Monday, February 13, 2012

Ron Paul's Candidacy and What It Means

From, here is an article discussing some things that both Democrats and Republicans don't want to hear. Be sure to watch the videos at the end, too.

Strap yourselves in, this is going to be a long post. I've been putting this one off for a while because, quite frankly, it's a lot of material to digest.

"Progressives and the Ron Paul fallacies" by Glenn Greenwald

Greenwald has an awfully long preamble before he gets to the good stuff, the discussion of Ron Paul. And the way Ron Paul's candidacy reveals the inherent self-contradictory knots that hyper-partisans tie themselves into.

Greenwald quotes a tweet from Katrina vanden Heuvel (@KatrinaNation): "I have big problems w/Ron Paul on many issues.But on ending preemptive wars & on challenging bipartisan elite consensus on FP, good he's in."

Greenwald observes that vanden Heuvel will never vote for Paul, of course, but "...the point that she’s making is important, if not too subtle for the with-us-or-against-us ethos that dominates the protracted presidential campaign: even though I don’t support him for President, Ron Paul is the only major candidate from either party advocating crucial views on vital issues that need to be heard, and so his candidacy generates important benefits."

Greenwald continues, "Whatever else one wants to say, it is indisputably true that Ron Paul is the only political figure with any sort of a national platform — certainly the only major presidential candidate in either party — who advocates policy views on issues that liberals and progressives have long flamboyantly claimed are both compelling and crucial. The converse is equally true: the candidate supported by liberals and progressives and for whom most will vote — Barack Obama — advocates views on these issues (indeed, has taken action on these issues) that liberals and progressives have long claimed to find repellent, even evil."

Greenwald refers to a Matt Stoller essay at this point. I'll get back to this later in this post. Let's continue with Greenwald for the moment.

"Ron Paul’s candidacy is a mirror held up in front of the face of America’s Democratic Party and its progressive wing, and the image that is reflected is an ugly one; more to the point, it’s one they do not want to see because it so violently conflicts with their desired self-perception."

"The thing I loathe most about election season is reflected in the central fallacy that drives progressive discussion the minute 'Ron Paul' is mentioned. As soon as his candidacy is discussed, progressives will reflexively point to a slew of positions he holds that are anathema to liberalism and odious in their own right and then say: how can you support someone who holds this awful, destructive position? The premise here — the game that’s being played — is that if you can identify some heinous views that a certain candidate holds, then it means they are beyond the pale, that no Decent Person should even consider praising any part of their candidacy."

"The fallacy in this reasoning is glaring. The candidate supported by progressives — President Obama — himself holds heinous views on a slew of critical issues and himself has done heinous things with the power he has been vested. He has slaughtered civilians — Muslim children by the dozens — not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations with drones, cluster bombs and other forms of attack. He has sought to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. He has institutionalized the power of Presidents — in secret and with no checks — to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA, far from any battlefield. He has waged an unprecedented war against whistleblowers, the protection of which was once a liberal shibboleth. He rendered permanently irrelevant the War Powers Resolution, a crown jewel in the list of post-Vietnam liberal accomplishments, and thus enshrined the power of Presidents to wage war even in the face of a Congressional vote against it. His obsession with secrecy is so extreme that it has become darkly laughable in its manifestations, and he even worked to amend the Freedom of Information Act (another crown jewel of liberal legislative successes) when compliance became inconvenient."

"He has entrenched for a generation the once-reviled, once-radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers of indefinite detention, military commissions, and the state secret privilege as a weapon to immunize political leaders from the rule of law. He has shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability. He has vigorously prosecuted the cruel and supremely racist War on Drugs, including those parts he vowed during the campaign to relinquish — a war which devastates minority communities and encages and converts into felons huge numbers of minority youth for no good reason. He has empowered thieving bankers through the Wall Street bailout, Fed secrecy, efforts to shield mortgage defrauders from prosecution, and the appointment of an endless roster of former Goldman, Sachs executives and lobbyists. He’s brought the nation to a full-on Cold War and a covert hot war with Iran, on the brink of far greater hostilities. He has made the U.S. as subservient as ever to the destructive agenda of the right-wing Israeli government. His support for some of the Arab world’s most repressive regimes is as strong as ever."

