(By the way, who, exactly, wrote the memo that told Slate columnists to step up the twitterpace of their output to Swoony Preteen level? I keep waitin' for Yglesias to post his dry-cleaning bills.)
Now, two things here, right off the bat. One: Weigel's the guy who earned the eternal admiration of Huffington Post liberals by bravely saying "Rush Limbaugh is a racist" everywhere except in print. And "resigning" over it, after one of those rare outbreaks of "conservative" outrage, when it did become public, before--Fortune smiles on the saintly--emerging 48 hours later with a gig at the Post-owned Slate, where everyone is expected to be a libertarian who sneers at Republican racism and backwoods rabidity, the better to excuse his own Republicanism.
I did not understand then, and do not now, why calling the Republican party "partly racist" is the mark of anything other than 1) having paid a minimal amount of attention to politics sometime during the last hundred years, and 2) the ability to type. The only cause of Weigel's célèbre in liberal circles was that the Right was outraged. It apparently never occurred to anyone to consider that it was outraged not by what he wrote, but by what he thought and didn't write.
Second: it's fucking Iowa. Paul is roundly, and pointedly, ignored by the Press until he becomes the latest piece of flotsam to wash ashore from that shipwreck of trainwrecks known as the Republican Presidential Pre-primaries. Then someone in the Press decides to take a look at, not so much the crackpot shit that Paul actually espouses, but the signifier of crackpot shit which was exposed about him the last time he ran for national office.
Sure, sure: it's too much to ask that the Press treat this stuff to the level of respect and attention it actually deserves; they've got to print something, after all, and please don't ask that it be real news. But why is it too much to ask that the obvious trend in Republican primary preference, the remarkable elevation and rapid descent of the Not Romney Lunatic of the Month that's been going on since last January, be reported as though the stenographer has eyes? "Ron Paul latest piece of rotting junk unearthed in furious Republican tunneling to the bottom"?
That's not Weigel's fault, he's just a part of it. But tell me, where are the brave anti-racist stands now that they're well known? Answer: right where they always were, in the easy dismissal of ugly traits most sane people dismiss out of hand.
Somehow the story--possibly the major one of our times--of how the Reagan party gets away with pandering to racists while maintaining the support of hundreds of pundits who abhor racism is perpetually lost under the noses of the Press. But Weigel compounds this--or obscures it--by letting the polls decide whether the "old news" of Paul's newsletters is important. Republicans say no! Liberals being joined by conservatives! Gay liberal bellwether Dan Savage doesn't care!
By itself this would merely amount to yet another example of the mass-market press defending the script, rooting for the horserace, and avoiding heavy lifting. But Weigel decides, simultaneously, to get miffed that the Times story on those newsletters--written, of course, after the Paul surge--ignored the contribution he and Julian Sanchez made to the story four years ago at Reason.
Last week, I quietly harrumphed about this big New York Times take-out on Ron Paul's old extremist ties, reminding readers that Julian Sanchez and I reported a lot of this stuff first. Sanchez, who's now at the Cato Institute, hits the Grey Lady a little harder. He has a good reason.
The implication [of the NYT story] is that even though the newsletters were a focus of national attention four years ago, Paul’s fellow travelers were content to gloss over this ugly history—quietly complicit in this pandering to racism—until the bold bloodhounds at the Times sniffed out the scoop. It looks rather different if the Times is just rehashing the highlights of what a libertarian magazine explored in greater details years ago.
Now, I don't know what the bold bloodhounds at the Times are doing, or implying, about the story. I don't care enough to know. Or, to rephrase that, it doesn't make one bit of difference to the real story. If Libertoonians were aghast at Paul's racist, homophobic, Xenophobic, and anti-Semitic newsletters four years ago, or fifteen years ago, then they've done precious little to show it. You can't simultaneously denounce racism and pretend it has no consequence unless your poll numbers plummet. You can't crab that the Times has no sense of history, then write as if the last 23 1-/2 hours have settled all issues for all time. You can't rely on Dan Savage to tell you whether you should be outraged by blatant homophobia in one particular national candidate, but not another.
Unless you're a libertarian, I mean. Then anything but self-awareness is permitted.