Sunday, December 25, 2011

I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means


Shikha Dalmia has a piece in Reason today on "The Right Way for Ron Paul to Respond to the Newsletter Controversy."

Refreshingly, in 629 comments (so far!), the word "smear" is used only 19 times. Which means I've only been tempted to hit someone over the head with a squeegee ... well, 19 times today.

Smear as a noun refers to "a slanderous defamation;" as a verb, it means to "charge falsely or with malicious intent; attack the good name and reputation of someone."

The Ron Paul "newsletter controversy" is not a "smear" in either sense of the word, and those who attempt to make it one -- and to shift responsibility for the newsletters' content from their owner and publisher to those who happened to notice it -- do their candidate a disservice. Ditto for those who keep screeching "that's old news" and "he's disavowed that stuff and nobody believes he wrote it."

Ron Paul's newsletters had his name on them. The articles in question had his byline on them. He owned the company that published them. He encouraged people to subscribe to them, and bragged about publishing them, until they became a liability, after which he offered up two different stories about them (at first the ugly quotes were "taken out of context," then he hadn't actually written them, and hell, probably hadn't actually read them). He accepted the money they earned and he used them to build the fundraising list that put him back in Congress after 12 years out of office.

The preponderance of evidence indicates that there was nothing accidental about any of that -- that he was intentionally pursuing the Rothbard/Rockwell "paleo strategy" of playing to the ugliest, most reactionary impulses still extant in America's white working and middle classes in the hope of rallying the old "southern strategy" and "Dixiecrat" voting blocs to a putatively libertarian flag.

That's probably not something Paul can ever put totally behind him. It's a huge, ugly black mark on his political resume. Muttering something about a ghost writer and "moral responsibility," then doing the "I've already answered that" shuffle, as he has for a decade now, isn't even a good start at trying to get beyond it. His handling of this thing so far has been, in two words, Clintonesque bullshit.

If he can't put it totally behind him, he can at least partially defuse it with six words, wrapped in the longer speech Dalmia recommends, and offered without qualifications, disclaimers, excuses or attempts to minimize the importance of the matter.

Those six words? "It was wrong and I'm sorry."

Contra the claims of his supporters, I've been unable to find any instances of him publicly saying that. They may be out there, but if so they're not prominent.

Nothing's going to turn this negative into a positive, but taking it by the horns as Dalmia recommends, with a real apology instead of a bunch of evasions and equivocations from him and cries of "smear!" from his amen corner, might turn it into just one bullet point among many for voters to consider when evaluating "the Ron Paul package."

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