Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ron Paul? No Thanks

By Tim Dunkin


                I want to like Ron Paul.  I really do.  There are a lot of things that he says he believes that I find attractive in a candidate.  He obviously talks the talk with respect to economic liberty.  His pledges to cut a trillion dollars from the federal budget are just the kind of red meat I want to hear coming out of Washington.  The fact that he seems to be warming up to Christian conservatives – a group that his libertarian-leaning network had hithertofore tried to keep at arm's length – is a welcome change.  He talks about the Constitution when practically all of the rest of the political establishment in America (of both major parties) seems to have forgotten that the document even exists. 


                Even in many of the areas where he's come under fire, even from conservative commentators, I can't necessarily fault him.  His assertion that many provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act were unconstitutional is actually quite true – and he's quite right in believing that employers and others ought to be able to exercise their 1st amendment freedom of assembly and association, even if we may disagree with or not like how or for what reason someone chooses to exercise it.  It's true that Social Security, Medicare, and other "safety net" programs are a drain on both our economy and our liberty.  Even a lot of what he says about the Federal Reserve makes sense, as far as auditing it and bringing it under the firm oversight of the people's representatives. 


                Nevertheless, I am not convinced that Ron Paul is really as great as he and his zealous band of supporters, say he is.  I'm just not convinced.


                After all, he talks a lot about fiscal responsibility, reducing government expenditures, and so forth.  Yet, he's one of the most consistent earmarkers in Congress.  In fact, in the last congressional session, he was one of only four Republicans who defied the GOPs earmark moratorium and sought out pork-barrel earmarks in budgetary bills, totaling to over $157 million.  In 2010, he sought out earmarks amounting to almost $400 million.  Sure, he and his supporters argue that he never ends up voting for the final budget bills, so "technically" he's not voting for the earmarks, but as Marc Theissen points out,


"But that is exactly the point. His strategy is to stuff legislation with earmarks that benefit his constituents and thus his reelection, and then vote against the overall bill — knowing full well it will pass over his objections — so he can claim to have opposed all the spending in the first place."


                Quite a game he plays.  He knows that the yearly budget bills practically always pass by large majorities, so his one little principled vote against them isn't going to make a difference in the end.  Thus, he can "bring home the bacon" for his constituents, while yet maintaining his clean-as-a-whistle on-paper anti-spending record. 


                Now, surely, in the grand scheme of this, this transgression is fairly minor.  After all, what's a mere half a billion dollars between friends?  I mean, it's not like these are prescription drug plans costing hundreds of billions like we got from George W. Bush.  Yet, in terms of principle, it does seem a little hypocritical on Ron Paul's part.  He loudly chastises everyone else for being freewheeling big-spenders, when he differs only in degree, not in kind.  The fact remains that the rest of us are on the hook for $8 million to rebuild hurricane-damaged recreational fishing piers in Congressman Paul's district. 


                Despite the efforts to cast himself firmly as a Christian conservative paladin on social issues of concern to conservative religious voters (necessary in the primaries because of Evangelical-heavy early contests like Iowa and South Carolina), Dr. Paul's credentials in this area nevertheless seem questionable. 


                With respect to one of the most signature social conservative issues in the public consciousness – abortion – let's start with the baseline.  If you do not believe in the right to life of all innocent human beings, born or unborn, then you cannot say that you believe in liberty – period.  Our very Declaration of Independence defines life as one of the basic rights that our system was designed to protect.  Without life, no other liberty really matters.  What's the use of defending freedom of speech, or religion, or firearms ownership, or property, if we're free to take away from others the very thing that allows innocent, free citizens to enjoy these things – their very lives?


                So, what to make of Ron Paul's "qualified" pro-life statement that while he opposes abortion in all cases, he nevertheless doesn't want to see the unborn explicitly protected under the 14th amendment because it might result in a "Federal Department of Abortion"?  Seriously?  So, some theoretical concern about the remote potentiality of a currently non-existent federal agency prevents him from being willing to actually take a stand for something that would explicitly affirm that the unborn are as worthy of the protections of liberty as the rest of us?  Ludicrous.  Even more so is his effort to hide behind the 10th amendment by claiming that "the 14th amendment was never intended to cancel out the 10th amendment."  True, but irrelevant.  The 14th amendment, at least as far as the first clause is concerned, actually affirms the constitutional demand upon the states that they NOT infringe upon the rights of the people per the 9th amendment and the Article IV, Sect. 4 demand that each state provide a republican form of government, as I've pointed out elsewhere.  The states, even before the ratification of the 14th amendment, were restrained from infringing upon the rights afforded to the citizens of the United States under the federal Constitution.  The 14th amendment merely confirmed this inability on the states' part.


                Of course, this isn't the first time that Ron Paul has hidden behind pseudo-constitutional rationalizations to prevent his supposed pro-life convictions from impacting essentially pro-abortion policy-making.  He's also been an opponent of federal laws that would outlaw adults from transporting minors across state lines to obtain abortions that would be unavailable in their home states.  Believe it or not, this was actually one of the few recent interstate commerce related bills that actually applied the Interstate Commerce Clause correctly, since it was dealing with actual commerce across state lines, commerce which furthermore is specifically aimed at circumventing the home state's laws.   


                Further, and perhaps most fundamentally, is that Ron Paul's general approach to this issue essentially presumes that the power of government, even if state governments, supercedes the right to life as granted by our Creator, and as affirmed in one of our most foundational documents.  This is a fundamentally statist, left-wing position on the issue.


