The Paul-Haters Are Doomed

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“Between government in the republican meaning, that is, constitutional, representative, limited government, on the one hand, and Empire on the other hand, there is mortal enmity. Either one must forbid the other, or one will destroy the other. That we know. Yet never has the choice been put to a vote of the people.”

Garet Garrett had been an editor of the Saturday Evening Post, a financial writer for the New York Times, a renowned author and journalist of the “roaring Twenties,” an intransigent opponent of the New Deal, and sometime novelist: his career spanned the era of Coolidge, Hoover, FDR, and Truman. In those days his was the voice of mainstream conservatism, albeit of a sort alien to the Newt Gingriches and Charles Krauthammers of this world, and he wrote the above cited words just as the US was embarking on its postwar crusade to save the world from Communism.

He had lived through the previous holy war against the Axis powers, witnessed the demise of the Old America and the rise of the Welfare-Warfare State, and saw — even then — that the country would face ruination if the crusading spirit prevailed over the need for self-preservation. He saw what would happen if we acquired an empire and sought to remake the world in our image. He annoyed his fellow libertarian, the novelist and ideologue Rose Wilder Lane, with his “keening” note of pessimism, which mourned “a world forever lost.” Lane was sure the “world revolution” of freedom was coming, yet in those dark days when the spirit of freedom was seemingly forgotten it looked as if her friend Garrett was right.

Garrett died in 1954, a few years after the publication of his prescient essay: Rose followed him in 1968. Neither got to see the rise of a movement that would take the former’s insights and the latter’s optimism and forge a new path — and a new hope — for lovers of liberty. But I like to think they are still hovering over us, delighted at the success of their intellectual heirs, who today call themselves libertarians. No doubt they are buoyed by the success of presidential candidate Ron Paul, whose thrilling ascent in Iowa and beyond is redeeming Lane’s optimism — and Garrett’s hope — that the choice between empire and our old republic will — finally — be put to a vote of the people.

Paul’s success — he is currently the frontrunner in Iowa, although the “mainstream” media is doing its best to downplay the numbers — has provoked an outburst of hysteria and pure hate from the War Party. Iowa, they declare, will be rendered “irrelevant” if Paul wins: Joe McQuaid, the bombastic editor of the neocon Union-Leader, rants that “Ron Paul is a dangerous man.” How is that? Well, you see, Paul agrees with the overwhelming majority of Americans who don’t think the Iraq war — which McQuaid and his tabloid supported — was worth the costs in lives and taxpayer dollars. Paul’s anti-interventionist foreign policy views, says the would-be New Hampshire kingmaker, “have been largely overlooked by a news media more interested in the presidential ‘horse race’ than in the candidates’ positions on issues.”

McQuaid is getting on in years, and so probably doesn’t get out much: while he is railing about the media’s inattention to what he considers to be Paul’s mortal sin, virtually every article assessing Paul’s chances since the beginning of the campaign season has harped on precisely this theme. Paul’s appeal is necessarily “limited” due to this: there is a “ceiling” on his support, they aver. As he began to climb in the polls, and this “ceiling” began to lift, the punditocracy declared that Iowa is passé, irrelevant, and an archaic tradition which ought to be ignored from now on by Those In The Know: Gail Collins gave voice to the New York-Washington axis when she sniffed that we ought to “feel free to ignore Iowa,” because “in some rural districts, the entire caucus will consist of one guy named Earl.” That she wouldn’t dare say that if Earl lived in, say, the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn — where plenty of Earls reside, to be sure — underscores the bigotries our elites allow themselves, these days. In the world of Ms. Collins, some Earls are more equal than others.

The alleged dissonance between Paul’s anti-interventionism and the frothy-mouthed militarism that has been Republican gospel ever since Robert Taft was cheated out of the GOP presidential nomination by the party’s Wall Street wing — (see Phyllis Schlafly’s classic A Choice, Not An Echo, p. 52, for a recap of the Eastern Establishment coup) — has been the constant theme of these pieces, written by youngsters with no understanding or knowledge of history. The one exception, oddly, was John Nichols in The Nation, a liberal-progressive periodical not known for its devotion to libertarianism, who recalled the history of the Old Right in his perceptive piece about the intellectual roots of the Paul campaign. McQuaid, for his part, neither knows nor cares about the history of the conservative movement he presumes to advise: he gets his “conservative” gospel from other sources. He cites Dorothy Rabinowitz‘s darkly threatening characterization of Paul as “the best-known of our homegrown propagandists for our chief enemies in the world. One who has made himself a leading spokesman for, and recycler of, the long and familiar litany of charges that point to the United States as a leading agent of evil and injustice, the militarist victimizer of millions who want only to live in peace.”

He left out the part about Paul being a “propagandist for our enemies,” perhaps because it was too much even for him. To the Rabinowitzes of this world — and the Gingriches, the Santorums, the Bachmanns, and the rest of that crazed crew — falls the solemn responsibility of determining the Enemy of the moment. Debate is limited, on this subject, to the question of which Enemy ought to be targeted at this particular point in time. Paul has broken this rule, and allowed that the main enemy — for those who want to limit the power of government, cut $1 trillion dollars from the budget, and emerge out of our economic morass — is in Washington, D.C., not Tehran.

