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GOP Presidential Candidate Rundown (Part 1)

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If you’re like me, you’re not a fan of being in three simultaneous wars in the Middle East and wallowing in mind-blowing national debt, so the odds are you wouldn’t mind seeing someone other than President Obama in the Oval Office come November of 2012 (technically January 2013).  If you’re like me, you want to know what your other options are when it comes to picking the President of The United States.  If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering who the Republicans will field as their presidential nominee because, let’s be honest, the chances of the Libertarian Party and the other also-rans getting their act together by next year’s election season are smaller than minuscule.

And hey, even if you’re nothing like me, you might even be interested in what I think of the GOP’s current field.  Well, look no further – I’ll tell you what’s what free of charge.  Let’s first describe what major policy positions I look for in a president before we get going.

Social Issues:

  • Keep the government out of marriage entirely – including gay marriage.
  • Education Reform:  Hemorrhaging money to the Department of Education has not produced any improvements in our academic abilities versus the rest of the industrialized world.  Give parents choice on where their children go to school by implementing a voucher system (thus simultaneously encouraging educational experimentation via school competition).
  • Immigration Reform:  Simplify the process by which immigrants become citizens.  Implement a robust work visa program to encourage legal immigration and economic stimulus.  This would also enable a realistic way to document who is in the country.
  • Drug War Reform:  The War on Drugs is a complete failure.  Legalize marijuana, and readdress the criminal justice system’s approach to drug use and abuse.

Fiscal Issues:

  • Corporate Tax Reform:  We have the second-highest (soon to be the absolute highest) corporate taxes in the world; stop giving businesses an incentive to avoid doing business in the United States.
  • Individual Tax Reform:  Economic growth happens when people are allowed to spend and invest their money rather than having it confiscated by taxation.  Cut taxes to stimulate the economy.
  • Entitlement Reform:  Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will grind to a bankrupt halt along with the rest of the country if we don’t address the practical issues of having tax-funded social programs which are categorically impossible  to pay for as they currently exist.
  • Federal Budget Reform:  We borrow 43 cents on every dollar we spend.  We need an immediate, comprehensive plan to stop adding to the national debt and start paying it off.

Foreign Policy:

  • End the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.  The United States does not benefit from the continued occupation of the Middle East, nor from engaging in even more military operations in Libya or elsewhere.
  • Stop foreign aid.  We can’t afford our own national programs, let alone those of other nations.  Additionally, funding oppressive (albeit convenient) governments based on our own various international agendas hasn’t exactly been without serious long-term consequences (1980s Iraq springs to mind); it’s time to learn from our mistakes.
  • Close many if not most of our military bases overseas.  A military presence does not endear us to the populace of many nations, nor does supporting the economic growth of other countries by paying for their protection make the faintest bit of sense.
  • Stand by our allies.  Any aggression against our friends should be met with our unflinching wrath.  If, for example, Israel were invaded, my ideal response would be as follows:

Without further ado, let’s take a look  at the first wave of Republican candidates.  Please note that I’m arbitrarily selecting the five individuals who participated in the debate on May 5th as who I’ll talk about here on Part One of the series.  That being said, let’s start with somebody you’ve actually heard of:

Ron Paul

Who?

He’s been in Congress for quite some time, and he’s famous for vetoing bills left and right for exceeding the scope of the government’s Constitutional boundaries.  He ran for president as the Libertarian Party nominee in 1988.  He’s a libertarian God.

What I like:

He’s been saying the same thing about our fundamental economic weakness (debt, debt, and more debt) for decades.  He despises the Federal Reserve.  He wants out of the Middle East.  He’d end the drug war.  He doesn’t think the government gets to decide who gets married and who doesn’t, he takes The Constitution seriously, and he’s vocal about addressing entitlement spending.  Better yet, he could actually beat President Obama.

What I don’t like:

He’s old, and it’s starting to show; he doesn’t educate so much as he raves.  He has a tendency to insert earmarks into bills he knows will pass and then vote against them just so he can say he never votes for pork barrel spending.

Odds of getting the nomination:

I give him 20%.  The GOP field is weak, but he doesn’t have many friends amongst the Party establishment.   Sure, he can win over a lot of independents and every libertarian on the planet, and he’s notoriously good with young voters (read: he can steal them from Obama).  Besides, many on the the left can enjoy his tolerance and consistent anti-war credentials if they can be intellectually honest about the president’s fiscal irresponsibility, his tendency towards corporatism, and especially his hawkishness.  So, yeah, those are all reasons that Ron Paul can win the general election, but don’t hold your breath on him being nominated.  He raised gigantic sums of money during the 2008 campaign, but it didn’t get him anywhere; I don’t have reason to believe 2012 will be different.

