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The Haunting of Ron Paul

Newsletters have come back from the dead to doom him

Marc Tracy
December 22, 2011
Rep. Ron Paul last month.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Rep. Ron Paul last month.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

What’s amusing about the controversy this week over Rep. Ron Paul’s past sponsorship of newsletters that were regularly racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic is that it isn’t news at all. Frequent Tablet Magazine contributor James Kirchick broke the story in The New Republic in January 2008. The very blog you now read cited Kirchick’s article seven months ago, when Paul announced his candidacy. But it’s only this week, with Paul actually taking a lead in many polls for the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, that several outlets (including The Scroll) had occasion to rehash this yet again and much larger outlets brought up the fact that, for example, a newsletter published under Paul’s name and reportedly written by a close adviser questioned whether the Mossad was responsible for Al Qaeda’s bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, and that Paul has issued no more than un-credible denials and cursory disavowals.

Yesterday, CNN’s Gloria Borger tried to pin him down, and he got angry and walked away. Watch:

What strikes me as notable about this encounter isn’t Paul’s continued refusal to truly address these allegations. And, tempting as it is, I’m not going to read too much into Paul’s anti-media dismissal that issues like this are incendiary “because,” he told Borger, “of people like you” (yes, of course she’s Jewish). What is most consequential is the body language: he seems defensive; he seems artificial; he seems like a politician. Paul’s great gift has been that he is outside the mainstream of politics: advocating things like drug legalization, opposing things like the Patriot Act, taking a host of positions regularly (and frequently fairly) deemed wacky—and never apologizing. Today, though, Ron Paul seems like just another politician. That’s not why his political career deserves to die, but that’s what is going to kill it.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.