Paul for President

The presidential fields of both parties have narrowed, and the arguments about how we should move forward are now familiar. TAC believes that only one candidate has put forth a diagnosis of America’s current ills and has a vision to turn the country off its misguided course. That is Congressman Ron Paul, whom we endorse for the Republican nomination.

On the key issue of foreign policy, the differences between the other Republican contenders can be measured in microdots. All remain enthusiastic supporters of the invasion of Iraq and of maintaining a presence there for years to come. All speak as if it is America’s right and duty to station its armed forces over much of the world. All have embraced neoconservative paranoia about the “threat” posed by Iran, setting the table for another war. All, that is, except Dr. Paul.

He is the one candidate who sees how the realities of world power have shifted since the 1990s, the one who recognizes that the time of unilateral American hegemony is over—and can’t be maintained even if it was in our interest to do so. He alone understands that the ever expanding federal government is a far greater threat to American liberty than some tinpot dictator in the Caucasus. By speaking about the benefits of smaller government and limited executive power, he has introduced a generation of young Americans to a more traditional and true style of conservatism—to the movement and the country’s benefit.

Ron Paul is a libertarian, and his stances are very much derived from that minor party tradition. To many, his ruminations about sound money seem academic—if oddly prescient. He was sounding the alarm about dollar devaluation long before the current panic and broke with libertarian orthodoxy to oppose injurious free-trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA. Conservatives also find common cause with his 30-year pro-life voting record and commitment to ending birthright citizenship.

Paul came by his congressional nickname—“Dr. No”—honestly. Anyone combing through his lengthy record will find many lone stands and idealistic statements that ignore the maxim that politics is the art of the possible. We are under no illusion that he has much chance of winning the GOP nomination this election cycle.

Nevertheless we urge a vote for him. This campaign sends a signal to both parties that a significant number of Americans value their country’s great Constitution, that many conservatives reject wiretaps, waterboarding, and senseless wars. There is far more realism in Paul’s analysis than can be found in those Republicans who believe that Washington’s policy of borrowing billions from China to pay for the occupation of a growing number of countries is desirable, much less sustainable.

Ron Paul has been a breath of fresh air in an otherwise desultory Republican campaign. Long may he run.


Shop Therapy

In the dark days following 9/11, we were encouraged to strike back at terrorism by going shopping. So why not head off the looming recession with a trip to the mall?

The $300 checks Americans will receive courtesy of the president’s stimulus plan won’t keep them from losing their houses. But maybe they won’t notice: think of all the made-in-China goodies they’ll be able to buy! (Apparently no one mentioned to Mr. Bush and his Congressional enablers that banking on Beijing is part of the problem.)

Now given the choice between spending $150 billion on a new government program and returning the money to taxpayers, we much prefer this option. But the notion that we can buy our way out of major system failure is foolish.

A self-styled conservative administration has swelled the federal bureaucracy to unprecedented proportions and committed us to a war that drains $2 billion per week from the national coffers. The markets falter, the deficit mounts—and those claiming to be fiscally sober plan to fix it all by playing Santa Claus.

But what happens when we can’t afford to feed our import addiction? The Fed’s rate slashing ensures the dollar’s ongoing decline. To this bleak forecast add rising unemployment, falling federal revenue, and entitlements into eternity.

Someone sees this as cause to shop, but it isn’t Americans doing their patriotic duty by buying DVD players. The countries that financed our spree are cashing in, snatching up U.S. assets at bargain prices. And we can scarcely complain, for we lined their pockets—by emptying our own.


Freedom Fighters

Last month the venerable think tank Freedom House put out its annual report, quantifying that freedom around the world is indeed on the march. Unfortunately, it is heading in the wrong direction. The specifics are in the news most days: slippage away from democracy in Russia and many of the former Soviet Asian regions, increased repression in Egypt, civil war in the Palestinian territories, crackdown in Pakistan, chaos in Kenya.

There is no question that democracy is a better political system than others, that civil liberties are a vital social achievement. But there is an extensive historical and political-science literature focused on why different human societies are the way they are, why political freedom has been a relatively small part of mankind’s historical experience, what the sociological preconditions for democracy are, how the superficial trappings of democracy can exist without genuine political freedom. Perhaps the main global trend is indeed toward greater freedom, rule of law, civil liberties, and democracy. But Orwell and Huxley thought differently—and it’s not yet obvious that they were wrong.

What does seem clear is that there is a negative correlation between the Bush administration and its neoconservative enablers talking about freedom while invading other countries and the actual advance of freedom. George W. Bush gives an inaugural address about “fire in the minds of men,” proclaims liberty on the march, and orders up air strikes. The result is not only a diminution of liberty around the world but the toxic association of our value system with militarism.

We don’t expect Freedom House to advocate a more effective strategy. But one is needed. Our recommendation is to make American democracy at home a more inspirational example to the world, while beginning the long process of decoupling the good idea of freedom from the bad one of Americans invading foreign nations under the guise of liberating them.


Ray of Sunshine

Counting on ex-New Yorkers and a wealth of moderate Republicans, Rudy Giuliani bet all his electoral chips on Florida and lost. His failure was largely blamed on his decision to pull out of early contests. In reality, it was his flawed ideology.

In an election year where the Republican field contains little of what voters want, and much that they dread, Giuliani offered even less, and yet more.

Lacking foreign-policy experience, Giuliani posed as a crime-fighter while insisting that terrorism could only be defeated by war and occupation rather than law enforcement. Having no credibility on social issues, he pretended that being anti-smut was the summum bonum of a pro-family agenda. His economic agenda consisted of little more than touting the Laffer Curve and other supply-side economic trivia. And people wonder why he didn’t compete in Michigan.

Giuliani’s national candidacy was a symptom of sickness in the GOP. His delayed defeat is a small but welcome sign of health in the party of Goldwater and Reagan.