Monday, May 21, 2007

The Ron Paul pile-on

Until now, I've refrained from commenting on the Ron Paul imbroglio for the simple reason that plenty of people who actually respect the political process have already chimed in to point out that the maverick congressman was dead right; U.S. foreign policy did play a role in making the country a target for the 9/11 attacks. Even supporters of the war in Iraq should be willing to recognize that actions beget reactions. That doesn't mean that thousands of Americans deserved to be murdered; it does mean that government officials have to be mindful that their decisions can trigger "blowback," a term devised by the C.I.A. to describe unintended consequences of operations around the world. That Republicans rallied around Rudy Giuliani and attacked Dr. Paul for his moderate anti-war stance I took as further proof of the hopelessness of the political process and good reason to stay out of the fight.

But the attacks on Dr. Paul have grown increasingly shrill and hysterical. Mainstream media outlets are calling for him to be excluded from the debates for the high crime of suggesting that the U.S. government doesn't operate in a vacuum, and widely publicized (if nails-on-chalkboard shrill) pundits like Michelle Malkin have even tried to tie him to 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Are conservatives really so wedded to the blood-drenched mess in the Middle East that they have to muzzle or discredit dissenting voices?

This is especially remarkable because, not so long ago, prominent Republican leaders like Robert A. Taft advocated a restrained, non-interventionist foreign policy for the same reasons espoused by Ron Paul. The idea that an attack on the United States might have been intended as a response to government activities overseas would not have seemed strange to Sen. Taft. Modern conservatives might disagree, but they reject their own history when they try to paint Dr. Paul's views as illegitimate and beyond the pale of polite discussion.

If nothing else, Dr. Paul's candidacy serves to demonstrate that traditional views about restrained, peaceful foreign policy haven't been completely displaced in the Republican Party--only mostly so. That he's also an enthusiastic civil libertarian and believer in small government in the age of waterboarding, the PATRIOT Act and Medicare drug benefits makes him something of a ghost of the Republican Part past.

Maybe that's why conservatives don't want Paul up on stage with the other candidates--he's too much of a reminder of what their party could have been if its leaders had made better choices.

And that's what bothers me most about the attacks on Dr. Paul. As much as I've written off the political system, the rare, decent politician like him reminds me of my early hopes that peace and freedom could be supported through political action.


Blogger Phillip Rhodes said...

Well said... great post.

May 21, 2007 12:58 PM  
Blogger James said...

Have you read Ron Quixote on Strike the Root? I think Mark Davis does a pretty good job analyzing the "Ron Paul pile-on."

May 22, 2007 4:27 AM  
Blogger J.D. Tuccille said...


I think "Ron Quixote" is a depressingly accurate analysis of the situation.

May 22, 2007 9:55 PM  
Blogger James said...


The silver lining is that this may serve as a good "wedge" for some people who are concerned about personal freedom and liberty. While the current situation is depressing, it demonstrates almost unquestionably the futility of seeking freedom through the political process. Hence, the only way you and I are going to get our freedom back is by convincing individuals, and then convincing them to convince others. I don't know if it'll happen non-violently, but it will happen once people recognize and act upon Boetie's dictum: "Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces."

I do wonder, however, how much there is to work with out there. There are an awful lot of examples of individuals lacking the most basic critical thinking skills. However, that doesn't mean that I shouldn't try. :)

Back to Ron Paul for a moment: there was a recent smear regarding Ron Paul--accusations of racism. His response was that he didn't write the newsletter the comments were contained in, but his name is attached to it, so what can he do about it? It's up to the reader, I suppose, if he wants to believe Ron Paul.

May 23, 2007 8:17 AM  

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