Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
New England, USA
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.


DECEMBER 24, 2011 4:21AM

What Really Disqualifies Ron Paul

Rate: 17 Flag

I’ve been reading news stories about Ron Paul’s newsletter scandal—in the Huffington Post, The New Republic, and the Christian Science Monitor, to name just a few. And I feel like they’re all overlooking something important.

These analyses all seem to focus strongly on his offensive attitudes on race, sexual preference, and, frankly, the usual litany of Right Wing hot button phobias. “Was he a racist?” these stories seem to ask. “If so, is he still? Or did he ‘just’ employ others who were racists or wrote racist material? Was it just the climate of the time and of course has he since evolved?” Some of the stories ask tentative questions, others boldly conclude. It’s very attention-getting, so the debate rages.

In the past, before Internet scrutiny was ubiquitous, it might have been possible to get away with statements like those in the newsletters. But they don’t look pretty with harsh sunlight pouring in on them. And it’s pretty clear that Paul himself knows better than to assert otherwise, so he’s backing away from the matter like a hot potato. He’s never been shy about defending things he thinks are worth defending, even unpopular things. So if he’s not defending this, he must know it’s indefensible.

But still, it doesn’t seem likely that he’s poised to volunteer a confession. So discussing this matter is likely to go in circles forever even when there’s little controversy. We can debate forever about what he felt in his heart back then or whether he’s changed. Some Republicans seemed to believe Gingrich when he said he’d asked God for forgiveness and was a changed man. Maybe Paul could do the same. And then what of this criticism? It’s highly emotionally charged, but politicians have a way of wriggling free of these issues, I think because they come down to opinion, and there are tried and true ways to deny having an opinion.

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“I didn’t write ’em.
I disavow ’em.
That’s it.”

—Ron Paul

So here’s what’s bugging me...

The guy is running for “Responsible Person in Chief.”

By this I mean that the Republicans have, after all, asked Obama to be responsible for all military actions, for all job losses, for all rises and falls in the stock market, for action that follows earthquakes and hurricanes, and even for every detail of what the Presidential Christmas card looks like. Some of us might disagree about which of these are properly responsibilities of the President, but what I think we all agree with is that the President is the chief executive of our nation, the nation with the largest economy on Earth, the most powerful military on Earth, and so on. It’s an awesome responsibility.

So what amazes me, and seems objectively damning, is that Paul seems perfectly comfortable casually disclaiming responsibility for newsletters bearing his name (the Ron Paul Investment Letter, the Ron Paul Political Report, and the Ron Paul Survival Letter). This seems like the kind of enterprise where you’d expect him to care about what was going on inside it, yet he talks about it like it wasn’t really his responsibility.

If we were attacked, would President Paul shrug and say he has generals who should have handled it? Would he tell us sorry about some new economic collapse, but he wasn’t even paying attention so why are we blaming it on him? If the CIA or FBI went rogue, would he just laugh it off and say that’s what we get for having such a big government?

In my view, it is the job of a chief executive to know what’s going on, to care about what’s going on, and to take responsibility when something goes wrong.

So yes, I worry he doesn’t have a very modern set of attitudes on a lot of social issues. But even if, just for argument’s sake, I give him a pass on all that, I still can’t get past this other matter of his managerial qualifications. Sure, it was a long time ago, but why should I think he’s gotten better? I didn’t hear him say “Wow, I really just didn’t know how to be a manager back then. I should never have let things get so out of control. But I’ve gone back to school and learned how to do that right.” I don’t even hear him say the first part—that he recognizes what he did was bad management, whether he’s improved since then or not. And it’s that lack of recognition—now, today—that is bugging me. He sounds today like he thinks what happened back then was fine and defensible.

Perhaps he even likes the idea that no one was running the show back then—maybe that’s a metaphor for his small government ideal. Well, regardless of motive, his recently observed lack of concern about lax management as he looks back at those past events tells me what I think I’d want to know about how and whether he could govern today.

I can just see the sign that would sit on his desk, and it’s sadly not as pithy as the one on President Truman’s desk:

“The buck stops—well, gee, why are you asking me?
Just help yourself.
I’m too busy to be responsible for every little thing.”