Rick Santorum

Who?

He served in the Senate for 12 years, ending in 2007.  He’s been very active in defining himself as a “traditional conservative” (you’ll have to excuse me for leaving that topic alone, because I just don’t have the energy).  He dipped his toes in the Election 2008 waters until he figured out he had no real following.

What I like about him:

He promotes the missile defense program.

What I don’t like about him:

Most things.  He clearly favors an extra-interventionist foreign policy (we’ll bomb the democracy into you!), which I say because his website says:

[…] having supported popular sovereignty abroad, both this and the previous administration have erred in failing to sufficiently support the conditions of liberty and the institutions necessary for a successful democracy.  Too often we have acted as if liberty’s first order of business is a vote. Elections should be a consummation and not a commencement to democratic processes.

.

I have a big problem with that; we have no business being in the business of nation-building; lead the world by example, not by occupation.  Here’s how I read that quote, anyway: “We really need to spend more money and blood on countries that we want to install democracy into – certainly long before they have an election of some kind anyway, and let’s not get in a hurry over that little bit either.  For instance, ten years in Afghanistan and eight years in Iraq and a trillion or so dollars just isn’t enough, so let’s get ready to up the ante.”

Then there’s an Associated Press (AP)/Santorum discussion on… well, you read it.

SANTORUM: […] Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that’s what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality —

AP: I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was going to talk about “man on dog” with a United States senator, it’s sort of freaking me out.

SANTORUM: And that’s sort of where we are in today’s world, unfortunately. The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we’re seeing it in our society.

That’s just not going to work for me.

Odds of getting the nomination:

15%.  He’ll appeal to many party-line Republicans immensely; he doesn’t like homosexuality, he’s very clearly pro-war/intervention, and he continues the Republican Party tradition of talking about spending less while enthusiastically discussing spending a lot more.  Unfortunately for him, there’s nothing to really distinguish himself from the other boilerplate Republican candidates except maybe his propensity to poll badly whenever he’s considered running for the Senate (again) or the governorship in his home state.  If your neighbors don’t like you… anyway, don’t expect donors to flock to him.

Herman Cain

Who?

As CEO, he turned a pizza franchise around and made a lot of money.  He’s had a fairly varied number of careers (mostly in business, but one with the Navy and a few years with The Federal Reserve).  He’s a talk radio host; coincidentally, he did extremely well in the debate.

What I like:

He’s a self-made kind of guy, which I respect immensely.  The man came from nothing and succeeded due to a lot of hard work.  He’s a political outsider whose understanding of business is personal, not academic.  He’s for domestic energy production, he’s vocal about supporting the Second Amendment, and he’s interested in a school voucher system.  He says he’d cut the corporate tax rate.  On paper, I like a lot more of him than I don’t like.

What I don’t like:

I’m so tired of hearing people talk about how they’re all about small government, and then turning out to be the opposite.  Since this guy comes from nowhere (politically speaking), for all I know he’s just mouthing talk radio talking points and riding the Tea Party wave.  He keeps calling his foreign policy plan “The Cain Doctrine” (yes, really) but fails to delineate it; come to think of it, he doesn’t delineate any of his policy positions on his second-rate website.  At any rate, he is very firm in his desire to “secure the borders.”  Well, welcome to fantasy island, Herman, because that ain’t gonna happen – not practically speaking, and not politically speaking.

Lastly, you can’t overlook this extremely damning (and likewise rambling) bit of video evidence:

Odds of getting the nomination:

25%.  That number could shoot up pretty easy, or collapse.  If he can’t capitalize on his success off of the debate  then he could easily go down like the Hindenburg.  Oh, and forgive me for noticing and everything, but he’s black.  If you don’t think the GOP would do unspeakable things for a viable black candidate (especially versus President Obama), I probably have many clever and disparaging things to say about your political intellect.  What’s semi-surprised me, though, is that I’ve read separate articles on Mitt Romney and Ron Paul raking in the cash, but nothing on Herman Cain doing likewise.  Romney’s got the establishment and Paul’s got the enthusiastic/rabid base feeding in money, and Cain could get both of those… but he’s obviously not there yet.

Tim Pawlenty

Who?

