The Definition of a Smear

I'm going to try not to make a habit of talking about Ron Paul's campaign too much on this blog, but there's one thing that I have to get off my chest, and that's all this talk about Paul's alleged ties with racists. Here's the accusations of which I'm presently aware:

These are the accusations I find most serious and potentially damaging; I'm sure there's more dirt out there.

So, let's assume for the moment that all of these accusations are damning - that they demonstrate Paul's association with the far Right. OK, so if Paul is an abject racist, where is all the racist legislation? After all, if Paul's alleged racism is dangerous to the country, it's because he will use his position of authority and power to advance a bigoted agenda. So show me when, in his capacity as a member of Congress, he has legislated in line with the hateful ideas he's purported to hold?

I don't think anybody will be able to meet this challenge because Paul's political philosophy would expressly prevent him from acting on these opinions, even if he actually held them*. The whole reason you're supposed to keep racists and bigots out of government is because they're going to use the power and authority of government to advance their extremist agenda. Well, where's the agenda, handwringers?

People who disagree with you - even people who hold beliefs and commit acts that you find abhorrent - vote. And I guarantee you that somebody, somewhere, whose views you find reprehensible has voted for a candidate that you've voted for. Somebody, somewhere, who's an absolute low life has contributed to a candidate that you've contributed to. What exactly does that demonstrate?

Here's a news flash: some racists and bigots like individual liberty and small government. I don't blame them - I like small government and individual liberty, too! And because Paul has a principled position on the authority of government, and has backed that position up with his actions his whole life, which should I use as the standard for judging the man: the accusations of those who make theater out of elections, or the evidence of a man's life?

Now, I want to be clear: I don't think everybody who brings these issues up about Paul is necessarily engaging in a smear campaign. These matters should be aired and discussed. It becomes a smear campaign when writers skip presenting the facts before they draw their conclusions, and jump straight to presenting the conclusion as a given. The Orcinus blog has been relatively even-handed on this, even though their opinion is implicitly anti-Paul; others not so much.

Regardless of people's intentions, though, this is all amounting to a smear: an effort to make unsubstantive accusations and draw tenuous connections between parties to indirectly manipulate the perception of a candidate. Now, that said, I've gone on record in the past as saying Paul should respond to the accusations. I think refusing to address them now just gives opponents opportunities to bring these issues up later in the campaign. But that is a strategic issue; it is not a substantive one. Paul has lived a demonstrably virtuous life; even if he were a racist bigot (and I don't think there's any convincing evidence that he is) he's still better than the other candidates because he's demonstrated his commitment to freedom, limited government, and personal responsibility for decades. It is on those latter items, not his racism, that his enemies truly consider him an extremist.

And I think that's all there is to say on the matter. Happy thanksgiving everybody!

* I don't like his nationalist position on immigration, but it doesn't make him any more racist than any of the other Republican candidates who are anti-immigrant.

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Written on Thursday, November 22, 2007