"Most of all, America’s National Security State, its Surveillance State, and its posture of endless war is more robust than ever before. The nation suffers from what National Journal‘s Michael Hirsh just christened “Obama’s Romance with the CIA.” He has created what The Washington Post just dubbed “a vast drone/killing operation,” all behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy and without a shred of oversight. Obama’s steadfast devotion to what Dana Priest and William Arkin called “Top Secret America” has severe domestic repercussions as well, building up vast debt and deficits in the name of militarism that create the pretext for the “austerity” measures which the Washington class (including Obama) is plotting to impose on America’s middle and lower classes.

The simple fact is that progressives are supporting a candidate for President who has done all of that — things liberalism has long held to be pernicious. I know it’s annoying and miserable to hear. Progressives like to think of themselves as the faction that stands for peace, opposes wars, believes in due process and civil liberties, distrusts the military-industrial complex, supports candidates who are devoted to individual rights, transparency and economic equality. All of these facts — like the history laid out by Stoller in that essay — negate that desired self-perception. These facts demonstrate that the leader progressives have empowered and will empower again has worked in direct opposition to those values and engaged in conduct that is nothing short of horrific. So there is an eagerness to avoid hearing about them, to pretend they don’t exist. And there’s a corresponding hostility toward those who point them out, who insist that they not be ignored."

Why does Ron Paul's candidacy pose a problem for liberals?

"The parallel reality — the undeniable fact — is that all of these listed heinous views and actions from Barack Obama have been vehemently opposed and condemned by Ron Paul: and among the major GOP candidates, only by Ron Paul. For that reason, Paul’s candidacy forces progressives to face the hideous positions and actions of their candidate, of the person they want to empower for another four years. If Paul were not in the race or were not receiving attention, none of these issues would receive any attention because all the other major GOP candidates either agree with Obama on these matters or hold even worse views."

How should liberals approach this problem? Greenwald continues...

"An honest line of reasoning in this regard would go as follows: Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for 'espionage,' and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court."

That's a pretty damn weak position, but at least it is an honest one. As Greenwald points out, it would be a "lesser-of-two-evils rationale." Hardly an idealistic position, hardly the liberals see themselves. So of course they can't be honest with themselves.

"Paul’s candidacy forces those truths about the Democratic Party to be confronted. More important — way more important — is that, as vanden Heuvel pointed out, he forces into the mainstream political discourse vital ideas that are otherwise completely excluded given that they are at odds with the bipartisan consensus."

Think about that for a moment. Paul forces us to discuss these issues, issues that wouldn't otherwise be discussed because there is bipartisan agreement on them--no matter how much the mainstream media would have us believe that the two parties are somehow fundamentally different.

Earlier in this post, during my comments on Glenn Greenwald's article, I mentioned an essay by Matt Stoller. Let's get back to that now. From Naked Capitalism:
"Matt Stoller: Why Ron Paul Challenges Liberals"

"The most perplexing character in Congress, ideologically speaking, is Ron Paul. ... And as I’ve drilled into Paul’s ideas, his ideas forced me to acknowledge some deep contradictions in American liberalism (pointed out years ago by Christopher Laesch) and what is a long-standing, disturbing, and unacknowledged affinity liberals have with centralized war financing. So while I have my views of Ron Paul, I believe that the anger he inspires comes not from his positions, but from the tensions that modern American liberals bear within their own worldview."

I love Stoller's inside look at how things work in Washington, and how Paul is different.