A former governor of Minnesota.  He’s been unofficially campaigning since  2008 or so, which is his recognition of his complete and total lack of recognition.  But here’s the real kicker: he was reportedly on John McCain’s short list for Vice President, but lost to this woman:

Not Actually Sarah Palin

What I like:

He’s not Rick  Santorum…

What I don’t like:

…but he might as well be.  They sounded exactly the same during the debate, and their policies are about the same.  Maybe his one distinguishing characteristic is that he was on the wrong side of cap-and-trade, which, even in the spineless Republican Party, is akin to contracting syphilis.  He’s a darling of the social conservatives, but that’s already a long line of sameness that’s going to get longer once the rest of the candidates wade into the race.  Ultimately, he’s probably the most boring candidate anyone could come up with; he’s worse than Bob Dole ever was (before Bob’s hilarious Viagra ads, that is).

Pictured: More excitement than Pawlenty 2012.

Odds of getting the nomination:

5%.  Nobody cares, Tim.  Nobody.  You have nothing to bring to the table.  The only way Pawlenty could get the nomination is if every other candidate died.  Well, with the possible exception of:

Gary Johnson

Who?

The former Governor of New Mexico.  He is especially well-known for climbing Mt. Everest, competing in triathlons and marathons, and being outspoken on marijuana legalization.

What I like:

I’ve never seen a candidate who I agree with more; he hits every point I listed at the start of this post.  He has executive experience, he owned his own successful small business which he built from the ground up, and he was re-elected by a ten point margin in a predominately democratic state by being an honest-to-God libertarian with a track record of success.

What I don’t like:

He did not do well in the debate.  He’s not polished.  He looks uncomfortable in front of cameras, but on the other hand that didn’t stop Bush from winning twice (not that Al Gore and John Kerry were much better in 2000 and 2004).  He doesn’t have a clear policy on what constitutes torture.

Odds of getting the nomination:

1% (rounded up).  The Republican Party despises him.  No social conservative will ever vote for him: he’s pro-choice, pro-marijuana legalization, and pro-gay marriage.  He was a political outsider when he ran in New Mexico, and he hasn’t endeared himself to the GOP since; besides, Ron Paul has most of the Republicans who would support Gary Johnson in the first place.  I think Johnson could win over a lot of voters on the left, many of the independents out there, anyone who’s tired of the war, a lot of the hispanic vote, libertarians and fiscal conservatives, and politically apathetic potheads (in other words, anyone on the west coast I haven’t named already).  If he ironed his shirt, stood up straight, and took some elocution lessons, he could win an election (seriously, if you thought “Anyone But Bush” was a strong force in politics, just wait for “A Not-Necessarily Warm Body vs. Obama”) … but the nomination?  Next to impossible.

So that’s it, ladies and gentlemen.  That’s the first five possibilities.  Sucks, doesn’t it?  I guess we’re supposed to be excited about Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin (maybe running), Michele Bachmann (possibly) and Chris Christie (doubtful).  Allen West is even being floated, but we’ll see.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

The Pointless Veneration of Reagan

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Why conservatives and many self-styled libertarians insist on worshiping Ronald Reagan is beyond me.  What’s to like?  His tripling of the national debt?  Promising to end the Departments of Education and Energy, and failing to do so?  Selling arms to Iran?  Merely being present during the inevitable fall of communism?  It seems that the patently rudderless Republican Party is reduced to attributing things they never do (creating and maintaining fiscally-sound small government) to a man who never did them.

Not that they have too many presidential role models to work with.  Let’s review: should they choose George W. Bush, whose unfortunately all-to-recent slew of terrible policy and popularity disasters include sending the federal deficit and national debt to spectacular heights?  Perhaps George H.W. Bush, whose “Read my lips: no new taxes” pledge was a comical farce?  Gerald Ford, who pardoned Nixon?  Dare I even mention Nixon himself?  It’s absolutely breathtaking to consider that at this point we’ve backtracked all the way to Eisenhower, and fond remembrance of 60 years (or more) past isn’t likely to energize the electorate.

The entire strategy of misty-eyed Reagan retrospective is a guaranteed failure anyway.  With every breath wasted on Ronald Reagan and his so-called legacy, the Republican Party demonstrates no forward momentum into 2012 with any real presidential contender.  Perhaps this wistful yesteryear obsession with Reagan is simple self-preservation via subconscious denial of today’s political realities; after all, what present-day presumptive Republican candidates are there to be excited about?  It may very well be a forlorn hope that Ron Paul will enter as even a reluctant candidate, and with all the Party toes he’s stepped on over the years it’s hard to believe there wouldn’t be a concerted effort to internally sabotage his candidacy.  Chris Christie, who makes headlines as a champion big-government fighter in New Jersey has repeatedly stated he won’t run.  Paul Ryan, whose claim to fame is purposing a balanced budget by – oh boy! – 2063 is a highly improbable choice.  Who’s left?  Sarah Palin?  Mike Huckabee?  Can anyone actually believe the best they could come up with in the recent New Hampshire straw poll was Mitt Romney?  Is there any Republican less qualified to shrink government?

