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Michael Gerson’s Drug Delusions

Most people can’t imagine an America without a minimum wage. Without such wage regulation many believe poverty would run rampant, families would become homeless and children would be starving in the streets. Yet conservatives have rightly recognized that these are moralistic and emotional responses to what is essentially an economic problem. Pointing out the policy’s failure, National Review founder William F. Buckley wrote: “The minimum wage is about as discredited as the Flat Earth Society…” Yet the very notion of getting rid of it remains something most Americans simply cannot fathom.

Most people can’t imagine an America without the War on Drugs. Without federal drug laws many believe substance abuse would be rampant, families would be destroyed and the nation’s youth would be strung out across our streets. Yet opponents of federal drug laws have rightly recognized that these are moralistic and emotional responses to what is essentially an economic, political, and due to our approach, criminal problem.

In 1995, National Review declared “The War on Drugs is Lost.” Leading this charge, Buckley broke down the troublesome cost of prohibition: “We are speaking of a plague that consumes an estimated $75 billion per year of public money, exacts an estimated $70 billion a year from consumers, is responsible for nearly 50 per cent of the million Americans who are today in jail, occupies an estimated 50 per cent of the trial time of our judiciary, and takes the time of 400,000 policemen—yet a plague for which no cure is at hand, nor in prospect.”

Much like the minimum wage, virtually all data available on drug prohibition points to the utter ineffectiveness of our policies. The primary difference is that prohibition of drugs has been far more damaging to this country than prohibition of market determined base wage levels. Whether measured in dollars or lives—the War on Drugs continues to be a great and unnecessary tragedy.

It should not be surprising that those most comfortable with the damage caused by the War on Drugs have often belonged to administrations that have wrought the most damage on this country. Denouncing Congressman Ron Paul’s opposition to federal drug prohibition, former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson wrote this week in the Washington Post: “Welcome to Paulsville, where people are free to take soul-destroying substances and debase their bodies to support their ‘personal habits.” Added Gerson: “In determining who is a ‘major’ candidate for president, let’s begin here… It is difficult to be a first-tier candidate while holding second-rate values.”

Gerson was addressing the first Republican presidential debate last week, in which the moderators seemed intent on belittling Paul’s position on federal drug laws by using the most extreme example of heroin use, similar to how leftwing defenders of the minimum wage might invoke visions of homeless mothers and starving children. Paul’s simple yet controversial position is that drugs should be regulated at the state and local level as the Constitution demands, just like alcohol. Read More…

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The Rick Santorum Scam

Former United States Senator Rick Santorum represents everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. If dismantling big government is now a primary concern, Santorum has spent a career promoting big government. If stopping massive spending is now a top priority, Santorum has a lifelong record of championing massive spending. If our debt is now considered the greatest threat to our national security, Santorum has always considered everything but the debt a greater threat.

Indeed, if conservatism means limiting government, the many ways in which Santorum has been the consistent enemy of conservatism are virtually unlimited.

In his 2003 Wall Street Journal column, “Big Government Conservatism,” the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes explained George W. Bush’s distinct GOP brand: “Reagan was a small government conservative who declared in his inauguration address that government was the problem, not the solution. There, Bush begs to differ. The essence of Bush’s big government conservatism is a trade-off. To gain free-market reforms and expand individual choice, he’s willing to broaden programs and increase spending.”

Whether free markets and individual freedom saw any love during his tenure is arguable, but Bush’s massive “broadening” of government programs, budgets, and power is not, making Bill Clinton look conservative in comparison. During that time, Santorum was every bit as much the poster boy for big government as the president, and if Obama and the Democrats now triple the size of government, that growth is constructed on top of the statist groundwork laid by their Republican predecessors. Throughout Bush’s debt doubling agenda—No Child Left Behind, Medicare Plan D, you name it—Santorum was fully on board. And for that entire period, the Republican Party was completely off course.

Today, Santorum remains the personification of Bush Republicanism. Heading into the 2012 campaign, the former senator sounds more like the ghost of Republicans past, invoking Bush’s name more often and favorably than any other candidate, while seeming to hope his beating of the culture and foreign war drums might drown out his big government record. Last week, Santorum even tried to make amends with small government conservatives by publicly apologizing for his support for Medicare Plan D. Too bad Santorum is running in an election cycle in which conservatives are fed up with candidates who are constantly apologizing yet never changing.

