Readings for: Why Have We Changed Our Minds on Fiscal Policy?
Show, Don't Tell!: Paul Krugman Unsuccessful Smackdown Watch Blogging

David Frum on the Personal Irresponsibility of Ron Paul


Ron Paul’s Personal Responsibility: Ron Paul’s supporters ask that their candidate not be judged by his associates. Or by the people he chose to employ. Or by the newsletters he published. Or by the book he wrote. Or by the way he earned the largest part of his living when out of office in the 1990s. Or by his purchase of the mailing list of the Holocaust-denying Liberty Lobby. Or by the radio shows he chooses to appear on. Or by his strategic decision to reach out to racist voters. Or by the conspiracy theories to which he lends credence, from government creation of AIDS to Israeli culpability for the 1993 bombing to a putative 9/11 “coverup.”

And here I thought that libertarianism was a doctrine of personal responsibility?

May Ron Paul at least be judged by the words he has spoken with his own mouth within the current campaign? The supporters say “no” again. When Ron Paul tells an interviewer that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made race relations “worse,” we’re not supposed to consider what he might mean by “better.” When Ron Paul warns that a border fence would be used to prevent fleeing American citizens from exiting the country, we’re not supposed to conclude that he’s a paranoid crank.

Andrew [Sullivan] deploys what might be called the ontological defense of Ron Paul, as follows:

  1. Ron Paul is a libertarian.
  2. Libertarians espouse individualism.
  3. Racism is a form of anti-individualism.
  4. Therefore Ron Paul cannot be a racist.

That is a demonstration of what might be called the deductive method of reasoning. But there’s another way to study reality: induction. Like this:

  1. Ron Paul has again and again exploited bigotry, paranoia, and hate as fundraising devices.
  2. Ron Paul is a libertarian.
  3. So yes, I guess it is possible for a libertarian to do that.

Here’s my question for Ron Paul supporters: why the denial of the undeniable?

Perhaps you like Paul’s message of legalized marijuana? Why not just say so? You don’t think it’s important to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons? Argue it forthrightly. If you regard Social Security and Medicare as literally the moral equivalents of slavery, go ahead, make your case.

But all this excuse-making, special pleading and jiggering of the rules of evidence so as to exculpate Ron Paul from the record of his whole political life? For what?