Reason, one of my favorite online watering holes, is going to have to do better than this. In fact, the good folks there should really reconsider defending Ron Paul on the newsletters at all. The defense comes down to two ideas: One, National Review has published some ill-advised things itself, and two, if we take the newsletters seriously, then RON PAUL may not win and that would be bad for libertarianism. Not addressed: A RON PAUL win might be bad for libertarianism, too.
To the first, so what? No one at National Review is running for the presidency last time I checked. Neither is anyone at Reason. That’s not the issue, it’s just a kind of I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I defense.
The issue is either what Ron Paul wrote and is now lying about, or what Ron Paul allowed to be published under his name and is now lying about (by saying he didn’t even read it until 10 years later), or about the little newsletter that Ron Paul mismanaged so badly that it’s now a negative issue for him in the presidential campaign several years later. Those are the three options available. They all speak to his character. They all speak to his own attitudes. And they all speak to his competence. The campaign is an extended job interview. The newsletters form part of Ron Paul’s resume. The newsletters are a current issue for Paul both because of what they said, and how his story about their contents has shifted over time.
Consider this: If what Ron Paul says about the newsletters now is true, that he barely ever read them but was willing to put his name on them and promote them directly, then he was playing his supporters for suckers. They thought they were getting the word straight from Ron Paul. Turns out, they were just getting someone else’s ghost writing that he didn’t even bother himself to keep track of. If what he says about them now is true. In my opinion, what Paul says about them now is a convenient lie, less plausible than both Barack Obama’s Jeremiah Wright defense, and Anthony Weiner’s “hacked” defense.
Reason’s Brian Doherty also writes, in defense of Paul:
As I wrote in 2008 during an earlier iteration of the newsletter story cycle, somewhat obliquely, I think this stuff is far from the most important thing to consider or talk about when it comes to this amazing moment where a very libertarian politician seems on the cusp of actually winning the first caucus in a Republican presidential contest. Libertarians, as a rule, especially if you’ve been in this game for decades before Paul, are used to the fact that peculiar political beliefs attract peculiar people, that there is a sociological overlap between the radical politics of libertarianism and certain other radical beliefs that don’t have anything intellectually or necessarily to do with libertarianism, and that isn’t the problem or the fault of libertarian ideas, nor is fighting those unpleasant ideas that some people in the libertarian orbit hold the primary responsibility of libertarians. Standing up for political liberty is.
Doherty notes at the end of his post that he’s writing a book about Paul for Reason’s imprint, meaning he has a personal financial stake in Paul doing well, quite apart from Paul’s ideas or the damage he may do to the greater cause of small government. Title: Ron Paul’s rEVOLution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired. It’s worth keeping in mind, and may be more relevant to Reason’s defense of Paul than anything National Review has published over the years or says now in criticizing Paul.
But back to Paul and his “peculiar” beliefs. Does one stand up for liberty by deluding oneself about the source of the most lethal terrorist attack on American soil, as Paul does? That’s not only peculiar, it’s dangerous. Big government is certainly a threat to liberty, but it’s not the only one. Terrorists who kill innocent Americans in our own cities constitute another genuine threat to life and liberty, but Ron Paul refuses to see that. He consistently flirts with 9-11 Trutherism and blames President Bush for waging war over there in order to prevent more attacks on Americans over here. The issue now is, is Reason content with defending and promoting a closet 9-11 Truther, just so we can have this “amazing” libertarian moment? Is Reason content with defending someone who is either lying about his newsletters or has proven himself to be an incompetent manager of a tiny organization, just so we can have this “amazing” libertarian moment?
It seems to me that libertarians would do well to find or groom a better and more reliable vessel in which to place their hopes, one who lacks the “peculiar” racial and conspiracy theory baggage that Ron Paul is toting. Ron Paul’s “amazing” libertarian moment may ensure four more years of the least libertarian president in American history.
Won’t that be amazing…
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