Everyone’s coming out of the woodwork now to admit that they knew the truth about Ron Paul all along. I, along with a handful of other bloggers, have been posting on this for quite a while, but it took an article at The New Republic to change the conventional wisdom. Virginia Postrel previously thought that Paul wasn’t worth writing about, but apparently was moved to post after receiving this email:
My wife and I were big Ron Paul supporters (until yesterday, in fact). We’re also 29 and 30 years old, which means we weren’t paying attention to Ron Paul in the 90’s. We donated money to the campaign, and I suppose we failed to do the due diligence on Paul, as we didn’t dig through archives of his old newsletters. We feel terrifically betrayed, not only by Ron Paul, but by older libertarians like yourself for not publicly warning us about him. If you knew he was such bad news and that he was becoming one of the biggest mainstream representatives of libertarian thought, why didn’t you warn us? I’ve been reading your work for about ten years, and I consider you a very fair and smart writer and if you had given a public warning about Ron Paul, I, for one, would have listened. But now my wife and I and probably thousands of other young libertarians and libertarian sympathizers have been tricked into supporting something that sickens me. Even your colleague at the Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan, was taken in among lots of other public people. I’m stunned by what Ron Paul turned out to be, but I’m also stunned that waited to mention him until it was too late to do any good.
Considering that Paul never had a chance to have a real impact on the Republican race, her previous lack of interest in commenting on him is understandable. Also justifiable is her questioning of those who have promoted Paul’s campaign while white washing his record but who should have known better:
I do fault my friends at Reason, who are much cooler than I’ll ever be and who, scornful of the earnestness that takes politics seriously, apparently didn’t do their homework before embracing Paul as the latest indicator of libertarian cachet. For starters, they might have asked my old boss Bob Poole about Ron Paul; I remember a board member complaining about Paul’s newsletters back in the early ’90s. Besides, people as cosmopolitan as Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch should be able to detect something awry in Paul’s populist appeals. (Note that by “cosmopolitan” I do not mean “Jewish.” I mean cosmopolitan.) I suspect they did but decided it was more useful to spin things their way than to take Paul’s record and ideas seriously. As for Andrew Sullivan, his political infatuations are not his strong point as a commentator.
I’ve recently posted a run down of other libertarian responses to the recent article. Many others like Postrel were well aware of Paul’s past and some have also been posting on this during the campaign. Much of the talk is centering around those who wrote under Paul’s name and the relationship to Paul. Doug Mataconis summarizes this discussion and concludes, “libertarians need to ask themselves why the philosophy of freedom is attracting racist troglodytes.” This is something I’ve discussed many times, questioning whether Paul really promoted a philosophy of freedom. Paul’s philosophy is really one of social conservativism (with a few quirks), opposition to all foreign entanglements, and states’ rights. While his views have certain areas of overlap with libertarianism, there were always enough areas of difference for libertarians to have known better than to embrace his views or the man.
Tim Cavanaugh raises a similar point that “there’s a discussion to be held among libertarians about why this political philosophy seems to draw so many (classically) illiberal figures; and the hubbub over Paul’s newsletters, which are revelatory whether Paul wrote them or not, seems like an opportunity.”
In considering who actually might have written the articles quoted by The New Republic, Wendy McElroy writes:
The identity of the author of the ‘objectionable’ material from past issues of Ron Paul’s Newsletter — material that is currently being used by major media to skewer Paul [see blog post below] — is an open secret within the circles in which I run. The news accounts refer to him merely as an “aide.” We call him by his first name.
Wirkman has similar memories:
Most of us “old-time” libertarians have known about this sad period of Ron Paul’s career from the get-go. We know that it was a lapse on his part. But we who opposed it (and not all of us did) put much of the blame on the writers involved, not on Paul, who was, after all, juggling family, medicine, politics, and continued study of actual economics. That Paul didn’t realize what he was doing to his own moral stance is amazing. His style is one of earnest moralizing. That fits his character. The ugliness of this career move speaks a sad story.