The 2016 Presidential Campaign Has Begun, God Help Us All
The 2012 presidential campaign was a series of gruesome sideshows that lasted two years and made everyone unhappy. Americans thought the campaign had gone on too long and wanted it to end… in 2011, even before any Republican primaries had been held. Horse race–style stories documenting the minutiae of day-to-day campaigning and polls and microscandals out filled cable news and every political corner of the internet and were obsolete by the time The Daily Show got around to making fun of them. None of it mattered. Mitt Romney was the frontrunner in early 2011 and he won the nomination only to lose fairly badly to Barack Obama—an outcome you could have predicted without reading or watching any of the thousands of news items that accompanied the campaign.
Then it was over, and we were treated to some months of relative peace and quiet. Congress was busy finding new ways to not do anything. The 2014 midterms were coming up if you were really an election junkie. There was some speculation about who was going to run for president—definitely Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton, and Chris Christie; probably Joe Biden, Jeb Bush, and Bobby Jindal—and no doubt there was a bunch of behind-the-scenes fundraising and conversations between political professionals going on, but it was out of the public eye, because c’mon, who would start campaigning for real more than three years before an election?
Last week’s post about Ron Paul, discrimination, and conspiracy elicited a familiar but frustrating response from supporters of the good doctor. I’ve replied to a lot of those responses here, but let’s take a second to consider a solicitation letter from Ron Paul, apparently written while out of office, during the first Bush presidency:
"I’ve been told not to talk, but these stooges don’t scare me. Threats or no threats, I’ve laid bare the coming race war in our big cities. The federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS (my training as a physician helps me see through this one.) [sic] The Bohemian-Grove—perverted, pagan playground of the powerful. Skull & Bones: the demonic fraternity that includes George Bush and leftist Senator John Kerry, Congress’s Mr. New Money. The Israeli lobby, which plays Congress like a cheap harmonica. And the Soviet-style "smartcard" the Justice Department has in mind for you."
Now, forget it. Let’s indulge the certain-to-be-leveled assertion that we cannot pin these on Paul because we don’t have notarized signed pictures of him writing them by hand while holding up a copy of that day’s newspaper. Instead, let’s switch gears and ask ourselves what we can celebrate about the Ron Paul candidacy.
If there’s one thing Paul owns that should embarrass Barack Obama—it’s policy on the Global War on Terror. You might recognize his opinions on the GWOT as “all the parts of the Republican debates where the audience boos something other than gay people.”
First, his most sinister apostasy: Israel. The American foreign policy debate on Israel is so fraught with the potential to be accused of anti-Semitism that it’s far easier to be critical of Israel in Israel. Haaretz routinely posts editorials that, penned by an American official, would send AIPAC on a crusade to force his resignation. Paul’s one of the few figures from either party who’s willing to entertain the notion that America’s uncritical support of Israel generates negative perceptions that can radicalize Muslims—an idea he probably got from a2004 Department of Defense analysis commissioned by Donald Rumsfeld.
That same DoD analysis didn’t just single out Israel, but also included the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and our propping up of sclerotic dictatorships, like those of Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi, the bedouin-tent bunkmate of John McCain.
Every time Paul argues foreign policy in a GOP debate, he drops another fact-based turd in the punchbowl. He actually mentioned the 1953 Iranian coup while explaining our complicity in enraging Iran—which, by Republican debate standards, is like reciting pi to the 500th decimal. Newt Gingrich can spew his verbal chaff and rattle off vague bullet-point plans, but it’s clear that Paul is the only one who’s come to class on book report day after having done any of the fucking reading. The most embarrassing part is that the assignment was a Pentagon report from the previous Republican administration.
Paul’s attitude toward the GWOT on American soil is also in conflict with those of his fellow candidates. Last week, a bipartisan Senate vote passed the Levin/McCain bill, which extends the United States’ ability to indefinitely detain American citizens for “terrorism” charges so amorphous as “substantially [supporting]” Al-Qaeda or “associated forces.” The conduct of the last two administrations shows that “associated forces” is a meaningless modifier, an exploitable ambiguity whose purpose is preemptively excusing abuse of the Fourth Amendment. Paul, to his credit—unlike Obama and the other GOP candidates—violently opposes indefinite imprisonment of American citizens without due process.
And that’s why Paul will never win. His insistence on being just on these issues makes him unelectable by his own party. So why focus on those racist newsletters? Why do they matter? Well, they matter because there’s something to cheer here.
If we accept, as we must, that Paul can never win, then we have to ask what purpose he serves. In this case, it’s injecting positive ideas into the discourse and challenging a complacent corporatist two-party system. But, if those things matter, it matters who brands those ideas and who opens them to the easiest dismissal.
If you want to reevaluate America’s attitude toward Israel, don’t use as your representative someone who published anti-Semitic comments in a newsletter. If you want to calm fears about the existential threat foreign Muslims pose to America, your best speaker is not someone who’s printed warnings about inevitable race war. When you assert that the security state is becoming a problem, don’t cite a man warning against a fascist occupation of the United States in the 1980s.
Whoever wins this next election will assuredly continue America’s global killing and domestic assaults on liberty. That moral catastrophe is inevitable. What we can do morally, however, is refuse to add more shame to the tally. Whether it was Ron Paul himself who wrote those letters or a staffer who saw the value in selling homophobia, racism and violent paranoia, that history and audience exists.
