State of the Union

Richard Lugar, Illusory Realist

The Indiana senator went down to defeat tonight. A crushing loss for maturity and foreign-policy realism in the GOP? Not exactly. As Jim Antle noted in our April issue:

His arms-control advocacy has earned him an undeserved reputation for foreign-policy realism, as have his occasional muted criticisms of the wars for which he reliably votes. But Lugar, perhaps the most respected GOP wise man on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, backed the Iraq War when it counted and will no doubt be up for seeing a sequel in Iran.

Daniel Larison also put the Mourdock/Lugar race in correct perspective:

Mourdock’s argument against Lugar is that he has been in Washington too long (true), that Lugar doesn’t even really live in Indiana anymore (also basically true), and Lugar has cast a number of recent votes, including one for the TARP, that conservatives find unacceptable. Lugar has an admirable record on arms control and securing nuclear materials, and more recently he has been one of the most prominent Republican figures urging caution and restraint on Libya and Syria. We should expect none of this from Mourdock, assuming he manages to win in November. That doesn’t mean that Lugar should be able to flout the wishes of his core constituencies at home without expecting serious protest. Lugar is being held accountable by his party’s primary voters, and that’s an entirely healthy thing.

Lugar had a sense of entitlement that ultimately made him a bad politician. The Republican Party does have a problem with losing its realists — as Jordan Michael Smith shows in our May issue — but it would have been exceedingly difficult to argue that Lugar deserved to win on foreign-policy alone, even if he had been much more of a realist than he ever actually was.

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Buying Off the Ron Paul Vote

Ed Kilgore’s New Republic piece “What Does Ron Paul Want?” isn’t deep, but it correctly notes how hard the GOP is trying to sound like the Texas congressman on practically every issue except foreign policy and civil liberties. There’s a parallel here to the way in which the GOP once adopted, and adapted, much of Pat Buchanan’s style — particularly the cultural combativeness — while resisting his non-interventionism and economic nationalism. The 2004 GOP, and quite a bit of the 1994 GOP, aped Buchanan’s pitch and reaped considerable electoral rewards.

But the policies the party implemented were the opposite of those he advocated: more free trade agreements, more nation building and foreign intervention. A great many of Buchanan’s supporters — the Sarah Palin type — were fooled, or had never thought enough about what Buchanan was really arguing in the first place.

Will the same thing happen to Paul supporters?

Kilgore notes a difference: Ron Paul has his son, Sen. Rand Paul, to carry on his fight. “If anyone could bring anti-interventionist foreign policy into the mainstream of the GOP, it’s Rand.” But the Paul phenomenon is bigger than its standard-bearers, and the GOP establishment will eagerly assimilate anyone in the movement who doesn’t grasp the centrality of civil liberties and peace to Paul’s philosophy.

The Republican convention, where Paul delegates will have a considerable presence, will be a test for both sides. The party will want to channel RP supporters into something bold-sounding but harmless, and as far removed from questions of war and personal freedom as possible. (Or, if foreign policy is on the table, the establishment’s offer will be something nugatory: unenforceable platform language about Congress declaring war, or maybe a plank calling for keeping the UN out of America’s public parks.) Paul’s activists, on the other hand, will set themselves up to be dismissed as fringe troublemakers if their push-back isn’t smart — the party isn’t about to call for Donald Rumsfeld to be indicted for war crimes.

What would a substantial policy victory for the Paul camp look like? A victory, that is, that doesn’t give interventionists in the GOP “constitutionalist” cover, but that actually helps to distinguish the real constitutionalists from the fakes?

This is the most important question that Paul supporters can ask themselves right now. Buchanan went to the 1996 convention with a great many delegates. But the party bosses yielded nothing in return except symbolic platform language, and they never seriously considered following Buchanan’s “America First” agenda.

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Empire and its Jeffersonian Discontents

The Wall Street Journal from a few days ago contained a smug editorial containing the pithiest summation I’ve seen of the establishment GOP view of the Tea Party:

They should stick to shrinking the entitlement state.

Jeffersonian activists across the country have introduced various interposition measures–most fall short of nullification–against portions of the NDAA, two of which have passed in Arizona and Virginia. Now that the Tea Party has begun to take on the national security state and not just the entitlement state, the neocons of the WSJ editorial board are complaining about their “Inner ACLU.” In Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell received a letter from Romney advisor and MeK supporter Michael Chertoff, Ed Meese, and others urging him to veto the bill. He prudently changed some of the wording, but signed it into law.

It’s especially telling that many of these people also support the Arizona immigration law which, if upheld, will lead to a holding tank-type situation in which Arizona law enforcement will corral illegal immigrants but, lacking the authority, won’t be able to deport them without federal cooperation. In other words, a little law enforcement give-and-take between state and federal governments is a-ok on illegal immigration national security requires a unified top-down approach regardless of the outrageousness of the federal government’s diktats, which now include the authority to detain Americans indefinitely without trial and extrajudicially assassinate them by drone while abroad.

But to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, these are not issues about which reasonable people can disagree:

In 1942, a military court ordered the execution of six Nazis, including an American citizen, who were captured after having come ashore from submarines off the U.S. East Coast. Yet some tea partiers want to let today’s version of infiltrating Nazis get the same rights as burglars.

Some tea partiers also want to distinguish between U.S. citizens and foreigners, as if that would matter to their victims. Anyone who takes up arms against the U.S., fails to wear an enemy uniform and targets civilians is an unlawful enemy combatant regardless of citizenship.

That’s right, if you don’t agree with the NDAA, you must be a terrorist/Nazi sympathizer.

The distinction between a U.S. citizens and foreigners is of paramount importance because American counterterrorism strategy developed to fight Islamic terror has come home, as the recently-released list of domestic drone permits demonstrates.  And the fact that a handful of American citizens become terrorists seems a poor reason to open the door to applying the laws of war at home, which is a serious possibility under the NDAA. There is a major difference, from a law enforcement standpoint, between Jared Loughner or the would-be May Day anarchist bombers and Anwar Al-Awlaki.

Bernie Quigley has a more hopeful take on the Jeffersonian uprising, and he mentions a few friends of TAC:

Wouldn’t the next obvious step be a connecting network of these states, most of them from the heartland, interested and inclined toward Ron Paul and Jeffersonian ideas including states’ rights, constitutional government and sound money; possibly a “supercommittee of governors” much like the great ambassador George Kennan advised in his last days?

But there has been so much interrelated thinking now in the past three years that there might even be considered an ad hoc experimental congress of some sort to bring together the related ideas and interested amateurs and professionals.

Participants besides the concerned governors might include “Freedom Watch” Judge Andrew Napolitano; Michael Boldin, founder of The Tenth Amendment Center who was scorned this week by The Wall Street Journal (a badge of honor) for his leadership in state opposition to NDAA; Sarah Palin; the Pauls; Rep. Justin Amash (R) of Michigan; the distinguished delegate from Virginia Jim LeMunyon, who has called for a new Constitutional Convention; Sen. Mike Lee (R) of Utah; the brilliant libertarian journalist Jack Hunter; libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson; scholar Thomas Woods, who writes on nullification; Joe Miller of Alaska; and my neighbors here in New Hampshire, state Reps. Paul Ingbretson and Dan Itse, who first brought the state’s challenge to ObamaCare citing Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolutions.

Lawrence Lessig gave me some hope of a left-right alliance on some of these issues too, especially on technology and civil liberties, but it looks like he’s turned most of his attention away from the bold Call a Convention proposal and toward the aimless Rootstrikers which wants publicly-funded elections and an end to corporate personhood.

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Rethinking Paul Ryan vs. The Tea Party

Washington Post columnist and former Bush II speechwriter Michael Gerson has an insightful take on the Paul Ryan budget that’s not all that different from our own Jim Antle’s.

He divides the contemporary GOP into reform and rejectionist variants, the latter being libertarians and Tea Party types who want to roll back some of the endless expansion of executive power that’s gone on for 150 years (not coincidentally, during yesterday’s Paul v. Paul debate, that’s exactly where former Enron consultant Paul Krugman said Ron Paul was living, “a world that was 150 years ago”), and the former being establishment figures like, he says, Rep. Paul Ryan, who have conceded to the “Lincoln and Hamilton revolutions.”

But just look at his lazy, contemptuous shorthand for the hard-liners:

Read More…

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The Frumming of Cato

Have a look at the byline-less “Crane Chronicles” series (1, 2, 3) over at Breitbart, in which the LA-based viral news blog takes a firm stand on the side of the Brothers Koch in the battle for the future of the libertarian think tank. The latest, published last Tuesday, quotes several anonymous sources and accuses Cato Institute president Ed Crane of sexual harassment and creating a “hostile and degrading” work environment for women.

It’s bracing stuff, but readers of this blog need no warnings to take Breitbart News’ anonymous sources with a grain of salt.

The first piece makes hay out of Ed Crane talking to Jane Mayer for her paranoid New Yorker profile on the Kochs. The author, whoever that might be, takes this as heresy, unconscionable collusion with the “Democrat Media Complex” that places him beyond the pale of sympathy. The quote in question involves a “top Cato official” referring to Charles Koch and his Market-Based Management ideas as an “emperor” who’s “convinced he’s wearing clothes.” Reading David Koch’s letter about the controversy, it’s tough to escape the conclusion that the Kochs have taken offense at Crane’s insufficient deference to their silly management philosophy:

When confronted about this, Ed initially claimed he only spoke briefly and favorably about us. He later acknowledged that he had made the statement as quoted, but it was only for background. Subsequently, he claimed that he was misquoted. As Ed has shown, he will partner with anyone – including those that oppose Cato and what it stands for – to further his personal agenda at the expense of others working to advance a free society.

Whether or not Ed Crane should have spoken to Jane Mayer should be irrelevant, though that sort of tribalism certainly animates the staff of Breitbart News. The idea that the president of the leading libertarian think tank should have some sort of gag rule for talking to left-wing reporters is nonsense. Whether Mayer misquoted Crane or quoted him against his wishes is not irrelevant, but to suggest that his statements were part of some sort of power grab on Crane’s part is more than the evidence supports. Either the Kochs are using this line as part of a power grab of their own, or Charles really was offended by the characterization of his book. To anyone who doubts the Kochs are narcissistic enough for that to be a motivating factor I would ask: What kind of self-respecting billionaire writes a self-help book? Read More…

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Tea Party vs. Occupy: Which Is Winning?

What may be a declining force in American political life is the Tea Party movement, which in 2010 played a critical role in winning congressional seats and governorships for the economically conservative wing of the GOP. Since then, national support for this loosely organized movement has fallen precipitously. Between March 2010 and April 2011, according to Pew polls, disapproval for the Tea Party rose by 19%, while only 21 % expressed positive views about it. 49% of those polled held no opinion on the subject and were not even motivated to inquire. At the same time, support for Occupy Wall Street movement has held steady at 21% and is now almost equal to the popularity of its right-of-center competitor.

There are several factors that make these findings curious. One, the Tea Party has obviously declined in its confrontational relation to the two-party establishment since 2010. For the last several months Tea Party leaders Senator Jim DeMint and Governor Nikki Haley in South Carolina, Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey, Governor Janice Brewer in Arizona, and Congressman Paul Ryan in Wisconsin have been piling on to the Mitt Romney bandwagon, and self-identified Tea Party sympathizers have been doing the same in primaries in Florida, Colorado, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. Their support for the quintessential small-government candidate Ron Paul has been minimal, which should not be surprising. We are talking here primarily about Bush-McCain Republicans, who went on the attack against Democratic spending, and particularly against Obamacare, after the 2008 election. Tea Party demonstrators were mostly, according to polls, high on Medicare, which many of them are receiving, and have no desire to play around with entitlements. They are mostly objecting to Obama’s expansion of government spending. Read More…

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Is Rubio Tomorrow’s Man — or Yesterday’s?

Among the GOP victories in 2010, none was sweeter than that of Marco Rubio.

The charismatic young Cuban-American challenged Gov. Charlie Crist in a Senate primary, ran him out of the party and swept to victory by 19 points in a three-way race.

Among those mentioned as running mates for Mitt Romney, it is Rubio who generates the most excitement. That he is young, Hispanic and conservative, and his place on the ticket might secure Florida, are the cards he brings to the table.

So it was a surprise this week to see Rubio being chaperoned over to the Brookings Institution by Sen. Joe Lieberman to take final vows as the newest neoconservative.

John Quincy Adams’ declaration that America goes not “abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” says Rubio, is an idea that he rejects.

A wiser guide, said the senator, is Bob Kagan, Barack Obama’s favorite neocon, who calls it a myth that America is in decline and who urges a more robust and interventionist foreign policy. Read More…

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The Cyber-Narc Bill

Meet CISPA, the wired NSA agent to SOPA’s copyright cop.

CISPA makes it easier for private companies to share information about cybersecurity threats with civilian agencies like the NSA, while removing some of the requirements that certain personal information be redacted. President Obama threatened to veto it today.

The new cybersecurity bill enjoys, unlike SOPA, the broad support of tech companies like Google:

According to Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and number-one fan for the execution of Wikileaks whisteblower Bradley Manning – Google is “very supportive” of CISPA. (link)

The reason for the difference in support is that SOPA was a much stronger bill with new authority to filter content and take down websites, and it included tampering with the Domain Name System, part of the fundamental structure of the internet. CISPA is voluntary, and all references to intellectual property in the original bill were eliminated to appease critics.

The bill will not, as House Speaker John Boehner claims, stimulate the economy or create jobs, but at least on its face, the rationale makes sense. NJ quotes Boehner from a commentary in Investor’s Business Daily:

“The private sector owns and operates most of the networks under assault. So instead of imposing new mandates, or having government agencies monitor or police private networks, [CISPA] helps private-sector job creators defend themselves and their users,” he wrote.

“The House is already on record here; we voted last year to stop federal bureaucrats from regulating the Internet,” he wrote. “The government has no business monitoring or regulating what you do online.”

Which begs the question, then why is the government already presume the authority to monitor what we do online? Wired’s exclusive last month on the frightening new complex going up in the Utah desert to collect and decrypt the communications of ordinary Americans demonstrates clearly that the cybersecurity gurus of the NSA are not especially discerning or respectful of the privacy of individuals’ personal data.

Check out this editorial in Wired by Mercatus’ Jerry Brito and Tate Watkins about the cybersecurity-industrial complex and how, just like the war hawks, they manage to get whatever they ask for.

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Night of the Living Delegates

Ron Paul’s delegate-focused strategy is finally starting to show some results, with Minnesota’s RNC delegation to include a majority of Paul backers and Iowa’s delegates tipping in his favor. After last night’s five primaries he’ll be taking a handful in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island too. In the mean time, Romney delivered Newt Gingrich a campaign-ending coup de grace in little winner-take-all Delaware.

Nobody expects a brokered convention, but Paul needs successes like these if there’s a chance that any of his ideas might be adopted by the Republican Party in Tampa. Also, a Smart Politics study shows Newt may have been right that Romney is “the weakest frontrunner in decades”:

A Smart Politics review of Republican primary election data since 1972 finds that Mitt Romney’s performances in Delaware and Pennsylvania mark the first time a GOP frontrunner has failed to reach the 60 percent mark in a contest conducted after his last major challenger dropped out of the race. (link)

Romney is uniquely weak in some ways, but this sentence is pure sophistry.  Delaware was Newt Gingrich’s last stand, he campaigned there heavily and won 27 percent of the vote. It’s a small state and given disenchanted relationship between the GOP base and Romney, less than 60 percent of the vote is far from surprising. As for the Pennsylvania claim, it’s a little frustrating that they don’t consider Ron Paul to be a “major challenger,”  despite having spoken at Independence Hall on Sunday in front of 4,000 people.

The Doctor’s speechmaking has really improved over the past several months. Check out this excerpt from Sunday’s rally:

“In our early history we had a major undertaking overthrowing an empire. That is what we’re doing now. I believe we have an empire and a constant increase in the tyrannical increase of the power in Washington DC. … Today it’s a bit different. We don’t want separation, but we want to get rid of the people who believe it’s their role and responsibility to run our lives, police our world and run a monetary policy that is corrupt. … Seeking a society that offers virtue and excellence, we have logic on our side and we also have the humanitarian principle on our side. They tell us too often that we don’t care about the poor. If you care about the poor, or you care about prosperity and peace, the only way you can achieve that is through free markets, sound money and individual liberty. That is the answer. This campaign has a few months left to it, it’s not going to end like some people pretend. The media say ‘Where’s Ron Paul gone? Where’s Ron Paul gone? Where’s his campaign?’ [Shouting: ‘We’re right here!’] I want to know, where has the media been? Spread the message, be optimistic, and have fun doing it. Thanks a lot.”

There’s a full video of his speech here, but the version below is cleaner:

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Something Rotten in the State

With the number of Secret Service members and agents caught up in the partying-with-prostitutes scandal in Cartagena now at a dozen, and six already gone, how much wider and deeper does this go?

No one can take pleasure in seeing Secret Service agents — whose deserved reputation is that they will “take a bullet” for the president, his family and all whom they protect — shamed and disgraced.

Yet one would have to be naive to believe this was some isolated incident. No sooner was the first day’s work done in Cartagena than 20 hookers were trooping into the hotel rooms of SS agents, supervisors and members of the military advance team.

And Sen. Charles Grassley asks a relevant question.

As the Secret Service travel and work in close contact with the White House Advance Office and White House Communications Agency, was the Obama staff oblivious to this misconduct? If they were aware of it, did no one report it to the White House chief of staff?

Hostile intelligence services often use “honey traps” to ensnare U.S. diplomats and journalists. Thus this hookers-and-agents scandal is no laughing matter. Read More…

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