Reason Magazine has long associated themselves with the Ron Paul campaign, if not officially endorsing him. Their Hit & Run blog has served as the heart of rational Paul apologetics, and in their skilled hands, that has proven essential to his campaign. Now, as the magazine has Paul on its cover, its new editor has the unpleasant task of looking a little more closely at the candidate, and Matt Welch finds it an unpleasant journey.
Has Paul really disassociated himself from, and "taken moral responsibility" for, these "Ron Paul" newsletters "for over a decade"? If he has, that history has not been recorded by the Nexis database, as best as I can reckon.
The first indication I could find of Paul either expressing remorse about the statements or claiming that he did not author them came in an October 2001 Texas Monthly article -- less than eight years ago. ...
So what exactly did Paul and his campaign say about these and more egregious statements during his contentious 1996 campaign for Congress, when Democrat Lefty Morris made the newsletters a constant issue? Besides complaining that the quotes were taken "out of context" and proof of his opponent's "race-baiting," Paul and his campaign defended and took full ownership of the comments.
Indeed. Rather than claiming he had never read these newsletters, as Paul absurdly did on CNN last night, Paul claimed that he himself wrote the newsletters. Matt Welch find this in the contemporaneous Dallas Morning News report on the newsletters during Paul's 1996 Congressional campaign (May 22, 1996, emphasis mine):
Dr. Paul denied suggestions that he was a racist and said he was not evoking stereotypes when he wrote the columns. He said they should be read and quoted in their entirety to avoid misrepresentation. [...]
In the interview, he did not deny he made the statement about the swiftness of black men.
"If you try to catch someone that has stolen a purse from you, there is no chance to catch them," Dr. Paul said.
Matt has more examples of Paul's non-denials in 1996. Twelve years later, Paul wants people to believe that not only did he not write any of his newsletters, he never read them either. His role in the single most effective piece of outreach of his organization, he explained to Wolf Blitzer last night, was as a publisher -- one who didn't bother to read his own publication. These 1996 quotes put lie to his CNN interview answers.
Not only does this show dishonesty, but it indicates that Paul had a lot more involvement in the publication of the despicable statements found in his own newsletter than Paul or his less-rational apologists want to admit. The supremacists and conspiracy theorists surrounding his campaign apparently got attracted by more than just Paul's views on the Constitution; they read the newsletters and determined that Paul was one of them. His refusal to recant in 1996 and his explanation that he can't recall ever reading the newsletters today signal to them that he still wants their support.
People wonder why this matters, given Paul's fringe appeal. It matters because we can't allow this kind of hatred to get legitimized in mainstream politics again. This kind of rhetoric used to be mainstream, and not just in the South, either. Republicans cannot allow the party to get tainted by the stench of racism and conspiracy mongering. If enough of us don't step up and denounce it, strongly and repeatedly, we will not be able to avoid it.
Matt Welch and the people at Reason have reached that same conclusion in regards to libertarianism and their magazine. Good for them, even if it came a little late.