"My perspective of Paul comes from working with his staff in 2009-2010 on issues of war and the Federal Reserve. ... How Paul operated his office was different than most Republicans, and Democrats. An old Congressional hand once told me, and then drilled into my head, that every Congressional office is motivated by three overlapping forces – policy, politics, and procedure."

"Paul’s office was dedicated, first and foremost, to his political principles, and his work with his grassroots base reflects that. Politics and procedure simply didn’t matter to him. ... But it wasn’t just the Fed audit – any competent liberal Democratic staffer in Congress can tell you that Paul will work with anyone who seeks his ends of rolling back American Empire and its reach into foreign countries, auditing the Federal Reserve, and stopping the drug war."

"...when considering questions about Ron Paul, you have to ask yourself whether you prefer a libertarian who will tell you upfront about his opposition to civil rights statutes, or authoritarian Democratic leaders who will expand healthcare to children and then aggressively enforce a racist war on drugs and shield multi-trillion dollar transactions from public scrutiny."

Okay, so that's enough background. Here Stoller shifts gears and gets more specific.

"But this obscures the real question, of why Paul disdains the Fed (and implicitly, why liberals do not), and the relationship between the Federal Reserve and American empire. If you go back and look at some of libertarian allies, like Fox News’s Judge Napolitano, they will answer that question for you. Napolitano hates, absolutely hates, Abraham Lincoln. He sometimes slyly refers to Lincoln as America’s first dictator. Libertarians also detest Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt."

"What connects all three of these Presidents is one thing – big ass wars, and specifically, war financing. If you think today’s deficits are bad, well, Abraham Lincoln financed the Civil War pretty much entirely by money printing and debt creation, taking America off the gold standard. He oversaw the founding of the nation’s first national financial regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which chartered national banks and forced them to hold government debt to back currency they issued. The dollar then became the national currency, and Lincoln didn’t even back those dollars by gold (and gold is written into the Constitution). This financing of the Civil War was upheld in a series of cases over the Legal Tender Act of 1862. Prior to Lincoln, it was these United States. Afterwards, it was the United States. Lincoln fought the Civil War and centralized authority in the Federal government to do it, freeing slaves and transforming America into one nation."

I should interject: I am NOT a fan of Lincoln, for all the reasons mentioned above.

"On to Woodrow Wilson. Wilson signed the highly controversial Federal Reserve Act in 1913; originally, the Federal Reserve system was supposed to discount commercial and agricultural paper. Government bonds were not really considered part of the system’s mandate. But what happened the next year? Yes, World War I. And Wilson, who ran on the slogan 'he kept us out of war' in 1916, started a long tradition of antiwar Democratic Presidents who took America to war (drawing the ire of among others Helen Keller, but garnering the support of union leader Sam Gompers who argued it was a 'people’s war'). Wilson also implemented a wide variety of highly repressive authoritarian measures, including the Palmer Raids, the Espionage Act of 1917, and the use of modern PR techniques by government agencies. For good measure, Wilson was an unreconstructed white supremacist (even a bit out there for the time) and sent many antiwar opponents to jail. In the monetary arena, Wilson’s new Federal Reserve system began discounting government bonds. Like Lincoln, he had set up a tremendous war financing vehicle to centralize capital flows and therefore, political authority. In many ways, Wilson set up the rudiments of America’s police state, and did so arguably to help a transatlantic Anglo-American banking elite. Here, one can argue that libertarians are wary of centralized financing and political authority for liberal reasons – the ACLU was founded after the Palmer raids."

I'm not a fan of Wilson, either. :)

"And finally, we come to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s Fed is a bit more complex, because he did centralize monetary authority using wartime emergency powers, but he did so in peacetime. FDR abrogated gold clause contracts, seized the domestic supply of gold, and devalued the currency. He constrained banks with aggressive regulation and seizures of insolvent banks, saving depositors with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. He also used the RFC to set up much of what we know today as the Federal government, including early versions of disaster relief, small business lending, massive bridge and railroad building, the FHA, Fannie Mae, and state and local aid. Eventually, the government used this mechanism to finance college and housing for veterans with the GI Bill. Since veterans were much of the population right after World War II, effectively this was the first ever near-national safety net. FDR also fused the liberal and union establishments with the corporate world, creating the hybrid 'military-industrial' complex that is with us to this day (see Alan Brinkley’s 'End of Reform' for a good treatment of this process)."

