The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Washington Post, Ron Paul, Strict Libertarianism

Bill Fleming suggests from a different thread that we discuss Ron Paul, and specifically, a Washington Post column by Michael Gerson, which you can read here.

Michael Gerson is an excellent writer and his analysis of the Ron Paul candidacy is a good one. Of course, as a liberal writer, nothing could make him happier than to have the Republicans cast Paul out in such a manner as to incite him to run as an independent, split the GOP and assure an Obama victory.

Paul's politics resound with the conservative poor. (There's a term you don't often see.) His isolationist mantra makes no more sense than did William Jennings Bryan's.

Isolationism is impractical in the modern world. Jefferson's inaugural address admonition, "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none..." does not work in the 21st Century. James Monroe's Monroe Doctrine: "In the wars of the Europlean powers, n matters relating to themselves, we have never taken part, nor does it comport with our policy, to do so." was fine for 1823. Iran and North Korea didn't have nuclear capability.

We live in a global world. We borrow from our enemies and loan to our friends. The world is a political jumble and simply declaring our neutrality and taking no world responsibility is unrealistic, and often is immoral.

Therein lies the true problem with Ron Paul's candidacy. Most of us can support at least part of his economic policy of discontinuing the wasteful spending we now see. But his isolationism would be the undoing of us. Republicans get that. His candidacy will not be the "undoing" of the GOP, as Gerson suggests.

Gershon's premise that Paul is a racist and his candidacy will taint the GOP as a party of  racists won't fly with Republicans, because they are not (for the most part) racists. Paul has economic ideas that appeal to economically distressed white people who do not want government handouts. But that appeal extends to many poor minorities, a fact that is lost on Gershon, or he simply chooses to not mention it.

Now, could the GOP benefit from a more Libertarian view than what is currently represented by the candidates running for the presidential nomination? Sure. But it has to be about building an economy that ensures our right to pursue happiness, no matter who we are.


larry kurtz said...

Paul won't run outside the GOP: CNN.

You know a nerve has been struck when Bob Ellis emerges from his hibernaculum to comment on the Noem dust bill likely drafted, as Don Pay suggests, in the Koch wing of the cave.

Liberty apparently means having the right to pollute the ground you live on or 'own;' and, it's God's will if neurotoxins or antibiotics that you introduce drain into the next guy’s property.

BF said...

I'm looking forward to Bob's take on this. I think the whole GOP primary race has done a lot to solidify and enliven the Democratic party and open the eyes of Indy voters as to what their choices will be next fall.

My guess is that Romney will want to have a lot of GOP opposition throughout the primary so he can appear to emerge from the battle as the best of the bunch and thus convince his party to rally around him.

Not sure it's going to happen like that, however.

If Romney wins the Iowa caucuses tomorrow, it could be "game over" as far as the GOP primaries are concerned, and that will leave a lot of disgruntled Republicans planning to just stay home on election day. Either that, or have a brokered convention meltdown, where the Repubs try to draft Jeb Bush or something.

Meanwhile, the only thing holding Obama back is the economy, isn't it?

DDC said...

How is Ron Paul an "isolationist"? Because he would dare think that spending $700 billion a year on war and maintaining a military to protect the entire globe is unsustainable? Because he doesn't think we need 50,000 troops in Germany, 35,000 in Japan, 30,000 in South Korea, 10,000 in Italy and on and on...

The US spends more on its military than the next 15 countries combined. We are responsible for around 45% of the world's military spending. Oh, and we also have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world more times than anyone can count.

To suggest that the US not act as the world's police force and that other countries take some responsibility for their own defense is hardly "isolationism".

Iran and North Korea pose a very minute threat to the US.

North Korea certainly doesn't pose enough of a threat that we need to have more than 65,000 soldiers in South Korea and Japan. They have plenty of resources and people to defend themselves from North Korea. They don't need us to do it for them.

Israel, Saudi Arabia and the other countries in the Middle East could easily handle Iran if it were to get out of line. They all have plenty of motivation to keep Iran in check.

