The fans of Ron Paul often describe him as a principled man. Unlike other politicians who swing with the wind and pander, Paul sticks to his guns and says what he means. Or so the story goes.
When stories about Ron Paul’s decade-long racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and otherwise disgusting newsletter surfaced, the Ron Paul supporters found themselves in a difficult bind. If Ron Paul is a straight-shooter who says what he means, then what do we make of these racist newsletters? Do they say what he means?
Despite originally taking responsibility for the newsletters and even defending them at times, Ron Paul eventually denied writing them and denied knowing what was in them at the time of publishing. This story is so implausible that it is surprising anyone ever believed it. Even Newt Gingrich’s ongoing lie that he was paid $1.6 million dollars from Freddie Mac to provide historical advice is more plausible than Ron Paul’s newsletter defense. Nonetheless, the Ron Paul supporters lapped it up and claimed that Paul had no idea what was being published under his name for more than a decade.
As transparently silly as that defense is, it is starting to crumble even more. The Washington Post ran a story today in which they interview those who worked in Paul’s company at the time the newsletters were published. It turns out Ron Paul was actively involved in the running of his company and the newsletters:
“It was his newsletter, and it was under his name, so he always got to see the final product. . . . He would proof it,’’ said Renae Hathway, a former secretary in Paul’s company and a supporter of the Texas congressman.
Another anonymous associate of Paul furthers:
“It was playing on a growing racial tension, economic tension, fear of government,’’ said the person, who supports Paul’s economic policies but is not backing him for president. “I’m not saying Ron believed this stuff. It was good copy. Ron Paul is a shrewd businessman.’’
So what does this say about Ron Paul? There are two options. Either Ron Paul believed the bigotry he published, or he did it to pander to an audience that he knew would buy it — or both. Even if we accept at face value the claim that Ron Paul is not actually a racist or homophobe — something which nobody knows for sure except Ron Paul himself — that only means that he is a typical politician. In the newsletter, he is pandering to a white supremacist base that he knows will buy up his product and support him. Of course, that is the precise kind of unprincipled pandering that his supporters claim Paul would never do. According to his supporters, only establishment politicians do that kind of thing, not Dr. Paul.
Ron Paul supporters increasingly confronted with the reality of Paul’s past need to change their tune. Claiming that Ron Paul never saw the newsletters is no longer even remotely serious. Instead, as Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out today, honest Ron Paul supporters are now pressed to make a different defense:
If you believe that a character who would conspire to profit off of white supremacy, anti-gay bigotry, and anti-Semitism is the best vehicle for convincing the country to end the drug war, to end our romance with interventionism, to encourage serious scrutiny of state violence, at every level, then you should be honest enough to defend that proposition.
Whether any Paul supporters are up to that challenge, we shall see.