Here I thought that serious scrutiny of Ron Paul’s brief newsletter-publishing career would come after he won the Iowa caucuses. No, sir. CNN ropes Paul into an interview with Gloria Borger. In her corner: A verite camera (why is it shot like this?) and a bunch of questions about the Ron Paul Survival Report. In his corner: A microphone he can take the hell off.
Borger, like CBS News before her, makes an awkward transition – Paul is no longer a wacky kewpie doll, but a candidate she wants to pin down on something she’s briefed herself on. Paul makes her job easy, because he doubles down on the claim that he basically shot off the newsletters without reading them. (I want to meet someone who subscribed to this, and see what he thinks!)
PAUL: I never read that stuff. I was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written. And it’s been going on 20 years, that people have pestered me about this, and CNN asks me every single time. When are you gonna wear yourself out? When are you gonna do that?
BORGER: Is it legitimate? Is it a legitimate question to ask that something went out in your name?
PAUL: And when you get the answer, it’s legitimate you sort of take the answers I give. You know what the answer is? I didn’t write them. didn’t read them at the time and I disavow them. That is the answer.
BORGER: It’s legitimate, it’s legitimate. These things are pretty incendiary.
PAUL: Because of people like you.
BORGER: No, no, no, no. Come on. Some of this stuff was very incendiary. Saying, you know, in 1993, the Israelis were responsible for the bombing of the World Trade Center.
PAUL: Okay. Goodbye.
The mic is off. Borger is apologetic, as someone who just won an argument can afford to be. “Thank you congressman,” she says. “I appreciate you answering the questions, and you understand it’s our job to ask them.”
So: The floodgates are at least inching open. It’s now comfortable for CNN and CBS to pepper Paul with these questions. (He says CNN “asks me every single time,” but he’s done scores of CNN interviews since 2008 where this never came up.) He has answered some of the questions, but only some – he has never said who wrote the offending stuff, and whether he still associates with the author. I think that’s the wound that the press can keep poking. Imagine a less sui generis politician – imagine, say, Mitt Romney being found out for having published internal Bain memos, or something, that indulged in conspiracy theories. The media wouldn’t let him off if he just said someone else must have written them.