Let us examine the Santorum scam: In positioning himself as the most socially conservative candidate, Santorum has been successful in spending as many taxpayer dollars as the Democrats by seeking right-wing refuge in his pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-gay-marriage positions. The problem is, “conservatives” of Santorum’s stripe rarely do much to actually advance these issues. Is America any closer to overturning Roe v. Wade? Do we generally have more federal gun laws today or less? Has homosexuality become more or less culturally acceptable? For most Republican politicians, social conservatism has always been more of a fashion statement than a mission statement. You even get the sense that politicians like Santorum know full well they can’t do much legislatively on these issues and thus enjoy the conservative cover it always provides them. A 10th Amendment revolution in this country might give social conservatives more political victories than they’ve had in decades—but it would also mean the loss of a valuable election tool for Republican politicians who not-so-coincidentally seem to always favor impossible-to-pass federal legislation. Read More…

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Obama Kept Us Safe

When I repeatedly denounced George W. Bush’s doubling of the size of government during the last election, Republicans had one primary defense of their president: “Bush kept us safe.” Indeed, little else seemed to matter to most Republicans at the time, as the party rallied around their leader, his record and a GOP presidential nominee who ran on a virtually identical platform. The War on Terror trumped all else, Republicans insisted, as the party devoted itself fully to the Warrior in Chief—who also happened to be one of the most big government presidents in American history.

Last week, President Obama significantly out-Bushed Bush: We killed Osama Bin Laden. Judging by their top priority for most of the last decade, it would seem that most Republicans will now vote for Obama in 2012. Sure, Bush doubled the size of government and the debt. Big deal—we were fighting a War on Terror. Sure, it’s true that Obama is now tripling the size of government and our debt. But so what—President Obama just killed the world’s top terrorist! “Obama kept us safe” might even be enough to carry the president through the next election. Read More…

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Have We Forgotten 9/11?

On September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States. In response, the United States declared war on Bin Laden. This week, after ten long years: We got ’em. Al-Qaeda’s top terrorist is dead, the nation rejoices, and the families of the victims of 9/11 are finally getting some much needed closure.

So, hopefully, is America. For the last decade, virtually our entire Middle Eastern policy revolved around 9/11. This was true for both critics and champions of American foreign policy. If war opponents dared to ask what the Iraq War had to do with Osama or Al-Qaeda, war proponents would simply reply, “Do you remember 9/11?” In the same year we invaded Iraq, country singer Darryl Worley’s 2003 hit song “Have You Forgotten” expressed this sentiment: “Some say this country’s just out looking for a fight, well, after 9/11 man I’d have to say that’s right… You say we shouldn’t worry ’bout bin Laden… Have you forgotten?” Read More…

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Constant Conservative Ron Paul

When Ron Paul ran for president in 2008, polls showed that Americans-at-large were worried about an increasingly bad economy, angry at Washington for bailing out Wall Street and weary of the Iraq War. GOP primary voters found themselves defending a Republican president who was on the unpopular side of all three issues, supporting a Republican nominee who agreed with him, and having to choose from a Republican field of candidates virtually indistinguishable from their president, their nominee and each other. Except one.

With Ron Paul all but declaring his candidacy for president this week, polls show that Americans at large are most worried about a bad economy, Obama’s high negatives indicate a persistent distrust and disgust with Washington, and this president’s three Middle Eastern wars are arguably more unpopular than Iraq and Afghanistan were three years ago.

Yet, even though they will have adjusted their various positions accordingly, 2012 GOP primary voters will generally find a field of candidates willing to bash the White House for basically doing the same things these same candidates once defended a Republican president doing. In fact, most potential 2012 candidates will be as guilty of contributing to big government as the president they’ll criticize. Mitt Romney gave us the blueprint for government-run healthcare. Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich gave Republican support for cap and trade. Rick Santorum ran cover for Bush’s entire statist agenda by touting the president’s alleged social conservatism. Adding ideological insult to injury, most of these candidates still promote an astronomically expensive foreign policy while they simultaneously and contradictorily claim we must cut spending. By and large, these candidates are conservative in rhetoric only, not their records, as has been the case with most Republican presidential candidates for decades.

That is, again, except one. Read More…

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Does John McCain Support Al-Qaeda?

During the 2008 election, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul said that our constant military intervention in the Arab world was the primary motivation behind terrorist acts like 9/11. Why did Paul say this? Because Osama Bin Laden said it. Because the 9/11 Commission report said it. Because CIA intelligence said it, even inventing the term “blowback” precisely to describe it. Yet, when Paul explained this, fellow candidate and eventual Republican nominee John McCain excoriated the Texas congressman and suggested that he was indirectly giving aid and comfort to the enemy, Al-Qaeda.

