I haven’t written anything yet about reason magazine’s reaction to the Ron Paul newsletter scandal, but with Matt Welch coming online today with his piece, I thought I’d add my two cents.
Readers here will not be surprised that I find Matt’s take on it to be much more rational, insightful, and appropriately skeptical than Radley Balko’s reaction, which was pretty much taken apart by Ace of Spades here.
Radley’s piece is not altogether nonsensical. Much of his piece rejects the bile in Paul’s newsletters and criticizes Paul for not taking a strong enough stance rejecting them. That’s fine, as far as it goes.
The parts of Balko’s piece that irritate me are the parts where he is credulously willing to impute good motivations to Paul right now, based on the fact that Radley likes Paul’s policies. No kidding. For example:
First, a few caveats. I think Paul’s prone to nutty conspiracy theories, but I don’t think he’s a racist, at least not today. Perhaps there was a time when he held views that I and many people reading this site would find repugnant. But I certainly don’t think that’s the case now. Paul’s temperament and demeanor in public does not suggest he’s the kind of person capable of writing the bile Kirchick quotes in his article. Paul’s position on the drug war alone—which he has acknowledged disproportionately affects minorities—would do more for blacks in America than any proposal any of the other candidates currently has on the table. Paul has also recently rescinded his support for the federal death penalty, also due to its disproportionate impact on blacks. Those two positions alone certainly don’t indicate a candidate who fears “animal” blacks from the urban jungle are coming to kill all the white people.
Look, just because Radley Balko thinks that the repeal of drug laws would help blacks doesn’t make it a) true or b) what Ron Paul thinks in his heart of hearts. I have seen plenty of violence committed against minorities by people on drugs — and I haven’t seen anyone make a convincing case yet that repealing drug laws would decrease usage. I believe the contrary to be true, and most opponents of the drug law acknowledge that increased usage is likely to be a side effect of decriminalization, at least at first. So, repealing drug laws would spring some minority drug dealers from prison — don’t worry, Radley, here in California, Arnold is going to spring them early anyway — but would probably end up getting more innocent minorities killed. Radley might be comfortable with that trade-off, but I’m not. (I’m not sure he recognizes that there would be a trade-off, frankly.)
But put all that aside. My question for Radley is simple: were you shocked by the content of these newsletters? Because you seem to be — and there are a lot of us who just weren’t. The fact that you seem a little taken aback suggests to me that your love of Paul’s policies blinded you to the reality of Paul’s unsavory associations and what it said about him.
For a good explanation of the difference between Balko and Ace, check out this exchange. Balko says:
Any time you’re a fringe candidate cobbling together support from those who feel disaffected and left behind by the two-party system, you’re going to end up bumping elbows with a few weirdos.
And Ace responds:
True enough, but when you’re cobbling such support from Stormfront, Alex Jones’ Prison Planet lunatics, Truthers, etc., perhaps you ought to step back and ask if this is the sort of coalition you’re comfortable associating yourselves with. I haven’t seen such a motley collection of mutants and malcontents since the Cantina sequence in Star Wars.
For a much more skeptical take, see Matt Welch’s piece today. Matt sets emotion aside and goes straight for the facts, as revealed by Nexis:
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.
Matt gathers together a lot of damning quotes that collectively show that Ron Paul knew about the problem over the years and refused to disassociate himself from it.
My message to libertarians is simple: now you know about the problem with Ron Paul. If you similarly refuse to disassociate yourselves from the problem, despite this knowledge, I will feel no pity for you if your movement gets tarred by the stain of this event.
Even if you think that decriminalizing drug laws would be the greatest thing for black people since the end of slavery (a proposition I find highly dubious), you should follow Matt’s lead and not Radley’s. Don’t defend this guy. Not now.
UPDATE: Christoph points to a newer Balko post that is more critical of Paul.