                That Ron Paul doesn't really acknowledge the ultimate sovereignty of our Creator is shown by the fact that he even opposed a recent Congressional resolution affirming our national motto, "In God We Trust."  While he technically didn't vote against it (because he wasn't there to vote), his objection that he would have opposed the resolution "because we were telling the states what to do" doesn't even make sense.  How is affirming a national motto used by the federal government constitute "telling the states what to do"?  It doesn't.  It's just another in a long line of faux-constitutional excuses made by the Congressman when he'd actually have to take a stand for or against a specific affirmation of social conservatism. 

                In fact, there seem to be a lot of things about Ron Paul's general worldview that he claims are "constitutional," but which are only dubiously so.  He doesn't recognise legitimate applications of the Interstate Commerce Clause when he sees them.  He seems ignorant of the interplay between 9th, 10th, and 14th amendments. And of course, there's the often-made claim by Rep. Paul and his followers that he is the only politician who pursues a "constitutional foreign policy."  This is an interesting claim, since nowhere in that document is a specific foreign policy approach ever stated.  The Constitution never defines what the foreign policy goals, affinities, or processes for the United States are to be.  If by this, Ron Paul means never, ever, under any circumstances engaging in a foreign war, I'd imagine that Thomas Jefferson would be surprised to have learned that his military actions were unconstitutional.  As with many other things that Ron Paul speaks of as "constitutional," the definition of this term seems to be, "whatever Ron Paul believes." 


                That this nevertheless fools many of his supporters is not surprising, as they often do not show themselves to be very knowledgeable about the Constitution, either. 


                Thus, while there are many good points about Ron Paul's political positions and many fields that he opens up to discussion that the Washington establishment would probably prefer to remain closed, he still is not everything he's cracked up to be.


                And then, of course, there are his positions on many foreign policy related issues.  I find myself greatly at odds with the apparent underlying principles that seem to drive a lot of his foreign policy decision making.


                At this point, the automated, robotic response functionality in the Ron Paul supporter's brain just kicked in:


"...beep beep beep...Neo-Con...beep beep beep...chickenhawk"


                Which is ironic because I am neither.  I am not a socially-liberal formerly-Marxist Manhattanite who converted to "conservative" internationalist interventionism.  Indeed, I don't even support an interventionist foreign policy in general, I was opposed to the late occupation of Iraq, I am opposed to the current occupation of Afghanistan, and have been so for quite a while since before Barack Obama became President. 


                Note again, I didn't say that I necessarily disagree with Ron Paul's foreign policy positions themselves, but with the underlying reasons that he seems to have for them.  I would coincide with many of his conclusions, but not his reasons for reaching them. 


                One thing I've noticed about Ron Paul is that his basic fallback philosophy in everything foreign policy related is that anything America does on the world scene is always and at all times unwarranted and intrusive, and that any opposition we receive is the inevitable result of "blowback" generated by our rampant "imperialism." Indeed, Ron Paul at one point even stated that America was the most aggressive, imperialistic nation the world has ever seen. Seriously? More so than Napoleon? The British Empire? Even the Mongols?


                This statement, along with others like it, stems from a fundamentally wrongheaded view of American foreign policy. While I agree that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were and are wrongheaded and wasteful, and that we should generally mind our own business more the world over, this does not translate into every bad thing in the world being the result of American imperialism, nor does it mean that every attack on America is "justified" because of our "imperialism."


                Are we imperialistic? No. Or at least we're extremely poor at it. I mean, shoot, we invade a country for its oil, and yet never got any of it, and then ended up "freeing" the country voluntarily, after already letting it put such idiotic restraints on our actions there as to hinder our own soldiers and make our presence there more than ludicrous. How inept is that? I trust the reader can see the sarcasm in my comment.


                Ron Paul seems oblivious to the fact that there are other nations out there on the world stage who also act in their own self-interest. Sometimes their self-interest conflicts with our goals as a nation. Sometimes, these other groups can be aggressive, imperialistic, and so forth themselves. Take Islam - Ron Paul seems to think that the radical Muslims only hate us because we support Israel and are involved in the Middle East. If we closed our bases and sold Israel down the river, then everything would be fine and dandy, and we wouldn't have to worry about terrorism ever again since we'd remove the cause of "blowback."




                They hate us because we're not them. Radical Islam really does hate anyone who is not Muslim (and even many who are). That's why Islam has a fourteen century long track record of aggression, violence, and general unneighborliness toward pretty much everyone it's come into contact with. They attack us because they are engaging in jihad - something that they would do regardless of what foreign policy we pursued. Syed Qutb, the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and spiritual forefather of al-Qaeda, already decided he hated the United States even back before we were significantly involved in the Middle East or were supporting Israel.  The guy condemned American society as materialistic and oversexed, in the 1950s, because he saw men and women fraternizing at a church dance


                Yet, Ron Paul seems to be fundamentally ignorant of Islam, its history, its theology, and the rest. That level of ignorance, even from someone whose policies I would otherwise often agree with, is a dangerous thing to have in someone wanting to fill an office that constitutionally is primarily involved with federative and foreign policy roles.


                In short, I don't want a President whose first instinct when we find ourselves in a disagreement with another country or civilization is to blame America because we've "obviously" done something to generate "blowback," probably something the "chickenhawk Neo-Cons" pushed us into. I don't want a President whose instinct is to blame his own country, instead of understanding that maybe, just maybe, other countries can do bad things themselves and that they, rather than we, may be at fault. We already have a President like that - we don't need another one.


                In closing, as much as I'd like to, I simply cannot get on board the Ron Paul express.  Believe me, I've tried.      While he may say many of the right things, and may even believe most of them, I have to conclude that Ron Paul is simply not fitted to be the President of the United States, nor should the Republicans nominate him to try.