Reactions to Ron Paul on Meet the Press

Ron Paul was on Meet the Press on Sunday (transcript here). The horse-race obsessed mainstream media ignored many controversial subjects discussed and news reports following the show primarily centered around the fact that he continued to leave the door open a crack to run as a third party candidate. Matters of much greater substance, regardless of whether you agree with him or not, were barely mentioned in the media. These included abolishing the federal income tax, whether the Civil War was justified, his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, and whether Iran poses a military threat to Israel.

As usual, it was left to the blogosphere to discuss the matters of substance, and most likely this discussion was reduced due to most of us being busy over the holiday weekend. Among blogs discussing the substance of the interview are Matthew Yglesias, The Agonist, OpEdNews and Poligazette.

The other topic which did come up, and which also did receive some media attention was the manner in which Paul seeks earmarks for his district. Paul typically requests that they be added to spending bills and then, in order to appear to preserve his purity, he votes against the bill. Paul supporters have come up with a number of justifications for this but I doubt their arguments convince anyone else. The manner in which Paul tries to have it both ways only makes him look more hypocritical.

Not surprisingly the recent accusations that Ron Paul has been meeting with white supremacists are making it into the mainstream media with this account at The New York Times Magazine. Lew, which has consistently defended Paul against all allegations, hardly helps Paul’s cause by referring to everyone who opposes Paul as either communists or fascists, such as in its reference to the New York Times as the Stalin News. This only strengthens the view that Paul and his supporters are a bunch of extremists who are out of touch with reality.

As I’ve noted several times, the questions of a connection between Paul and white supremacists, along with neo-Nazis, are Paul’s own fault in light of the racist writings in his newsletter and Paul’s failure to return the contribution of Stormfront founder Don Black once this was identified. The frequency with which Paul’s supporters spam the internet with racist and anti-Semitic comments also adds to this perception even if Paul cannot necessarily be blamed for the views of his supporters. As long as Paul and his supporters fail to see what is wrong with their actions they verify suspicions regarding their lack of principles. Even if Paul himself does not share their views, his acceptance of such supporters is troubling enough.

The Upsides to Mike Huckabee

The Carpetbagger Report has a post on Huckabee which makes points similar to those I’ve made about him in the past. Steve Benen writes about the problems with Huckabee’s emphasis on religion and then concludes:

All of this sounds quite persuasive, but I was on a radio show yesterday with my friend Bill Simmon who raised a good point: as aggressively as Huckabee is pushing a line, and as uncomfortable as he’s making a lot of people feel, there’s an upside — at least there won’t be any surprises from this guy.

In other words, Huckabee’s candidness has the benefit of transparency. There’s no real wink-wink here; Huckabee is laying it out there for all to see — on matters of faith, he’s a right-wing evangelical creationist who has admitted publicly that he wants to help take the nation “back for Christ.” It’s better for Americans to see that and evaluate those beliefs accordingly, than for Huckabee to believe this and keep his agenda under wraps.

To a certain extent, Huckabee is undermining American political norms and using Christianity in ways no credible, modern candidate has. But at a minimum, at least we know what we’re getting.

While I would never vote for Huckabee, so don’t take this as a word of support for him, there really are upsides to Huckabee. In some ways I have more respect for Huckabee, who at least campaigns on what he believes in, as opposed to someone like Mitt Romney who changes his views based upon political expediency.

One upside is that Huckabee has nothing to prove to the religious right and he was able to govern as somewhat of a centrist. I fear that if Giuliani or Romney is the nominee they will feel the need to offer far more to the religious right to get them out to vote.

Another upside is that Huckabee’s views, as much as I disagree with them, are his actual views based upon a lifetime of considering them. As a result sometimes he makes more sense than Republicans who just try to say what the religious right wants to hear. For example, Huckabee has considered school prayer and has stated that this is not the schools’ job as people can pray at home. Many other Republicans would just give knee jerk support for school prayer thinking that this is what someone campaigning for the votes of the religious right should say.

While I hope Huckabee doesn’t get the nomination, there is also some benefit to having open debate over the role of religion in government, and debate over issues such as whether evolution is established science and why it is important for political leaders to understand this.

Besides, it is fun to see country club conservatives, who previously pandered to the religious right for votes but never planned to give them much, go nuts over the prospect of people like Huckabee taking control of their party. They may have missed the fact that to a considerable degree, such people already have taken control of the GOP.

Trolling the Web

The Wall Street Journal looks at people who troll political sites, but surprisingly leaves out a major source of trolls this year–supporters of Ron Paul. While typically problems with trolls from most sources are limited to people working alone or sometimes with one partner, many Paul supporters use trolling other sites as a planned tactic, failing to understand that this only results in creating antagonism and harming as opposed to helping their candidate. The nearest we saw to this phenomenon in the past was when some supporters of Howard Dean behaved this way in 2003-4. At least that year many more responsible Dean supporters, as well as the Joe Trippi, made statements regarding how counterproductive this was and urged them to cease.

There are some common traits of trolls. One is that many simply want attention, and unfortunately articles like this will only encourage them. Another is that they have little understanding of “netiquette.” A troll featured in the article is quoted as saying, “If you’re on a site and you’re just agreeing with each other all day, where’s the argument?” and “I love to argue.”

What they fail to understand is that there are specific forums and sites which are devoted to argument, but many people do not want to spend all their time on such sites. Such trolls are just as rude, and no more welcome, than a people who might come up to the door of your home to argue their political views whether invited or not. Besides, those who are only interested in the argument are never going to change their minds and to debate them is pointless. It is also a poor use of time for many bloggers. We have lives outside of our blogs, and want to use our on line time effectively. It makes far more sense to spend time on main blog posts which are read by far more people than the comments.