If you got value from this post, please "rate" it.

• • • • •


The uncut interview with Ron Paul was posted on YouTube. It shows quite a different interview than the one that most people saw. I don't think it changes my basic point here, and to some extent it reinforces it, because many have said the full interview makes him look more reasonable on the “issues.” My concern here is not the issues but the management competence, which in my view is unaffected by the differences of the two interviews. But certainly feel free to watch the longer, uncut interview yourself and make up your own mind. Anyone who thinks it should make a difference to my point here should feel free to make the case.

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While he might get away with disavowing what was printed in his newsletter because "he didn't know" (which is patently ridiculous, BTW), what he can never disavow is his voting record. He has consistently voted against women's rights, civil rights and LGBT rights. He can deny he said something, but he can't deny he's a bigoted, misogynistic, homophobe. His voting record proves that.
Amy, I'm not disagreeing with any of those things, just offering another argument that doesn't hinge on the social values part and focuses straight on the competence angle. Maybe I'm worrying for nothing, but my fear is he'll somehow get a pass on the social values. But maybe not. I hope you're right. It surprised me that people actually came down on Gingrich. I expected him to say “that's old news” and have people say “oh, ok.” I just never know what's going to fly with the public any more. We allow such spin to rule us. Recently there have been bills to allow indefinite detention without trial, to allow the take-down of important websites for copyright violation (formerly a civil matter), and to allow the building of the XL Keystone pipeline that has great potential for all kinds of ecological and climate change problems. And people are veritably snoring through all that stuff because there's spin out there that says these things are not to be worried about. It's scary.
Skypixie0, while I'm sympathetic to some of your remarks, they're completely off-topic. Please try to keep comments on this thread limited to the question of what does or doesn't qualify Ron Paul for office. If you're not interested in discussion that, this isn't the thread for you. I'm moving your remarks and my reply to The Cornfield, though there will be a several hour administrative delay in them appearing since I have a few other things to do outside of Open Salon first.
If you must delete any comments of mine, please have the courtesy to NOT move them to a site they were NOT intended for.

The fact that you responded to my first comment is what led me to make further comments. I thought you'd seen the relevance to your blog. Since you do not see that relevance, it is pointless for you to move them somewhere they were never intended to be.

Thank you. Bye.
Amy, Paul's votes against those things are (he would claim) because of libertarian principles of *freedom*, not bigotry. (I don't believe that myself - and furthermore I think most libertarianism is a bunch of hooey [thanks a lot, Ayn]).

Kent - you're on the money......and, FWIW, a lot of the spin-guys out there are blathering on about this very point. Not to mention that it should register spontaneously with anyone out there with an ounce of consciousness...

Rarely have I see such a public display of petulant weaselhood. "I'm not going to talk about it anymore, so there!" Why is it so difficult to address past failings? Ignoring them just makes them loom larger and larger...until they messily explode.
Then there's the entire issue of "taking responsibility" as it applies to public figures (and higher-ups in private entities). What does it come down to in most cases? - No more than that walk to the podium and making the statement "I take full responsibility".

Doesn't it logically follow that when a process, decision, oversight, etc., results in consequences, so should the responsibility result in some consequence of considered relevance? What do these "responsibility takers" typically suffer beyond making the statement, that could reasonably be seen to have any scale of relevance? Even (rare as this may be) were they to lose their positions, they are typically so well situated and connected that they may have to forgo a bit of luxury until they are taken back into some fold of the good 'ol boys (and gals) club.

The groundskeeper at their country club would suffer worse consequences for getting fertilizer on their shoes accidentally.
hey kent think you have a valid point here. even though Im a ron paul fan its been bothering me a little bit too. I think he should issue a statement taking some kind of responsibility or issuing some kind of clarification. "I disavow them" is not really a real statement. was the whole newsletter not written under his permisison? thats a kind of outlandish scenario. I think there is a valid point here about "whose in charge here" that is slightly orthogonal to the "is ron paul racisit" questions...
The faults you criticize in Ron Paul pale so much in comparison to those of the other candidates and President Obama, it's rather puzzling to me why someone of your intelligence would even feel the need to expound on them .. unless you see him as otherwise viable, and I don't really get the sense you do.
No time to write anything more than my complete agreement. What you've written here mirrors a conversation we had at home. Rated.
Myriad, glad to hear some are talking this angle. (If I'd heard any, I'd have probably left it at that and gone on to write about other things. I have so many other post topics that have piled up when I've not had time to be writing.)

