I first heard of US Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul via LewRockwell.com, a libertarian, "palaeoconservative" news site/blog that I had been keeping an eye on for a while.
LRC articles tend to be a curious mix of common sense (eg, their views on the Bush wars) and crackpotness (eg, their regular tirades against evolution). Recently I exchanged a couple of mails with Lew Rockwell on the evolution/creationism question and why a "libertarian" website should promote Christian fundamentalism. The answer seemed to be that it's Lew's site and he'll post whatever he likes. (I may revisit this shortly.)
As for Paul, he's stirred up a lot of people via his no-nonsense philosophy: constitutionalism, limited government, sound money (based on the gold standard), non-interventionist foreign policy. It is probably the last two that have attracted a lot of people, from the left as well as the right: the falling dollar and the Iraq disaster clearly worry a lot of Americans but are not being addressed very much by the candidates, especially on the Republican side. (Also in common with liberals, he opposes the war on drugs and the numerous infringements on civil liberties committed by the Bush administration.) Regardless of what one thinks of his extreme laissez-faire economic and social philosophy, his vision of a non-interventionist US is a tempting one.
But more recently, Paul has (not for the first time) been attacked, particularly in a recent article by James Kirchick in The New Republic, over newsletters that went out under his name in the 1980s and 1990s that express virulently racist, anti-semitic and xenophobic views. Paul's official response has been that he did not edit those newsletters or approve the articles in question, denounces such "small-minded thoughts", and takes responsibility for not overseeing better what went out under his name. Meanwhile, LewRockwell.com was full of infuriated posts claiming that all this was old hat and already adequately addressed, and attacking Kirchick for his young age and his alleged pimples.
But inquiring minds elsewhere wanted to know: if not Paul, who wrote those newsletters? Now Reason magazine thinks they know the answer: Lew Rockwell.
To an outsider like me, Reason's article raises serious questions. Even if Rockwell himself did not pen all (or any) of the offending articles, he seems to have had editorial oversight of the newsletter and undoubtedly approved the articles. And in contrast to the furious response to the New Republic article, I saw no mention, let alone discussion, of the allegation against Rockwell on LRC.
And what of Paul? Lew Rockwell is not a former rogue writer whose identity is long-forgotten. He is closely associated with the Paul campaign and his website has been the most consistent cheerleader for him. If he was the author, it is inconceivable that Paul was unaware of it; the decent thing would have been for Rockwell to raise his hand, and recant his views (one is allowed to change one's opinions, after all). And if Rockwell was not the author, surely he'd have denied it unequivocally by now.
It very much looks like the articles had, at the very least, Lew Rockwell's approval, and probably his authorship; and for Paul to finger Rockwell at this stage would be devastating for both of them. I await the outcome of all this with great interest. Most likely there will be no confirmation or denial of the authorship; the negative publicity will have its effect on Paul's numbers, his campaign will fizzle out, and LRC will continue as it used to, little-known outside a certain fringe group of libertarians.
Pity. Paul and Dennis Kucinich were the only candidates talking about the war and civil liberties. They'll both be out of the race soon. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.