Ron Paul and David Schuster
Ron Paul's MSNBC appearance with David Schuster, in which Lincoln and the Civil War were discussed for seven minutes, was a disaster. Why Ron Paul let it go on, rather than insist that they should be discussing a war that he could actually do something about if elected, is beyond me. No one who was not already a Lincoln revisionist would have been impressed. Schuster and his producers wanted to convey the message that Ron Paul is not a serious candidate (a" crackpot," as Jack Jacobs called him to his"face") -- and Ron Paul played their shameful game. A very big mistake indeed. Who's calling the shots in that campaign?
Cross-posted at Free Association.
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Sudha Shenoy - 1/1/2008
1. Doesn't he say that he'd keep Social Security only for the aged & allow younger people to opt out?
2. As for the rest, at least he does say that govt should stay out. As political campaigns go, this is more than any of the other candidates: we have some idea of the direction he'd take (NB if he were in any position to do so..)
Sheldon Richman - 1/1/2008
Ironically, in many ways he's running a Cato-type campaign. He does not call for abolition of Social Security or government schooling or the welfare state in general (for Americans). The most he does here is hint that government should not do these things, but hastens to add that this is not part of his agenda (right now).
Steven Horwitz - 12/31/2007
Just a "bandwagon" to Greg's last comment. I think he's dead on. Yes, RP is right now the best we have, but I still am left wondering whether the net effect will be positive or negative, given the ways in which, as Greg says, he seems to be putting himself out of the boundaries of the reasonable rather than redefining them.
In the long run, we do indeed need to redefine them, but there are better and worse ways to do that. RP has done more of the latter than the former, in my view.
Greg Newburn - 12/31/2007
Paul is a ten-term Congressman. If he doesn't know how to play the game yet, I'm not sure when he plans to learn. Beyond that, a presidential campaign is not the place to learn how presidential campaigns are run. Paul knew (or should have known) what was coming his way. Knowing immediately whether you would abolish the CIA or not is not terribly difficult--or shouldn't be, at any rate--for a presidential candidate.
Yes, he's changing the game, but in doing so he is becoming its first casualty. We libertarians are not politically secure enough to go "changing the game." We need to operate within the game, and change it gradually (the way it was changed in the first place).
I don't think I heard Paul say Lincoln was a fascist on the Meet the Press interview. But have you read through DiLorenzo's book (seemingly the only book Dr. Paul has read on the subject, give the fervor with which he endorsed it)? Have you seen what the Lew Rockwell kooks say about Lincoln? If pressed, I promise Paul would agree with them, which is very sad.
He isn't moving the boundaries of what's considered reasonable. He's just putting himself out of those boundaries, which haven't moved. Did Kucinich "move the boundaries" on UFO's? Of course not; he just made himself look crazy. Which is, unfortunately, what Paul does when he goes on and on about "the real Lincoln," the anti-sovereignty conspiracies, not accepting evolution, etc.
Again, the real tragedy in all of this is that Paul is the best we have. IHS, Cato, or someone similar should sponsor a politics course. We have enough think tanks, policy wonks, and interns. Let's put some of our resources into training young people in the art of politics and campaigns.
Then, maybe, we might just win some.
Allan Walstad - 12/31/2007
Ok, I'll give this one more shot and then try to leave you guys alone for awhile. Greg, I think we differ in our sense of how hard it is to run a conventional presidential campaign. It's a game, and the leaders are extremely talented, practiced, well-coached players who have risen to the top in that particular sport. Some journalist asks you a question that is designed to make you look bad, and you have one second to figure out how to reply, while that same journalist is interrupting with more gotcha questions. The leading candidates are all about rehearsing sound bites, deflecting questions, projecting the right image--and still the news headlines will say Hillary stumbled, Huckabee committed a gaffe, Romney evaded, etc. I'm amazed that Paul has been able to hold his own as well as he has.
He is also CHANGING the game, as he must. Instead of brushing off a question about the Civil War or deflecting it with a smooth soundbite, he actually tries to answer it (while pointing out that he didn't bring it up and would rather be talking about the issues of today). At first there's a lot of shock and ridicule, but in the longer run I believe what shines through is his authenticity and openness. Meanwhile, it sparks a broader discussion about the lessons of history that I think we should welcome. By the way, I didn't hear Paul call Lincoln a fascist--did you?
I also think he played it right in not returning the racist's money, while putting the guy down with the "small ideology" remark. Yes, it opens him up to some cheap attacks in the short run, but since everybody knows he doesn't need that $500 or other money from white supremacists, in the long run it reinforces his reputation of not being susceptible to influence.
Finally, I'm pleased that Paul has not fallen for the "be reasonable" trap. He needs to move the boundaries of what is considered "reasonable." Instead of compromising on principles, he did point out that there is a limit to what he could accomplish on his own, that as President he would have to work with Congress, that he is not advocating just pulling the plug on retired Social Security recipients for example, even though the long-term goal would be to get us out of Social Security.
For my part, I've sent Paul a total of $450 and expect to chip in another couple hundred later in January. I post supportive statements on various blogs, and I expect write letters to the editor of nearby newspapers when the time comes. (Pennsylvania is not an early primary state, though.)
Bill Woolsey - 12/30/2007
Earlier in this thread I said that maybe Paul thinks that the Lincoln issue is important. I don't think that is really what is going on. He isn't bringing it up. I think that if anyone brings it up and asks him questions about what he thinks, he will answer as best he can.
