I don’t have any particular insight into the newsletter issue, having been in high school and college at the time, but I’ll share a few thoughts in light of all the requests I’ve been getting.
Jamie Kirchick wonders why libertarians “don’t care” about the newsletters. I don’t think it’s right to say they don’t care. Their view is that the offending sentences, of which there are far fewer than critics are intimating, sound absolutely nothing like Ron Paul (can anyone seriously dispute that?), and they are convinced, with good reason, that the kindly man they see in the debates, in interviews and in person is who he really is.
They also believe that our political class is full of people — we may justly call them sociopaths — whose words may always be exquisitely correct, never once straying from proper p.c. decorum, but who think absolutely nothing of (say) bombing foreign populations on the most ludicrous and transparent grounds. Our society banishes those who make insensitive remarks, but considers our knee-jerk bombardiers to be people with a legitimate point of view, and certainly as having done nothing that might end a person’s career.
To call this a skewed moral calculus is about the least one might say about it.
Lots of pretty blunt things were said in the wake of the L.A. riots, an event most of Ron Paul’s young supporters won’t even remember. Plenty of conservatives said the riots had their origins in the welfare-state mentality, and a Ron Paul newsletter was scarcely the only outlet not saying super-delicate p.c. things about marauders who pulled people out of their cars and killed them.
Certainly this exchange in the newsletters was outside the normal bounds of polite discourse:
Robin: I was going to bring you a VCR, but the stores had none.
Johnny: A little low, are they?
Robin: Somebody, I guess, had done a little “political shopping.” [Suddenly imitating an angry black man] “Yo, man, this [giving the clenched-fist Black Power salute] is for Rodney King … and the five TVs are for me.”
Wait a second, that’s not from the newsletters at all — that’s from Robin Williams’ appearance on Johnny Carson’s final episode of the Tonight Show.
Our country’s political class is full of people who believed it morally acceptable, after 1991, to deprive the Iraqi population of baby food, blood-analysis equipment for children’s hospitals, heaters, syringes, ambulance equipment, insecticide, children’s clothes, school notebooks, bicycles, etc. (I’ll leave aside the so-called conservatives who for some reason think it must be “liberal” to find something wrong with this.)
Now the people responsible for so inhumane and indefensible a policy will utter every p.c. platitude in the world. Every word will be exquisitely proper. Our society thus considers them to be citizens in good standing.
This is what Ron Paul supporters, who are standing by him, are responding to. Insensitive remarks, which not even his worst critic thinks he actually wrote, can scarcely be morally worse than policies like these, which enjoy the active support of practically the entire spectrum of the U.S. political class.
Moreover, they see in Ron Paul someone who is utterly unlike that political class.
Time magazine’s Joe Klein, who’s been following Ron Paul in Iowa, just noted what an astonishing thing he has been witnessing: the frontrunner in Iowa isn’t focusing in his speeches on the issues that handlers would tell him to focus on. He’s not sticking to the red-meat issues that would please the GOP base. He’s talking about foreign policy, civil liberties, and other things on which the modern GOP considers him anathema.
This has essentially never been seen before, and will likely never be seen again — an honest man standing up to a morally corrupt establishment, saying things no one in either wing of that establishment would dream of saying. Yes, all the establishment’s men will assure us of their profound commitment to the brotherhood of man, and every p.c. platitude ever uttered will pour forth from their lips. Ron Paul supporters are trying to persuade their countrymen that we ought to insist on a teensy bit more than this.
For more on this issue, see the following links:
Some people have also recommended these short videos: