Laying it on the line: the stark campaign of Ron Paul

Published 13 years ago -  - 13y ago 45


Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A few weeks ago Ron Paul made his best, in my opinion, appearance on a television news show since beginning his campaign for president. Speaking to John King on CNN’s Late Edition Rep. Paul laid it on the line what his campaign about when he (paraphrasing) that he “wanted the Republican Party to face up to its failure in Iraq.”

No wonder some GOP leaders want to keep Paul out of future GOP presidential debates. The only time a lot of people face up to their failures is in rehab and you can’t shove a whole political party into the Betty Ford Clinic, can you? It’s like the line from a U2 song…

“….You’re dangerous, because you’re honest.”

It’s the stark, honest quality of Paul’s campaign that has drawn many people to it (on the internet at least).  Voters are looking for hard answers or at least to a candidate who speaks to his own certainties rather than past clieches, present banalities or the vagueness of the future. Paul’s bluntness about the meaning of 9-11 makes him more endearing. Who could ever imagine a typical Republican these days saying such a thing as “To say they hate us because we’re free is a load of bunk” to an audience that may very well be the epitome of the today’s GOP in a state like South Carolina that’s the very lynch-pin of the military-industrial-security-complex? The late Lee Atwater knew exactly what he was doing in pushing South Carolina Republicans to have a primary instead of a state convention to choose delegates for the GOP convention and making it the first such primary of the South back in 1980. Since then, every GOP nominee has won South Carolina.

Thus the irony of the Paul campaign: He cannot win the GOP nomination without winning South Carolina and yet what he and his campaign represents seemingly threatens what South Carolina currently stands for: big-government conservatism or better yet: right-wing social democracy.  For Paul to win South Carolina, the state would have willingly kill and then resurrect itself, like Christ the Savior.

As impossible as that task may seem, it at least gives the Paul campaign a message to deliver and a story to tell. Any successful Presidential campaign is really a story that writes its own ending. It has a reasonable plot, interesting characters, drama and a climax. It has point to it that people can understand and it fits within the national zeitgeist. Yes money is important. Yes organization and institutional support is important too. But the presidential campaign battlefield is littered with candidates who had such things but didn’t win because their campaigns could not tell a broader story than “Hi, I’m Joe Blow and I want to be President.” You know the ones: Ed Muskie, Howard Baker, Ted Kennedy, John Connally, John Glenn, Bob Dole, Phil Gramm, Bill Bradley.

Paul’s story is about reinvention. The reinvention of conservatism, libertarianism, the Republican Party, you name it and Paul’s is reinventing it. He’s bringing back a style of American politics that is often reinvented from time to time, whether is Robert Taft reinventing Calvin Coolidge, Barry Goldwater reinventing Robert Taft, Ronald Reagan reinventing Barry Goldwater and now Paul reinventing Reagan, or at least the Reagan on 1980 who promised balance budgets, reduced government and a rebuilt military to ward off the weakness that nearly led the U.S. to World War III in Afghanistan and the Iranian Hostage Crisis. These things seem to happen every 20 to 30 years apart.

But Paul comes to this round of reinvention with perhaps a little more wisdom than his predecessors. He understands that any talk of cutting taxes, reducing spending and reducing government as the other GOP candidates have spouted off on, as if they are reading from a candidates’ manual entitled How to Speak Like A Republican, is pointless unless the war itself is brought to a close and the military-industrial-security-complex is reduced significantly in both size and influence.  One cannot talk about reigning in the federal government back within the boundaries set by the Constitution unless this done. You cannot call for eliminating the IRS and yet eliminate habeus corpus. You cannot talk about eliminating the Department of Education and yet want to place wire-taps without probable cause on American citizens or read their mail. You cannot talk about reducing governing spending and yet ratchet up the Pentagon’s budget by well over $600 billon. You cannot talk about spreading freedom abroad and then threaten to throw people who smoke marijuana for medical reasons into prisons like common criminals. You cannot talk about returning power to the states and then operate a global empire at the same time. What kind of government would it be that did nothing other than to spy on the people it supposedly serves, harass them at airports, and bomb or threaten those it did not like or toed the line abroad? Something akin to a police/military state living in the shadows of its own fears and justifying itself by those very fears, not to unlike what we have now.

