The Political Funeral of Ron Paul

I am not a fan of the three or four time Presidential candidate, Ron Paul. My opinions about the ideology of Ron Paul are well-documented, as are my opinions of many (not all) of his followers. But despite my lack of appreciation for the eccentric ex-Congressman, I also do not look favorably upon gloating or grave-dancing. Ron Paul’s embarrassing results in the most recent Presidential election do not tempt me towards smugness as much as they do provide illumination upon something I have been meaning to write about for a long time. Ron Paul’s political funeral has come and gone – he will not be a part of the political scene in our country any longer, and a decent argument exists that he has never really been a part of our political scene. But based on the level of misunderstanding that I think exists out there about what I really believe regarding the Ron Paul hysteria, I wanted to offer my own political eulogy, if you will, and hopefully clarify a few things as we bid the Congressman goodbye.

Despite some insinuations to the contrary, I really do not dislike all Ron Paul fans. Many of his followers, if you will, were well-meaning and principled folks. His followers were duped, mind you, but they were victims, not accomplices. They wanted a limited government advocate who believes in the principles of the founding; what they got was a conspiracist who hinged his candidacy to some of the most extremist elements in our society.

Ron Paul’s views on foreign policy are wrong, but they are not wrong merely in the same way that a typical paleo-conservative gets national defense wrong. Bob Novak was a paleo-conservative, but his views on American might were nowhere near those of Ron Paul’s. When it comes to Ron’s vocal criticism of the Federal Reserve, he gets a lot of things right, and sadly, gets a lot of things wrong. But again, the Fed has many critics (yours truly among them). Alas, not all Fed critics, though, come from the same place Ron Paul does. My point here is that something further has to be said about Ron Paul from this particular critic than just the mere disagreement I have with him ideologically. It is the source of the disagreement that represents the heart of the matter.

Can you imagine waking up one day and rightly identifying the probems in our society, and then determining that the best way to remedy those problems would be maintaining a multi-decade association with anarchists, pacifists, and academic lightweights like the folks at Lew Rockwell? There is no possible way anyone can tell me that they believe Ron Paul was serious about enacting change in our society, for if he was he has had over 30 years to find moral and effective affiliations to partner with – not bomb-throwers and radicals. The reason Ron Paul went one way and not the other is NOT because he misjudged tactically; it is because he IS one of the bomb-throwers and radicals. He is more at home with the teenagers at LewRockwell than he is the grown-ups at Cato. In his heart of hearts, he REALLY DOES believe that there is a global conspiracy involving the Trilateral Commission, and Rockefeller, and Halliburton, and the Council of Foreign Relations, etc., to, well, to do something. He REALLY DOES believe that IRS agents are looking to pull AK-47 rifles on innocent family men. His enemy is not the ideological reality of leftism and liberalism (though that is my ideological enemy, and most of yours); his enemy is America itself. He REALLY DOES believe that we are a global agitator, and that folks like Hitler, Stalin, Saddam, Pol Pot, Osama, and now Iran, were agitated by anglo-aggressors into becoming more feisty. He REALLY DOES believe that evil will stay calm if it is left alone. His foreign policy is morally bankrupt and devoid of any concept of the doctrine of total depravity; but the rest of his ideology is devoid of any logic, reason, maturity, or intelligence.

I commend people for being excited when Ron Paul talks about the grotesque size of government. He is right about that. But that has not been his agenda for the last thirty years. He has never passed any legislation or played any role in slowly or quickly decreasing the size of government. A lot of groups out there desire smaller government – Ron Paul repudiated the vast majority of them. Indeed, the only groups who Ron has been willing to be associated with are groups that owe their existence to the belief that a massive behind-the-scenes conspiracy exists that would shame Birchers for their lack of creativity and ingenuity. I remember when Ben Bernanke shook his head and laughed at Ron Paul (in a gentlemanly kind of way) as Ron Paul asked him about the Fed diverting money for Watergate and Saddam Hussein (etc.). Ben said it was a “bizarre” question, and measured critics of the Fed buried their heads in shame that Ron Paul was being given the authority as “Fed critic-in chief”. Ron Paul’s extreme supporters, though, were proud of him. The idea that the Fed had just gained immeasurable legitimacy because of the asininity of the questions coming from Ron Paul did not occur to them. Indeed, it didn’t occur to Ron himself. Today many folks thing Ron Paul moved the ball downfield because the talk of a Fed audit has gained mainstream acceptance. Ask Ron Paul after a few highballs if he actually thinks this represents any substantive advantage for those who want to see a less manipulated money supply. I PROMISE you Ron Paul does not believe in his heart of hearts that a Fed audit has anything to do with what he has been supposedly advocating. For Ron, this is not an ideological fight about sound economic policy; this is a war against an entrenched and organized opponent who meet behind closed doors with secret handshakes and passwords. That sad reality is what has made moot the efforts Ron Paul has claimed to be advocating throughout his life.