Yet last week, McCain gave aid and comfort to the enemy. Directly.

Yes, it seems that the man who once ran for president portraying himself as being “tough” on terrorists now supports Al-Qaeda. This is not a joke. Read More…

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Bush Trumped Conservatism

Billionaire, reality TV star and possible 2012 presidential contender Donald Trump has been saying many things as of late, as his mix of Obama-bashing and Birtherism continue to excite a portion of the Republican base. But despite much silliness, Trump actually has said something vitally important: “George Bush gave us Barack Obama… If it weren’t for George Bush, we wouldn’t have Barack Obama. So I’m not thrilled with George Bush.”

For conservatives, this is unquestionably the most important message to remember heading into 2012.

While most conservatives will now admit to not being “thrilled” with Bush, not all of them are necessarily prepared to reject him and his legacy primarily because for eight long years the Right was completely immersed in defending his administration. Conservatives blindly defended arguably the biggest big government Republican president in history because they were so wrapped up in also blindly defending arguably the worst foreign policy blunder in American history—the Iraq War. Bush told us he was a “compassionate conservative.” We now know he was not conservative in any tangible sense, compassionate or otherwise. Bush also told us Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the United States, that Iraq was complicit in 9/11 and sold his war accordingly. Thousands of lives, trillions of dollars and an almost decade-long war later, we now know none of this was true. Indeed, to still say that Iraq was “worth it,” is to say that virtually any war our government concocts would be “worth it” too. Read More…

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Atlas vs. Avatar

If you ask the average film critic about the new movie adaptation of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” they will tell you it is a horrible movie. If you ask the average conservative or libertarian they will tell you it is a great movie. Objectively, it is a mediocre movie at best. Subjectively, it is one of the best mediocre movies you’ll ever see.

And of course this is based entirely on the subject. If it has become a Hollywood cliché to make movies about greedy capitalists vs. benevolent government, Rand’s famous novel radically restructures this pedestrian narrative. “Atlas” is about greedy government that conspires with greedy capitalists to stop other greedy capitalists from making products which, incidentally, make them benevolent.

Confused? You should be. Read More…

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Liberals for Slavery

On the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the battle of Fort Sumter, MSNBC television host Rachel Maddow said on her evening program: “The fact that the first shots were fired in South Carolina specifically came as no surprise… the great pride of the South Carolina secessionists was Senator John C. Calhoun, a beloved pro-slavery politician who… championed the cause of nullification.”

The obviously anti-secession liberal host then defined the term: “Nullification—the idea that states could and should refuse to follow federal laws they didn’t like, that they thought went beyond the powers of the federal government.”

In addition to Calhoun, some of the earliest examples of nullification in the United States were in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This act declared that slaves who escaped to free states must be forcibly returned to their masters. Many abolitionists became rabid advocates of nullification. When South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860 it specifically listed nullification of fugitive slave laws as one of its grievances. When US Senator Jefferson Davis left Congress to become the President of the Confederate States of America he specifically denounced nullification in his farewell address.

Southern leaders denouncing nullification where it undermined the institution of slavery reinforces liberals’ argument that the Civil War was exclusively about slavery. It also seriously contradicts liberals’ argument that nullification is exclusively about slavery. Read More…

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Lindsey Graham’s War on Freedom

When Florida pastor Terry Jones decided to “send a message” to Muslims by burning a Koran last week, it incited outrage and violence throughout the Arab world. American leaders rightly responded by condemning the senseless and dangerous act. Yet in the end, and despite the pastor’s obvious and irresponsible recklessness, Jones used his free speech and political leaders used theirs. Such is the nature of free expression in a free society.

But one politician’s condemnation of Jones contained a suggested remedy far more dangerous to American freedom than burning the Koran. Said Sen. Lindsey Graham on CBS’ Face the Nation:

Yeah, I wish we could find some way to hold people accountable. Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war. During World War II you had limits on what you could say if it would inspire the enemy.

Certainly the Founding Fathers considered free speech more than just a mere “great idea” but one of the bedrock principles of our republic, even enshrining it in the first amendment to our Constitution. That Graham would be willing to capitulate to radical Islamists by curtailing this precious freedom is particularly astounding when you consider that the Senator consistently and adamantly opposes curtailing the one policy that unquestionably “inspires the enemy” more than any other. In fact, when it comes to looking out for America’s proper defense and actual security—Lindsey Graham is arguably the most ass-backward politician alive today. Read More…

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