The sudden obsession with Ron Paul’s alleged racism is a classic mainstream media bait-and-switch, and conservatives seem to be falling for it.
Anyone who has followed Ron Paul for the past few years ought to be familiar with the story of his controversial newsletters, broken in January 2008 at The New Republic by my friend James Kirchick.
It’s old news. That’s not to say Paul’s defenses are adequate. But it’s old news anyway.
The real question is why the issue has resurfaced now, in late December, after months of campaigning and debate. And the answer is obvious: because Paul is a threat to win the Iowa caucuses. Rival campaigns have a motive to leak opposition research on Paul. A frightened Republican establishment is eager to see him disappear from contention. His views–actual or alleged–damage the Republican brand and message as a whole.
I’m no Ron Paul supporter. While I agree with Paul’s ideals of limited government, I disagree with his views on the Federal Reserve, and I disagree vehemently with his opinions on foreign policy, which I regard as not only misguided, but dangerous. I believe that questions about his true motivations–especially with regard to his views on Israel–are legitimate. And yet I also believe he’s been getting a raw deal lately.
For years, the mainstream media has been building up Ron Paul–not despite his odd views, but because of them. In 2007 and 2008, Paul’s anti-war views made him an attractive foil to the rest of the Republican field for journalists–and he seemed quite happy to play along. Questions about his alleged racism and antisemitism also fit a familiar media narrative about Republicans being more susceptible to prejudice.
Now, the media is seizing the opportunity to dispose of yet another Republican “not-Romney” frontrunner. Ron Paul has been the target of more mainstream media scrutiny in the past few days than Barack Obama was in the entire 2008 election. New questions about Jeremiah Wright, never answered in 2008, will not be raised in 2012. But charge of Paul’s racism that surfaced in the last election are being treated like breaking news.
The mainstream media seems determined to make sure that voters who like Paul but have not yet heard about the newsletters do so before they vote.
Here’s Jonathan Ahl of NPR, reporting December 23 on Paul’s supporters in Iowa:
Another issue that has garnered negative attention this past week is the resurfacing of a series of newsletters that bore Paul’s name in the ’80s and ’90s that were riddled with racist remarks…
Almost none of the dozens of Paul supporters who spoke with NPR this week were aware of the newsletter controversy. Those who were are standing by their candidate.
Godez-Schilling–the Democrat who professed her love for Paul–says racial equality is an important issue to her, but she hears what she needs to when Paul talks about individual liberties for all.
“I think he is a supporter of all people’s rights as individuals, be they whatever color, whatever sex, whatever persuasion,” she says.
Jim Peterman of Maquoketa says he has supported Paul for more than a decade and won’t likely be swayed by the newsletter issue.
“I’d say right now [I give him] the benefit of the doubt. I guess, as always in politics, if more came out than what I have seen so far, yeah, I could change my mind. It depends what it is, though,” he says.
Voters are not as trusting of media memes as in elections past. And though Paul’s opponents might enjoy stoking the media onslaught, they, too, are being weakened by it.
If–when–Paul loses the 2012 race, it will and ought to be on the merits. His “blame America” stance echoes the worst propaganda of the radical left.
That’s where conservatives should start, rather than applauding the latest media takedown.