Sam, the question of what it means to take responsibility is another matter, I agree. But I tend to reason in modular fashion, as doing otherwise ends up down the Machiavellian “I don't like him so let's just pick an outcome we like and call it a day” way of reasoning. It's absolutely true that we need to see more consequence to politicians being responsible for things than we do. Although sometimes (not here) we have to also recognize that indeed they cannot do everything and forgive them some lapses. But that should be our judgment, not theirs.

vzn, yes, both lines of discussion need to be pursued independently, I think. I'm not trying to give him a pass on the racism stuff for sure, as I think that's a forseeable consequence of the politics he likes, and so it's a ntural refuge for people who think that way. Such people would not make good and fair policy for a pluralistic society, I think. I've often pointed out something that goes straight to the issue of Libertarianism: “Where there are no rules, bullies rule.” Bouncing back from the competence issue to the ideology issue, Paul is a supporter of what I'd call a “bullydom.” Thanks for visiting and thinking aloud with me.

Grace, I wrote the piece to add to the arsenal of reasons not to pick Paul as the candidate. Many are considering Paul as a possibly rational choice these days not because he's great in any of these areas but because other Republican candidates have been pushed so far to the Right that Paul looks a moderate by comparison. (He wants to shut down health care, education, EPA, etc. just lke the others, but he doesn't want to take away civil rights and he wants to end the wars and torture. So he's only half as bad ideologically by some measures.) My point here is that ideology is not the only way they should consider him. On grounds of competency, I have big reservations. As an independent voter who's probably going to designate Republican just for the fast-approaching primary, even though I'll almost surely vote Obama in the general, I've crossed Paul off of my list of people to vote for. I'm trying to pick someone who would be a rational fallback if Obama loses (which at this point seems a remote possibility, though fortunes change). Right now I'm looking at Roemer and Huntsman but until this fiasco I had thought I might hold my nose and vote for Paul. Roemer's anti-money stance is appealing but I wish he'd offer clearer support for the EPA and Climate; he's been criticizing the other candidates for their Climate stance, but criticism is cheap.
Susanne, thanks for stopping in. Glad I was able to give voice to such side conversations.
Add to all of this, Ron Paul has the charisma of a rutabaga.

Also, it is very sad to see that the Republican Party cannot find a quality candidate - none of the existing gaggle of Republican POTUS wannabes has a snowball's chance in hell of beating Mr. Obama.
suppose he is a racist homophobe, suppose the only other candidate is on record as supporting the invasion of iraq and promising to eliminate the iran 'threat.'

do you vote? for whom?

isn't the concept of leaving one man master of the nation a bit, 'medieval?'
Whistleberries, you're right, the field is pathetic. But the dialog may still be useful. Frankly, I wish someone had mounted a primary challenge against Obama. I support many of his recent shifts, but I think he'd have done that sooner if he'd had to in order to keep the base in line. We often speak about elections as if that's where things are decided, but a great deal is decided through the shift of people among parties and the corresponding shift in the voices of those in the parties; see my The “Two Unprincipled Parties” System for an elaboration.

al, there's not a vote scheduled on changing the way we do things, so this is a discussion within the framework we have. That's not to say I don't engage in other discussions, but I'm pretty modular about those discussions. I think all conversations have to be had within a frame of reference, and where that frame of reference can be practical and actionable, so much the better. We will have to vote, so a discussion of how to vote is relevant.
What an interesting take on this. I totally agree.
his name is on the newsletter! ... His Name Is On The Newsletter!! ... HIS NAME IS ON THE NEWSLETTER!!!

