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The Reckoning Over Ron Paul

At this point, it seems that the only people still defending Ron Paul are the openly bigoted or the comically credulous. For the former, the revelation that Paul had (at best, negligent at worst, complicit) involvement in the publishing of and profiting from paranoid and bigoted newsletters for over two decades neatly confirms the reasons why they had chosen to support the Texas Congressman presidential campaign in the first place. For the latter, no amount of evidence will ever convince them that “Dr. No” is anything less than some saintly, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” caricature.

Mainstream libertarians almost immediately began to distance themselves from Paul. Over at Reason, the flagship libertarian magazine, most writers have denounced him. Editor Emeritus Nick Gillespie wrote that “It is hugely disappointing that he produced a cache of such garbage” and said that Paul's (non)-response to the magazine’s queries about the newsletters is “unsatisfying on about a thousand different levels.” Radley Balko writes that he “find[s] the prospect that Paul never read the newsletter implausible.” Even Brian Doherty, who penned this month’s enthusiastic cover story on Paul, wrote that “his campaign's reaction to this has been politically disastrous and given the third-rail nature of accusations of racism, Ron Paul's campaign was likely fatally wounded.” David Boaz, Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute, goes beyond the widespread denunciation of the newsletter's content, and judges that Paul cannot be trusted to be president seeing that his defense has essentially been: “I didn’t know what my closest associates were doing over my signature, so give me responsibility for the federal government.”

Last week, Reason Editor Matt Welch compiled a series of newspaper articles demonstrating the heights of Paul’s current obfuscation over authorship of the newsletters. At several points in the 1990s’s Paul admitted to writing them. Two weeks ago, his spokesman told me that Paul had granted "various levels of approval" to what appeared in the newsletters, from "no approval" to instances where he "actually wrote it himself." Last week, after the most damaging quotes were publicized, Paul denied not just that he had ever wrote for the newsletter, but said that he didn't even know who was writing, editing, or publishing them and that he hardly ever read them. To believe that Ron Paul had no knowledge of what was being written in his own name, in his own office, for 20 years -- and that he didn't even read his own monthly publication -- not only “stretches credulity to the breaking point,” it actually requires believing bald-faced lies.  

Ron Paul is a deeply paranoid man, who has allowed all manner of racists and lunatics to join him under the general rubric of “libertarianism.” These supporters did not come out of nowhere; as the newsletters and other evidence reveal, Ron Paul has consciously been courting bigots, conspiracy theorists and anti-government militants for decades. These associations were hardly a secret before last week, and it was long past time for decent libertarians to disassociate themselves from Paul. It is a healthy development for both the libertarian movement and American politics that they have begun to do so, however belatedly.

--James Kirchick