Nationally syndicated radio talk-show host Mark Levin is an outspoken critic of Congressman Ron Paul. Levin labors tirelessly to convince the members of his audience that Paul suffers from a condition of poverty that has ravaged his intellect no less than his moral character. Paul is no kind of conservative, “the Great One” informs us: besides advocating a foreign policy that is supposedly as idiotic in conception as it promises to be ruinous in effect, Ron Paul is an “anti-Semite.”
Readers of this column know that this isn’t the first time that I have addressed the Paul Derangement Syndrome that has overtaken the good doctor’s Republican critics. It also isn’t the first time that I have singled out Levin as a textbook case of this disorder.
There is a reason for this.
That both the substance of Paul’s thought as well as – especially! – the manner in which he tends to articulate it should elicit objections from his fellow partisans is an unremarkable phenomenon. Quite recently, I wrote an article in which I showed the respects in which my own political philosophical orientation – conservatism – is fundamentally at odds with that of Paul. The difference, though, between, say, Jack Kerwick and Mark Levin, is that Levin can’t resist the impulse to couch his criticisms of Paul within a pile of abusive names that he reserves for the man; I, on the other hand, feel no such compulsion.
In other words, Levin is emblematic of the phenomenon to which I refer as the Paul Derangement Syndrome, a craze that renders otherwise reasonably sane (even if frequently misguided) Republicans into embodiments of raw, undifferentiated irrationality at the very mention of Ron Paul’s name.
It is this phenomenon that succeeds in arresting so much of my attention as of late.
When the 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant alluded to “misology,” it was the hatred of reason to which he referred. Well, if misology is the hatred of reason, then “the misologist” is the person who despises reason. Levin, I contend, represents a sizable number of self-proclaimed “conservatives” who are pathological misologists when it comes to Ron Paul.
Levin and company insist that they favor “limited government.” Levin in particular (to his credit) never misses a moment to show that our current federal government is light years away from the government envisioned and ratified by our country’s founders. This is the same person, mind you, who authored an immensely successful book, Liberty versus Tyranny, a work within which he conveys an impassioned defense of the constitutional republic bequeathed to us from our forbearers while launching an unrelenting attack against all “statists” – i.e. the advocates of “Big government.” Any remotely reasonable person can only scratch his head and wonder why an “anti-Statist” like Levin would become as enraged as he does with, of all people, someone like Ron Paul, a person who is even more vehemently “anti-Statist” than Levin himself.
It is obvious to anyone who knows anything at all about Levin and the neoconservative-dominated Republican Party with which he identifies that above and beyond anything else, it is Paul’s resolute disavowal of America’s foreign policy that so upsets them. Long before the war in Iraq became as wildly unpopular with the country as it eventually did, Paul was sounding the alarm against what he and many others call “interventionism,” a doctrine that, presupposing as it does “the exceptional” character of America, calls for it to assert itself militarily into societies around the world for the sake of transforming them into “democracies.” Paul argues that not only is this project of exporting “Democracy” financially unsustainable, it is as well immoral and unconstitutional.
This alone is sufficient to make Paul persona non grata among establishment Republicans like Levin. But when Paul then failed to treat the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran with a degree of concern that Levin and others think is insufficient, he may as well have painted a target on his back for them.
Still, even if one disagrees with Ron Paul on these matters, even if one thinks that he is as wrong headed as anyone can be, the reaction of the Levins of the world to his position can only be judged unreasonable.
Although many champions of “limited government” seem to forget this, the military – the Army, the Navy, the Marines, and the Air Force – is a feature of the federal government. All military personnel, that is, are government employees. Moreover, the military is as much an object of government spending as Social Security and Medicare, and together these three government programs consume the vast majority of our federal expenditures. So, that Ron Paul and others of his ilk should talk about utilizing our military in a more cost-efficient way – even if this requires cuts in “defense spending” – is what we should expect from anyone who values a strong, but more limited, government.