Paul's a profiteer in the long vein of chump fleecers who made a cool million on the racist mailers. He hides behind the Social Contract while attacking it during paid speeches to bumpkins- and wouldn't last a minute without it.
Spot on Kent. He's being weasely. I'm sure he was happy enough to take credit for whatever praise they attracted at the time.
Blue, thanks for chiming in with support.

Surfer, indeed. It's his responsibility, and probably indeed it's cynically intentionally. I don't mean at all to discount that as a possibility, only to say that as a point of argument, he's not qualified for office even if those other things that are probably true were not to be.

Abrawang, thanks for visiting. Yep, an exercise in strategic opportunism. (Maybe that's redundant.)
this was a pretty good writeup by sullivan on the issue

thinking more about this, I think we have to look at ron pauls record. there is not really anything racist in his public statements. I dont like all ron pauls positions. but Im willing to do a priority analysis here. ron paul is basically the ONLY candidate in the ENTIRE field, even among DEMOCRATS who unequivocally challenges the unrestrained WARMACHINE. even obama who claimed to do that, has folded his cards on entering the presidency, and his position on that now turns out to be clearly a hollow sham to anyone with half a brain. so theres lots of stuff about ron paul that I dont like, but Im willing to make a BET that his strong antiwar[machine] stance will survive his election, even as it does NOT in all other candidates. so yes, you have to read between the lines, you have to make a BET as a voter, and stuff that people say is a sure thing may not turn out to be that way. but I think its a very valid BET that ron paul would cut back the military to some reasonable level in office, and Im willing to "pay" for that on other issues that dont have as much significance or priority in my mind. so in that sense Im doing as a "potential" voter exactly what a president needs to do. priortize, choose his battles wisely. to me the unrestrained warmachine is the key issue of our times, and a life-or-death issue for the future of the country, and ron paul agrees, and you can "keep the change" on the rest.....
So RP could cut back the military? I'm not entirely conversant with your weird form of government, but it's my understanding that the prez per se has quite limited power, and the House and Congress have to come into alignment between themselves and pass something (hopefully more than the usual gas) before anything actually happens.
vzn, my point was this: Suppose indeed just for a moment that you thought he had a better ideological package than the others. And ignore all the racism stuff for the moment, I'm not trying to trap someone into saying they support that. But I mean suppose you thought “the war is what matters most, so I'll support him on that.” My point is that even then the problem is that he hasn't shown himself to be a good manager. He's got his theories of what he wants, but being President means being in charge of a lot of things and it means learning each and every day to so that you don't get snowed with so many things you must deal with that you never have time to get to the thing you promised or that you wished you would do. It's that skill of cutting through the smokescreen made by staff, by lobbyists, etc. that is important. Ron Paul has a skill of simply ignoring things that is hard to distinguish from the skill of wanting things to go away. The American people don't want an Ignorer in Chief even if some do want someone to cut intelligently. He hasn't shown his ability to make that distinction in a way that he can easily demonstrate.
Myriad, I think you're right he cannot per se cut back on the military. He can order the military back to the US. The Congress controls budget, he theoretically offers executive direction within that budget. Also, he has a veto over Congress, which I sometimes model as an occasional 1/6 vote in that it's capable of turning a requirement for a 1/2 vote to a requirement for a 2/3 vote, although the filibuster seems to have co-opted that power lately on such a uniform basis that that's all a mess. So mostly he has his role as Commander in Chief to deal with. And the bully pulpit, from which he can claim that a military that has been drawn back doesn't need as much budget and leave Congress to do the cutting.
sorry kent I think you make a plausible case but its based on a sham. as others have noted. your paragraph is very telling. lets just make a slight tweak to the wording.

"My point is that even then the problem is that he hasn't shown himself to be a good manager. He's got his theories of what he wants, but being President means being in charge of a lot of things and it means learning each and every day to so that you don't get snowed with so many things you must deal with that you never have time to get to the thing you promised or that you wished you would do. It's that skill of cutting through the smokescreen made by staff, by lobbyists, etc. that is important. PREZ OBAMA has a skill of simply ignoring things that is hard to distinguish from the skill of wanting things to go away. The American people don't want an Ignorer in Chief even if some do want someone to cut intelligently. He hasn't shown his ability to make that distinction in a way that he can easily demonstrate."

