The response to my column on Rand Paul has been generally favorable, much to my surprise: generally people who belong to a political movement tend to rally around their tribal leaders if and when they’re attacked, but apparently libertarians are the exception to this general rule. That’s because they’re better than that. Most of the criticism has come from conservatives, notably Daniel Larison over at The American Conservative.
In a typically dreary polemic, Larison accuses me of employing a double-standard, citing my praise of Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) for coming out against the war in Afghanistan whilst making warlike noises about Iran. Yet Chaffetz is a conservative, not a libertarian: he isn’t making fundraising appeals to libertarians, citing his anti-interventionist credentials. Furthermore, he’s evolving away from the conventional neoconnish approach to foreign policy, which calls for war in practically every instance, and towards a more reasonable position. Rand Paul is evolving in the opposite direction.
Of course, since Larison supports the war in Afghanistan, and refuses to call for an American withdrawal, it’s not exactly surprising that he isn’t all that fond of Chaffetz: one can only note, however, that Larison doesn’t take Chaffetz to task specifically for this, but rather for his stance on Iran, citing “inconsistency.” That Larison is himself guilty of this same lack of coherence, albeit inverted – pro-war in Afghanistan, pro-peace when it comes to Iran – doesn’t seem to bother him in the least. Go figure…
At any rate, I expect more of the son of Ron Paul than of an obscure Republican member of congress with no connections to the organized libertarian movement. Is that so wrong?
I have to say, however, that I regret writing the last line of that column, which was disrespectful and not even true: I would indeed give Rand Paul the time of day, and shouldn’t have let myself get carried away by the polemical momentum of my own arguments. I have nothing but respect for Ron Paul, and that goes for his entire family.
On the other hand, I have absolutely no respect for David Frum, the die-hard neocon former speechwriter for George W. Bush and author of the Bushian “axis of evil” slogan, who recently attacked Larison for being in the same movement as me. The occasion was a Larison piece decrying Frum’s likening of the Rand Paul campaign (and the entire libertarian current in the GOP) to the garbage that washes in with the Staten Island Ferry as it comes ashore. With characteristic old-maidish tsk-tsking, Larison opined,
“If a non-interventionist ever described his hawkish opponents as nothing more than trash and implied that they were an infection that needed to be wiped out, it would not be tolerated for a second. It would be roundly denounced as the vile, disgusting rhetoric that it is, and the reputation of the person responsible would be permanently damaged.”
Frum advises Larison to develop a “thicker skin,” and goes on to write:
“When [paleoconservatives] set to write, they produce some of the most unrestrained vitriol to appear anywhere in the blogosphere. Does Larison not read his own American Conservative magazine and website? Does he ever check in with Ron Paul central, aka LewRockwell.com? … Ever visited any of the Ron Paul message boards? Do names like Karen Kwiatkowski, Alex Jones, and Justin Raimondo stir a recollection in him?”
Alex Jones I’m not all that familiar with, so I can’t tell if he’s as vicious as I can be. As for Karen, she’s always struck me as a fairly straightforward writer, whose articles are not particularly vitriolic: indeed, they seem fairly restrained. As for myself, I happily plead guilty to the charge of being vitriolic when it comes to David Frum and his fellow war enthusiasts – particularly now that Frum has reinvented himself as a “moderate” Republican, whose shtick is getting the liberal media to give him a platform from which he can denounce those awful “extremists” on the right, such as Ron Paul.
This, after all, is a man who was once the Vyshinsky of the neocons: it was Frum who penned a piece for National Review accusing a number of prominent conservatives and libertarians, such as Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak (and some lesser known, such as myself), of “siding with the terrorists” for opposing the Iraq war, and reading them out of the conservative movement. Now he’s turning around and saying that the conservative movement is becoming too “extreme” and “exclusive,” decrying the “purging” of hack politicians like Bob Bennett of Utah.
Frum, the pompous hypocrite, is about as “moderate” as a rattlesnake, reserving his poison for advocates of individual liberty and anyone who opposes his agenda of perpetual war. As co-author of a book with Richard Perle which advocated invading practically every country in the Middle East – and instituting a quasi-dictatorship on the home front in the name of fighting the “war on terrorism” – his “moderate” disguise is about as convincing as that of a wolf out of the Brothers Grimm.
How’s that for “vitriol”?
On to a sunnier topic: I want to thank everyone who made the success of our spring fundraising campaign a success. It was a long and often scary haul, but we made it in the end – thanks to you, our loyal readers and supporters, who came through in the midst of a major recession.
Your support – both financial and moral – is what keeps us going, and keeps me writing. Yes, I know, you don’t always agree with everything that appears in this space – but where else but on this web site can you find such a diversity of opinion in an age where tribal politics trumps dialogue and the “left-right” “red-blue” divide still distorts the national conversation?
The Antiwar.com team is working 24/7 – literally – to bring you the news of the world from an anti-interventionist perspective. We’re keeping watch on the ramparts as the War Party draws closer, sounding the alarm and manning the battlements – making sure that, no matter how “unanimous” the war hysteria of the moment may seem, the voices of reasonable dissent are heard. This is the task we’ve been working at for over a decade now – and your continuing support reassures us that it isn’t entirely a thankless one. For which I can’t thank you enough.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
In a follow-up comment on the American Conservative web site, Larison accuses me of “misrepresenting” Rand Paul’s position on Iran. This is a serious charge, one that I believe is not buttressed by the YouTube video of Paul the Younger’s colloquy with Bill O’Reilly. Rand Paul is the one who brings up the question of our nuclear first strike policy in the context of the Iranian question, not O’Reilly, and while O’Reilly agrees with him that we should strike a pose of “ambiguity” in this instance, the Fox News neocon drives home the point that Jim Bunning, Rand’s Republican predecessor (and endorser) would opt for an attack if it came to that. Rand’s answer is that he would “not take it off the table.”
So he’s not opposed in principle to attacking Iran – with nuclear weapons, no less! – and it seems likely, from his manner and his now well-established record of caving in to pressure, that he would go along with the program when the bombs start falling on Tehran. Furthermore, he hasn’t called for US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and Pakistan – a position that may gladden Larison’s heart, but makes the rest of us wonder when Ron is going to take Rand out to the woodshed.