Rand Paul Making Sense On Civil Liberties–But Where Libertarians Go Wrong

Sometimes Rand Paul makes a lot of sense, such as when saying that the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing should be tried in civilian as opposed to military courts (which many other Republicans have been advocating):

“You know, I want to congratulate law enforcement for getting and capturing these terrorists, first of all, but what we do with them, I think we can still preserve the Bill of Rights, I see no reason why our Constitution is not strong enough to convict this young man with a jury trial, with the Bill of Rights,” Paul (R-Ky.) said on “Cavuto” on Fox Business Network. “We do it to horrible people all of the time: Rapists and murderers, they get lawyers, they get trials with juries. We seem to do a pretty good job of justice. So I think we can do it with our court system.”

If only Rand Paul and other libertarians would stick more to civil liberties issues. Then they would sound much more rational and we would have more in common with them.

I think that one reason Rand Paul and many other libertarians come across as crackpots is the company they keep. The close affiliation between libertarianism and the conservative movement has been disastrous for libertarianism. You can’t mix a pro-freedom philosophy with the views of the authoritarian right and remain consistently pro-freedom (or make much sense).

The Rand (and Ron) Paul form of libertarianism has many of the negative attributes of the far right. In the case of Ron Paul this has included racism, but this isn’t universal to all libertarians who became influenced by conservative views. This also includes support for states’ rights, which opposes excessive government power at the national level but often allows for far more restrictions on liberty at the state level (frequently at the expense of minorities.)

Many libertarians ignore religious liberty while promoting what they would describe as economic liberty. In some cases they are right to oppose unfair restrictions on business and counter-productive regulations. Far too often this really translates into opposing the types of regulation which are necessary for a free economy to work. They believe that markets are something arising from nature which must be left without restrictions, failing to realize that markets are creations of man which only work with a certain amount of regulation. This must come from government, not always Adam Smith’s invisible hand. In the worst cases, libertarianism is used to justify lack of activity against powerful business interests who exploit the pubic or harm the environment. They universally support business over government. While government is not always right in such disputes, when the system is working government provides a means for the public to work in unison against special interests which are too powerful for individuals to take on.

Many libertarians aligned with the conservative movement  have adopted views of the religious right, failing to realize that mixing religion with government is one of the greatest threats to freedom we face.

Libertarians would be much more consistent supporters of individual liberty (as opposed to being opponents of government action on a national level) if they continued their support of civil liberties but also  recognized the importance of separation of church and state, while giving up racism, state’s rights, and a knee-jerk opposition to economic regulation where it is needed. Of course those who hold this viewpoint are better known as liberals.

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Rand Paul vs. Drones and Black Helicopters

In looking at the threats to civil liberties which we face, I cannot disagree with Rand Paul in opposing the use of drones to kill Americans who are not engaged in combat against the United States (criteria which is somewhat vague). It was good to see an someone actually speaking during a filibuster, even if at times it sounded like a paranoid rant about black helicopters and Tea Party fantasy. We saw more grandstanding than actual defense of civil liberties, with Rand Paul (like his father)  having a rather mixed record in this area. There are other more pressing matters of civil liberties which actually impact the lives of Americans, such as the right wing’s use of government to restrict reproductive rights. I will present an example of a victory on civil liberties which is far more significant than Rand Paul’s filibuster in the next post.

The irresponsibility of the Republican leadership in both Houses of Congress, more concerned with opposing Obama than either governing or even providing a responsible opposition, has created a situation where even a clown like Rand Paul provides a mixed moment of hope. Paul’s actual effort was a failure (as discussed in more detail in the several links in the paragraph above) but it at least did include an attempt to discuss an actual issue. A more through discussion of the use of drones, rather than obsessing about the quite rare cases of targeting Americans, would provide a more meaningful example of needed Congressional oversight. Regardless of the degree of support for Barack Obama, it is unrealistic to expect restrictions on the Executive branch to come from the President.

I do not agree with the all-out criticism of drones, seeing advantages to their use as opposed to putting Americans in direct harm. Question as to their use first depend upon whether the military action is justified, regardless if by troops on the ground or by drones. Use against Americans, while definitely something which must be watched, has been a rare event in unusual circumstances. Collateral damage is a consequence of war regardless of technique and criticisms of drones based upon deaths of innocent civilians is not a sufficient argument against their use.

