Thank heavens for Ron Paul. Of all the candidates running for US president in the spring of 2007, Ron Paul has clearly done more than the rest of them put together to inject serious talk about real issues. Whether you agree with his outlook on any given issue, he’s got a serious and well considered viewpoint that bears consideration.
For example, I was very glad to see him in the first debate hosted by Chris Matthews on MSNBC. At one point, he asked about national ID cards. Oh yeah, good idea, fine, prudent thinking. Then the question got to Ron Paul, who had a big ol’ “hell no” answer, invoking the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Suddenly all these other Republican candidates are backpedaling as hard as they can. That was a valuable service to the public debate from Congressman Paul. I’m real glad he was there thumping that pesky Constitution.
I was also tickled with the early part of his performance in the second debate with Brit Hume on Fox. Hume came asking the candidates simply to name three programs they would eliminate to cut the budget. Tommy Thompson bragged on his 1900 gubernatorial vetoes, but couldn’t come up with even one little specific tiny federal program that he’d publicly commit to eliminating. That was pretty much the deal with all the other candidates – except of course for Ron Paul. He had three whole cabinet departments that he’d be happy to shut down – education, energy and homeland security. Now THAT’S answering the question. And if you’d ask him, I bet he’d come up with at least a couple more whole cabinet departments we could eliminate.
Most of all though, he’s a uniquely valuable presence in the Republican debates as the only anti-war candidate in the mix. He voted against the war in 2002, and he wants to shut it down NOW. It’s highly valuable to the public debate to have a candidate on that stage willing to make a principled constitutional argument against not just the details of how the Iraq war has been conducted, but against the whole thrust of our aggressive military involvement all around the world. Ron Paul demands a basic re-examination of our whole approach to foreign policy.
This is a good thing. For a whole bunch of reasons, it surely behooves us to reconsider why we’ve got US troops stationed in over 100 countries. How much of that actually serves vital US national security interests, how much is just a waste of limited resources, and how much is it just an invitation to get caught in the middle of other people’s conflicts and needlessly make enemies?
Ron Paul presents a strong classical conservative isolationist or libertarian point of view, demanding adherence to the letter of the US Constitution as the first prerequisite. That gives him a thoughtful and consistent point of view that is highly useful in debate.
The downside is that he’s an ideologue. That’s bad after a certain point. The defense is to say that he’s principled. That’s great, but adherence to ideology has a tendency to come at the expense of dealing with reality. As Robert Anton Wilson would say, the thinker part of the brain comes up with an idea, and the prover side proceeds to bend and twist and selectively cherry pick all the facts to prove their theory. As in the actions of the Catholic church in Kevin Smith’s movie, even a really good idea blindly or stupidly followed out can become a highly destructive Dogma.
This brings us to Congressman Paul’s famous dustup with Rudy Giuliani in the Fox debate. Ron Paul insists on applying the basic libertarian non-aggression principle to foreign policy – without regard to how that plays out in the real world. The basic point is that we’ll leave you alone if you’ll leave us alone. That’s so simple and reasonable. Any half sensible person or country can see that.
But we’re not even vaguely following the properly disentangled libertarian foreign policy, so obviously the reason people are attacking us is because we’ve been meddling in their part of the world. As he explained to Brit Hume, “Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.” This is an application of the basic “blowback” idea. “I believe sincerely in blowback. If we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and free. They attack us because we are over there.”
But of course, that’s turning a blind eye to the malicious and irrational nature of the enemies that we face. It’s careful editing of facts to get the result you want. Yes, sometimes our enemies claim they are attacking us because we’re in Iraq. But then they say a lot of things, don’t they? Watch closely, and you can see our enemies parroting back our own left wingers, bitching about lax US campaign finance laws and absolutely quoting Noam Chomsky.
Paul’s comments on the reasons they attacked us created something of an air ball in that debate, which Rudy Giuliani took for the easy layup. He expressed genuine and perfectly well justified resentment, and requested that the congressmen take back or modify his remarks that seemed pretty close to saying that we brought 9/11 on ourselves. He most certainly would not do that.
The other Republican candidates were all kicking their own asses that Rudy got to that loose ball before they did. But maybe Mitt Romney can get some of that next time they’re together. He’s obviously quite the brainiac, and a particularly smooth talker. Maybe he can ask Paul what he thinks would be the results of US flatly pulling up stakes in the Middle East as he wants and coming home. Would that soothe the Islamists heated hatred, or massively embolden them?
Also, is it a matter of principle that we would have no right to militarily prevent Iranian mullahs from getting a nuclear bomb? Also, would crazy mullahs with a bomb be better than violating our supposed principles? If your principles say that we don’t have a right to aggressively defend our lives from people bent on killing us, then your principles are not valid moral precepts. You may need to re-examine your premises.
But he won’t get any chance to make such an argument to Paul if the fixers have their way. By the end of the Fox debate, there was already grumbling coming back from SC locals that Paul should be excluded from future debates. Michigan party chairman Saul Anuzis said he would be circulating a petition to have Paul excluded from future debates.
Anuzis called the comments “off the wall and out of whack.”