I think the whole newsletter thing is what the Elite has used to discredit paul in the past, and its not working as well this time around, and paul is surging in the polls, so you can see some mass & mounting panic in the Elite circles.... manifested as a coordinated, synchronized smear attack in the MSM.... truly a wonder to behold! can paul withstand it?
dude, full disclosure & deference to your intellectual position-- I am a realist & a cynic, and frankly, I will tell you kent, he has a snowballs chance in hell of surviving on this rare occasion when the Elite media guns are all lined up, as they are now....
vzn, you're assuming more than you should about my thoughts on Obama. The facts are different. I'm not going to replay that discussion, but I think you're wrong if you think that I'll say “oh goodness, if it wasn't fair to say about Obama I can't say it about Paul.” To some extent people got lucky with Obama but also to some extent supporters have been disappointed for what I might argue are exactly the reasons I'm saying. There are so many things he cares about that he has not done the things many wanted and yet at each point has deniability. So I don't see a contradiction.

I'm not trying to discredit Paul. He's doing enough of that himself. I'm not on that bandwagon, I'm just watching with no tears shed. I don't like the man. I don't find him harmless. But I wanted to point out that he needs to do more than show an interest in this or that outcome to be qualified for office. There are other independent things people are not scrutinizing and competence is one. And that means if someone clears him on this or that ideological ground, he's not home free.
"There are so many things [obama] cares about that he has not done the things many wanted and yet at each point has deniability. So I don't see a contradiction."
hey kent, sure, your position in this single post sounds well reasoned, but overall, combined with your stance on obama, in other posts, it MAKES NO SENSE. it is "transparently" not consistent. lets face it, you're clearly involved in the well-known psychological condition/trap/tendency to fit the facts to your feelings. your feeling is that you just dont trust ron paul, and its not really based on the facts.... now, please dont feel bad about this kent, because this is exactly the same reverse-engineered logic that most americans [hell, most HUMANS] use to make most major decisions in their lives, incl, and perhaps esp, stuff like "which president do I vote for, anyway?"
re ron paul, "I don't like the man. "
so kent, do you have enough control over your brain to figure out exactly WHY you dont like him? does it actually have something to do with newsletters published something like 2 decades ago under ron pauls name? what in the newsletters actually bothers you? or do you not like ron paul because the MSM TELLS you, you dont like ron paul? do you have the ability to actually determine the difference? I will admit, it is indeed quite subtle, and if you can actually articulate your real issue for YOU, outside of what the MSM tells you is the real issue, why it seems youve transcended more than 99% of the human race and reached the elite 1%, so to speak =)
ps fyi I enjoyed this well reasoned post/response/rebuttal by another elite open salon writer =)
I'm planning on writing a blog about the winnowing process in GOPland. Hint: There's a conspiracy theory I have.
vzn, I moving one of your comments and my reply to The Cornfield as my subjective judgment was that it was over the line in discussing me rather than the topic. I'm leaving this last one, though it pushes a fine line as well. There should be no need to make personal references to what I can and cannot do, to what is in my brain, or any other critical or taunting reference to me. Stick to the topic of Ron Paul.

I know the reasons why I don't like him, but they are not the subject of this blog so I'm not going to engage it at length as my argument does not hinge on the question. My point was that this is not an argument about him on the basis of whether I like him, but on the basis of competence.

You raised the issue of whether Obama was someone that could have had the same argument raised, and I think during his initial run for office the issue was raised. I was swayed that he had run an excellent grass-roots campaign and that it was the campaign itself that showed he had the management skills. Reports from people following him said he ran a very tight ship and showed strong executive capabilities during that campaign. And, in fact, I think he's shown that ability to manage in his Presidency. A subtle but related skill, though, which he has come to only slowly is the difference between being a Senator and being a President. He has not taken quickly to the bully pulpit and has tried to persuade in situations where he should have acknowledged his central role as President in being able to push an agenda. In fact, I don't think Ron Paul would make that mistake so I don't think he's lacking that. But I do think that the issue of organizational management is different than the issue of strategic management and that you have to have both. And I don't see it in Paul. What I see in Paul is someone who's used to having money roll in because there is a steady vapor pressure of people with a particular antipathy to certain cultural movements willing to just constantly send him money. That's not the same as being able to do a real movement. If anything, I see him succeeding in spite of poor management, not because of good management. That's just my judgment.

