"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
~ Mohandas Gandhi
As I was listening to neocon Glenn Beck's radio show on Wednesday, I tried to figure out how he made the jump from step 2 to step 3 so quickly.
Following the first Republican Presidential Debate, Beck was contented with dismissing Dr. Ron Paul as "crazy" and wondering "How did this guy get on stage?" He didn't seem too threatened — not enough at least to fear that anyone important would notice his blatant and no doubt intentional misrepresentation of Paul's response to a question posed by a reader of Politico.com. "As president you need to make critical decisions," the reader wrote, "What critical decisions have you made in your career that have affected many people?" Beck carefully selected a portion of Paul's response:
I guess, in medicine, I made a lot of critical decisions. I mean, you’re called upon all the time to make critical, life-saving decisions. But I can’t think of any one particular event where I made a critical decision that affected a lot of other people.
Doing his best to make Paul out to be a bumbling fool, Beck responded:
That`s got to be one of the worst answers I’ve ever heard to the question, “Have you ever made a critical decision? Tell us how you made a critical decision where it affected a lot of people.” The guy’s been in Congress now for how many years. Every decision he makes affects 300 million people, and that was his answer?
No, Mr. Beck that was only a part of his answer that you selected. In the first part of the answer (MSNBC transcript), Paul stated:
I wonder if he’s referring to a political decision like running for office, or something like that. (Laughter) I guess, in medicine, I made a lot of critical decisions. I mean, you’re called upon all the time to make critical, life-saving decisions. But I can’t think of any one particular event where I made a critical decision that affected a lot of other people.
With the added context, we can see that Paul was trying to figure out how to answer this extremely vague and overly broad question posed by an amateur by dividing his response into decisions he made in private life and later, those made in public life. Now that we know he only dealt with one patient at a time in his medical practice (the horror, Mr. Beck, the horror), we can now turn to what Paul said about his political career.
But I think all our decisions we make in politics are critical. My major decision, political decision, which was a constitutional decision, was to urge for (inaudible) years that this country not go to war in Iraq.
There you go, Mr. Beck. He said exactly what you said he should have a full three seconds after you blasted him for not saying it. That has got to one of the worst attempts to smear someone I've ever seen.
But the day after the Paul-Giuliani exchange during the second Republican debate, things turned more serious. Beck was no longer engaged in mere dismissal and misrepresentation. He launched into a shrill diatribe against Paul, a tirade worthy of the most hate-filled leftists. Calling Paul a "dope," he declared, "If Republicans start thinking like this, WE'RE DEAD."
For Beck, leaders in the Middle East use the Western World, and the United States in particular, as a scapegoat to distract their populations from the misery they are facing domestically. While this may be superficially true, can any rational thinker honestly deny that the United States government's interventionist foreign policy has been instrumental in the popularity and growth of organizations like al-Qaeda — exactly what the CIA, the 9/11 Commission, and Osama bin Laden himself tell us?
No. And the public is realizing this because it's not too hard to consider the perspective of our enemy. As Dr. Paul himself argued, "It would be like if the Chinese had their navy in the Gulf of Mexico and bases in New Hampshire and in Texas and they think we wouldn't pull out our guns and do some shooting?"
Sean Hannity, not surprisingly, was even more obtuse in the aftermath of the debate the night before. He demanded to know what America did to cause 9/11. Paul responded,
Americans didn’t do anything to cause it, but policies over many years caused and elicited hatred toward us [so much so that] somebody was willing to commit suicide [to fight us]. For instance, the occupation with our military troops on their holy land in Saudi Arabia; bombing a Muslim country for 10 years; putting on sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of people — that caused the anger.
Not having any intelligent response on hand, Hannity shifted focus and demanded to know,
Are you saying then that the world has no moral obligation, like in the first Gulf War, when an innocent country’s being pillaged, and people are being raped and murdered and slaughtered, or in the case of Saddam, he’s gassing his own people, are you suggesting we have no moral obligation there? Do you stand by and let that immorality happen?
He then compared a non-interventionist foreign policy to standing by and doing nothing while a woman was being raped. I wonder then Sean, why it was okay in 1998 when you opposed Clinton's purely "humanitarian" intervention in Kosovo?
The fact is that it is not humanitarian when the intervention costs tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. (See here for info on the debate over the numbers of dead in Iraq.)
Plus, this isn't even counting the indirect effects (see the writings of Christopher Preble for an overview). Besides inciting hatred that can lead to further conflict and terrorism, the United State's hegemonic role as "world policeman" leads to the diminishment of local centers of security. Foreigners start to think, if the U.S. is going to invade our enemies, why should we even bother with our own defense?
For whatever reason — perhaps out of fear or power lust — neocons have abandoned conservative skepticism of government in favor of a blind ideology of American exceptionalism. Beck, Hannity, and Giuliani have jumped on Dr. Paul relentlessly because they are beginning to realize that many conservative voters are dissatisfied with the spendthrift, Wilsonian mainstream of the Republican Party. As the base shrinks and moderates start voting Democratic, they know and fear that true conservatives who believe in the ideals of the Old Right might wake up from their post-9/11 slumber and leave the neocons as well. In their attempt to hold their floundering movement together, they have resorted to shouting down and ostracizing the "crazed dope" Ron Paul, hoping to push him "way out" of the presidential race. Dr. Paul and his supporters must be doing something right to raise such fear and ire from the neocons; let us keep it up.
May 19, 2007