I was repulsed by Ron Paul’s recent tweet belittling the death of a Navy Seal hero, but I was not surprised. To regular folks, this was a man who had committed himself to a sacrificial life of heroism and danger. To Ron, this SEAL is part of the problem. He is part of the system. He is part of the machine.

I have also written in times past on my views of conspiracy theorists. I want this article to be the explanation of my real beef with Ron Paul. At the end of the day, Ron Paul’s political career has been using a cause that I actually believe in as a cover for being a textbook conspiracy loon. This is why he did not and could partner himself with more effective members of the conservative cause – because he required a belief that America was being led by a secret cabal as a prerequisite to his strategic choices and loyalties. This is why Ron Paul has had a political funeral. It is a tragedy, if you think about it. The press gives the largest microphone in a generation to someone talking about limited government, and he uses the mic to talk crazy. Ron Paul supporters should be more outraged than Ron Paul critics.

I apologize for the offense I have caused some of the Ron Paul fans over the years. I can not say that I have published anything in this piece or the aforementioned ones that I do not really believe – as much today as ever – but I am sorry nonetheless. I do, actually, desire to be at peace with all men, and I do wish that I had done a better job over the years articulating the basis for my dislike of Ron Paul. I have said before – it are the things I agree with Ron about that make me so emphatic in the things I do not agree with him. We are in desperate need as conservatives for a leading voice who is not completely unhinged. We are in need of someone who knows both the vocabulary and ideology of right-sized government. And we are in need of that person being someone who can benefit the cause, not undermine it. This is the best summary I can offer you as to why Ron Paul has rubbed me the wrong way.

His son, Rand, is an interesting part of the conversation. On one hand, many of Ron’s more emotional supporters view Rand as a traitor to the cause for his endorsement of Mitt Romney. On the other hand, Rand’s ability to reach a broader audience than it has dad ever has suggest that he could have a more impressive political career than his dad ever did (to that end, Rand has already out-paced his dad by a large margin). Do I suspect Rand is cut from the same cloth as his dad? I suppose I do, but I am open to being wrong. It really will not matter, because if Rand is a sane alternative to what his dad was offering all those years, I will be happy for him to be politically successful; and yet if Rand is actually a mere extension of his dad’s kooky long-term friends, he will surely be sniffed out and eliminated from the political conversation. Time will tell.

With that, I say goodbye to the days of reading about and writing about Ron Paul. I pray for more converts to the cause of conservatism and more converts away from the legacy of the conspiracy fringe. Ron tapped into very real problems in our country and its politics, and many good people understandably followed him; but his loony associations and conspiracy theories undermined any effectiveness he could have had. This is a pity. May Ron spend the remaining years of his life enjoying his family, and may we spend the years in front of us fighting the good fight, seeing the real enemy, and winning in the actual cause.

We Will Never Forget

I talked to my 7-year old son this morning about 9/11. We have talked about it the last couple of years. He is a bright kid, and he is a decent kid, which means that his intuitive response to hearing about the tragedy is not to say, “what did we do that caused them to do this to us?”. Rather, like all people with a semblance of a moral compass, his natural response to hearing of the attack is to ask, “what types of monsters would do this?”. (I should probably add that because he does not suffer from a mental illness, he also did not ask if perhaps we did it to ourselves as part of a conspiracy amongst a few thousand covert operatives who are super sneaky and good at keeping secrets). So between Mitchell’s intuitive rejection of “blame America”-ism and “truther”-ism, he is, at 7-years old, significantly more intelligent and more decent than about 50% of the American population. I am a proud dad.

But here’s the thing – It isn’t funny. I got caught up watching a little video montage deal tonight on Fox after my dinner, and I just could not stay away from my keyboard. The events of eleven years ago today remain the most important event in American life for anyone reading this blog (unless I have increased my audience with folks over the age of 80). It is fascinating to me that for all of the talk about the moral bankruptcy of Wall Street (a patently false generalization for anyone who actually knows the vast majority of the folks who work the trading pits and investment banks of our country), there appears to be far more moral clarity amongst those “bastards” than there is throughout much of American society. Of course, many in the financial community sort of “lived” 9/11, so you can understand why there may be more rememberance, understanding, and conviction amongst them than in other spheres of society. But since when is knowing someone who died a requirement for understanding the horror and immorality of mass murder? Since when is being in the zip code an act of war takes place a requirement for appreciating the reality and gravity of what we face? I have written extensively about my lack of respect for the disgraced politician, Ron Paul, but there is NOTHING that did more to turn me against him and his ilk than their pitiful downplaying of the significance of 9/11 (and for many of his best friends, their celebration of it). I can tolerate political differences with almost anyone about almost anything, but I can not and will not tolerate moral ambivalence about 9/11. The victims of 9/11 were not just the workers in the twin towers and fire-fighters who died trying to save them. The victims were all of us, as never has America and what she stands for been more threatened than on that fateful day. Our 220+ year ability to defend our own borders in the continental United States was undermined, and civilians were killed en masse like never before. A particular vigilance would be required that had never before been considered necessary.