Am I even right all the time? I don't know. I have definite (if even sometimes changing) opinions. I don't assert I'm always right. I take a position and try to work it through. My asserting something here or in any of my posts is not a claim I will fight to the death over it. If I think I'm wrong, I'll just say so. If I need to change, I'll try to do that. Sometimes I'll say I'm doing that, but mostly I write way too long so sometimes I don't bother to identify such change even if I know of it. I reserve the right to learn and grow, so inconsistencies within my posts are of no matter. You can refer specifically to those inconsistencies and ask polite questions, but you may not make broad assertions that merely call me inconsistent as such assertions are neither adequately focused nor possible to respond to usefully. But I expect to be respected as if I mean what I say and am not being intentionally disingenuous at any point.

So you can discuss that aspect of him if you want, or compare my views of Obama and Paul. But if you stray again and start talking about me and my abilities, preferences, etc. whether consistent or inconsistent or whether fixed or changing, I'll stop the conversation in its tracks. If you find reason to criticize me or anyone posting comments here, do it in your own blog on your own time, not here. At the point where you think I'm being disingenuous, you do not belong here. This blog is for discussing things respectfully with others and having them treat me with respect in exchange.
Lefty, I'll look forward to your theory. You see the world from an interesting perspective and I'm glad you take the time to share it. Thanks for stopping in here, too.
vzn - I just read (and commented on) that post you linked to. "Well-reasoned" is not how I'd describe it.
vzn, as to that post you cross-referenced, I left my comments on it over there and won't repeat them here.
Kent, your point of view seems to be that, if Ron Paul didn't actually write or approve of the content of his newsletters, he was at least responsible for the content since the newsletters went out under his name and thus he should take more responsibility for the content. But is that really true?

It depends on what the purpose of the newsletters was. For example, we don't hold the OS editor responsible for everything that appears on the pages of OS, because the purpose of OS is to provide a venue in which anyone can publish most anything.

I think it is entirely possible that the purpose of Paul's newsletters -- in addition to making money -- was to publish a range of conservative opinion up to and including rants about race and gender and anything else that might stir the passions of "the faithful." The newsletter was obviously written for a narrow audience that enjoys this sort of thing. Right wing folks need to be maintained in a constant state of outrage and umbrage, and I suppose Paul's newsletters were designed to do that.

So for what do you want to criticize Ron Paul? Because he wanted to make a buck giving the faithful the kind of stuff they want to read? His readers wanted a certain product and Paul provided it and made money at it. I haven't seen any evidence to indicate that he agreed with the more controversial stuff.

I'm not going to vote for him for all sorts of other reasons, and the whole right-wing-daily-outrage thing doesn't appeal to me. But the newsletter "scandal" seems like a tempest in a teapot to me.
Mishima, his newsletters all bore his name. Just as I expect Bloomberg or Martha Stewart to oversee their respective publications, I expect Ron Paul to. It's OK with me if you disagree, but I think a lot of elections is everyone picking things to use to double-check a person's reasonableness. To me, I'd expect that if he was going to care about something, it would be something with his name on it. And if he wants to disclaim responsibility, I'd expect to see that same disclaiming pattern if he takes office in the US, with him saying “Sure, I'm President. But I don't agree these are things Presidents should do.” Open Salon, by the way, is not the Joan Walsh Gazette or the Kerry Lauerman Bugle. If they were named such, I'd expect those people to take more ownership of the content in some ways. The name is among those aspects that set the tone. That's what names do.
The theme of your post is Paul's alleged failure to take responsiblity for the content of the newsletters.

From what I've read, in 2008 Paul said this:

"When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publically taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name."