Unfortunately that police/military state not only has wealthy supporters, it has many supporters as well. Much of U.S. society and the economy itself is interconnected with the military-industrial-security complex. Like inoperable cancer, it may be too late to cut it out without serious harm to the host. This is what Eisenhower always feared, that the complex would become government unto itself, reducing the U.S government to impotence as its lackey while making policy that actual government would make official. “God help us if we have a president who doesn’t understand the military,” he once said.  Unfortunately few have since then.

Look at what happened to those who at least tried to tame the beast. When the Nixon and Ford administrations tried to limit nuclear weapons in treaties with the Soviet Union`, the response from the military-industrial-security-complex was Team B neoconservatives and Cold Warriors saying the SALT agreements produced a “window of vulnerability” that helped defeat Ford in 1976. The Carter Administration tried to hold the line on defense spending too and then had to increase it late in Carter’s term in response to crisis’ in Afghanistan and Iran. Unfortunately it came too late to prevent the “hollow army” or Desert One disasters which cost him re-election in 1980. Bush I’s own defense secretary, one Richard Cheney, told the public that the defense budget was not a jobs program and  thus unemployed military personnel and aerospace engineers and others let go at the end of the Cold War kept Bush II from winning re-election in 1992. And because the U.S.decided to maintain its position of global hegemony after the Cold War, the pressure to “do something” with military became too great for Bill Clinton to handle anymore (especially after being weakened by personal scandal) and thus the U.S. wound-up bombing Serbia. Unfortunately for Al Gore, this “display” of military might in the Balkans was of little use to him in 2000 as the military-industrial-security complex responded to George Bush II’s call of “help is on the way” after a decade of near-starvation by its standards.

So it will be very difficult to bring the military-industrial-security complex down to size and restore the proper place of our armed forces within the society of the Republic that our founders established. Jobs would be lost, careers stifled and some persons whole purpose in life would be forever altered. Most people don’t like such radical change. But if Ron Paul were to be elected president, he would have a mandate for such change, not just from the overall electorate but from GOP voters themselves who have now so identitifed themselves with the military-industrial-security-complex. He would approach the situation as not as some peacenik looking to take out his or beefs and biases against the military (after all, Paul did serve in the Air Force, which is more military service than many of the current candidates have done ) but as a man with mission to restore constitutional government. No doubt original intent is meaningless when you have troops stationed all over the globe and you’re prepared to start World War III over Estonia of all places.

The war in Iraq has exposed the hollowness of empire. The colossus America of 2002 has been replaced by the weary American of 2007 and it can get only weaker in 2008 unless some dramatic change happens. The man responsible for 9-11 remains on the loose six years later. Iraq is an ungovernable mess despite every best of intention. The empire’s garrisons are stretched to the breaking point just to cover its commitments. Its troops still die every day for a cause that has lost its meaning year after year. And yet it seemingly cannot provide the resources to cover its own border or protect it from the silent invasion of it that goes on everyday. With its resources devoted to war and security, it cannot rebuild its cities and towns from natural disaster as quickly as it once did. People have still put up with empire because there hasn’t been any kind of economic calamity that threatens their own personal security or interests. But if such thing did happen, it would snap the empire’s fragile support in two, even in a place like South Carolina.

Actually, there’s just one simple message Ron Paul has to give that all successful outside campaign have done over the years: “It’s time for a change.”

The neocons had their change to remake the world and they’ve failed. The military-industrial-security-complex had its chance to deliver an America victorious and secure and it has failed. The Administration had its chance to create policies against terrorism and they have failed. The Congress had its chance to reassert its role in foreign policy and they have failed too. Now it’s time to try something completely different from the foreign policy consensus of intervention and empire that all parties in Washington subscribe to. “It’s time for a change,” is pretty simple, pretty stark and as direct as can be. Ron Paul doesn’t have to say anything more to the voters than that.
Published originally at : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”

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