When you opt to support anti-imperialist and civil liberties ideals by supporting Paul the Candidate, you end up supporting everything else about him. That includes those newsletters and the unambiguous message to those who enjoy them: You can write these things and succeed; this works. The other good ideas to which he’s signatory can’t erase the fact that he put his name to those words printed above. The moral weight of those newsletters drags down even the most high-minded aspirations he has about civil liberties, and everything crashes down on all of us.
Ron Paul: Reactionary Racist Leprechaun
With Herman Cain in the jaws of defeat from trying to indulge in so much victory snatch, and Ron Paul turning his knives on Newt Gingrich, it’s time to ask who’s the new GOP flavor of the week. Everyone else had the chance to hove into view on this carousel of social and moral failure, so, since he took the initiative, why not Ron?
Because Ron Paul is apocalyptically insane.
It’s easy to see his appeal to independents. Just like in 2008, people who think both parties are crooked like to hear new voices. His Middle East policy—his unwillingness to slobber about Iran or uncritically submit American interests to Israel’s—makes him the only reasonable candidate on the issue in either party. The good news ends there.
Liberals cheer his opposition to America’s wars, but his isn’t a moral choice so much as it is an echo of George Washington’s injunction against “foreign entanglements.” Further, while Ronald isn’t down with wars that cost money and expand federal power, he’s totally fine with the government making a buck from other people’s wars: He was the only member of congress to vote against the Darfur Divestment Act, which proposed the radical idea of prohibiting the American government from investing in businesses fueling a fucking genocide.
The biggest strikes against him are ones that existed in 2008, over which the struggling, oppressed Paulestinian masses stick their fingers in their ears and say “Lalalalalala, that’s not true! Gandhi quotes!” I’m talking about the Ron Paul newsletters.
Published under various names—”The Ron Paul Survival Report,” “The Ron Paul Political Report” etc.—the Ron Paul Newsletters provided a buffet of white racial paranoia, militia advice, communist conspiracy, and Bircherite offal. The best resource for excerpts is an article by The New Republic’s James Kirchick It’s under a pay wall, but, in one of life’s great ironies, you can read his rundown of white racial hatemongering on FreeRepublic.com. I know, right? Who knew?
It’s an open secret that many newsletters were written by bigoted shitswine Lew Rockwell, which the Paulestinian crowd considers exculpatory. But that doesn’t cut it in a presidential election. Paul’s responses were inconsistent with someone finding out that someone wrote horrible things in his name. Reason, the libertarian magazine, even has a timeline that shows him owning the newsletter content, then handwaving it away, then playing dumb. There’s no way Paul could have been ignorant of the content in an 8-12 page newsletters published under his name for over ten years. Paul supporters face three losing propositions:
-He lacks the competency to control content published under his own name for over a decade, and is thus unfit to lead a country.
-He doesn’t believe these things but considers them a useful political tool to motivate racist whites, which makes him fit to be a GOP candidate, but too obvious about it to win.
-He’s actually a racist, which makes him unfit to be a human being.
The hits keep coming. Independents sick of the government’s invasions of privacy celebrate Paul’s veneration of the Constitution, but that veneration is as convenient as Bush and Obama’s. Paul has repeatedly submitted the "We the People Act" to Congress, whose provisions remove Supreme Court review of First Amendment cases. If a state chose to criminalize being Muslim, citizens would have no federal redress. If a state chose to criminalize birth control, the penumbras of individual protections of privacy as explicated by William O. Douglas would disappear.
His Constitution would also be a lot slimmer. He subscribes to the notion that the Fourteenth, Sixteenth, andSeventeenth amendments are invalid or must be repealed. So long, income tax, but also so long to voting for senators yourselves. And if you don’t like foreign brown people, Paul’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act means you won’t have to share a dinner table with them for their last meal before they join 10 million other human beings in railcars, calling at all points south.
But nobody wants to hear that stuff. Government non-interference is sexy when it’s sold to you as, “Ron Paul opposes the War on Drugs.” What isn’t mentioned is that he has no problem with the concept of 50 individual state wars on drugs, and deregulating evidently stops when it comes to uterine production—he’s OK withvoting for federal partial birth abortion bans, for instance.
Then there’s Paul’s dreamed-of return to the Gold Standard, which would replace our “valueless” paper currency, backed by economic confidence, with currency backed by gold. We’d replace a collective assumption of value with… the collective assumption of value. You see, gold has intrinsic value, because we’ve said it does for a lot longer than we’ve said that about paper. It makes pretty shiny things and improves your speakers’ performance.
This is basic economics for Paul. Any time you have the chance to contract the global economy by tying it to a commodity whose total worldwide value is probably insufficient to represent even America’s wealth, you’ve gotta take it. You gotta zip along in a car at 70 MPH and put that fucker in “park.” It’s not like there could be any ulterior motive to immediately increasing the value of gold by orders of magnitude—like, say, being heavily invested in gold mines..
The way to fix the 21st century is to return to the values and socioeconomic order of the 14th. After you gut the FDA, you can even literally bring back the plague, which shouldn’t affect the rich people in Congress. They’ll be able to afford all the colloidal silver they can drink.