As most readers of this blog know, I’ve pretty well stayed out of this issue. I’ve never been all that interested in stupid political theater, preferring to deal with the ideological issues instead. I’m a lot more of a policy wonk than a political chess player.
That being said, Doug’s criticism of Ron Paul’s handling of the Don Black contribution has brought a lot of traffic here, and most of it to rip him a new one. And Doug and his detractors largely appear to be talking past each other. So, as a Ron Paul supporter who has some issues with the campaign’s handling of this issue, allow me to try to bridge the gap.
First things first: I don’t believe Ron Paul has any racist intentions, I don’t believe Don Black’s contribution buys any favor from Ron Paul, and thus the contribution itself doesn’t bother me. As one blogger/commenter (Don LLoyd) stated, it’s a lot better that Don Black doesn’t have $500 than if he does, so I’d almost rather see Ron Paul do something with that money rather than return it to Don Black.
The Ron Paul campaign, of course, has been clearly stating that the contribution carries no promise that Ron Paul will work to enact any of Don Black’s racist policies, and thus I don’t think that a guilt-by-association should be a valid criticism of Ron Paul here. I would say that those who criticize Doug firmly believe what the Ron Paul campaign has said– as I do– and think this is much ado about nothing.
The problem is that there’s a blind spot when you get to the American public. Ron Paul can speak until he’s blue in the face about how the contribution doesn’t buy favor with him. But the public doesn’t believe it. They’ve heard that tune before. It’s what every politician says when an issue like this comes up, and then the public watches as the politician gets elected and rewards those contributors.
I don’t believe Paul would do that. Ron Paul’s supporters don’t believe Ron Paul would do that. I don’t think Doug Mataconis believes Ron Paul would do that. But does the American public believe that? After watching politician after politician break similar promises and guarantees, why should they believe, considering the little that they know about the man, that Ron Paul would be any different?
Ron Paul is attempting to fly above all this as if it can’t touch him. It’s a dangerous gamble, and one that I personally believe to be a bad decision. I like the idea of taking that $500 and donating it to a charity that is opposite Don Black’s goals. That has the ability to placate all sides in this mess. Ron Paul gets good press, he wipes his hands clean of Don Black without actually giving Don Black his money back (to be used for unknown/nefarious purposes), and a worthwhile charity gets a nice bit of press and $500. For all that, Ron Paul doesn’t need to scrutinize his donor lists. After all, with the internet watchdogs on the case, these things come up on their own, without the campaigns having to work to uncover them. Everybody wins.
Ron Paul had the chance to take a negative issue and spin it into a positive. Instead, he’s taking that negative issue and treating it like a non-issue. That might be acceptable if you’re polling at 40%, but not when you’re polling at 7%. Doug’s posts indicate to me that he believes the Ron Paul campaign is being run badly. Issues like this make me think the same. I want to see Ron Paul win the nomination and be elected President. However, I believe that this issue will turn off the American public, regardless of Ron Paul’s integrity. I worry that this issue is scuttling Ron Paul’s chances to win the nomination, and that is why I’m pained to see how it’s being handled.