The ability to target individuals with drones does create new concerns, and requires check and balances which are now absent. I have supported oversight analogous to the FISA Court, as others have also proposed, and the Obama administration is considering. This would provide some degree of judicial oversight, ending the idea that any individual (regardless of whether an American citizen) could be targeted for execution by drones with no oversight whatsoever. In addition, this would ensure that there is a record of the justification for the use of drones which could be reviewed by Congressional committees which might uncover any pattern of abuse. Ultimately such information should be declassified so presidents would know that their conduct would be judged by history. Unfortunately Rand Paul’s filibuster on targeted killings of Americans on American soil pandered to the paranoia of the black helicopter crowd as opposed to serious consideration of the issue.

Besides, if Rand Paul really thought that Obama would use drones against American citizens he wouldn’t have stood in one place for thirteen hours while criticizing Obama.

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Libertarians Might Keep Mitt Romney Out Of The White House

Libertarian candidates might create some problems for Mitt Romney. Three Republican electors who support Ron Paul are saying they might not cast their electoral votes for Mitt Romney. If Romney should win by a very narrow margin, this could throw the election to the House. The vote in the House is based upon state delegations and, as GOP support is spread over a larger number of small states, Romney would still win the presidency in such a scenario. However if Democrats retain control of the Senate, they could re-elect Joe Biden as Vice President. If the Paul supporters are mad enough over the way Romney has treated them, perhaps they might even vote for Obama in the electoral collage.

At present it doesn’t look like Romney is likely to wind up close enough to Obama for this to matter. On top of all the problems leading to Romney falling behind Obama in the polls, another Libertarian might make it even difficult for Romney to win in some of the swing states. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, who was formerly a Republican, is now on the ballot in 47 states. Currently Johnson is polling at 4 percent nationally, but his support is significantly higher in swing states such as Colorado and Nevada. In a close race, he could take enough votes from Romney to keep him from winning some swing states.

 

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GOP Convention Day Four: Lies, Damn Lies, and Romney-Ryan

Mitt Romney continues to campaign against the imaginary version of Barack Obama he created rather than the real Barack Obama. The only way he can keep from being humiliated in the debates is if he can speak to an empty chair like Clint Eastwood did. Unless the goal was to have someone come on to make Romney look good by comparison, the Clint Eastwood appearance was very odd. If they wanted to put on an old crackpot, why didn’t they just go with Ron Paul?

Romney came out by walking through the convention–the first candidate to do this since Michael Dukakis. Romney’s speech started out with his biography. When he got to his father, George Romney, why didn’t he point out how many years of tax returns his father released? He moved on to attack fictional Obama, such as repeating his false claims about Medicare, attacking Obama for an “apology tour” which only occurred in Romney’s mind. He attacked  Obama for raising taxes on small business and the middle class when Obama actually decreased them while Romney’s tax plan will increase taxes on the middle class. It was just bizarre to complain about jobs going to China from the man who was an out-sourcing pioneer. Romney announced a plan to create 12 million new jobs which reminds me of Richard Nixon’s secret war to end the Viet Nam war. Where’s the beef? His talk about Iran was scary, raising fears that he will get us into another war (while failing to pay for it).

Romney’s failure to address the big issues of the day can be seen in his outrageously ignorant attack: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.” As Craig Crawford tweeted: “Mitt not worried about rising seas , he’s got a car elevator.”

Paul Ryan’s speech has been called the most dishonest convention speech ever. Romney did have fewer lies in his speech, but only because it was so devoid of content. The Romney-Ryan ticket is shaping up as the most dishonest in history.

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GOP Convention Day Three: The Lying Is Escalated

The Republican convention on Wednesday was fairly uneventful until Paul Ryan gave his speech. Prior to Ryan speaking the most exciting moment was the applause which Susana Martinez received for saying she carries a Smith & Wesson. Condi Rice joined the rest of the party in avoiding mention of the president she served under. I tweeted a suggestion for a drinking game earlier tonight: “GOP Convention Drinking Game For Teetotalers: Have a drink every time George Bush is mentioned.” Rice did have a hard time finding any actual fault in Obama’s foreign policy in an interview earlier in the day.

Mike Huckabee’s speech was much weaker than I expected. I did wonder how Huckabee knows what percentage of his income Mitt Romney gave to charity? Has he seen Romney’s tax returns? How much of Romney’s donations went to the Mormon Church as opposed to real charities?

The day brought more news of racism on the floor of the convention and in the Romney campaign. There have been new problems for Romney, between antagonizing the Paul supporters (which might make a difference in a very close election) and embarrassment from the yacht holding a party for this top supporters flying the flag of the Cayman Islands.

