi-year racist newsletter under my name without ever once stopping by, or even picking up the damn newsletter, to see how they were getting along without me" is not mitigation.  Rather, it should be the first count on the indictment.

Moreover, since even before the Post report, it seemed really unlikely that this was what had actually happened, Ron Paul is not merely guilty of unmanly buck-passing, but also of lying like a truant teenager.

Such behavior is unworthy of the Oval Office.  Fortunately, it looks like he won't get there, so we don't need to devote much more energy to the question.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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