Roosevelt was a disaster, too. :)

"Now, if you’re a libertarian, and you believe that centralized power is dangerous, then it’s obvious that state control over finance and mass mobilization of social resources for warfare or other ends are two sides of the same coin."

AMEN! This is the first time I'm reading this, but I've mentioned this very point in my defense of Ron Paul in past posts on this blog.

"This is why Ron Paul can critique the Federal Reserve and American empire, and why liberals have essentially no answer to his ideas, arguing instead over Paul having character defects. Ron Paul’s stance should be seen as a challenge to better create a coherent structural critique of the American political order. It’s quite obvious that there isn’t one coming from the left, otherwise the figure challenging the war on drugs and American empire wouldn’t be in the Republican primary as the libertarian candidate."

"But the intellectual challenge that Ron Paul presents ultimately has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with contradictions within modern liberalism."

And while we're at it, here's another interesting Matt Stoller essay, again from Naked Capitalism:
Naked Capitalism, “A Home for All Sorts of Bircher Nonsense” by Matt Stoller

The article is interesting and good. But what really intrigued me about it was the links it contained. For example, consider this, from the Hullabaloo blog. This is in response to Stoller's earlier piece.

"No, Stoller and Sullivan: there is no liberal conflict over Ron Paul" by David Atkins

Interestingly, I find Atkins piece to be weak, to the point where he supports Stoller's point of view, even though he (Atkins) is supposedly trying to argue against it.

"Liberalism is and has always been about intervention. It is the opposite of libertarianism, and always has been. Liberals understand that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Left to their own devices, people with weapons and money will always try to exploit and dominate people without weapons and money unless they are stopped from doing so. It is not because we are taught to do so. It's just innate human nature. If this were not the case, libertarianism would work as an ideology. It does not, and never has at any point in history."

I disagree. What, exactly, did we have here on U.S. soil prior to the formation of the United States? There were many instances of de facto stateless libertarianism, in Pennsylvania and in the (not so) Wild West.

Furthermore, what makes Atkins think that people in government are any better than those that are not in government?

"When the government steps in to stop a corporation from dumping noxious chemicals into a stream, that is intervention at the point of a gun, by a superior force against a lesser force attempting to exploit the weak and powerless. When the government steps in to enforce desegretation in schools, that is intervention at the point of a gun, by a superior force against a lesser force attempting to exploit the weak and powerless."

This is just silly. What is to prevent government itself from "attempting to exploit the weak and powerless"? I would add, " they do now by constantly devaluing our currency."

"This is what liberalism is. It is unavoidably, inescapably paternalistic in nature. It is so because it understands the inevitable tendency of human beings to be truly awful to one another unless social and legal rules are put in place--yes, by force--to prevent them from doing otherwise."

And this is the truly sad part in what Atkins writes. Yes, Liberalism IS paternalistic. It thinks we are children, we are sheep, we need to be guided, we can't think for ourselves. And he is okay with it!!!

"Conservatives use force of government as well, of course, but not in defense of the weak and oppressed, but rather to maintain the power of money, of patriarchy and of the established social pecking order. Where the oppressive hand of government helps them achieve that, they utilize it. Where libertarian ideology helps them keep power in the hands of the local good old boys, they use that instead."

This is where Atkins truly misses the point, even more than the rest of his article--which is saying something! He is trying to make the case the liberal intervention is good while conservative intervention is bad. He completely ignores two very difficult facts.

