How will Paul Ryan’s former black girlfriend factor into the election?
posted at 1:13 pm on August 22, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
On April 30 of this year, conservative writer Naomi Schaefer Riley took aim in print at the field of black studies. In a post at The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Brainstorm blog, she opined:
You’ll have to forgive the lateness but I just got around to reading The Chronicle’s recent piece on the young guns of black studies. If ever there were a case for eliminating the discipline, the sidebar explaining some of the dissertations being offered by the best and the brightest of black-studies graduate students has made it. What a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap. The best that can be said of these topics is that they’re so irrelevant no one will ever look at them.
She went on to offer specifics, but that opening paragraph likely provided all the rope readers of the liberal publication needed. Some 6,500 of them signed a petition calling for Riley’s dismissal. A week later, after initially asking for a healthy debate and even publishing a rebuttal by three of the dissertation authors, the Chronicle’s editor, Liz McMillen unhealthfully capitulated. She announced Riley’s termination in a contrite note to readers. So much for freedom of speech.
But the really interesting part of the story was the comments section, where a number of readers insisted that firing wasn’t enough for Riley. One wrote that she needed to be “re-educated” by being forced to “spend more time around African-Americans.” That shouldn’t be a tall order for Riley, whose husband—Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley—is black.
Well, at least his skin is black. Riley, like his wife, is conservative and therefore gets painted with the same broad brush as Thomas Sowell and Clarence Thomas, who are denounced in one of the dissertations because of their hostile political views.
All of which brings us to GOP vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan’s dating history. It has been reported at several websites, including the Daily News blog The Rumble, that Ryan had a black “college sweetheart.” The quoted phrase is the term used by Keli Goff of The Root, who seems to be the ultimate source of the claim.
Goff (who also reports that Ryan’s sister-in-law is black) doesn’t provide any information about the young woman or the alleged relationship. She does get right to what she considers to be the “million-dollar question”:
Is the fact that Ryan has dated interracially a noteworthy detail to consider when analyzing his politics and policies?
Goff could have answered the question to her own satisfaction if she had bothered to investigate the girlfriend’s political leanings. That information will surely come out in time anyway if the allegation is true. If the former girlfriend is black in the manner of the aforementioned Justice Thomas or Mssrs. Sowell and Riley, then Goff might refer you back to an earlier column of hers titled “What We Know About Paul Ryan and Blacks.” Among the things she claims to “know” is that Ryan “has a dismal record on civil rights” (the NAACP says so), and that he “doesn’t appear to be a fan of the poor.” The basis of this second assertion is an article at The Examiner noting that (1) Ryan is a self-described fan of the writings Ayn Rand and (2) that Rand had no use for altruism. Again, if Goff had bothered to do her homework, she would have discovered that Ryan’s admiration for Rand is limited to her “articulating the pitfalls of statism and collectivism.” He told Politico that he openly rejects Rand’s philosophy.
The answer to the question that forms the title of this post would appear to be that the black girlfriend story, if borne out, will have no impact on Ryan’s standing among liberals, even if the woman turns out to be a militant progressive herself. Goff makes that clear at the end of her article:
If you want to know where a politician’s heart lies when it comes to a particular community, it may be best to look at that person’s policies—such as his or her record on civil rights—rather than personal relationships.
Paul Ryan, in other words, is damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.
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