Ron Paul As Conservative, Not Defender of Freedom

Seeing Ron Paul debate his fellow Republicans on Iraq, and even criticize their lack of respect for civil liberties, brought Paul justifiably favorable attention. This has included the support of some liberals who have not looked carefully at Paul’s views beyond these issues. Paul has lost a considerable amount of respect the last few days after an article in The New Republic reported on the racist writings in his newsletter, but there were reasons for both liberals and libertarians to question Paul even before these revelations.

To bring those up to speed who might not have followed the events of past week, The New Republic‘s exposure of racist writings in Ron Paul’s newsletter was the final straw after which many libertarians who had previously ignored Paul’s past realized they must disassociate themselves from Paul if they wished to retain any credibility. I have quoted the responses of several libertarians here and here. Paul’s defense was that the articles were ghost written by others and that he had not read the articles. He also claimed that he disagreed with the views expressed.

Back in November I discussed how libertarians were beginning to dissociate themselves from Ron Paul, and even half jokingly suggested that Reason would eventually do so on its cover to differentiate themselves from Paul’s markedly non-libertarian views. This week Reason clearly did realize the danger to their reputation in being linked to Paul. This led to Reason doing investigative work to debunk Paul’s defense.

Reason has reviewed public statements from Paul over the years which are quite incriminating. At times Paul defended the writings, and the context of the news reports suggests Paul was aware of them even if a ghost writer assisted him. For example, the May 22, 1996 Dallas Morning News contains this (emphasis mine): “Dr. Paul denied suggestions that he was a racist and said he was not evoking stereotypes when he wrote the columns. He said they should be read and quoted in their entirety to avoid misrepresentation.”

This hardly sounds like someone who is either denying that he wrote the articles or denying that he agrees with what is published. My post on this topic yesterday includes another quote from a libertarian, Megan McArdle, which further debunks the arguments of many of Paul’s supporters, as well as dismissing the question of whether it matters if Paul is personally a racist or enabling racism.

I’ve been following Ron Paul at Liberal Values for quite a while. Initially, despite some disagreements, I found aspects of his campaign to be of interest. Besides his views on Iraq and civil liberties, I saw Paul’s campaign as a sign of the general anti-government sentiment in the country, which liberals would be wise not to ignore. As I continued to follow Paul, and reviewed his writings well before The New Republic did, I found many disturbing aspects beyond the questions of racism.

One policy I generally followed in my criticism of Paul’s views was to hold him to a standard of supporting freedom, but generally ignored disagreements based upon basic libertarian views. We might disagree with Paul over issues such as eliminating certain government programs, but in discussing libertarians that goes with the territory. Such disagreements with liberals are to be expected. Objections are much more interesting when they pertain to areas in which the so-called libertarian’s views are contrary to principles of individual liberty.

Paul’s views are far better characterized as social conservatism with extreme support for states’ rights as opposed to libertarianism. Despite his reputation as a libertarian, Paul is actually hostile towards First Amendment rights where they conflict with his religious views. Besides the Iraq war, and related abuses in the “war on terror,” the greatest threat we now face to civil liberties comes from the religious right.

As I’ve previously noted, Paul has incorrectly claimed that, “The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers.” He has also supported keeping “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, has co-sponsored the school prayer amendment, and supported keeping the Ten Commandments on a courthouse lawn. Paul has both criticized secularism and claimed that the founding fathers envisioned a Christian America. Paul has supported the Sanctity of Life Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the Marriage Protection Act.


Fighting to Transform Politics, Not to Lose

Cross posted from The Carpetbagger Report:

Having three of us guest blogging for Steve is bound to create a different atmosphere here than usual over the weekend, allowing for a variety of impressions of the same events or articles. Steve M. started off with his views of Francis Wilkinson’s op-ed in The New York Times.

Steve M. certainly has a point in his disdain for this op-ed. Wilkinson writes, “If Mr. Huckabee and Mr. McCain continue to set the tone for the Republican side, Mrs. Clinton would find it hard to escape the partisan past she unwillingly symbolizes.” From what I know of both Huckabee and McCain, it would be a serious mistake to believe they have buried the hatchet. More likely they are just holding back for just the right moment to stab their Democratic opponent in the back.

It is probably true that Huckabee and McCain would run a less negative campaign than the demagogic warmonger Rudy Giuliani. Mitt Romney has already been planning to run against Hillary Clinton by the ridiculous tactic of equating her with France. Even should McCain or Huckabee win the nomination it would be incredibly naive to believe that the right wing noise machine is going to just pack up and shut itself down. A democratic candidate must be able to respond to their attacks.

I’ve never been a great fan of Hillary Clinton, but I must admit I did respect her for not mincing words when interviewed on The Today Show back on January 27, 1998:

Matt Lauer: “You have said, I understand, to some close friends, that this is the last great battle, and that one side or the other is going down here.”

Hillary Clinton: “Well, I don’t know if I’ve been that dramatic. That would sound like a good line from a movie. But I do believe that this is a battle. I mean, look at the very people who are involved in this — they have popped up in other settings. This is — the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”

There were also times during the campaigns of 2000 and 2004 where the old Clinton war room sure would have come in handy.

If Wilkinson really advocates unilateral disarmament this would be a terrible mistake. However I see more in his op-ed and there is an element of truth in what he says. To build a new majority, as opposed to scraping by with a narrow win along the old red/blue divide, a Democratic campaign must concentrate on why people should vote for them, and not just what was wrong with George Bush. As Wilkinson wrote, “If this fragile moment endures, the next president will be the candidate whose person and politics make the sturdiest bridge across America’s political divide.” (more…)

Guest Blogging at The Carpetbagger Report

Join me over at The Carpetbagger Report this weekend. Steve Benen is taking a much deserved weekend off and I’ll be guest blogging in his absence, along with Steve M. from No More Mister Nice Blog and dnA from Too Sense. I’m not sure how this will impact half the liberal blogosphere which Steve also seems to cover on weekends.

I’ll also cross post whatever I write over here. Regular readers might experience a bit of déjà vu. While I never know for sure what I’ll be blogging about ahead of time, with three of us scouring the news for things to blog about I plan to have at least some of my posts be on some of the larger subjects I’ve often discussed here in the past, including some which don’t receive as much attention elsewhere in the liberal blogosphere. That doesn’t mean I’ll be ignoring the news. I do note that John Kerry will be appearing on This Week tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll be commenting on the interview, his endorsement of Barack Obama, and more.