IS RON PAUL GUILTY OF MORE THAN NEGLIGENCE?
Do I think that Paul wrote the offending newsletters? I do not. Their style and racially bigoted philosophy is so starkly different from anything he has publicly espoused during his long career in public life -- and he is so forthright and uncensored in his pronouncements, even when they depart from mainstream or politically correct opinion -- that I'd wager substantially against his authorship if Las Vegas took such bets. Did I mention how bad some of the newsletters are? It's a level of bigotry that would be exceptionally difficult for a longtime public figure to hide.
For that reason, I cannot agree with Kirchick when he concludes that "Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters
believe they are backing -- but rather a member in good standing of some
of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics."
On the other hand, it doesn't seem credible that Paul was unaware of who wrote the execrable newsletters, and although almost a million dollars per year in revenue is a substantial
incentive to look away from despicable content, having done so was at minimum an act of gross negligence and at worst an act of deep corruption. Indeed, Paul himself has acknowledged that he "bears moral responsibility" for the content.
Given its odiousness that is no small thing.
People who traffic in ideas have a responsibility to monitor what goes out under their names. Had someone published such offensive drivel under mine, I'd be furious, and I'd damn well identify and repudiate the author. Why has Paul failed to do so? In the hope that the story would disappear more quickly if he avoided it? Out of misplaced loyalty to a longtime supporter? Out of fear that if he turns on the author of the newsletters he's vulnerable to retaliation, or the revelation that he was in fact complicit in the content? Another reason? It's impossible to know. And for that reason, I can't blame Kirchick for reaching a different, darker conclusion than mine.
Paul's campaign wants to depict its candidate as a naïve, absentee overseer, with minimal knowledge of what his underlings were doing on his behalf. This portrayal might be more believable if extremist views had cropped up in the newsletters only sporadically--or if the newsletters had just been published for a short time. But it is difficult to imagine how Paul could allow material consistently saturated in racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy-mongering to be printed under his name for so long if he did not share these views.
In that respect, whether or not Paul personally wrote the most offensive passages is almost beside the point. If he disagreed with what was being written under his name, you would think that at some point--over the course of decades--he would have done something about it.
I don't actually think it's obvious that a politician profiting handsomely from a newsletter would go out of his way to scrutinize its content or repudiate material in it with which he disagreed, but who can say for sure? In 2008, Sanchez and Weigel concluded their piece with an admonition that more closely reflects my thinking:
New supporters, many of whom are first encountering
libertarian ideas through the Ron Paul Revolution, deserve a far
more frank explanation than the campaign has as yet provided of how
their candidate's name ended up atop so many ugly words. Ron Paul
may not be a racist, but he became complicit in a strategy of
pandering to racists--and taking "moral responsibility" for that now
means more than just uttering the phrase. It means openly grappling
with his own past--acknowledging who said what, and why. Otherwise
he risks damaging not only his own reputation, but that of the
philosophy to which he has committed his life.
Paul should've taken that advice when it was published. Perhaps he thought, having grappled with the issue in previous congressional campaigns, that he'd already done all he was obligated to do. If so, he was wrong. His inadequate handling of the issue does his supporters a significant, ongoing disservice. My colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it well: "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."