If "publicly taking moral responsibility" is not sufficient, then I am curious to know what would be sufficient.
Point. I guess.

Doesn't reassure me as to how he'd run the office of prez.
Okay, just looked at the full interview from Paul Levinson ( link ( I don't see how the extended version changes things. The interviewer was badgering Paul - but when someone says about something published under his name "gee I was busy, I don't know of any money made from the newsletter, I read it sometimes, I never read that stuff", it's still not reassuring. Hey, once upon a time I had a full-time job plus homemaker duties and I published a little newsletter that didn't even have my name except as editor, and I read every word, attributed everything, and sweated it. If somebody had pointed out racist passages (and what's with this nobody-said-nothin'-at-the-time jazz) retroactively, I'd have been horrified and humiliated. I'd even utter the a-word (apologized). Ron Paul's supporters seem to me to pretzelize themselves to defend him - not unlike the way Obama's supporters look to right-wingers, I guess.
Mishima, in the raising of my daughter, I've had a lot of opportunity to think about the question of what it is to apologize and take responsibility for something. Having kids forces you to learn to articulate things that you might think go without saying. Two things I have found myself saying to her more than once and that I know I'm not just making up because it's convenient here: (1) An apology is more than just words. In that regard, I don't like “sorry” even though I'm not sure Paul has uttered such a word. I prefer words that state the wrong or injustice that happened and that say what concrete action will be taken in the future to avoid a replay of that action. Absent that, no apology has occurred in my book. (2) Just because someone has wronged someone else and has attempted to make apology, that doesn't mean they are done hearing about the wrong. The notion of “All right already, I said I was sorry. What more do you want?” never plays well with me. And note, I haven't heard him say he was sorry; see point one.

But let's say even for a moment that he had done that. Another bit of wisdom I've offered with respect to a similar concept, “thank you” on more than one occasion is that gratitude should take as long or cost as much as the thing done. So if someone saves up all year to buy you something and you say “thank you” and think you're done thanking them, you're mistaken.

And I think the same is true of apologies. Race hatred, gay bashing, and other intolerant attitudes cause persistent damage throughout our society that affect people over long arcs of time. If those people seem genuinely unhappy about the lasting effects and end up repeating themselves on the point, then so be it. It's not their fault for continuing to be affected. What it is to take responsibility is to legitimize the hurt, even the lasting hurt, and that hurt is not legitimized by saying something in a moment like “I take responsibility” and then subsequently saying “What more do you want?” I think at minimum apologies of a more sincere kind are needed, promises that this would never happen in the future are needed, and acknowledgments that even if gripes occur in the future, words like: “You know, I've apologized for this in the past, but an apology doesn't really fix the hurt done, so I understand why people are still angry. I want to renew my sense of sadness that I didn't do better on that and remind you of these concrete steps I'd promised you I'd take and report on my progress in trying to make amends in the time since.”

No, I don't think we'll see that, and I think the reason we won't see it is because it's necessary to the complex dog whistle going on here that he merely stand up to the criticism but never say anything out loud to acknowledge in a legitimate way that a wrong was done. Doing so would then be repeated throughout Intoleranceville and he would become persona non grata there. By not saying anything, he allows them to think to themselves “The mainstream media has beaten him up for telling truth and he's my hero for not giving in and apologizing.” That's why the apology is so important here. It's just words, yes, but it's words that say “I have sided with the other team.” And by not saying any words, he seeks to have it both ways.

But why is this relevant to competence? To me it's relevant because one's competence is judged against what one seeks to achieve. We have nowhere a statement of what he sought to achieve. It may well be that he was not racist, but as some have noted, he profited handsomely from the enterprise. That makes him responsible. If his company had committed any of various crimes or torts, he'd be held to account. Why is he exempt here? He says because he was a poor publisher. That's what he said. So fine, we accept that theory. What is it about publishing that he wasn't able to do? Was it the reading? I'm going to guess he could read. I think it was that he didn't want to or couldn't manage. If he couldn't, that's bad. If he didn't want to, that's bad, too. It sounds a lot like Libertarianism, which is a very hands-off ideology. I have to think it's how he'd run a Presidency and it's not how I want it run.

