I am still trying to recover from the Republican Party’s overwhelming failure to understand that only Ron Paul was speaking good sense about the dismal state of U.S. foreign policy. Depending on whom you listen to, however, one might almost think in spite of all evidence to the contrary that the revolution is still going on and just one more tweak will deliver a Brave New World. That is because hardly a day passes without yet another email from the various organizations that are seeking to cash in on the Ron Paul legacy, demonstrating that they have the moxie to continue the fight. The most recent email from John Tate and Campaign for Liberty pledged to do something about drones, the latest empty promise that comes on top of not-quite-achieved victories in auditing the Fed and Pentagon and defending the Internet. Just send $50 or whatever one can spare. We’ll spend it wisely. Really.
In spite of it all, I strongly believe that Dr. Paul’s immense contribution to the political debate forced something of a rethinking of the unfortunate direction that our nation has taken in the past 10 years. His message continues to resonate, if muted, and is worth more than an eventual footnote in a history book. In the area of foreign policy, he alone had the courage to speak out on issues that the other candidates chose to ignore while puffing out their chests, wrapping themselves in the flag, and boasting of “American Exceptionalism.”
The only problem is that many of those who are now crying “legacy,” including Tate and Company, couldn’t have cared less about foreign policy when they might have actually done something to intensify the debate. They obsess about drones in the United States while ignoring their use overseas. They were precisely the folks who failed the campaign or who sold out in the first place. Onward and upward, leaving no man behind has turned into “let us reason together” and let’s “go along to get along.”
Somehow the Emperor Caligula’s naming of his favorite horse, Incitatus, consul of Rome came to mind when I recently read about how Jesse Benton, the controversial campaign manager for Ron Paul, had moved smoothly over to manage Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election. Many Paul supporters long believed that Benton was intent on grooming himself for bigger and better things, hence the frequent disconnects in the latter days of the Paul campaign, including an announcement that the campaign had been suspended that was reversed on the following day. It is hard to think much of Benton or to wish him well, though he may have discovered his own purgatory now that he has to package the lugubrious McConnell in an attempt to make him appear human, a task that might well be beyond anyone’s capability. Does anyone seriously think that Benton was brought over to the GOP establishment to help in a race that is a foregone conclusion to attract support from the Paulistas and tea partyers? It is to reward Benton and bring him into the fold as what passes for a loyal Republican.
But perhaps the unkindest cut of all is the betrayal by Sen. Rand Paul, who has clearly set himself up as the heir apparent to his father’s legacy. He now has a fundraising mechanism called Randpac, which is sending out hard-hitting emails asking for money. I do not doubt for a second that Rand understands at least some of what his father stood for and is willing to take some unpopular positions to support what he thinks to be right. But his father never endorsed Mitt Romney, and, while it is understandable that loyal Republican Rand would stand behind the GOP candidate for president, his full approval of Romney’s foreign policy and his willingness to serve as Romney’s vice president were unforgivable. Romney stands for everything that Ron Paul abhors, including unrestricted overseas intervention and chest-thumping militarism.
And Rand’s latest emails contain material that is more reminiscent of Peter King, the rabble-rousing congressman from Long Island who has been going around arranging hearings to investigate American Muslims, than of his father. Rand’s latest schtick is to take away money given to governments that don’t fully support us. If an email that went out on Sept. 29 is anything to go by, Rand Paul has apparently completed his conversion to Orthodox GOPism, including integration into its dominant neoconservative foreign policy wing. The email boasts about Rand’s sponsorship of a bill that would have stopped “handouts” to Egypt, Pakistan, and Libya.
The bill, which Rand describes as the “will of the American people,” died in the Senate by a vote of 81 to 10. The email includes a one-minute video that shows angry, presumably Muslim crowds interposed with burning vehicles and buildings together with a narrative tract describing how a number of countries are not good allies and don’t make any effort to support U.S. interests while at the same time attacking our diplomats overseas. The video is the basis of a TV ad that will apparently be used in television markets where six vulnerable Democrats who supported continuing aid to the countries in question are running for reelection.
The ad will be run thanks to a “Massive Bring Our Tax Dollars Home Money Bomb,” which is the real purpose of the email. Rand makes some specific claims: that the three countries “Look the other way while violent mobs burn our flag and chant ‘Death to America’”; “Hardly lift a finger to bring to justice those who murdered four American citizens — including our ambassador”; and “Refuse to protect our embassies and torture and imprison citizens for acting like the U.S. allies these countries claim to be.”
It should escape no one’s notice that the countries being targeted are all Muslim, which means they are fair game. Israel, the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, is not mentioned. One can reasonably challenge ALL foreign aid, as Ron Paul himself did, but selecting countries based on a false narrative about what is going on in the Middle East is nothing but the cheapest form of pandering imaginable. It is a dose of straight neoconservatism. People demonstrate against Washington in countries like Egypt for a number of reasons, but one of the big reasons is that we supported a dictatorial regime in that country because it suited our interests, not those of the Egyptian people. Rand should know that because his father certainly understood and spoke out about it.
And the rest of the narrative also does not pass the smell test. When last I checked, Libyans had warned the U.S. Information Office in Benghazi that there were serious threats against it, and it was the decision of the State Department not to beef up security. Libyan security guards outside the building fought against the attackers, and Libyan civilians did their best to save the ambassador, freeing him from the building he was trapped in and bringing him to the hospital. In the aftermath, hundreds of Libyans demonstrated to show their outrage over what had occurred and drove the al-Qaeda-linked militia believed to be responsible for the killings out of Benghazi. The Libyan government, such as it is and insofar as it is capable of doing so, has fully cooperated in the investigation while the U.S. authorities have dragged their feet.
And Rand’s last charge is completely absurd. What government has “refused to protect our embassies”? And the video makes clear that the “imprison[ed] citizens” claim relates to the CIA doctor in Pakistan, Shakil Afridi, who was spying for the U.S. government. If Rand Paul were Pakistani, how would he see it?
So it is a bad day at Black Rock. The folks who are claiming to continue the fight for a sane foreign policy are either doing nothing or are falling into the same old pattern of pointless stereotyping and deliberate failure to understand why things are the way they are. So do you want to see Sen. Rand Paul running for president in 2016? Sure, why not. It would not be a change that we can believe in because it would be no change at all.