Until Paul Ryan came on, the most annoying thing I heard from Tampa was in radio interviews during the afternoon in which Republicans repeated their usual claims of superiority on family values. The difference between liberals and conservatives is not that liberals don’t practice family values. The difference is that Democrats do not use big government to impose their values on others as Republicans do. Democrats are also more inclusive, allowing gays to practice family values as married couples as opposed to defining what a marriage must be for others as many Republicans do. Numerous studies looking at who is more “moral” have shown the blue states to come out ahead of the red states and atheists to come out ahead over those are religious. Any measurement of such things is questionable, but it certainly does not support the Republican view of being superior on family values.

The convention ended the evening with a weird mashup–Eddie Munster giving John Galt’s speech. (Herman Munster was backstage fuming over all the lies Eddie was telling).

Paul Ryan showed he was an excellent choice by Mitt Romney. Ryan has all the Romney lies down well, and even added a few of his own.

Ryan attacked Obama for a plant which closed in his district. The decision to close the plant was made under George Bush,  and the plant stopped production under George Bush while Ryan opposed bailing out the auto industry. He attacked Obama for the stimulus, leaving out all the stimulus money he sought for his district, and ignoring the fact that the stimulus saved the economy which was in free fall when Obama took office. He blamed Obama for the deficit which was run up by George Bush, with the votes of Congressional Republicans including Paul Ryan. He blamed Obama for the drop in the credit rating which was caused by the irresponsibility of Congressional Republicans who threatened not to pay the bills they ran up. He repeated the big lie that Obama cut money from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. The fact is that the cuts are for matters such as reducing the subsidies to insurance companies from George Bush’s plan, not to cut benefits for seniors, and that these cuts are also in Ryan’s budget. Obama is increasing benefits for Medicare beneficiaries such as eliminating the donut hole for prescription medications and covering preventive care not previously covered. In contrast Ryan seeks to turn Medicare into a voucher program which would greatly increase out-of-pocket costs for seniors. He also wants to greatly reduce Medicaid spending–much of which assists seniors on Medicare who cannot afford Medicare premiums, deductibles, and co-pays.

Ryan also spoke of freedom, but it is the conservative version of freedom which has nothing to do with the actual freedoms this nation was founded upon. Ryan supports the freedom of religious fanatics to impose their views upon others. Ryan supports the freedom of the ultra-wealthy to plunder the wealth of the nation and destroy the middle class.

Tomorrow night pathological liar Mitt Romney will speak.

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GOP Convention Day One: The Party Which Was Not There

The first day of the Republican convention was cancelled due to Tropical Storm Isaac. You know what one less day of the convention means–twenty-five percent fewer lies.  It also means there is no longer enough time to fit in John Galt’s speech. Mitt Romney is really upset that he doesn’t have an opportunity to remind everyone once again that he is the white candidate. Rush Limbaugh sees this all as an evil plot hatched by the Muslim socialist Barack Obama of Kenya. On the other hand, the Christian Broadcasting Network wonders if prayer moved the storm away from Tampa to protect the Republicans. Would this make Republican prayers responsible for whatever happens in New Orleans or where ever the storm does hit?

This afternoon I received an email from the Romney campaign saying it is my last chance to enter to join Romney in Tampa for the Convention. While this is comparable to the type of fund raiser Obama is also holding, it does seem to be in poor taste to offer to bring people to Tampa at the moment.

One might think that keeping the Republican convention from convening would spare them a day of embarrassment, but it didn’t work out that way. Mitt Romney gave delegates a copy of his book No Apology. His views flip-flopped between the hard cover and paperback editions, and delegates were given the hard cover with his former view that his Massachusetts health care plan could be a model for the nation–a view removed from the paperback.

The Republicans now claim that social issues are a distraction. They are not a distraction–they are fundamental issues of individual liberty. Mitt Romney, who has refused to answer questions about abortion the last few days, would prefer the issue did not come up. Unfortunately for Romney, another Republican candidate accidentally revealed how Republicans think of rape and abortion rights. Tom Smith, the Republican Senate nominee in Pennsylvania, compared rape to out-of-wedlock pregnancy.  Quick, call Todd Akin. If sex outside of marriage is comparable to rape in the GOP world, does this mean that women have a way to shut down pregnancies from sex outside of marriage as they do for legitimate rape?

Can we shut down these ignorant Republicans?

Romney’s convention speech might be his best chance to portray himself as an acceptable candidate as Ronald Reagan once did. While I am skeptical as to how many will actually read the platform, a Pew Research Center survey found that more people are interested in the platforms than candidate speeches. This could be really bad news for the Republicans. As might be expected, the hard line platform opposes abortion and gay rights while adopting crackpot economic ideas from Ron Paul and the deceptively-named Tea Party. The platform goes beyond previous platforms which opposed child porn by also targeting adult pornography. How will this play in the red states, which consumes more porn than the blue states?

