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Monday, December 24, 2007
If I were a Republican...
I'd be voting for Ron Paul. 

Even though I think many of his policies (abolishing the income tax, pulling U.S. troops out of every base around the world and ending federal support for public schools) would be radically ... um ... transformative (in a disruptive, market crashing sense), I love his plucky determination to defend the Constitution from those within his own party who have developed a very unhealthy taste for interventionism and authoritarianism (the link is to Paul's now famous "Neoconned" speech on the floor of the House,) and even "soft fascism."

What a performance on "Meet the Press" yesterday! His stuttery, nutty professor persona is absolutely endearing, even when he's saying the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a bad idea for the country (he says it was an unconstitutional means of making the federal government regulate private property) or when he's talking about phasing out Social Security (but taking care of those who are already dependent on it.)

Paul is a Constitutional purist, and I even accept his argument that while he's for shrinking government into the size of a split pea (with only a Pentagon inside it), he pushed for earmarks for his own Texas district. Hell, he's a Congressman, delivering for his district is what he's supposed to do.
REP. PAUL: I put it in because I represent people who are asking for some of their money back. But it doesn't cut any spending to vote against an earmark. And the Congress has the responsibility to spend the money. Why leave the money in the executive branch and let them spend the money?
Paul was especially compelling when parrying with Russert over U.S. foreign policy, which he says accounts for the bulk of our trillion-plus dollar overspending. He says we should cut off aid to Israel, and to the Arab countries as well, and "give them their sovereignty back." When Russert demanded to know what he would then do if Iran "invaded Israel," Paul responded by giving the question the seriousness it deserved:
MR. RUSSERT: So if Iran invaded Israel, what do we do?

REP. PAUL: Well, they're not going to. That is like saying "Iran is about to invade Mars." I mean, they have nothing. They don't have an army or navy or air force. And Israelis have 300 nuclear weapons. Nobody would touch them. But, no, if, if it were in our national security interests and Congress says, "You know, this is very, very important, we have to declare war." But presidents don't have the authority to go to war.
Bravo. And when Russert continued to push the issue, which for some reason is a pet issue among American journalists, Paul continued to make perfect sense:
MR. RUSSERT: This is what you said about Israel. "Israel's dependent on us, you know, for economic means. We send them" "billions of dollars and they," then they "depend on us. They say, `Well, you know, we don't like Iran. You go fight our battles. You bomb Iran for us.' And they become dependent on us."

Who in Israel is saying "Go bomb Iran for us"?

REP. PAUL: Well, I don't know the individuals, but we know that their leaderships--you read it in the papers on a daily--a daily, you know, about Israel, the government of Israel encourages Americans to go into Iran, and the people--I don't think that's a--I don't think that's top secret that the government of Israel...

MR. RUSSERT: That the government of Israel wants us to bomb Iran?

REP. PAUL: I, I don't think there's a doubt about that, that they've encouraged us to do that. And of course the neoconservatives have been anxious to do that for a long time.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you cut off all foreign aid to Israel?

REP. PAUL: Absolutely. But remember, the Arabs would get cut off, too, and the Arabs get three times as much aid altogether than Israel. But why, why make Israel so dependent? Why do we--they give up their sovereignty. They can't defend their borders without coming to us. If they want a peace treaty, they have to ask us permission. They can't--we interfere when the Arab leagues make overtures to them. So I would say that we've made them second class citizens. I, I think they would take much better care of themselves. They would have their national sovereignty back, and I think they would be required then to have a stronger economy because they would have to pay their own bills.
I can just hear the sound of the neoconservatives' heads exploding...

Russert tried to draw Paul into the "Patriot trap" by questioning his fealty to the notion that the Islamofascists hate us for our freedoms and are waging global jihad against, us, therefore we must support the president (ahem):
MR. RUSSERT: You mentioned September 11th, a former aide of yours, Eric Dondero said this. "When September 11th happened, he just completely changed," talking about you. "One of the first things he said was not how awful the tragedy was, it was, `Now we're going to get big government.'" Was that your reaction?

REP. PAUL: Well, I'm, I'm surprised somebody like that who's a disgruntled former employee who literally was put out. But, yes, thought...

MR. RUSSERT: He said he quit because he disagreed with you.

REP. PAUL: Yeah, no. The point is, Randolph Bourne says war is a helpless state. I believe that statement. When you have war, whether it's a war against drugs, war against terrorism, war, war overseas, war--the mentality of the people change and they're more willing to sacrifice their liberties in order to be safe and secure. So, yes, right after 9/11 my reaction was, you know, it's going to be a lot tougher selling liberty. But I'm pleasantly surprised that I'm still in the business of selling liberty and the Constitution and there's still a lot of enthusiasm for it. So all the American people don't agree that we have to have the nanny state and have the government taking care of us. So I have been encouraged. I might have been too pessimistic immediately after 9/11 because, in a way, it has caused this reaction and this uprising in this country to say, "Enough is enough. We don't need more Patriot Acts, we don't need more surveillance of our people. We don't need national ID cards. We don't need the suspension of habeas corpus. What we need is more freedom." So in one way I was pessimistic, but in another way, now, I'm more encouraged with the reception I'm getting with this message.

