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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


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


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


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


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


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.


My Semi-apolitical Stance on Wikileaks

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Unlike previous posts, I’m not going to try and take this particular news item purely from the stance of a libertarian.  Obviously my political views will have some influence on every post I make, including this current Wikileaks leak-stravaganza, but this post is more opinion-driven than it is trying to illustrate a broader point that reflects on the political philosophy of libertarianism.

Ok, let’s move on.  If you’ve somehow missed it completely, there’s an outfit called Wikileaks that is famous for getting a hold of private information – from public and private institutions, typically in the realm of international politics in one way or another – and makes them public.  Remember the “Climategate” leak from East Anglia University’s Climate Research Unit that officially blew the entire global warming argument totally out of the water? Wikileaks.  Remember the video of a U.S. helicopter accidentally strafing civilians?  Wikileaks (see prior link).  So whatever your political stance is, Wikileaks has probably seriously pissed you off at some point.  I’d describe Wikileaks as militantly transparent, in that it will publish whatever the hell it wants to make the world aware of government dealings that governments would really rather Joe and Jane Citizen didn’t know about.

Concerning this latest Wiki-leaking, the knee-jerk libertarian/anti-authoritarian is probably beside themselves with joy, equating forcible government transparency as nothing short of heaven on Earth – irrespective of potential real-world consequences beyond merely taking government influence down a peg.  The knee-jerk statist/war hawk/entrenched political hack would probably think anything Wikileaks leaks that does not reflect or reinforce their personal world view is high treason with the intent of destabilizing the world as a whole.  Either of these extreme views is probably driven more by emotion than it is by logic.  As convenient as it would be, I don’t think it’s possible for Wikileaks to be categorically bad or categorically good.

But what the hell is Wikileaks actually trying to accomplish?  Whatever your or my initial reaction to them might be, what’s their game plan here?

Argument #1:  Wikileaks is anti-American and trying to do harm to American interests.

Well, that really depends on how you define “American interests.”

Is it in the interests of the American government to have itself exposed in an embarrassing light?  Obviously not.  Beyond being exposed as having a clearly useless method of protecting sensitive material (if some jackass from Australia can get a hold of serious “state secrets,” what does that say about the competence of the state?), the government is further horrified to have a huge array of information suddenly available to the public at large.  Diplomatic discourse, domestic and international back-room dealings, and for all we know the original John Edwards paternity tests are all out there for anyone and everyone to see.

This raises two huge problems: 1) How the hell does the government save face in response to an obviously angered domestic and international populace, and 2) What the hell does this mean for future government maneuvering?  If you’re “the government,” and you’re used to flying under the radar and getting away with any number of things, the realization that what can and probably will be made public in the future means you have to seriously consider being held accountable for your actions.  This is nothing short of a colossal paradigm shift; it’s the highest-stakes “hand in the cookie jar” scenario anyone could dream of, and government policy will have to adjust to reflect this new reality.

That aside, is it in the interests of the American people to know what their government is up to?  I’m inclined to say “yes,” for readily apparent reasons.  If your safety and mine is dependent on what a group of people decide to do behind our backs, is it really in our best interests not to know just what exactly they’re up to?  Consider that our government recently agreed to a $60 billion military hardware sales contract with Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago, now only to have it leaked that our government knows damn good and well that Saudi Arabia is the principle funding source for Sunni terrorism.  Are we better off not having Wikileaks inform us of things like this?  Are we too stupid and backward to appreciate the implications of our government getting its hands (and by extension, our hands) dirty?  Does “daddy” really know best?  At what point do we deserve to know what’s being done in our name?  I mean, it’s just our lives and livelihood that rides on the political ramifications of what we’re not being told.

So if you think our government’s interests trump the interests of an informed American people, I guess you have to conclude that awareness is anti-American.

Argument #2:  Wikileaks, as the paragon of virtue, is the best thing that could ever happen.

Thus the pendulum thus swings to the other extreme: everyone should know everything that’s going on, regardless of what’s going on, right now.

