The Ghost of Newsletters Past

In my write-up on Rep. Ron Paul’s townhall meeting a couple weeks ago (where your humble blogger got to ask a question), I mentioned that he will eventually need to deal with the newsletter controversy that has been under the surface this campaign.

Unfortunately for Paul, with his frontrunner status in Iowa, the issue is no longer under the surface, it’s front and center. His response so far: not encouraging.

James Kirchick of the New Republic produced an in-depth report on this in 2008. He has a new follow-up piece this week, which I’d recommend to anyone not familiar with the ugly writings contained in these newsletters.

Paul’s ardent supporters claim these newsletters are no longer an issue. They’re wrong. Paul has disavowed the ugly contents in recent years, to his credit. But Paul claimed for years they were taken out of context, then took a sharp reversal and stated he didn’t write them. That needs a better explanation than “I’ve already dealt with the issue.”

Even if he did not write these newsletters, what does it say about Paul’s judgment and leadership that a small-time operation was able to put this shit out under his name without his knowledge and oversight? Do you trust handing the keys of presidential power to a man who couldn’t succesfully oversee a staff of 12 people?

It’s a fair question.

There’s also a character question involved. What if Paul isn’t telling the truth about not knowing who wrote this material? By most accounts, Lew Rockwell is the chief ghostwriter, an assertion confirmed by Paul’s former chief of staff, another former staffer, and even his 2008 congressional staff. It’s unfathomable that Paul does not know the identity of his ghostwriter if all these others do, especially when Mr. Rockwell and Dr. Paul have had a long-running professional collaboration, one that still exists. And if Paul is lying on this account, how can his supporters trust him to when he says he’ll scale down the federal government’s military footprint, our runaway spending, and the war on drugs?

It’s a fair question.

All that said, I don’t think this disqualifies Ron Paul’s presidential aspirations. Ron Paul’s involvement with ugly newsletters doesn’t compare to Sen. Robert Byrd, who wasn’t disqualified from serving in Congress for 50 years despite his well-known involvement with the Ku Klux Klan. Paul’s campaign shows none of the xenophobic and anti-gay sentiments that his newsletters do. Can the same be said of the current presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum?

Whatever his faults, Ron Paul is on the side of angels when it comes to the ending our counter-productive wars, defending civil liberties, ending the federal government’s war on drugs, and opposing morally hazardous bailouts and bankrupt out-of-control spending. Not only through his words on the campaign trail, but through his voting record. His opponents for the White House, both on the Republican side and President Obama, cannot claim the same. Considering the direction both parties seem intent on taking us, this is pretty damn important.

People will have to use their own conscience when evaluating Ron Paul. I see why people will abstain from voting for him. I don’t blame them. I see why people will support him regardless. I don’t blame them, either. I see why many libertarians prefer Gary Johnson, a preference I share. Johnson’s problem, one Paul faced in 2008, is that for all practical purposes, he has no shot of winning the presidency.

I wish I had a clear answer to all of this, but I don’t.


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One Response to “The Ghost of Newsletters Past”

  1. Patrick Freeman Says:

    I found the following links quite helpful in understanding this issue:

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