It is thus that the Republicans and their Tea Party supporters in particular – both so outspokenly dedicated to reducing the size of government – are practically doomed to look in the past and credit a man with actions he never took and purported beliefs he clearly betrayed.  To make matters worse, consider that the recent Republican boom in Congress is to be of scarce comfort in short order.  While congressional Republicans make noise about reducing the deficit by pathetically microscopic amounts (while refusing to take on Defense or entitlement spending, which currently make  about 76% of the budget), election season is right around the corner and there’s no evidence to suggest any remotely significant direction on the legislative front.  Attention, GOP: the charade can’t last forever.

But it’s the so-called “Reagan Libertarians” that raise my hackles; it’s a sad commentary that hijacking and bastardizing the libertarian label is so unfortunately in vogue.  If there was ever a contradiction of terms, this would be it: the defining of small government as big government.  The real Reagan legacy is deficit spending, hugely expanded national debt, foreign intervention, and tax hikes.  There is not and cannot be anything libertarian about any of that, period.

I suppose none of this is really surprising: the Republican Party is a contradictory self-defeating desiccated husk of anything it ever even claimed to be.  You can’t have small government and the fruitless War on Terror, the patently failed War on Drugs, the morality police, the Patriot Act, pointless federal departments, oil dependence, and a bevy of foreign entanglements.  Sadly, the impossible is apparently what Republicans desire – it is, after all, what they consistently vote for.

So perhaps, all things considered, Ronald Reagan is the best representative of the Republican Party that anyone could ever dream of.  As long as Republicans insist on what can only be called hypocrisy, perpetuating the myth of Reagan is quite frankly the shoe that fits.  But I draw the line – I must draw the line – at any fool who wishes to hitch libertarianism to Reagan’s fraudulence.  Unlike the ideologically boxed-in Republicans, Libertarians can offer a future for a nation mired in very real and very present dangers.  We need not clamor aboard a sinking ship, and I condemn any professed libertarian who implicitly or explicitly insists that an abandonment of libertarian principles by celebrating the antithesis of libertarianism is the path to our salvation.

Written by libertarianews

February 8, 2011 at 7:19 pm

(Libertarian?) Conspiracy Theories

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I’ve been thoroughly enjoying having nothing to do for the past week as finals season (which is really about a month of pure hell) finally wrapped up, and I’ve been wondering what to write about next.  I can’t bring myself to cover anything particularly heavy; I’d bore myself to tears just trying to put together something coherent about the FDA and drug costs, or censorship (as topical as that would be around “******mastime”), or even about the very welcome news that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is on its way out the door – let alone try to package any of those topics in less than 2,500 words so somebody might actually read it.  So if you were hoping to stumble across my take on the START, or Manifest Destiny, or the Hawley-Smoot  Tariff, tough.  I’m going to talk about conspiracy theories, because it amuses me to do so.

Libertarians get painted as conspiracy nuts, and it’s not terribly difficult to figure out why.  I mean, let’s go down the list:

1.  We’re third-party.

2.  We really can – and often do –  blame “the government” for about anything.

3.  Texas “Libertarian Republican” (massive qualifying quotation marks) gubernatorial candidate Debrah Medina couldn’t give a straight answer on “So was 9/11 an inside job, or what?” nine years after the fact.  Thanks for the press, Deb.

It kind of sucks, but what can you do?  When libertarians track societal problems back to the body behind misguided public policy (also known as “the government”), we can get a little knee-jerk about it instead of realizing we ought to articulate why it is we’re blaming government this time around.  If libertarians aren’t careful, we can end up sounding like tinfoil hat-wearing, black helicopter-spotting 2012 believers instead of a group of folks routinely arguing against the “value” of government intervention large and small.

Today I’m going to try and dispel the myth that libertarians are inherently conspiracy theorists by examining why we might’ve been misconstrued as a whole.  After all,  you non-libertarians out there might’ve once asked something like,

So do you guys really believe 9/11 was an inside job?

By and large, no.  Hell no.  But why would people believe that we did?  In no particular order:

1.  Deb Medina.

2.  Our “the government” mantra.

3.  Our inherent suspicion of what drives our foreign policy.

I wasn’t a libertarian on September 11, 2001.  I was really more of a “if Al Gore would just shut up, everything would be sunshine and daffodils” Republican.  I was incapable (more accurately, I was utterly disinclined) to view world events outside of the two-party spectrum.  My perfect solution to the terrorism problem was to kill everyone who tried to kill us, and then move on.  No kidding: I cheerfully played “Bombs Over Baghdad” when Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off.  I certainly didn’t want to kill “all those A-rabs” because I’m not – nor have I ever been – a bigoted idiot, but I wanted the responsible parties lined up and shot summarily, and I thought everyone would come out ahead if we did.

