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Virgil Goode and Iraqi WMDs

Jim Antle profiles the Constitution Party presidential nominee Virgil Goode in the new issue of TAC. Here Antle discusses Goode’s record and current views on foreign policy and national security:

In our interview in March, Goode was somewhat equivocal about foreign policy. He emphasized Congress’s constitutional power to declare war and opposed following the dictates of the United Nations. “We can stay in Afghanistan and the Middle East forever, and it won’t make a difference,” he argued. Goode said he was in favor of reducing the number of troops and bases overseas but against cutting veterans’ benefits.

The former congressman was harder to pin down on his past record, however. “I still believe to some degree that Iraq had WMD,” he confessed [bold mine-DL]. Goode said we should “send Iran a clear message that if we are assaulted, we will meet it and trump it.” That’s not the same as calling for war with Iran—under Goode’s scenario, Tehran would be the aggressor—but the tone is a bit off for someone who is leading a party that truly advocates a humble foreign policy.

The Constitution Party is often the default third party alternative for antiwar conservatives. If one wants to vote only on foreign policy and civil liberties, the Libertarian candidate will usually be acceptable (though that wasn’t really the case in 2008), but the Constitution Party theoretically gives dissident conservatives of various stripes a vehicle to express their dissatisfaction with the Republicans on a wider range of issues. Antiwar conservatives unwilling to cast a protest vote for someone as socially liberal as Gary Johnson can usually rely on the Constitution Party to nominate someone credibly opposed to unnecessary foreign wars while still being conservative on most or all other questions. As the profile explains, Goode fits the second part of that description, but not the first.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t make for much of a protest candidacy if the third party candidate can’t make his differences with the major parties sufficiently clear. I have no objection to most of what Goode says here on foreign policy, but that remark about believing that there were WMDs in Iraq in 2003 is such a bizarre and unnecessary error that it brings me up short every time I read this article. The best part is when Goode qualifies his belief in the existence of Iraqi WMDs with the phrase “to some degree,” as if hedging on a demonstrably false belief made it less ridiculous. I don’t know why anyone would still be saying this in 2012. It certainly makes no sense for the nominee of a party that was opposed to the invasion of Iraq to repeat one of the worst pro-war lies. If he is hoping that this claim might make his past support for the Iraq seem less obnoxious, he is mistaken.

Goode’s comments on Iran aren’t quite as bad, but they also don’t mean anything. What does it mean to say that the U.S. should send Iran a “message” not to attack U.S. forces? It might be more useful to know whether Goode thinks the U.S. should be threatening to use force against Iran in a “preventive” war.

The Libertarians’ experience with Bob Barr four years ago is a reminder that attracting a somewhat higher-profile nominee doesn’t always translate into increased support. Having a nominee with some experience in elected office is valuable for the minor parties, but the added “credibility” that is assumed to go along with this experience doesn’t seem to help the party’s fortunes. It’s possible that Johnson’s Libertarian bid will be different this year, but he has managed to muddle his foreign policy positions enough to make a breakthrough less likely than it was.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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