I imagine that tomorrow we might hear Mitt Romney blame those in the path of the storm for their suffering. In Romney’s mind they should have borrowed money from their parents to build mansions in safer areas.

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Romney’s Travel Troubles Continue

Romney’s international travels gave Jon Stewart a lot of material (video above). Things weren’t as bad for Romney in Poland as they were in London and Israel. He did receive the endorsement of Lech Walesa, but Solidarity distanced themselves, criticizing Romney because he “supported attacks on trade unions and employees’ rights.” Romney was also greeted with chants for Obama and even ran into supporters of Ron Paul while in Poland.

The trip provided another example of Romney’s dishonesty. He denied making the controversial comments which he did make about Palestinian culture in Israel. Greg Sargent found that Romney made the same fallacious argument in his book, No Apology.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak undermined the Republican argument against Obama on Israel in this interview with Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: You’ve studied U.S.-Israeli relations over many years. How would you describe the relationship today?

BARAK: I think that from my point of view as defense minister they are extremely good, extremely deep and profound. I can see long years, administrations of both sides of the political aisle deeply supporting the state of Israel, and I believe that reflects the profound feelings among the American people. But I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing, in regard to our security, more than anything that I can remember in the past.

BLITZER: More than any other president? LBJ, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush?

BARAK: Yeah, in terms of the support for our security, the cooperation of our intelligence, the sharing of thoughts in a very open way even when there are differences, which are not simple sometimes, I found their support for our defense very stable.

Steve Benen debunked another anti-Obama talking from the Romney campaign on Israel:

Beth Myers, a top Romney aide, also told reporters recently that it’s “pretty amazing” Obama hasn’t visited Israel.

The attack at least has the benefit of being partially accurate — Obama visited Israel as a candidate, but has not been back during his first term. If Republicans choose to find that outrageous, their complaints are grounded in fact.

The problem, however, is the selective nature of their disgust. George W. Bush didn’t visit Israel at any point during his first term, and neither did Bill Clinton. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush didn’t travel to Israel during their respective terms in office at all.

Many journalists have questioned whether Romney’s gaffes will harm him in the campaign. Chris Cillizza downplayed the damage:

It’s hard to imagine that Romney did himself any favors in answering lingering questions about his foreign policy acumen during this trip.

On the other hand, there is an argument to be made that nothing — literally, nothing — other than the economy at home matters to undecided voters. And that goes double for foreign policy, which is a bottom-of-mind issue (is that a thing?) for most voters.

In a late May Washington Post-ABC News poll, 1 — yes, one — percent of people said that foreign policy was the most important issue of the 2012 campaign. One!

Of course this might be the case when voters think that either candidate is capable of handling foreign policy. This could change as voters see that Romney is as inept as George Bush.

 

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Group of Republican Delegates Suing For Right To Vote As They Choose On First Ballot

It was pretty obvious even before the primaries began that Mitt Romney would be the Republican nominee. There were moments when perhaps there might have been a possibility of challenging him, but that ended when Rick Santorum failed to win in states such as Michigan and Ohio. Therefore I was curious when I saw a story that delegates to the Republican convention were suing to be able to vote for the candidate of their choice on the first ballot. Certainly releasing some Romney delegates would not change the outcome. Sure, some might vote for Sarah Palin or someone else preferred by the far right of the party, but Mitt Romney would still be the nominee.

This begins to make sense if Ron Paul supporters are behind this. Ron Paul’s campaign has been fighting hard for delegates, and in some states Paul supporters are going to the convention pledged to vote for Mitt Romney on the first (and almost certainly only) ballot. I was already wondering if they would create any havoc at the convention as, while pledged to vote for Romney, they would still be free to vote as they choose on any other matters. If delegates become free to vote for the candidate of their choice Paul will have more votes than he should based upon the actual votes in some states. This still won’t change the outcome, and I still wouldn’t put it past the GOP to manage to totally shut them out of the convention, but it will be interesting to see if the Paul supporters manage to find a way to have an impact.

 

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Posted in Mitt Romney, Ron Paul. 1 Comment »

Quote of the Day

“Ron Paul’s son is a senator from Kentucky, and he’s now endorsing Mitt Romney. I know how that feels. My son watches Jay.” –David Letterman

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Huckabee Has Letter Calling Obama Advisers Political Whores Pulled

Honorable move by Mike Huckabee to demand that a fund raising  letter sent on his letterhead referring to Obama’s advisers as “morally repugnant political whores” be pulled. Huckabee denies having approved this. I am inclined to believe him. Compare Huckabee’s action in stating he did not approve this as soon as the letter went out to Ron Paul claiming he did not know about multiple racist and anti-Semitic items under his name, years after pocketing the money raised.

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