This is literally treason in Rabinowitz’s book, but then again that slim volume only contains several variations on a single theme: anyone who criticizes the regime of war and the constant erosion of our civil liberties is lacking in patriotism, and is quite possibly a “traitor,” a “fifth columnist,” a secret plotter against America and the supporter of its enemies — her enemies. In person — or, at least, on television — her bile is more acidic: here she compares Paul to Hitler and Mussolini while a panel of nattering neocons eggs her on.

One wonders what holds Rabinowitz back from calling for Paul’s arrest as an “enemy combatant” — such restraint goes against the grain of her personal style. It is a style that has long since gone out of style, an echo of the bad old days of the Bush era, when the smoke had hardly cleared from the skies over Manhattan, and the country trembled at the commanding tone of the neocons as they accused war critics — “the decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts,” as neocon tool Andrew Sullivan put it — of wanting to “mount a fifth column.”

One of the most expected — and most welcome — developments of the primary campaign so far, from my perspective, has been Sullivan’s withdrawal of his endorsement of Rep. Paul, after pressure from his friends on the Washington-New York cocktail party circuit and outraged emails from his dwindling fan club of gay waiters and sad young women who love only their cats. It’s funny how everyone is howling that Paul must actively denounce and cast out any support from some white supremacist no one has ever heard of, but not a peep about the odiousness of an endorsement from someone who advocated, at the height of the post-9/11 hysteria, the launching of a nuclear attack on Iraq. Oh well, each to their own moral priorities.

Rabinowitz and McQuaid and the rest of the hate-mongers, who come up with a fresh Enemy every time we knock off the old one, or tire of the task, know who their real enemy is — and it isn’t the President of Iran, or the Communist Party of China. It’s those patriotic Americans who believe we ought to be putting the interests of Americans first — and that the empire is an albatross hung around our necks. It’s the one-third of veterans who, according to a recent poll, think the Iraq war wasn’t worth it: it’s the majority of the American people who think we ought to pursue a policy of “minding our own business” abroad — these are the enemies Rabinowitz rails against. Paul is just a stand-in for the great Outer Wilderness that exists — so some say — outside the Washington-New York axis of power. That the great unwashed masses beyond this perimeter don’t share the obsessions tormenting the Upper West Side of Manhattan and the Georgetown cocktail party circuit has been of little concern to Dorothy and her friends, the Cowardly Lions of the chickenhawk brigade and the Tin Woodsman a.k.a. Mitt Romney. Along with the scarecrows of the Fox News commentariat, together they’ve been marching down the yellow-brick road to war with Iran with nary an opponent to vilify. Suddenly they find themselves confronted by one who combines all their fears in a single convenient package: anti-interventionism (which they call “isolationism“), anti-elitism, and a well-organized and ideologically coherent movement targeting not only “big government” but the big financial interests, centered in New York, who profit from a system based on government debt.

The American empire — indeed, the entire colossus that is our bloated federal government — could not exist a single day without enslaving the American people to the demon of debt. The obvious beneficiaries [.pdf] are those collecting the interest on that debt — the big financial institutions that buy and sell US government securities. They finance the wars, they profit from government spending, and this is the essence of the real issue of “crony capitalism” some of the lesser Republican presidential candidates babble about without understanding or acknowledging that it isn’t just Solyndra. That’s small change compared to the massive theft being pulled off by the Federal Reserve as it inflates away our savings and enriches the few.

How do we pay for our overseas empire? The same way we pay for our burgeoning welfare state: by monetizing the debt, i.e. degrading the currency by creating “money” out of thin air, and inflating the bubble until it bursts again. This has been Paul’s issue from the beginning, and it’s a powerful one: it has substantially shaped the political discourse, with the other candidates forced to jump on board the anti-Fed bandwagon.

This is the Ron Paul Effect, and it has Dorothy and the War Street Journal running scared. Here is a conservative populist who is challenging their power, and in the very redoubt of neoconservative orthodoxy, the GOP! They who have always lived in fear of the rest of the country — in fear of the day those peasants with pitchforks gather in the streets below and yank them out of their Manhattan towers — are seeing in Paul their worst nightmare come true. That accounts for the spittle on Rabinowitz’s cruel lips as she likens a gentle country doctor to the architect of the Holocaust.

It won’t be long now before we hear baseless charges of “racism” and “extremism” supplemented by an overarching explanation for the Paulian phenomenon that echoes the clichéd “sociological” analysis of the neocons Richard Hofstadter and Seymour Martin Lipset, whose characterization of “pseudo-conservatism” as “status resentment” and “the paranoid style” given political form was an all-purpose smear, to be trotted out when liberal commentators were forced into discussions of conservatism. Conservatism, in this view, isn’t an ideology so much as a mental affliction: Hofstadter and Co. were merely popularizing the Marxist theories of Theodore Adorno and the “Frankfurt School,” who opined that opposition to FDR and the New Deal was evidence of a “father complex,” the touchstone of “the authoritarian personality.” Similar psycho-smears are deployed against Paul, who is said by his enemies to be a “crazy old uncle,” “a crazy old codger,” and a “crank,” with neocon professional prig and “movie critic” Michael Medved calling him “Dr. Demento.” This is the level of the “debate” the neocons want: prove you’re not a crazy old Nazi!

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Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.

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