Another problem is that it is both a waste of time and tedious to repeat the same debates continuously. If I have a post on, for example, evolution, I will receive comments each time with virtually the same creationist talking points. It is not worth repeating the same debate over and over. Those who are ignorant of modern science and believe that “evolution is only a theory” or that there is no evidence for evolution are not going to listen to the facts. Blog posts will also frequently contain both links to other sources and tags to pull up previous posts for those who legitimately want to see more of the material supporting a view expressed in a post. It makes far more sense to periodically post on a topic as new material is available for those who are really interested in the facts as opposed to arguing for the sake of argument in the comments. I also find that many of the posts here, as well as other blogs, wind up being linked to by various debate forums which use them to back up their arguments. This is a far more valuable contribution to the debates than to waste time with every troll who wants to debate in the comments to every post.

Some trolls whose comments are not put through will inevitably cry censorship, but a blog or forum owner has the right to determine what is posted on their site. A blogger restricting comments has no relationship to a government which restricts freedom of the speech or the press. Posting a blog comment is more analogous to sending a letter to the editor. While some blogs will post every comment, other blogs see the comment section as reflecting upon the quality of the blog and will exercise editorial control to maintain a site which is worth reading. Trolls who work in large numbers present a particular problem as they will often attempt to hijack a discussion preventing any meaningful discussion of points other than those they want expressed. In the case of Paul supporters, more reasonable arguments are seen when I limit the discussion to meaningful points and exclude the bulk of comments which primarily contain insults against anyone who doesn’t agree with them one hundred percent, racist or anti-Semitic remarks, references to various conspiracy theories, or other arguments which simply defy logic.

Bush Administration Warned About Blackwater and Other Private Firms

We’ve seen the same pattern repeated many times with the Bush administration. Both the Clinton administration and the CIA provided Bush with warnings about al Qaeda but he ignored them. Many people warned that going into Iraq would be a disaster, predicting the situation we are now in. The Washington Post reports on another example of warnings that were ignored, this time regarding the problems with contractors:

The U.S. government disregarded numerous warnings over the past two years about the risks of using Blackwater Worldwide and other private security firms in Iraq, expanding their presence even after a series of shooting incidents showed that the firms were operating with little regulation or oversight, according to government officials, private security firms and documents.

The warnings were conveyed in letters and memorandums from defense and legal experts and in high-level discussions between U.S. and Iraqi officials. They reflected growing concern about the lack of control over the tens of thousands of private guards in Iraq, the largest private security force ever employed by the United States in wartime.

Neither the Pentagon nor the State Department took substantive action to regulate private security companies until Blackwater guards opened fire Sept. 16 at a Baghdad traffic circle, killing 17 Iraqi civilians and provoking protests over the role of security contractors in Iraq.

“Why is it they couldn’t see this coming?” said Christopher Beese, chief administrative officer for ArmorGroup International, a British security firm with extensive operations in Iraq. “That amazes me. Somebody — it could have been military officers, it could have been State — anybody could have waved a flag and said, ‘Stop, this is not good news for us.’ “

The Bush administration has been one of the most incompetent in our history. Many of the problems could have been prevented if they had simply paid attention to warnings before problems got out of control.

Posted in George Bush, Iraq. Tags: . No Comments »

Obama Receives Two More Endorsements

Barack Obama received two more endorsements on Sunday. The Nashua Telegraph endorses Obama as the candidate who can best end decades of division:

Obama seems least like someone looking to defeat the symbolic red states and red-state voters. He is best-suited among Democrats to win them (or at least some of them) by finding the shared values of red- and blue-state America. His positions and language are clear and forceful, resonating with idealism and compassion.

They care not concerned with Obama’s relative lack of experience:

The candidate has been criticized by his opponents for a lack of experience. It’s true, he hasn’t been a fixture in Washington for decades – and this may be a good thing. As the Associated Press reported last week, Obama noted the downside of too much Washington experience in a recent meeting with independent voters in Exeter.

“Most people come to Washington to serve,” he said. “They get into politics for all the right reasons. What does happen, though, is people do get sucked into the conventional wisdom.”

Obama’s leadership skills and common sense will enable him to draft a seasoned adviser team; he has promised to choose a bipartisan cabinet with the chief criteria being excellence as opposed to political affiliation.

As we look at the current state of the nation – our foreign policy, our health-care system, our schools and the very tenor of our national discourse – it’s hard for us to conclude that experience is the issue.

There’s plenty of experience in Washington. What’s lacking is inspired leadership that can speak directly to the people over the heads of the partisan politicians and craft a national consensus not seen in decades.

What’s lacking is authenticity, transparency and courtesy. What’s lacking are leaders who, rather than seeking high ground from which they can dispatch their opponents, will seek common ground and common-sense solutions.

Obama can provide that leadership, and deserves the support of New Hampshire Democrats.

The Sioux City Journal similarly argues that Obama “ is equipped to bring a fractured people together.” They recognize the virtues of some of Obama’s proposals differing from the Democratic orthodoxy:

Obama’s domestic priorities are similar to those of many of his opponents in the Democratic field. That doesn’t mean he fits neatly into the traditional liberal mold.

His health care plan, for instance, is the only Democratic plan that does not require that all Americans have health insurance, only access. He supports merit pay for teachers, something that doesn’t sit well with one of the party’s key union supporters. The Obama energy plan includes a sensible cap on carbon emissions without sacrificing his demand for “big” rather than incremental change.

Hillary Clinton also received one endorsement, from The Quad City Times for reasons which mean more to this Republican paper than to most Democratic voters. They also write, “We’d prefer a less combative approach” when commenting on John Edwards.