That vigilance is all but gone eleven years later. Sadly, we know what would end up restoring it. I pray with every ounce of breath in my body that it will not take 9/11 Part 2 for Americans to remember the nature of the enemy we face. I pray that the horror of that day will never have to be re-visited. There are two things we all must do to honor the memory of that day: Take on the moral intuitition of my 7-year old son, who simply can’t believe there are people so evil as to have done this; and then, seek to vigilantly defend ourselves against those very people. Today we mourn and remember. Tomorrow, we remember again.

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The World America Made by Robert Kagan

Kagan Robert Kagan is one of those authors who readers never have to worry about. He is not going to throw in a “dog” in a series of solid book projects. He is among the most qualified intellectuals in the world to discuss the international stage, and is a trusted voice when it comes to American history of foreign policy. Whether it be his magnum opus, Dangerous Nation, or other short works like The Return of History and the End of Dreams, Kagan is serious, sober, reliable, and needed. His latest contribution to the conversation surrounding America’s role in the world is The World America Made, and I could not possibly recommend it more fervently.

Kagan is not a neoconservative, though that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been called such by various critics of his work. I think it is safe to say that if you haven’t been called a neoconservative by some ignoramus who hasn’t ever read a book on foreign policy, you probably aren’t doing your job. Blind and sweeping generalizations are a part of the game when discussing 21st century foreign policy, and there are no doubt those who would want to put Kagan into a certain box (a box that not only he does not belong in, nor any of the other people they have put in either). What Kagan contributes to the discussion is an undeniable historical perspective that demonstrates as clearly as can be what America’s historical role has been, and how her presence on the international stage has helped to create the world that we have today.

The book is a 140-page easy read. Kagan’s agenda in the book is not to point out America’s deep history of international interventionism, but rather to explain how reliant the world is on America’s presence as a super-power, at least in deterring and controlling potentially malignant behavior by other potential mini-super powers. Kagan is not an advocate of the “democracy is contagious” view, and he is not advocating for any sort of new and improved aggression from America’s military resources. He is making the case, though, that those who hope to see a more liberal order throughout the nations will not see it without powerful nations that can defend it. I won’t flood my review with quotes and soundbites from the book, as the book is too full of these nuggets to do it justice, and I want readers to make their own determinations. What I will say is this: “The cost of [America] maintaining this position cannot be measured without considering the costs of losing it”. In a day and age where it has become en vogue to romanticize the idea of an America who plays a minor role in international theater, I am so grateful (and we all should be) that there are scholars like Robert Kagan with the imagination and perspective to say, “Be careful what you wish for. You can not imagine how terrifying it would be if you got your wish.”

John Bolton’s Extraordinary Speech

Last night I had the honor of introducing Ambassador John Bolton as the keynote speaker at the 49th annual dinner of the Lincoln Club of Orange County.  He is one of the most extraordinary thinkers in our country when it comes to foreign policy (for many newcomers to concerns about politics, ethics, and society, “foreign policy” deals with considerations usually considered much less important than medical ethics and marriage and health care – trivial things like Islamic terrorists with nuclear weapons, countries that plot to wipe other countries off the map, and policies and approaches for dealing with countries that are led by insane people that have hundreds of thousands of men in their military).  We do not talk about foreign policy in our country very much, especially when our President is so busy taking over the national health care system and trying to put 2,000 pages of rules against debit card fees into place.  But there are some people who believe that a nation who can not get foreign policy right can not get anything right, and furthermore, will not need to worry about the rest for very long.  Countries that do not take foreign policy seriously will perpetually struggle with existential issues.  John Bolton is one of those remarkable men who is constantly trying to remind us of this.