“I think he would have felt much more comfortable on the stage with the Democrats in what he said last night. And I think that he is a distraction in the Republican primary and he does not represent the base and he does not represent the party,” Anuzis said during an RNC state leadership meeting.
“Given what he said last night it was just so off the wall and out of whack that I think it was more detrimental than helpful.”
Anuzis said his petition would go to debate sponsors and broadcasters to discourage inviting Paul.
Mr. Anuzis is wrong. Paul’s views are not just off the wall. He may be wrong, but it’s not unreasonable to consider the possibility that we are exacerbating our problems by our foreign policy. Moreover, a lot of good patriotic Americans think just that.
As to detrimental, Ron Paul is the only character in the Republican primaries causing much of any actual debate at all, certainly in the critical area of foreign policy. The other candidates are largely all in agreement. Having someone with a clear and sharply different outlook on the stage is not detrimental, but absolutely essential to having any real debate at all. Basically, he’s the one guy on that stage you know is saying just exactly what he really thinks, not just figuring on how to bump the boobs with some red meat.
Then there are those who choose to deal with Paul’s challenge to our foreign policy by just making crap up by accusing him of advocating nutsy 9/11 conspiracy theories, which he most certainly does not. Nonetheless, according to Fox News John Gibson: “According to a recent Rasmussen Report poll, 35 percent of Democrats think President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand. The so-called 9/11 Truth Movement has already infected people like Rosie O’Donnell and one in three Democrats, and many other people, Americans evidently, including Congressman Ron Paul.” Ron Paul has never said anything like that George Bush was in on 9/11. Gibson’s talking out his hat.
Then you’ve got Michelle Malkin. I’m inclined to like her cause she’s a hottie, and being all crazy radical only makes her hotter. Nonetheless, in regard to her leading the charge against Ron Paul, the most charitable interpretation of her comments would be to say that she’s a lying bitch. She strains a half dozen different directions to portray Paul as believing that 9/11 was an inside job, but he simply does not. Look at the main quote from the debate that set this off about why they attacked US. “They” would clearly be referring to Islamic radicals attacking US – as opposed to the CIA or some other US government agents.
Ron Paul does not have great faith in government investigations generally, which point Malkin carefully tries to conflate with being a 9/11 conspiracist. She makes a point of highlighting this Ron Paul quote: “Too often investigations on almost any issue is usually a cover-up.” So distrusting the government’s investigations of itself marks you as a nutjob? She also highlighted this as proof of Paul’s lunacy: “It will be a little bit better now with the Democrats now in charge of oversight.” Wait now, Ron Paul thinks the opposition party might do a better job of oversight than the president’s own party? That’s just beyond the pale for public debate! Get this guy off the stage!
In short, Malkin wishes to insist that any position other than supporting the current foreign policy and complete trust in the integrity of the administration is the same thing as being a tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist who thinks Bush was in on 9/11. Suspecting that administration backed investigations might go into CYA mode rather than delivering full truthfulness is absolutely not the same thing. Michelle Malkin knows better when she says it.
Meantime, they could thin out the ranks for the Republican debate. There appears to be little or no public support for most of these guys other than obviously McCain-Romney-Giuliani. What are any of the other six Republican candidates adding to the debate? Not much, and they have almost no public support. If they got lost on the way to the next forum, no one would much miss their input.
Ron Paul, on the other hand, has more than earned his place on the stage. The fact that his ideas so displease some Republican operatives is a pretty good argument for his continued presence right there.
On top of which, he certainly and unmistakably has quite a few supporters. Numerous Paul critics have complained or mocked the army of Paul supporters coming down on them. Paul has won or placed high in most polls on who won the debates, including those by the event sponsors. He doesn’t make much impact so far in some of the polls, but then again he’s not even listed as a choice in a lot of them. Apparently he’s also currently #4 in Republican fundraising.
Personally, I regret that I can’t support his candidacy. I was glad to vote for him as a Libertarian candidate in the 1980s. But we clearly could not in fact trust Ron Paul as commander in chief. For starters, we’d be crippled by a leader who has already conceded what Ayn Rand would call “the sanction of the victim.” Hey, your own president says that you brought a lot of this on yourselves. How could we then even pretend to justify defending ourselves? Then we just start withdrawing our worldwide military presence wholesale. Whatever libertarian candyland the congressman may construct in his mind, in the real world we’d be chum in the water.
So let me wrap up then with one of the most unholy statements I’ve ever made. If it came down to a November 2008 match-up of Republican Ron Paul vs Democrat Hillary Clinton, I’d have to vote for Hillary. Rand forgive me, but I’d trust her as commander in chief over the sincere, thoughtful, consistent and blindly idealogical Ron Paul. All the groovy tax cuts in the world won’t do US much good if we’re getting eaten alive by evil bastards because we’re too principled to protect ourselves. Even the dreaded Hildebeast gets that point. She knows she can’t get more taxes out of US if we’re dead.
But Ron Paul has a lot of valid points to contribute to the debate, and represents in parts the views of many people not otherwise represented in the presidential primary debates. In particular, most of the country is now against the Iraq war, and Ron Paul is the only candidate in the Republican primaries representing that view. For that reason alone, he deserves a seat at the table.Powered by Sidelines