Greg Newburn - 12/30/2007
I donated $100 early on in the campaign with what I'd call "optimistic reluctance." To me, there's no question Paul is the best presidential candidate in a long time. Hence the contribution, the bumper sticker, the t-shirt, etc.
However, I find it deeply disturbing and saddening that we have to rely on Paul and all his, well, baggage, to be "our" candidate. Thirty or so years into the LP and Cato, and we have to run some Congressman who writes articles alongside neo-Confederates and white supremacists?
I've been arguing for years (see Liberty Magazine, January '04) that libertarians need to work within the framework of party politics in order to generate policy changes. I've also argued we need to make our message reasonable given the current political climate. Paul has done half of that, and should be commended. He should also be commended for bringing the message of non-intervention (despite the shortcomings of his particular flavor of it) to the national political stage.
But if you're going to run a political campaign, run a political campaign. Polish up the message, work up some sound bites, stay focused and on message when you're on TV, empathize with 9/11 victims, distance yourself from kooks, denounce without hesitation anyone who taints your candidacy, send back measly $500 checks from racists, and so on.
Incidentally, I do believe we can make gains against big government without having to convince the electorate that Lincoln was a fascist. We'd better hope we can, because if not, we have a Huckabee's chance in Hell of ever reining in government.
Allan Walstad - 12/29/2007
If what matters most is a perfect sound bite for every possible situation, there's a host of rhetorically primped and blow-dried collectivist candidates to choose from. What Paul is doing is very hard, but it needs to be done. Can one really expect to challenge big government without challenging the heroes and heroic myths thereof? Personally, I can't imagine surviving 5 minutes on the campaign trail, but Paul is hanging in there and bringing a lot of people into the political process from a limited government/non-interventionist perspective, which will have positive effects for years to come. Anyone who thinks they can do better is welcome to get themselves elected to Congress ten times on a near-libertarian platform and then step into the snakepit--er, presidential political arena and see how well they respond, on the fly, to all the gotcha questions.
To Greg Newburn: How much did you contribute? Seriously, I'll write you a personal check and send it to whatever address you specify. You can save it for whenever your perfect candidate comes along.
Bill Woolsey - 12/29/2007
I think it is a terrible mistake for a libertarian politician to spend time on anything but the most recent historical events. (I have mixed feelings about focusing on the foolishness of going to War in Iraq rather than arguing that the least bad option today is rapid withdrawal.)
I do think Ron Paul should "back down." Staring with, "I am not a historian." And "I am glad that Texas remains in the U.S." And "it is great that slavery ended." And only stick with the, "I sure wish it could have been done without the 600,000 deaths."
And, of course, "I think there are more important issues facing the U.S. today than refighting the civil war."
Sheldon Richman - 12/29/2007
No one said he should "back down." That is straw man. He could given a succinct statement about how the war was to stop secession, not to end slavery, and that it therefore changed the nature of the Constitution. He then should have moved on to today's issues. If asked a follow-up, he should have said that the American people are more interested in what a presidential candidate will do about a current war rather than about one that ended over 140 years ago.
This is not a matter of backing down or not backing down. It's a matter of speaking to the American people in terms they will understand. I am quite certain his seven-minute dialog on the civil war got him no votes and may have lost him some. I don't understand the view that this was a great moment in libertarian political history. It was at best a turn-off and at worst a calamity.
Greg Newburn - 12/29/2007
Is it too late to ask for a campaign donation refund? This is EXACTLY what many of us have been terrified of since Paul announced his candidacy.
It isn't "brave," and it isn't
"anti-establishment." It's just stupid politics, stupid history, and he and the rest of his Lew Rockwell kooks are making us all look silly.
The true horror: who else could have run?
Anthony Gregory - 12/29/2007
Yes, I'm overall happy that he isn't.
Bill Woolsey - 12/29/2007
I suspect that Ron Paul is calling the shots in the campaign in terms of message. Perhaps he believes that educating people about the evils of Lincoln is as important as educating them about, say, the evils of the Federal Reserve and the advantages of a gold standard. (I mention this because I think it shows that from the beginning Paul picks issues based on what he thinks is important rather than picking issues the voters think are important and where a libertarian message will resonate with them.)
Anyway, go to Lew Rockwell's blog to find libertarians who are happy that Paul isn't "backing down" on the Lincoln issue.
David T. Beito - 12/28/2007
I agree Sheldon. He should avoid the issue entirely or stress that he is against all wars and believes that there are always peaceful solutions.
The Civil War, Lincoln, and slavery are too complicated to discuss in soundbites even under the best of circumstances.
Paul needs to hammer Pakistan hard now. The interviews yesterday were a good sign. He did a great job on Blitzer's show. He is still the only game in town.
Sheldon Richman - 12/28/2007
Glad you pointed that out David. But my basic point is that a presidential campaign is not the time to attempt to disabuse people of their national historical myths. (This would have applied even if Ron Paul used Hummel as his source.) It won't work. All it will accomplish is the alienation of people who might listen to the candidate apply libertarian principles to current issues. I can't believe he fell into that trap.
David T. Beito - 12/28/2007
I am still very much for Paul (nobody is perfect) but someone should tell him about Hummel's book. DiLorenzo's book is one of the worst examples of cherry picking I have ever read.
Sudha Shenoy - 12/28/2007
Life doesn't move smoothly. When problems occur, there are two questions: 1. Can the situation be retrieved? If so, what needs to be done? 2. What lessons can be learnt & how can they be applied?
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