What do I want him to do? I don't need him to do anything. He's done enough to tell him I'm not voting for him and that I'm not recommending him to anyone. And no, I didn't come into this with a closed mind. In fact, he was on my short list of people to vote for in the upcoming NH primary. I'm an independent and will designate Republican to vote in that primary. I want to make sure I have the best possible second choice if Obama fails. I have ruled out a number of candidates and it's been between Paul, Huntsman, and Roemer. None of these is a perfect choice, and I'd actually contemplated Paul on philosophical grounds, actually, no matter what people think. I think he's got terrible views on these matters of race and gay rights, but I think that's not exactly news in the Republican camp. All of them seem to. He is at least in favor of getting us out of wars and in favor of privacy. That seemed like a better package than some. But the idea that he thinks it's OK to take charge of something, like a newsletter, with himself at the top, and then to ignore it, is very troubling to me. I think he justifies it to himself by just saying “I get to choose what I have to care about and not, and the rest of everyone be damned.” And it's that which has decided me he's not the guy who will get my primary vote. I'm still up in the air between Roemer and Huntsman. I liked Huntsman on Climate but he recently caved on that. I'm hoping Roemer will be more clear about his stance; he's been critical of others on Climate but hasn't said in fact what his position is. Still, my point is not to open the debate on the whole field, only to defend any claim that I reached this competence assessment because I didn't like Paul's politics. As I wrote on twitter the other day: “@RonPaul, fixed surveyor's mark at fringe of Right as #GOP goes well beyond, seems now comparative moderate for being only 1/2 crazy.” Damnation with faint praise perhaps, but enough to defend the claim that I'm not seeking to disqualify him among Republican options.
1. Amy is dead-on right re: voting.
2. How Mish can even bother to defend the behavior is astonishing.
Thanks, Kent. r.
Kent, I agree with your assessment that although he may not have been responsible for the day-to-day activities of his various newsletters, the buck stops with him. As I read somewhere else (on the link I provided below I believe), would he have let a pro-choice article written by a “ghost writer” go through? I’m sure he wouldn’t.

In my book, what disqualifies Ron Paul is that he’s not a libertarian period. In fact, he’s fraud and a poser. Any real libertarians do not espouse the views discussed above and in his books (see link below). Furthermore, they don’t selectively choose subjects where the government should or shouldn’t intrude in people’s lives (e.g., personal drug consumption versus gay marriage). I could spend more time discussing these points, but I’ll leave that for another time.

I believe you may be interested in this CNN piece uploaded today:

Rep. Ron Paul's early book included controversial passages
Jonathan, thanks for reading and for registering your opinions.

Kanuk, those are some great points, well argued. Thanks.
♥╚═══╝╚╝╚╝╚═══╩═══╝─╚For the best insight on RP yet.
I think having social values compatible with the welfare of everyone in the community *is* a measure of competence.
Sandra, I guess it depends on what the goal is. And to some extent the context of this discussion is to learn “what was Ron Paul's goal?” If he wants to claim he didn't know what was going on, then I infer he wasn't very competent at running his paper. If he did know what was going on, and was doing this intentionally, then the way I'd phrase it is that he was competent at a goal we don't want (though you're saying we could say he was incompetent at goals we want). But usually competence is a measure not against an external goal but against what one sets out to do, whatever that thing is. I see Lex Luthor as a sometimes very competent nemesis of Superman, for example, if that helps.

But to the question of whether Ron Paul intended these things, The Washington Post offers an interesting new story today suggesting Ron Paul did in fact sign off on some of these things.
RW, that's a pretty grim view of things, but thanks for sharing. :)
How can you excuse Obama for his neo-con actions while at the same time, saying that for RP, "the buck stops here".

Seriously, Obama's first term is virtually indistinguishable from what a GWB third term would have looked like.

Instead of trying to tear down Ron Paul (who, BTW, I believe to be very flawed), how about producing a Democratic challenger who holds liberal or even moderate views, rather than excusing Obama for his evil bloodthirsty policies.