From this stance, it doesn’t really matter what the rest of the world finds out we’ve been up to because now we know what we’ve been up to.  Sort of.  I mean sure, at least half of the hysteria as well as the glee out there about what Wikileaks has done is due to the fact that nobody actually knows the full extent of what they can and will continue to leak, but why get caught up in the details?  Whatever comes out of all this must be good.  Huzzah!

The ultimate conclusion of this argument is that no matter what happens as a result of this mass leaking, at least “now we know.”  It doesn’t matter that our government has been caught with its pants down in a National Enquirer sort of way; national security secrets be damned, everyone has the right to know everything their country is doing – even if that means the rest of the world knows it, too.

I think somewhere in the mind of anyone who takes this hard-line pro-transparency stance is the belief that Wikileaks will (hopefully) expose this kind of material on all nations equally, causing some sort of great public awakening and popular revolution that demands an end to government secrecy – and everything that comes with it – around the globe.  I think this is a sensible supposition; I can’t imagine that there’s really a big drive among the American people for an S&M sort of national self-flagellation on the world stage, and to hell with the consequences.  And to be fair, it isn’t as if the American government is the only one humiliated by having light shone into previously dark corners; just imagine if you’re China right now.  All things considered, therefore, Wikileaks “just has to be” the beginning of a good thing.

Argument #3: Who cares what Wikileaks is trying to do?  We need to focus on what’s going to happen.

Assuming you make it past a catastrophic “We are so screwed” mindset of an impending international doomsday Debbie Downer, or the “Where’s the champagne?  I SAID WHERE’S THE GOD DAMNED CHAMPAGNE?!” attitude of the deliriously happy Damn-the-torpedoes aficionado, welcome to a more balanced middle ground.

Fact: The government – in every sense of the word, and politics aside – has tremendous influence on our lives and our security.  Having no idea what government is up to completely defeats the point of our constitutional republic.  If government is supposed to serve the people (also see: The Constitution), why the hell would The People need to be clueless as to what their government has going on?

Fact: What is published by Wikileaks will be directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of completely innocent people.  I know Julian Assange likes to insist that his organization systematically and objectively reviews everything they put out, but I’m calling bullshit on that tripe.  I defy you to demonstrate that a group of anyone can thoughtfully consider what the release of a quarter of a million sensitive documents will do to the world.

Fact: What is not published by Wikileaks would be directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of completely innocent people.  Assuming Wikileaks never existed, you can’t be blithe enough to figure that a deaf and dumb American people (or anyone else, for that matter) would result in a world free of international consequences.  I defy you to demonstrate that our being clueless – at our own risk and at the risk of others around the world – is an inherently good thing.

Guess what?  We’re at war around the world one way or another.  People are dying one way or another.  Pathological government scheming enabled by rampant secrecy hasn’t done anyone much good lately, has it?  Obsessive transparency with a disregard of short-term consequences isn’t too bright either, and a fixation on hopeful or wishful long-term results isn’t any better.

Can Wikileaks be a good or even great thing?  Absolutely.  God knows we need a change in how our government interacts with us as well as with other nations, and there’s no way that can happen without Truth being brought to light.   Can we be missing the boat on the ramifications of some shadowy third party – Wikileaks – hemorrhaging information under the guise of a supreme understanding and appreciation of the ultimate results?  Beyond a doubt.

I’m all for a change in international and domestic governmental finagling.  It hasn’t brought about an iota of good for the rest of us.  Long-term, I believe we’re no better off and no safer being ostracized from what’s supposed to be public policy.  But should we venerate Wikileaks as an assuredly perfect “5-minute abs” kind of solution for what amounts to a centuries-old problem?  Don’t be naive.

I find it impossible to believe anyone can grasp what Wikileaks really means.  You can be consumed by pointless, steadfastly pessimistic, and uninformed terror, or you can be blinded by a deliberate insistence that an unknown cost is worth the unknown outcome; either extreme has a home for you if you like.  Myself, I choose to enjoy the possibilities of Wikileaks and what it may represent, but with a suspicious eye toward not only toward their agenda (everyone’s got one), but with uncertainty as to what this titanic shake-up could mean to a fragile country and a tumultuous world beset by historic problems.