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Wed., Feb. 6, 2008

Our view: Dodging scrutiny

So which Republican candidate for president drew about 900 people on 48 hours’ notice to a Spokane appearance on a snow-clogged day? The same one who raised more money that any other GOP candidate in the third quarter of 2007.

Ron Paul supporters know the answer, and they’re not surprised many people would get it wrong. Their attitude about Paul’s media coverage is nicely captured in a recent letter in this paper:

“The question is no longer ‘Who is Ron Paul?’ It’s ‘Where is Ron Paul?’ Fox News failed to invite him to the last Republican debate in New Hampshire. MSNBC invited him to their debate but pretended he wasn’t there. Other media outlets (including print) have ignored his campaign for president as much as possible, barely even mentioning his second-place finishes in Nevada and Louisiana.”

While it’s true that the good news about a long-shot candidacy gets relatively scant attention, it’s also true that bad news won’t be treated to the daily media inquiries faced by those with a realistic chance of winning.

Take, for instance, the issue of bigoted comments that appeared in newsletters under Ron Paul’s name. In early January, the New Republic magazine dug up some editions from the late 1980s and early 1990s and printed much of what was written.

Now, imagine the media frenzy had the newsletters appeared under the name of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain or Mitt Romney. Imagine them being tethered to a description of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as “our annual Hate Whitey Day” or a suggestion that the Los Angeles riots stopped because “it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.”

Would they be able to attribute the problem to “bad editing,” as Paul did in Spokane? Would they be able to keep the author or authors’ names secret when explaining that they did not write the articles?

Not a chance. They’d get the typical scandal treatment. Quotes from those newsletters would be featured day and night on TV news channels. Print outlets would launch investigations to unearth the culprits. Supporters would not be able to toss off the comments as old news. They would have to face up to the reality that unless a more detailed explanation was forthcoming, their favorite candidate was toast.

Such is not the case with Ron Paul. The adoring throngs continue to show up in person and spread the word via the Internet. And the money continues to pour in. That’s not to say that some fans are not troubled. For instance, libertarian-minded Reason magazine has written supportive articles about Paul’s candidacy, but the editors have made it clear that the bigoted writings are a big problem and they’d like more answers.

So while Paul and his supporters continue to clamor about media inattention, maybe they ought to be quietly grateful.

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