Nick Gillespie, Editor in Chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv, has weighed in on the bigoted newsletters published years ago in the name of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).
Gillespie defends Paul by saying that – being a strong libertarian – Paul is “going to discomfit conventional politicians and politicos who are more concerned with whether their party is in power than what is done with that power.” He quotes The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf, who argues that the “awful” newsletters are a “serious moral failing,” but who also adds that they shouldn’t outweigh Paul’s libertarian stands on war, civil rights, etc. Gillespie warns us that “waiting for perfection is something ideologues insist on.”
If you care about libertarianism, where do you go with all this? “Serious moral failing” is right, but I’m not sure it really captures the extent of the problem. Here’s my position.
Ron Paul has routinely insisted that he’s not a racist, yet he’s never given a good explanation of how racist sentiments were expressed in his own newsletter. The best he’s offered is that they were written by someone else – though he doesn’t say (or even remember?) who – and that he did a lousy job of appointing and overseeing the newsletter’s editorial staff.
This bothers me given that, as president, Ron Paul would be responsible for filling any number of high-profile positions – chief of Defense, Homeland Security, Department of Justice, etc. – with the aim of picking people who he could depend on to reflect his own libertarian sentiments, since he can’t possibly oversee and micromanage all of them. Shouldn’t it worry a libertarian that Paul can’t even manage the editorial staff of a newsletter well enough to make sure it doesn’t describe Martin Luther King, Jr., Day as “annual Hate Whitey Day”?
This isn’t just a moral failing. It’s a massive administrative screw-up.
An administrative screw-up that is only made worse because it does have this moral dimension in the form of bigotry. How many of you would be comfortable knowing that somebody else was writing material in your name? Suppose that it had to be done, because certain statements needed to to be issued, and the nature of whatever work you were in made it impossible for you to write all of them yourself. Wouldn’t you put a premium on making sure that the person writing this content – not Ashton Kutcher’s tweets or corporate press releases, but political content – wouldn’t say something like, “Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities”? Wouldn’t you, I dunno, read the darn things occasionally?
And wouldn’t you at the very least remember the name of the bigot who wrote it because you vividly remember firing their them after you found out they were depicting you as a racist? And wouldn’t you at some point mention that person – by name – when you publicly denounced their bigotry and their defamation of you? I know I would.
Remember, in addition to routinely insisting that he’s not a racist, Paul routinely insists that he’s a libertarian. If he fails to do libertarian things when he becomes president, will he give the same sort of mealy mouthed response as when he’s accused of failing to be tolerant? Like when he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the newsletter issue was “a bit of a witch hunt” and that people should “think of the motivation behind” the criticism he’s received. (I would have assumed that the motivation was, well, disgust with bigotry.) Or when he told CNN’s Gloria Borger that the newsletters were “incendiary” because of people like her asking him about them (rather than because of, oh, right, those slurs printed in his name).
Again, if it were me, no reporter would get a chance to ask me about these newsletters because I’d bring it up before they did. And I’d do it while I was naming and shaming the human slug (and former employee) responsible for effectively maligning me as David Duke’s country club sponsor.
In the age of exasperation with representatives who don’t have time to read the bill, is Paul really going to run on, “I was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written”? Is this really the story he’s giving us? These newsletters are totally antithetical to what Paul believes, but they weren’t written by him even though they were written in his name by someone who worked for him though he can’t remember who that was. Wow. That’s not terribly comforting. Throw in a few assault rifles taking a trip to Mexico and it’s almost like I’m listening to Attorney General Eric Holder talk about his “responsibility” for Fast and Furious.
You need to pay attention to what’s done in your name and under your administration. As president, Ron Paul would wield all sorts of power over people’s lives, just the sort of power that libertarians fear and oppose. But Ron Paul can’t even be bothered to pay attention to what’s being published in his name in his very own newsletter. Nor can he be bothered to take the initiative to publicly repudiate it after the fact. Libertarians should be horrified at that prospect.
I’ll leave it to Nick Gillespie to tell us who the “ideologues” are who are foolishly seeking “perfection.” I think most libertarians are seeking someone who vocally denounces the things he says he stands against, particularly when those things are falsely attributed to him. And frankly, Nick, call me a “conventional politico,” but I’m concerned about how Ron Paul would wield power.
Because, let’s face it, if Ron Paul doesn’t have enough of a handle on his own employees to demolish a racist newsletter published under the name “Ron Paul,” don’t try and tell me he’s got what it takes to stand up for liberty as the head of an executive branch that acts in his name.
In summary: Dammit Jim, the man can’t even run a newsletter, don’t put him at the helm of the Enterprise!