In the manner of Pat Paulsen and Porky Pig’s secret love child, presidential candidate and Texas Representative Ron Paul announced from his podium that, hey, maybe we weren’t attacked on September 11th because we were rich or free. At that, the rest of the field and the audience at the South Carolina Republican debate was floored. That instant topped the YouTube News & Politics Most Viewed for weeks on end.
But after all, up until that point, insanity had been leaking in from the ceiling and windows, and everyone had drowned. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had just suggested doubling the size of Guantanamo Bay prison. Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and Kansas Senator Mike Huckabee had asserted that evolution was nonsense. Everyone except Paul and John McCain had said that waterboarding was acceptable, McCain unable to shrug it off perhaps because the Vietcong had crushed his shoulder blade with the butt of a rifle. In a deft display of his knowledge of Arabic, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson had offered his projections for “the al-Maliki” government.
Giuliana’s immediate, hysterical response to Paul was, “As someone who lived through the attack of September 11th, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th.”
Not to get off the subject, but, my publisher wrote to me this week, and asked me what I thought of revisionist historians. Mr. Harris, they are delusionally self-serving, and that includes all of those 9/11 inside job wackos who think that the Feds not only knew about but executed the attacks. (According to some polls, that’s been approximately 1/3 of Democrats nationwide.) Holy crap. That’s insane, untenable, uncorroborated. At best, it is using flimsy and unsubstantiated political means for what are probably desirable political ends: namely, to point out to the common man that Bush was lying his Massuchasen ass off about the inspirations for a major terrorist attack. The commander-in-chief’s own conspiracy theories have inspired such a general, irrational fear in the populace that, to this day, Fox News can still be spotted collecting more than a cent of advertising floating an up-to-the-minute terrorist alert color. If Giuliani had had a even a toe to stand on, it was that some Paul’s schizoid, Infowars-washed supporters do buy the 9/11 inside job lies. But the truth is, by now, those delusions are slightly less harmful to the well-being of millions than the sort of homicidal, jingoistic tripe warmongers preach.
Parroting that the terrorists went after us for our freedom has been like assuming that a postal employee shot up the office, not because he had just been fired, but because he hated stamps.
In an era where money talks and the head of the Federal Elections Committee has pronounced any team without $100 million by January 2007 dead on its feet, it is sad that the candidates destined fastest for the graveyard are often the ones who can speak the pure, unvarnished truth. Perot did it with his slick charts, Nader with his Kerry and Bush debating puppets, Sharpton with his smooth rhymes: all looked forward to the golf course (or, in Nader’s case, the commune) early according to conventional, if not actual, wisdom. Paul has proven himself a serious policy analyst trying to make people think, and that is why he is a real shot in the dark. He has good company on the other side of aisle.
Take an exchange that took place in the April 27 Democratic Debate, which starred among others handsome check-collecting dynamo Barack Obama and nursing home hopeful and Alaskan Senator Mike Gravel. In response to Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s concerns that Obama was making “provocative” statements toward war with Iran, the Illinois Senator retorted, “I think it is important for us to also recognize that if we have nuclear proliferators around the world that potentially can place a nuclear weapon into the hands of terrorists, that is a profound security threat for America and one that we have to take seriously.”
Gravel would fire back a crucial note. “Who is the greatest violator of the Non-Proliferation Treaty? The United States of America. We signed a pledge that we would begin to disarm, and we’re not doing it.”
Well, there you had it. Considering that the military has way more than enough nukes to bake humanity in general, I was shocked to see that Gravel’s barking such a pertinent point between hits of oxygen made so few waves. How could a president demand someone else hold to a treaty he could not, considering that his own constitution mandated he throw down, too? Obama has cut his teeth on foreign relations examining a risky nuke material dispersion that occurred following the Soviet administration’s fall. Maybe I have been begging for a mushroom cloud speculating, but the Iranian situation smelled different.
Why the terrorists attacked: national subsidization for Israel, thousands of troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. Know why I seem more knowledgable than that war-mongering tool Giuliani on why Bin Laden attacked “us”? Because that’s exactly why Osama Bin Laden fucking said he did it. End of story. Sheesh. This stuff should be common sense. If you do want to defeat an enemy of any kind: political, industrial, or military, you have to know them – and know them as well as a lover or spouse. What ever happened to that sinister adage, keep your friends close and your enemies closer?
Any of the politicians who have supported for, or even retrospectively excused, authorization for the war in Iraq prove themselves mind-bogglingly inadequate. According to a recent CBS/New York Times poll, six in ten Americans believe that going in in the first place was a mistake. No doubt the real prognosticators like Paul, Gravel and Kucinich are sick of having been right from the beginning on the most important issue, having been proven right, and then thrown to the bottom of the pile.
