Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pulling Back the Paul Curtain

Andrew Sullivan, the reasonable voice of conservatism (well, he is a Brit), has endorsed Ron Paul as the best candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination.

It's an interesting and reasoned endorsement, acknowledging what Sullivan perceives to be Paul's shortcomings and then balancing that against what he also perceives to be the candidate's positive attibutes. Needless to say, the "yea" factor wins.

I see in Paul none of the resentment that burns in Gingrich or the fakeness that defines Romney or the fascistic strains in Perry's buffoonery. He has yet to show the Obama-derangement of his peers, even though he differs with him. He has now gone through two primary elections without compromising an inch of his character or his philosophy. This kind of rigidity has its flaws, but, in the context of the Newt Romney blur, it is refreshing. He would never take $1.8 million from Freddie Mac. He would never disown Reagan, as Romney once did. He would never speak of lynching Bernanke, as Perry threatened. When he answers a question, you can see that he is genuinely listening to it and responding - rather than searching, Bachmann-like, for the one-liner to rouse the base. He is, in other words, a decent fellow, and that's an adjective I don't use lightly. We need more decency among Republicans.

And on some core issues, he is right. He is right that spending - especially on entitlements and defense - is way out of control. Unlike his peers, he had the balls to say so when Bush and Cheney were wrecking the country's finances, and rendering us close to helpless when the Great Recession came bearing down. Alas, he lacks the kind of skills at compromise, moderation and restraint that once defined conservatism and now seems entirely reserved for liberals. But who else in this field would? Romney would have to prove his base cred for his entire presidency. Gingrich is a radical utopian and supremely nasty fantasist.

I don't believe Romney or Gingrich would cut entitlements as drastically as Paul. But most important, I don't believe that any of the other candidates, except perhaps Huntsman, would cut the military-industrial complex as deeply as it needs to be cut. What Paul understands - and it's why he has so much young support - is that the world has changed. Seeking global hegemony in a world of growing regional powers among developing nations is a fool's game, destined to provoke as much backlash as lash, and financially disastrous as every failed empire in history has shown.

We do not need tens of thousands of troops in Europe. We do not need to prevent China's rise, but to accommodate it as prudently as possible. We do need to get out of the Middle East to the maximum extent and return our relationship with Israel to one between individual nations, with different interests and common ideals, not some divine compact between two Zions. We do need a lighter, more focused, more lethal war against Jihadism - but this cannot ever again mean occupying countries we do not understand and cannot control. I suspect every other Republican would launch a war against Iran. Paul wouldn't. That alone makes a vote for him worthwhile.


Paul's libertarianism may be the next best thing available in the GOP. It would ensure real pressure to make real cuts in entitlements and defense; it would extricate America from the religious wars of the Middle East, where we do not belong. It would challenge the statist, liberal and progressive delusion that for every problem there is a solution, let alone a solution devised by government. As part of offering the world a decent, tolerant conservatism, these instincts are welcome. As an antidote - and a very strong one - to the fiscal recklessness and lawless belligerence of Bush-Cheney, it is hard to beat. The Tea Party, for all their flaws, are right about spending and the crony capitalism it foments. So is Paul.

I regard this primary campaign as the beginning of a process to save conservatism from itself. In this difficult endeavor, Paul has kept his cool, his good will, his charm, his honesty and his passion. His scorn is for ideas, not people, but he knows how to play legitimate political hardball. Look at his ads - the best of the season so far. His worldview is too extreme for my tastes, but it is more honestly achieved than most of his competitors, and joined to a temperament that has worn well as time has gone by.

I feel the same way about him on the right in 2012 as I did about Obama in 2008. Both were regarded as having zero chance of being elected. And around now, people decided: Why not? And a movement was born. He is the "Change You Can Believe In" on the right. If you are an Independent and can vote in a GOP primary, vote Paul. If you are a Republican concerned about the degeneracy of the GOP, vote Paul. If you are a citizen who wants more decency and honesty in our politics, vote Paul. If you want someone in the White House who has spent decades in Washington and never been corrupted, vote Paul.

Sounds good and reasonable, doesn't it? And I'm sure that this is exactly what the hipster too-cool-for-school kids who push the Paul presidency on Bill Maher's Facebook page and see the avuncularly curmudgeon as the unbridled and progressive hope against all the deliberately misinformed lies they've been spoonfed about the President by the Professional Left.

Now let the gentle observations of P M Carpenter put everything in perspective about a Paul presidency and Paul,in general.

I'll concede right off that it's dreadfully unfair to cull one brief passage from Andrew Sullivan's extensive endorsement of Ron Paul to criticize, but this particular passage is, to me anyway, so abnormally blinkered for Sullivan, I just cannot help myself:

I see in Paul none of the resentment that burns in Gingrich....

None? To my eyes and ears, Rep. Paul is a seething bundle of nothing but genuine resentment, while Newt Gingrich is little more than an opportunistic punk who collects fabricated resentments like assistant humanities professors collect social injustices -- that is, largely for appearances.

Not Paul. This man feels the pain of modernity and suffers from deeply unwanted progress. His isn't a mind of ideas; it's an erasure, a blotting out of reality merely to return to some fantastically simple time that never was -- as well as a delusional journey to a carefree time that never will be. At its core is an unfathomable resentment of collective caring: all collective caring, for the elderly, the poor, the disabled -- fuck 'em, fuck 'em all, let their friends and families, if they have any, care for them; and for Christ's sake (?) don't bother the rest of us about these burdensome losers.

Paul masks his resentments with an avuncular style, which is what appeals -- singularly, I think -- to so many among the alienated young. His libertarianism is a seductive fraud of smiling simplicity and grinning freedoms: if enacted, it would enslave tens of millions to searing concentrations of vast, unregulated and unredistributed private wealth, which ultimately is a program for nothing more than violent unrest and reaction.

"None of the resentment that burns in Gingrich"? Again, Newt Gingrich burns with nothing but love and adoration of Newt Gingrich. He's a fat monument to disinterested egotism. Ron Paul, on the other hand, is a true-believing, resentful apostle of the very worst kind of "utopias": the absolutely, eternally impossible -- and altogether inhumane -- kind.

The same disaffected young - and not a few oldsters trying to recapture the sort of "relevant" youth they never had - invest the "hope" their Professional Left blabmeisters have conditioned them to believe was misplaced in the President, now re-invest that hope in smiling, kindly, old country doctor Uncle Ron. It's a hope based mainly on legalised pot, all the troops coming home and "ending the Fed."

These are also the people who wail for single-payer universal healthcare and a woman's freedom of choice. These are the people who believe in Social Security and Medicare and government investment in infrastructure and education.

These are the people who haven't been listening to Ron Paul, either closely or intellectually.

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