He did not disappoint last night.  He cogently and soberly made the case for protecting American interests in how we next deal with both Afghanistan and Pakistan.  He repudiated the multilateralism of President Obama, pointing out that it was unilateralism that killed Osama bin Laden; it was multilateralism that has us stuck in this stalemate in Libya.  Speaking of Libya, he pointed out the sheer perplexity of what they have managed to do: In the name of replacing one bad government, they have somehow replaced it, with two bad governments.  He briefly hit on major issues around the globe of major consequence to Americans: the drug cartels in Mexico, Chavez’s mischief in Venezuela, ongoing issues in China, eventual nuclear armament of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and others in the mideast region – all in response to Iran’s successful obtaining of the same.  He lambasted the Obama administration for their incoherent handling of the Egypt mess, the result of which will very likely be a reversal of the 30-year success of the Camp David arrangements for our allies in Israel.  He graciously concurred when it came to the take-out of Osama bin Laden that President Obama made a “good call”, (then reminded us of the obvious – the “good call” was supported by 110% of the population).  I deeply appreciated his reiteration of the crucial role waterboarding has played in protecting American lives, and his agreement with the President that torture is out of bounds for Americans (the issue, of course, is whether or not one believes water-boarding is torture; so far we have learned that the President believes that splashing someone’s forehead with water at absolutely no physical damage to them whatsoever IS torture, but blowing their brains out of their heads with a pistol IS NOT). 

The major point of his speech was that this President shows very little interest in foreign policy (a point Victor Davis Hanson and others have made for some time), that when he does his default punt is to some form of multilateralist posture, and that the President’s major focus is on re-structuring the American way of life to a more European progressive format.  He expressed very little confusion as to where President Obama came up with this ideology: “While at Columbia and Harvard, of course” (a point Marvin Olasky has made to me a couple of times).

I admire this man on so many levels, and pray he has a future in American foreign policy.  I have grown very pessimistic in evaluating the GOP field that we will have a shot at the White House before 2016, but whether it be 2012 or 2016, I pray that our next President utilize the depth, experience, and wisdom of this man.  I encouraged him in private conversation to run himself, recognizing that he would not be a likely success, but at least with the objective of forcing the other candidates throughout the primary to interact with foreign policy.  We shall see.  I close this piece with a transcript of my introduction of the Ambassador, one that I stand behind word for word.

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When I first suggested to our club’s executive committee my idea that we ask Ambassador John Bolton to speak at tonight’s annual dinner, there was a small but brewing discussion that he may run for President, and perhaps wouldn’t be available for tonight’s event.  And perhaps that issue is not resolved, and he may have something to say tonight about it, but as I considered that possibility several months ago, one thought continued to go through my mind?

Would we even deserve a man like this as our President anyways?

His pedigree is impressive enough, and I am happy to share that he is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Commentator, and a respected attorney and policymaker who has served for three U.S. Presidents.  In recent years, he gained both fame and notoriety for serving as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, a position he served with prestige and honor.

But why would I suggest that perhaps the United States does not deserve a President like Ambassador John Bolton?

Well of course, I say it somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as I for one believe the greatness of America does deserve the greatness of tonight’s speaker, both in terms of policy, and personal character.  But this is what I mean.  Does a country whose Senate refused to confirm a man of this service and stature really deserve him as their leader? (and I do NOT merely mean Democrats in the Senate, but include such Republican frauds and impostors as Chuck Hagel and George Voinovich in that reprehensible but successful effort).  Does a country who would elect the current President Obama, a man of absolutely no particular accomplishments or track record or policy achievements whatsoever, really deserve John Bolton as its leader?  Would a country whose Congressional leadership has tolerated such insanely naïve and inept handling of crucial foreign policy issues in North Korea, Iran, Egypt, and Libya (to name a few), really even know what to do with a man like this as our President???

Tonight’s speaker did serve the United States as Ambassador to the United Nations despite the Senate’s shameful failure to confirm him thanks to the politically brave and ideologically necessary willingness of President Bush to appoint him on recess.  And here is what the Wall Street Journal had to say about his period of service:

“Bolton has been valiant in his efforts to clean up UN corruption and malfeasance, and follow UN procedure in dealing with such threats as a nuclear North Korea, a Hezbollah bid to take over Lebanon, and the nuclearization of Hezbollah’s terror-masters in Iran. But it has been like watching one man trying to move a tsunami of mud.”

Watching our current President has been like watching one man put our own country into a tsunami of mud, if you ask me.  But the reason I know without any doubt in my mind that America’s best days are ahead of her, not behind her, is because there are still fearless leaders like John Bolton out in the fight, seeking to defend America and all she stands for.  This, I am certain, will be the case no matter what the Ambassador is doing for a living in a couple year’s times.

To close my introduction of tonight’s speaker, I present to you the description given to him by Iran’s foreign ministry: “a rude and undiplomatic man”.  Friends, I am so proud tonight to have a speaker at the 49th annual Lincoln Club dinner, who terrorists and thugs and villains would call “rude and undiplomatic”.  Welcome to the stage, the honorable John Bolton.