The Ron Paul double standard

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Philip Klein

I have a number of strong objections to Tim Carney’s Ron Paul column this morning (including his glossing over Pat Buchanan’s record) that I won’t get into, in the interest of keeping my response to a reasonable length. But there are a few points I feel compelled to make.

A major beef I have is that Carney doesn’t really grapple with criticisms of Paul, instead, he lumps all critics together as being part of the “mainstream” and “establishment” that objects to his, “principled, antiwar, Constitution-obeying, Fed-hating, libertarian” stances.

That’s hogwash. There are plenty of fair-minded conservatives who may even agree with Paul on domestic issues, but still passionately object to his candidacy. As I wrote last week, though there are those who hold a principled belief that the U.S. should have a non-interventionist foreign policy, Paul often crosses the line beyond mere non-interventionism, especially on Israel.

If Carney wants to defend Paul against such criticisms -- including Paul’s decision to go on the official propaganda channel of Iran’s Islamist government to bash Israel and claim Palestinians were living in “concentration camps,” or Paul’s decision to condemn the raid that killed Osama bin Laden – he should do so. But it’s otherwise unfair to dismiss criticisms of Ron Paul with a broad brush as coming from the dreaded “establishment.”

When Carney does suggest that some criticism of Paul may be legitimate, he claims its importance is exaggerated:

Paul's indiscretions -- such as abiding 9/11 conspiracy theorists and allowing racist material in a newsletter published under his name -- will be blown up to paint a scary caricature. 

But the newsletters were much bigger than a mere “indiscretion.” Even Paul supporters like Carney acknowledge that the newsletters printed racist material. For further details, see Jamie Kirchick’s 2008 New Republic article or his new follow-up piece in the Weekly Standard, in which he also addresses Paul’s indulgence of 9/11 truthers.

It’s important to remember that these newsletters were not just some small part of Paul’s career. As Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez reported in the libertarian Reason magazine in 2008:

The publishing operation was lucrative. A tax document from June 1993—wrapping up the year in which the Political Report had published the "welfare checks" comment on the L.A. riots—reported an annual income of $940,000 for Ron Paul & Associates, listing four employees in Texas (Paul's family and [Lew] Rockwell) and seven more employees around the country. If Paul didn't know who was writing his newsletters, he knew they were a crucial source of income and a successful tool for building his fundraising base for a political comeback.

It’s one thing for Paul to deny that he wrote the newsletters. But it’s less plausible that he no idea about their consistently racist content. And it’s even harder to believe that he didn’t know who wrote them, as he asserted in a post-debate interview with Sean Hannity just last week.  Even if you were to be incredibly charitable and believe that all of this is possible, it still doesn’t absolve him. Because if you’re a public figure, it’s your responsibility to monitor what is being published under your name. And if your best defense is massive disorganization within a business you ran that had just a few employees, it’s a pretty severe indictment of your management abilities as you seek the presidency. And this is where we get to the double standard part.

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have both attacked each other for what was written in their respective books. If either of those books had included a number of overtly racist statements, their candidacies would be over before they started. If they used the Ron Paul defense – that they didn’t write the words themselves, they didn’t know what was in the books and don’t even know who wrote them, it would only make matters worse. They could kiss their political careers goodbye.

Yet Ron Paul’s supporters in the media demand special treatment. You see, few people believe he’s running to actually become president – he’s just in the race to bring more attention to his message. So Carney, like other Paul sympathizers who agree with that broad message, want to have it both ways. On the one hand, Carney wrote a column a few months ago demanding that people take Ron Paul’s candidacy more seriously. But on the other hand, he writes today's column smearing Paul’s critics, as if Paul should get a free pass from the scrutiny that's a natural consequence of being taken more seriously.

Paul doesn’t get to have it both ways. If he wins Iowa, his outrageous statements and ugly associations will be granted a lot more attention. Deservedly so.

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