Start with the point that Alex Massie makes, which should in fact be the jumping off point for any discussion of this: Ron Paul isn't going to be president, and he isn't going to be the nominee, and everyone knows or should know it:
[O]utside the wholly committed, Paul's support is in large part a well-deserved protest vote against the dreadfulness of the other Republican candidates. Again, there's nothing wrong with this. But one should admit it, not try and pretend that it's not really all that important or it's just old news...And of course it would be important if this were Romney because Romney might be the next President of the United States. Ron Paul, who is not a very convincing racist, will not be and so it is easier to forgive or quietly ignore these awkward blemishes. It's not disqualifying because he won't really win so let's just talk about the better stuff, ok? That's fine but you can see why this might be a tough sell to people who don't already know the whole story.So support for Paul from folks such as Andrew Sullivan and E.D. Kain and Conor Friedersdorf and others should be understood, then, as a protest vote.
Which then leads to the next question: a protest against what?
If it's a single-issue protest, then I don't think it matters very much who Ron Paul is at all. If support for Paul means opposition to the War on Drugs, or torture, or an internationalist foreign policy at all, or modern government...he'll do, more or less.
But if one believes that there's something really wrong with the current Republican Party, then it matters a lot what baggage Paul brings to the party. Look -- a protest vote is a symbolic vote. So symbols matter. If you believe that part of what's wrong with the GOP is casual indifference or even hostility to science and facts, then Ron Paul's goldbuggery really does matter a lot. If you believe that part of what's wrong with the GOP is bigotry, or tolerance of bigotry, or a point of view that being accused of bigotry is a greater evil than actually practicing bigotry -- then the newsletters matter a lot. If he's going to be your symbolic way of protesting what's wrong with the Republican Party, you had better be very clear on what he symbolizes.
Just don't tell me, as Kain and Fredersdorf do, that publishing ugly newsletters is bad, but not as bad as various policies that the president or the other Republican candidates support. That's the wrong standard; it's the standard by which to judge an actual candidate for president. Supporting Paul isn't about that. You don't have to convince anyone that he'd be a good president; you don't have to believe it yourself. Basically, if you believe he's the right protest candidate to change what ails the GOP , I think you have the wrong guy; if you're just using him for a particular issue position, then there's no need to even pretend that he'd make a good president or to hesitate at all in rejecting whatever baggage comes with him.