Neither Iran nor North Korea have the capability to mount a credible attack on the US.

Jefferson's words are as true today as they were when he wrote them. Peace and commerce has done more to avoid war with China than any amount of military spending ever could have. The side effect of that peace and commerce is that China is moving (albeit slowly) towards a more open society.

Europe spends very little on defense, because they know we're there to take care of them. Canada spends almost nothing because they also know we will protect them.

For Ron Paul to be labeled as an isolationist for suggesting that we don't need to (and can't afford to) continue defending Europe and Asia is absurd. Those countries need to shoulder the burden of their own defense.

We simply cannot afford to continue spending $700 billion dollars every year on the military. It needs to be cut back drastically and focused on the actual defense of the nation.

I would argue that Ron Paul is actually the least isolationist of all the GOP candidates (and Pres. Obama). All of the other candidates want to try and keep us isolated from the rest of the world through our military and trade policies. Paul wants to open us up to the rest of the world through peace and commerce.

Thinking that we can make the world a safer place through projecting military might is a fool's game. We could cut our military by at least 2/3rds, remove all of our troops from overseas and still repel any attack that came our way with minimal effort.

LK said...

I get confused easily, so you may have to clear this up for me. You write,

"Of course, as a liberal writer, nothing could make him happier than to have the Republicans cast Paul out in such a manner as to incite him to run as an independent, split the GOP and assure an Obama victory."

According to Wikipedia,

"Michael John Gerson (born May 15, 1964) is an op-ed columnist for The Washington Post, a Policy Fellow with the ONE Campaign[1][2], and a former senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.[3] He served as President George W. Bush's chief speechwriter from 2001 until June 2006, as a senior policy advisor from 2000 through June 2006, and was a member of the White House Iraq Group.[4]"

You might get buy with moderate, but I don't think Gerson's credentials put him anywhere close to the liberal camp.

Bob Newland said...

First, assuming what LK says about Gerson is true, anyone with those credentials is an asshole, and, I infer, not to be trusted.

I started to respond to Gerson's series of straw man knockouts with a point-by-point analysis, but it seems pointless to do so. Paul may or may not have said any of the things Gerson attributes to him.

I do believe that there is a hideous truth lying beneath what we have been told about the incidents of September 11, 2001. Someday, we may know some of it. It appears to me that Paul is correct in his alleged view that W's buddies were filled with glee at the excuse for war.

I do believe that the antagonism of a great number of people in the Middle East toward the United States is justified because of the support our government has given to governments in the region who have suppressed with extreme cruelty their own people. In that, I agree, I believe with Ron Paul.

To describe "Iranian nuclear ambitions as 'natural,' while dismissing [the advertising of] evidence of those ambitions as 'war propaganda,'" is simply to tell the truth.

The United States did not enter into war against Germany to end the holocaust. Germany declared war against the United States. Roosevelt, in fact, denied entry to a shipload of Jews trying to escape the holocaust prior to that. Prescott Bush was doing business with the Nazis up to the moment (and probably afterwards) that we went to war with them.

In 1905, Teddy Roosevelt gratuitously "gave" Korea to Japan and then oversaw a series of slaughters in the Philippines that makes Wounded Knee look like a high school scrimmage. That gift, somewhat like me giving Kadoka to Canada, along with other shit Roosevelt's Secretary of State did on "The Imperial Cruise," (a book I reviewed some time ago in the Forum) resonated strongly in the 1920s, '30s and '40s.

Foreign entanglements. They're tough to disentangle from.

As for the Civil War; at its height, Lincoln gave the order to hang 38 Santee Sioux, rounded up as randomly as were 3/4 of the original inmates of Guantanamo, because of an uprising in Minnesota brought on by violations of US treaties with the Sioux. That, along with some other stuff, leads me to think that Lincoln saw slavery as a rallying cry to effect a huge increase in federal authority over the states.

Slavery in the form seen in the plantation system in the old South was, and is, the most despicable form of human cruelty. We have traded it for a less painful, but no less exploitive, form of indenturement to the State. And this form exploits all races, the division being between some of the political and corporate class and the rest of us.