Ron Paul is the first candidate in a long, long time I can really dig. In what has felt like to me a dystopian era where the supposedly limited-government conservatives were vicious and intrusive enough to want to jail people for even growing or smoking marijuana, this guy stepped into the race, an old school, Goldwater Republican and a socially conservative and reserved Libertarian.
In the places where the Democrats would disagree with him, he would still be fairly enticing if he had a shot in hell. The Paul campaign is lacking in the authoritarian ambition to shove any of his personal differences down libertine throats. It is just that all of those hefty gay marriage, gay adoption, abortion, and miscellaneous social issues would be tossed back onto the state governments for independent resolution. Paul smells like risky territory to some, but it is probably the only way to latch down the Envangelical conquest instinct abroad.
If everyone thinks you are a douche, chances are you are indeed. But this concept has an all-important flipside, especially in the superficial social realms of high school and the average voter’s judgment systems: if everyone thinks you are just the cat’s pajamas for differing reasons, the chances are just as good you are a gangster of fantastic proportions. The latter personality is an unprincipled tool, your run-of-the-mill politician. Mike Gravel filibustered for weeks in the seventies to successfully stop the draft. Kucinich continued his facile, limping 2004 campaign persisently all the way into Delaware espousing his Department of Peace. Looking at Paul’s voting record, it is difficult to imagine him selling the American people down the river, or, screw them in an epic way like Bush. Because truly loving someone means recognizing and respecting their complexity, their differences with you. Idealizing politicians is creepy, and that’s the reason a top tier this early on is frightening, and the terminal are so adorable.
I got on the phone with a Paul campaign spokesman, Jesse Benton, to listen to the wise wackdom.
Tyler S. Bass: [The Paul Presidency] would be a much lower tax burden on the American people. I’ve heard him say he would get rid of the DEA, the IRS [as well as, the Departments of Energy, Education, and Homeland Security]. What sort of other programs on the federal basis could we expect to see cut on a federal basis if Ron Paul becomes president?
JB: You know, Ron’s stood the record before saying he’s never really seen a budget that he doesn’t think could be cut. But where he would really start is, he would look at our total federal outlay. He would look at probably about $3 trillion coming up this year. Nearly a trillion of that $3 trillion is going to go to our overseas expenditures, whether it be for wars or subsidizing security of other nations, foreign aid. We have military bases in 130 countries around the globe, massive intelligence. We’d do away with things like that. Ron, he’d end the war in Iraq. He would withdraw troops from places like South Korea. He would stop policing the world, and stop supporting a foreign policy that we can’t manage and we can’t afford. We would return to a much more traditional, constitutional foreign policy that better fits the vision of the founders where we will be friends with the world, where we trade with the world, but we wouldn’t enter into entangling alliances and engagements. We wouldn’t try to police the world, we wouldn’t try to tell the rest of the world what to do because if you just look at – any time that we’re engaged in engtangling foreign alliances, even our best intentions often create conditions where we have unintended negative consequences. And that’s where you can see, we take that trillion dollars in spending right now – he thinks we can slash that almost in half right away – and take the rest of that money and return it to the American people, and support lower taxes, and begin to use some of that money to wean Americans off from some of the burgeoning welfare state.
TSB: Do you see a difference between nationalism and patriotism?
JB: You know, I can only talk about that from my perspective. I couldn’t talk about how Ron feels about that. I’m going to have to pass on that question, unless you want my two cents.
TSB: Well, yeah. I’ll take your two cents. Why not?
JB: Basically, patriotism means to me that you love your country. American patriotism means that you think that America is really something special, and that America is really what’s for you, and you want to do things in an American way. Nationalism means that you think that your way is the only way that’s acceptable for other people, and you would support to try to impose your will and the American way of doing things on other people. So I think that I consider myself a patriot, and I think Ron would, too.
The neoconservatives were like vapid, rationalizing children when it came to examining why “they” hate us. People like Giuliani have kept playing that 9/11 card, and by that token, on the worst parts of the American psyche. The brain-dead notion that Giuliani tried to sell like a desperate vacuum salesman was that damning foreign policy is damning yourself. But the American people are not the policy. On and on for years, that neoconservative ilk has been trying to publically rob those who questioned the status quo of their very patriotism, to pull from their arms a treasured Americanism which their birth and education themselves granted, if they dared not wrap themselves in the flag and cheer when cluster bombs tossed blood from the bodies of children into the mud. Contemporary polls of the Middle East, such as those conducted by Steven Kull at the University of Maryland, point out to today what is common sense abroad. A fat majority of the people in Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia, and Pakistan think that the U.S. military should get out of Muslim countries, and even that the American leaders’ intentions are to divide Islam itself. Freedom has essentially become synonymous with leisure in this country, and, as we all know, leisure is not free, and it is also not liberty.