MR. RUSSERT: And you actually go further. You said this. "Abolish the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency and dismantle every other agency except the Justice and Defense Departments." And then you went on. "If elected president, Paul says he would abolish public schools, welfare, Social Security and farm subsidies."

REP. PAUL: OK, you may have picked that up 20 or 30 years ago, it's not part of my platform. As a matter of fact, I'm the only one that really has an interim program. Technically, a lot of those functions aren't constitutional. But the point is I'm not against the FBI investigation in doing a proper role, but I'm against the FBI spying on people like Martin Luther King. I'm against the CIA fighting secret wars and overthrowing government and interfering...

MR. RUSSERT: Would you abolish them?

REP. PAUL: I would, I would not abolish all their functions, but I--the, the, the...

MR. RUSSERT: What about public schools? Are you still...

REP. PAUL: OK, but let's go, let's go with the CIA. They're, they're involved in, in, in torture. I would abolish that, yes. But I wouldn't abolish their right and our, our requirement to accumulate intelligence for national defense purposes.

MR. RUSSERT: But if you...

REP. PAUL: That's quite different.
Score another one for Ron Paul. Whatever your views on his radical libertarianism, you can't argue that he doesn't know the Constitution, and unlike the present occupant of the White House, he actually respects it.

And he made Russert look really quite silly on the question of amendments:
MR. RUSSERT: You say you're a strict constructionist of the Constitution, and yet you want to amend the Constitution to say that children born here should not automatically be U.S. citizens.

REP. PAUL: Well, amending the Constitution is constitutional. What's a--what's the contradiction there?
You can argue with Paul on the substance, but uh, Tim ... the Constitution can be amended ... it's kind of written in there... Being a strict constructionist doesn't mean you don't believe in amending the Constitution, it means believing that judges and legislators cannot act in contravention to the Constitution without amending it... Anyhoo...

Paul also had great answers on the "war on drugs," the civil war and slavery (he makes the point that every other country in the West got rid of slavery without a war), but his best answer was on the question of fascism, as mentioned earlier. On that, he is in agreement with Constitutional experts like fellow libertarian Jonathan Turley and former Nixon counsel John Dean, as well as with people of the left like Randi Rhodes. Here's the back and forth:
MR. RUSSERT: ... Before you go, Mike Huckabee, Republican candidate for president, ran this commercial for Christmas and many thought that the shelf in the back looked like a cross. You were asked about it on CNN and this is what you said.

REP. PAUL: It reminds me of what Sinclair Lewis once says. He said when fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.

MR. RUSSERT: What does that mean?

REP. PAUL: What? Fascism or the definition of fascism?

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that Mike Huckabee is...

REP. PAUL: Oh, I didn't say that. I said it reminded me--as a matter of fact they caught me completely cold on that. I had not seen the ad, and they just said there was a cross there. And, you know, it was an instantaneous reflex because I knew of Sinclair Lewis about being cautious, because, you know, I--what prompts this is things like the Patriot Act. You know...

MR. RUSSERT: Let me go back...

REP. PAUL: No, no. If you're not a patriot...

MR. RUSSERT: But let me go back to this ad. You do not believe that Mike Huckabee, that ad commercial represents the potential of fascism in the form of a cross.

REP. PAUL: No. But I think this country, a movement in the last 100 years, is moving toward fascism. Fascism today, the softer term, because people have different definition of fascism, is corporatism when the military industrial complex runs the show, when the--in the name of security pay--pass the Patriot Act. You don't vote for it, you know, you're not patriotic America. If you don't support the troops and you don't support--if you don't support the war you don't support the troops. It's that kind of antagonism. But we have more corporatism and more abuse of our civil liberties, more loss of our privacy, national ID cards, all this stuff coming has a fascist tone to it. And the country's moving in that direction. That's what I'm thinking about. This was not personalized. I never even used my opponents names if you, if you notice.

MR. RUSSERT: So you think we're close to fascism?

REP. PAUL: I think we're approaching it very close. One--there's one, there's one documentary that's been put out recently that has generated a lot of interest called "Freedom to Fascism." And we're moving in that direction. Were not moving toward Hitler-type fascism, but we're moving toward a softer fascism. Loss of civil liberties, corporations running the show, big government in bed with big business. So you have the military industrial complex, you have the medical industrial complex, you have the financial industry, you have the communications industry. They go to Washington and spend hundreds of millions of dollars. That's where the control is. I call that a soft form of fascism, something that is very dangerous.

MR. RUSSERT: For the record, the Sinclair Lewis Society said that Mr. Lewis never uttered that quote.

REP. PAUL: But others refuted that and put them down and said that--and they found the exact quote where it came from.
More on Sinclair Lewis and his apocryphal novel, "It Can't Happen Here," here.

Watch Paul in action here.

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