Ron Paul is a long way from being my ideal of a potential (or, probably, actual, although I doubt the actuality will come to pass) president. He simply is the best choice available among those who appear to have a shot at it at the moment.

The rest of the "Republican" contenders are parodies of Ken and Barbie. Obama is apparently spineless, obviously a liar and despicable for reasons I have outlined in previous Forum posts.

larry kurtz said...

Good post, Bob.

Bill Janklow called Jesse Ventura "a breath of fresh air." Ron Paul is more like hit of fresh air.

Bob Newland said...

AHhhhh, Quicksilver. I always loved that song. I woke to it playing on some radio station a few nights ago. I thought I was 28 again, complete with testosterone.

caheidelberger said...

I'll admit, I sympathize with Paul's arguments on military spending and the use of force. I appreciate a candidate who tries to win our vote by telling us there are a lot of things we don't need to fear. But Paul has to accept that such language won't get him elected in a Republican primary.

Bob Newland said...

Cory, that almost sounds like a wish that he'd lie to get elected, then do the stuff you want him to do. Lying is endemic among candidates for political office. It's how they get elected. Then they do some stuff some folks want them to do. But they never do what I want them to do.

I think it's striking that Ron Paul's message, which hasn't changed since he was the Libertarian candidate in 1988, is finally resonating significantly (although, as you say, probably insufficiently).

larry kurtz said...

Supreme Court to hear dog search case.

Michael Sanborn said...


I believe Gerson is an economic liberal. Considering the spending records of both W and Reagan. Reagan was more justified in his rampant spending. But, as W's policy advisor from 2001 to 2006, one could hardly call him anything but liberal. Bush foolishly spent money like a drunken sailor. Obama tripled the disaster.

I will stand by my statement.

BF said...

It would really be fun to hear Obama debate Ron Paul. Too bad the GOP will never have the cojones* to nominate him. Maybe he'll run Indy.

BF said...

* I was going to provide an alternative to "cojones" but took a beat and thought better of it. Cojones is just fine, I think.

Thad Wasson said...

Iran will not attack Israel or America, North Korea has 30,000 U.S. troops at her border and hasn't done anything. Pakistan will not fall into chaos if we leave Afghanistan.

There is no boogy-man. It's time to grow up and stop spending so much on defense.

taco said...

RP is not an isolationist. He would, for example, trade with other countries that Obama/Romney would not trade with (e.g., Cuba). He does not want to place sanctions on countries. In fact, there is no bigger proponent of free trade and diplomacy than Ron Paul. I found the following on the net which provides my thoughts on the matter:

The word isolationist is usually used as a smear tactic. If you’re going to criticize constitutional foreign policy, at least get your terms right. And if you’re a journalist and you write about Ron Paul and mistakenly call him an isolationist, expect your inbox to be full with a bunch of messages from Ron Paul supporters explaining the difference to you.

So take note journalists: There is a big difference between isolationism and non-interventionism.

An isolationist is someone who wants their country to be isolated. They want nothing to do with any other country. They tend to oppose immigration, trade, talks with other nations and they tend to be anti-war for the most part. Libertarians are not isolationists since we tend to support free trade and see immigration as a good thing. The only thing we have in common really is our anti-war stance.

Now for the term non-interventionism. This basically means minding our own business overseas. We shouldn’t be involved in the internal affairs of other countries. Government policies always have unintended consequences and foreign policy is no exception. (Some who support a non-interventionist foreign policy would justify war only in cases of self defense). Right now we are bombing Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Six countries. And I don’t wait for the federal government to tell me when something is a war or not. So right now we are in six wars. We have 900 military bases around the world.

It is not being an isolationist to ask, why are we in six foreign sovereign nations meddling in their internal affairs? Is this really the best use of taxpayer dollars? No matter how many times we explain the difference, I understand that the media will probably to continue to smear Ron Paul by calling him an isolationist.

Bob Newland said...

Taco for prez! Thad for vice!