Ah, if it were only that easy.

While the nation was caught up in an understandable patriotic fervor, you had libertarians coming out and being brave enough to say, “You know it’s not like we aren’t at least partially responsible for this tragedy, in that we ought to be looking at how our foreign policy contributed to this.”

This call for analysis was unfortunately confused as “We really deserved that mass murder.”  Hell, that’s what I heard.  It pissed a lot of people off; how could those libertarians say such a thing?!  And it wasn’t a long step for people to believe that when libertarians said “the government is, in a way, responsible for this attack,” they actually meant “our government conducted this attack.”  And why wouldn’t people assume that’s what libertarians were saying?  Starting on 9/12 there was a sudden abundance of legitimate crazies coming out of the woodwork to moonlight as building code inspectors, rambling on about controlled demolition and other intricacies of architectural engineering like how the melting point of steel is too high for burning jet fuel to cause the World Trade Center to collapse all by itself (apparently somebody was busy huffing glue during 7th period Chemistry, or else they’d have realized you don’t have to actually liquefy steel to weaken its strength).  I firmly believe libertarians got lumped into the conspiracy category out of hand in a “in the wrong place at the wrong time” kind of way.

Even though we libertarians believe the government is, in a sense, all-powerful (with its inherently stupid, heavy-handed, coercive, monopolistic, and counter-productive nature), the government can’t be the equivalent of a bumbling toddler stomping on sand castles and eating paint chips while it’s also a shadowy puppet-master brilliantly conducting the most ludicrously complex military conspiracy in The Entire History of Anything, Ever.  And I think we can agree that all evidence points to “bumbling toddler” being infinitely more likely, yes?

Do libertarians believe in The Illumanati, et al.?

Again, no, that’s anything but a mainstream opinion.

If you don’t know, The Illuminati is pretty much a catch-all phrase that describes some ultra-powerful group of behind-the-scenes individuals controlling everything that happens around the world.  The assumption is that every financial crisis, war, et cetera, is a deliberate conspiracy that is supposed to benefit this group of people somehow.

Why would anyone believe something this ridiculous?  Lindsay Lohan can’t so much as fart without everyone hearing all about it, but we’re supposed to believe nobody’s been able to discover and prove the existence of “The Illuminati?”  Well, you have to realize that it’s awfully convenient to believe in a mysterious “Order” being responsible for everything.  Seriously, imagine being able to chalk up every evil in the world to one root cause. How perfect is that?  And it’s not like this is an unprecedented trend in world history.

The Jews Did This!

Not Pictured: The Jews that did this.

And, yeah, this goes right back to “the government” coming across as a libertarian’s perceived convenient scapegoat for everything.  The Libertarian Party insists that it’s “The Party of Principle,” which I think is as good a slogan or moniker as any, but unfortunately I think too many libertarians forget that we’re supposed to be explaining our principles rather than assuming everyone understands where we’re coming from.  It’s not like we can’t avoid being misunderstood if we take a little time to have a dialogue instead of a well-intentioned diatribe.

Do libertarians think the Mob killed Kennedy?

Probably not, but I think the Mafia legitimately could have had a roll in it.  Read “I Heard You Paint Houses” on the relationship between Jimmy Hoffa, The Teamsters Union, the Mob, and Bobby Kennedy if you want to be entertained.  It’s a good book.

My point here is that there’s a difference between considering alternative scenarios and committing to wildly implausible theories.  Libertarians trumpet themselves as individuals, which means we like to think that, well, we like to think for ourselves.  I figure that’s a positive thing… why wouldn’t it be?  There’s nothing inherently bad with wondering about the “official story” and considering cui bono and all that, but that doesn’t mean we libertarians are stocking up on canned tuna and spare magazines for our Uzis while we reinforce our backyard nuclear fallout shelters because “they’re coming for us any day now.”

So, please, if you hear we’ve all hopped on the proverbial bullet train to Straight-Jacket Junction, give us libertarians the benefit of the doubt.  There’s probably a reason why we’re being painted as crazies, but it’ll be the wrong reason; yes, we question, we wonder, and we say unpopular things and get mis-characterized, but that doesn’t mean we commit to conspiracy wholesale.

But, uh, that being said and all… if anyone in a black suit and mirrored shades asks you about me, I said it was Lee Harvey Oswald and only Lee Harvey Oswald.  Now excuse me, because I’ve got to sweep my room for listening devices.