"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Still More on Ron Paul

Another reader wrote in to comment last night about my Ron Paul "weirdness" post.   Here's what he had to say:

[H]e has made some pretty off-the-wall comments which is why I think he's weird. He also stated that overturning abortion should be left up to the states (I believe). He recently said in an interview, that the way to deal with Iran is to offer them friendship and later stated that it was understandable that they might want a nuclear weapon, after all, many of the neighbors have them. He has stated that we were attacked on 9/11 because of our interventionist policies...in other words, it was our fault that crazy people wanted to kill 3,000 americans. I think I heard Reverend Wright saying pretty much the same thing during the last election. I could go on but I won't. I can only say that while I do agree with some of his positions, I disagree more than I agree...and I think he's weird.

For my part, I would tend to agree with the notion that abortion policy should be left to the states.  If the Supreme Court had taken that sensible position forty years ago, there would have been a lot fewer abortions and a lot less discord around the issue.   On Iran, I'd disagree -- I don't think you can have another terrorist sponsor state with nuclear weapons, particularly one that is peculiarly irrational.   But I don't think the position is "weird."  I think it's a viable position -- it's just one that seems to gibe with what the liberal Democrats have been saying for years, including Obama.  

The 9/11 stuff is another story.    I don't think the 15 (out of 18) middle-class Saudis who were part of the 9/11 plot attacked us because of our interventionist foreign policy; I think they did it because they were steeped in the ideology of radical Islam, which is bitterly anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Christian as an article of faith.   Blaming Americans for the pathology of the 9/11 murderers is simply wrong.   So, yes, I might be tempted to call Ron Paul's position on 9/11 "weird," if what this fellow says is accurate.   And I believe it is, based on what I've read, including about Paul's association with 9/11 Truther Alex Jones.   Or, perhaps not "weird," because his position is actually pretty widely held  -- it's just that it's pretty widely held on the hard left.   So maybe I'd call it "extreme."  In any event, it's not a position that can or should be accepted in the Republican Party.   (Ditto his apparent position on support for Israel.)

What is "weird" (and this one I'll stand by) is Paul's apparent sanctioning of newsletters that went out over his byline in the 1980s and 1990s, from which he profited, and which were often characterized by some pretty wild statements that could be characterized as racist and/or anti-semitic.   The Weekly Standard article last week did the digging, and the rest of the media is now picking up on it (see today's story in the New York Times).   He says he didn't write them, but that won't cut it... a viable national political candidate in America cannot under any circumstances be associated with this type of rhetoric, and not knowing what people were doing in your name smacks of pretty poor management skills.   One of Republicans unplayed cards last time around, which I hope will get more play this time, is just how "weird" and "extreme" some of Obama's associations were, with Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, and others.   But Republicans can't attack Obama's associations with hard-core leftists on the one hand and defend a Republican candidate's associations with John Birchers on the other.   So I think Ron Paul is disqualified because of this.

And that's something of a pity, because on many issues, Paul is exactly right and within mainstream conservatism.   Consider his platform on energy:

As President, Ron Paul will lead the fight to:
* Remove restrictions on drilling, so companies can tap into the vast amount of oil we have here at home.
* Repeal the federal tax on gasoline. Eliminating the federal gas tax would result in an 18 cents savings per gallon for American consumers.
* Lift government roadblocks to the use of coal and nuclear power.
* Eliminate the ineffective EPA. Polluters should answer directly to property owners in court for the damages they create – not to Washington.
* Make tax credits available for the purchase and production of alternative fuel technologies.
It’s time for a President that recognizes the free market’s power and innovative spirit by unleashing its full potential to produce affordable, environmentally sound, and reliable energy.
Pretty good stuff, especially on drilling, eliminating red-tape standing in the way of new coal and nuclear plants, and getting the EPA off America's back.   (I'm not so hot on tax credits for certain preferred products over others... that doesn't seem too libertarian to me.)   I'd hope any Republican candidate would adopt this pro-growth energy agenda.

I haven't yet commented on the centerpiece of Paul's economic program, which is an antipathy for the Federal Reserve system and a desire to see America return to sound money or the gold standard.   I want to think about it some more.   My gut reaction is that politics is the art of the possible, and it's not rational to believe that we could eliminate the Fed or return to the gold standard politically, and it's not likely that we could do so, even if we wanted to, without massive economic dislocations and pain.   But, like I say, I'd like to think about it some more, and read some more about it.  

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