Salon writer Glenn Greenwald insists he’s not a Cato Instituter (he just writes for them from time to time) — though he clearly appears to be a Libertarian, and a guy with a particular fondness for Ron Paul.
Greenwald’s consistent praise of Paul is based solely on the Republican presidential candidate’s positions on the civil liberties issues with which Greenwald is principally concerned. Paul opposes foreign interventionism, the PATRIOT Act and extrajudicial assassination of terrorist suspects, so he’s AOK with Glenn.
Greenwald, who I should point out hasn’t endorsed Paul for president (he had a different preferred presidential candidate in 2010, who by the way is now running on the Libertarian Party line…) doesn’t comment on Paul’s more bizarre aspects: his racist newsletter business and opposition to civil rights legislation, his desire to outlaw abortion, his extreme gun nuttery, or his belief that not only was World War II not worth fighting just to save a few (million) Jews, that the civil war wasn’t worth the lives it cost, when Abe Lincoln could have just bailed out the slave owners by having the federal government buy up the 4 million slaves still in shackles as of 1865 … thus saving 600,000 lives. He has yet to weigh in on Paul’s apparent heebie jeebies over people who, like Greenwald, are gay, including not wanting to use their bathrooms or shake their hands, and freaking out when he thinks one is coming onto him.
Greenwald doesn’t feel constrained to answer for these parts of Paulism, because a President Paul wouldn’t have offed Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, or helped NATO bomb Muommar Gaddafi out of power in Libya. And to Greenwald, that’s all that’s relevant. And I suppose a President Paul would have pinned a medal on Bradley Manning for spilling state secrets (oh, wait, to Greenwald, being an unstable, angry kid who can’t handle homophobia and so lashes out by downloading the contents of his secure server and sending them off to some creep with a Wiki is called “being a whistleblower…”) Never mind that a President Paul would also like to get rid of Social Security and Medicare. Those things just matter to regular people. Global civil liberties and the tyranny of the military-industrial complex is book-writing-level important.
But here’s my question:
Why shouldn’t Greenwald be held just as accountable for the beliefs of people he trucks with ideologically, as he attempts to hold the supporters of the president, whom Glenn derides as “cultists” and “evil” for daring not to despise Barack Obama over individual policies Glenn disagrees with? The folks from Stormfront say Paul tracks with many of their beliefs. If Don Black opposed drone strikes in Pakistan, would Greenwald ignore his white supremacist stuff and tweet how superior his civil liberties cred is to Obama’s? Pat Buchanan also opposed the Iraq war and holds many of the same views on civil liberties and foreign interventionism as Paul, along with many of his views on American history, the civil war and World War II. If Pat were to run for president again, would Greenwald feel just as comfortable praising him? And if he did, what would Glenn’s liberal followers think about that?
In the end, shouldn’t Greenwald at least have to comment on the endlessly emerging, uncomfortable facts about Paulite “libertarianism” … including:
– That it was deliberately designed by its proponents in the 1990s to appeal and pander to overt racists in order to grow the movement, and continues to tolerate the presence of white supremacists in their coalition?
– That it trucks in bizarre conspiracy theories including fears of a “one world government” and a desire to get out of the U.N., not to mention gun nuttery and militia-style paranoia?
– That it is no different from the kind of states-rights jargon pushed by the proponents not just of slavery, but subsequent Jim Crow? Thanks to my girl Tammy (@only4rm) for pointing me to this excellent, must-read post by Tom Hilton. A clip:
… Paul’s positions on issues like military intervention, surveillance, and the drug war may converge with the positions of civil libertarians, but they aren’t really based on civil liberties as we liberals understand the term.
A lot of prog love for Ron Paul is based on his national defense policies: “Avoid long and expensive land wars that bankrupt our country….eliminat[e] waste in a trillion-dollar military budget.” An anti-war stance, naturally enough, sounds pretty good to anti-war liberals. Paul opposed the Iraq War from the beginning (as, of course, did Obama); that buys him a lot of goodwill.
But the nature of his anti-war stance is fundamentally different from that of liberal opposition to any given war. The tipoff is in his opposition to foreign aid, and his anti-United Nations position: he’s anti-war because the rest of the world just isn’t worth it. His is not the pacifism of the anti-war movement but the nativist isolationism of the America-Firsters; Paul is “to the left of Obama” the way Lindbergh was to the left of Roosevelt. (That may be true in a fairly literal sense, although I wouldn’t trust anything from Big Government without further corroboration.)
Similarly, Paul’s positions on civil liberties issues aren’t actually about civil liberties as we understand them; they’re about his opposition to Federal authority. (An opposition that is somewhat conditional, it should be noted.) For example, in talking about the death penalty, he makes clear that he opposes it only at the Federal level. His opposition to the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, and domestic surveillance come from the same root as his opposition to the Civil Rights Act. He has no real objection to states violating the rights of their citizens; it’s only a problem if the Feds do it.
Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.
It may be convenient for Greenwald and other liberal Libertarians to ignore the scarier components of Paulism because all they’re focused on is opposing the national security state and the federal government’s propensity to start and wage wars (on countries and drugs.) But why should liberal Libertarians get a pass on the ugly aspects of their chosen belief system? Paul’s states rightism is central to his libertarianism. They are two parts of a whole. And not for nothing, but Greenwald and his friends certainly don’t give their opponents in the pragmatic progressive community a pass, expecting that these people must answer for every soldier still in Afghanistan, and every drone victim in Pakistan, for having the temerity to believe that, on balance, President Obama has been a markedly progressive president.
When liberals get down with Paulism for the anti-war appetizer, they should be prepared to take home the blue plate special — meaning all that comes with Paul’s right wing populism and states rights “tentherism” disguised as Libertarianism.
If the shoe was on the other foot, it’s what Mr. Greenwald would demand of his opponents.