1. Liberal intervention is not good, in that it instills a debilitating dependence in those that it tries to help.

2. The very same means that government uses to finance liberal causes are used to finance conservative causes. As Stoller said, liberal intervention and conservative intervention are flip sides of the same coin. You cant have one without the other.

In short, Atkins misses Stoller's main argument, I think. Or maybe it's not Stoller's argument, but Stoller's interpretation of what Paul and his followers believe. Stoller/Paul are arguing against BOTH liberal and conservative intervention. THAT is the only morally consistent position!

Atkins thinks we're arguing about liberalism versus conservatism. We're not! We are arguing about big government versus small government (which I vastly prefer). Simply put, any government big enough to do liberal interventions will also, by definition, be big enough for conservative interventions. Doesn't matter what type of intervention we're talking about, you can imagine a type of intervention you don't like. And the crucial point is this: When that inevitably happens, Liberals simply won't care--and that's what we're seeing now. Even when their tool is used against their so-called principles, they just don't care.

With this in mind we can skip most of the rest of Atkins' essay. He's arguing against a straw man, missing the point entirely. What a weak article. Interesting, though, to see how so-called liberals "think."

I'll close with one more link, from Michael Scheuer's
"Iowa’s Choice: Dr. Paul or U.S. bankruptcy, more wars, and many more dead soldiers and Marines" by Mike

This is a pretty good summary of what you should say when you're asked why you support Ron Paul. Actually, Scheuer writes in the negative, about the consequences of NOT voting for Paul.

"...let us look at what Iowans not voting for Ron Paul will help to inflict on an America already terribly wounded by the Republican and Democratic interventionism in the Muslim world."

"1.) A foreign policy that will complete U.S. bankruptcy. While there is a lot of talk about cutting domestic spending to bring the federal debt under control, it is obvious that neither party is willing to make substantial cuts in that area. Indeed, both are counting on drastic cuts in defense spending to help reduce the federal debt."

"2.) Obama’s return or the election of any Republican but Dr. Paul means the continuation of the State Department’s not-so-secret computer/Facebook/Twitter proselytizing campaign to incite people to overthrow their governments in places like Iran, Russia, Tunisia, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere. ... This mindless promotion of anarchy alienates the governments targeted and will motivate them to harm the United States in some manner."

"3.) All the Republican contenders and the Obama administration are whole-hearted believers that the Arab Spring will bring the installation of secular democracy across that region. This has been and still is a nonsense that only adolescent idealists — or deliberate liars — could believe, and one that has been proven fatuous by the fact that Islamists have won every election held since the start of the Arab Spring."

"4.) Electing anyone but Ron Paul will further increase the already strong chances of widespread Islamist-conducted violence inside the United States. Any other Republican candidate or a reelected Obama will keep lying to Americans by claiming that we are being attacked because of our liberties, gender-equality laws, and elections rather than because of Washington’s constant intervention in the Islamic world. This now two-decade-old lie — which is abetted by most of the media — has hidden from Americans the fact that all of the would-be Islamist attackers who have been captured in this country were motivated by the invasion of Iraq, U.S. support for Israel, or some other U.S. government action in the Muslim world."

"5.) Obama and any Republican candidate, except for Dr. Paul, will slavishly obey the U.S.-citizen-dominated, pro-Israel lobby that bribes and suborns them by getting into a war with Iran."

"6.) While all of the Republican candidates and Obama talk about their plans to make America energy self-sufficient to the greatest extent possible, there is no reason to believe any of them. In the past 40 years, the two parties have made virtually no progress toward this goal, unless you count moving up Daylight Savings Time by three weeks as a major gain. Both parties have taken the easy and profitable route: dependence on oil-rich Arab tyrants, a policy that mandates that the U.S. military spends billions each year to defend the Arab Peninsula’s fundamentally anti-U.S. police states. Only Dr. Paul could be counted on to allow the unfettered development of all domestic energy resources to promote energy self-sufficiency and allow the gradual abandonment of our mujahedin- motivating exploitation of Muslim oil."