Living in Northern Virginia a person gets use to the Washington Post’s clear preference for an all-powerful federal government that ignores the Constitution. In terms of presidential candidates, this means the Post will support candidates who cover the maintain-the-status-quo political spectrum from the Democrats’ far left to reliably liberal country-club Republicans, like George H. W. Bush and that former-president’s unelectable clone Mit Romney. The Post has, for example, savaged Speaker Gingrich at every turn in his campaign. More recently, however, the Post has turned its fire on Dr. Ron Paul, running a negative front-page story on Sunday (1 January 2011) and an amazingly hysterical and panicky column by Michael Gerson Monday morning (2 January 2011). The Post’s editors cannot stand the thought of a president who will not keep the power and spending of the federal government growing, and so has decided that Speaker Gingrich and Dr. Paul must be destroyed because they are the enemies of what the Post defines as the “American way,” centralized federal power, relentless interventionism, constant wars, and bankruptcy.
Speaker Gingrich has defenders in the mainstream media, but few defend Dr. Paul, despite his growing grass-roots support across the country, and so I thought I would give it a shot. The New Year’s Day article in the Post mentioned above can be countered by the derisive laughter it deserves. The article criticized Dr. Paul because his message was not colored by the “American optimism” used by other Republican candidates and President Obama. Apparently the august editors of the Post want to return to the “don’t worry, be happy” attitude that helped to get America into the disastrous situation its faces today. At base, the Post’s critique of Dr. Paul’s campaign rhetoric is not that it is negative, but rather that is true.
Is Dr. Paul wrong about coming U.S. bankruptcy; the looming possibility of a second, deeper recession; the madness of the federal government campaigning for secular democracy across the Muslim world and thereby empowering Islamists; the Treasury pumping billions of wasted dollars into the already dead-on-its-feet Euro Zone; the corruption of the Congress and the U.S. electoral process by foreign lobbies and deep-pocketed campaign contributors; the expanding readiness of both parties to limit rights guaranteed by the 1st and 2nd Amendments; the inability of the U.S. military to win wars by destroying America’s enemies; court decisions that prevent state governments from defending their citizens, even though the federal government has abdicated that role; a bipartisan ruling elite that has involved Americans in numerous wars in which no U.S. interest is at stake; a Congress that has for 40 years failed to move the country toward energy self-sufficiency because it is owned by oil companies, foreign governments, and is scared to death of environmental fanatics, etc. etc. etc.?
Of course not. Dr. Paul is right on all these counts. His serious, worried, and warning demeanor is absolutely appropriate to the disaster the Democrats and most Republicans have wrought, but want to hide and smile about until the presidential election. Smiles and foolish optimism are hardly the correct response to important debates in a republic that is not far from its death throes. A photograph of most of the Republican candidates and Obama and his lieutenants would merit the caption: “Be optimistic and keep smiling, America’s enemies love idiots.”
Monday’s Post OpEd by Michael Gerson is entitled “Ron Paul’s Poison Pill” and it is a juvenile and panic-stricken performance by a major voice of country-club Republicanism. Apparently sensing that Dr. Paul’s concerns and manifestly appropriate worries about America’s future are shared by an increasing number of American voters — especially young voters — Mr. Gerson shriekingly paints Dr. Paul as a racist and a devotee of Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy; an abettor of the Holocaust and so implicitly an anti-Semite; an isolationist who sins by wanting to protect America first, last, and always; a bigot ready to reverse the Civil Rights Act; and a blame-America-firster. Mr. Gerson’s essay reminds one of a high-school sophomore’s vitriolic, first-try at journalism that slips past the teacher who serves as the editor of the school’s paper.
And why does Dr. Paul merit these calumnies? Because Mr. Gerson and the Republican establishment he speaks for do not want to debate the dire problems America faces at home and abroad because such a debate would show there is not a nickel’s worth of difference between most Republicans and Obama’s Democrats, and that both parties are equally responsible for the near in-extremis condition of America’s economy, finances, and foreign policy.
Mr. Gerson’s OpEd makes it clear that most Republicans, like most Democrats, regard any resistance to more unnecessary bipartisan wars and endless and war-causing democracy-mongering interventionism as “isolationism”; opposition to unlimited federal government power as racist and neo-Confederate; support for fiscal responsibility to avoid national bankruptcy as a “lack of compassion”; and any questioning of the bipartisan elite’s definition of reality as it has been shaped and inculcated for several generations by the federal government’s Department of Education and their ill-educated operatives in the teacher’s unions as an antediluvian response by a man who refuses to see that that the federal government knows what is best for him better than he does. In essence, Mr. Gerson, on behalf of both parties, is telling Dr. Paul, his supporters, and all voters to shut up, go home, watch TV, and let the bipartisan political elite decide what is best for all Americans and their country. The proper response to this outrageous and anti-American arrogance is to suggest that Mr. Gerson and the elitists for whom he speaks should be collectively sent to hell.
Let me close by noting that I while I support Dr. Paul in the areas of foreign policy, fiscal conservatism, and a return to constitutionalism, I am a traditional conservative and not a libertarian. I cringe at, rebel against, and am willing to denounce many Libertarian views of events in American history, views which I regard as ahistorical, unrealistic, and, at times, just silly. I particularly oppose the Libertarian’s view of Abraham Lincoln. But their view of Lincoln is precisely that: their view. And they are perfectly entitled to it.
Those of us who are not Libertarians and yet support Dr. Paul — and those numbers are rising — might best explain our support and affection for him by quoting the Libertarians’ favorite bete noire. “Many free countries have lost their liberty and ours may lose hers,” Abraham Lincoln once said, “but if she shall, be it my proudest plume, not that I was the last to desert her, but that I never deserted her.” Of the many things one can say about Dr. Paul, the one that cannot be contested is that he never deserted America and its constitution — as have so many of his peers — for office, power, and wealth. He can wear that plume with pride and the thanks of all Americans.