Friday, July 31, 2009

Rand Paul Rising

Earlier this week Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning announced his retirement from politics and all Republicans can breathe a sigh of relief because they now know who will be their party’s candidate for senate in 2010: Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

Or so we would think.

Grayson, considered by many to be the top Bluegrass Republican, was the recipient of $602,299 in campaign donations during the second quarter, outraising Senator Bunning by a wide margin and was likely the biggest reason for his retirement.

Sounds rather impressive. But what do we know about Trey Grayson? Who is he? What does he stand for?

Since 2004, Grayson has been the Secretary of State in Kentucky and according to his office website, his biggest accomplishments seem to be that he’s put government information online and has worked for “honest elections.” Not too bad, but not too great either. Besides, what politician would ever say they’ve worked against honest elections?

But searching for anything resembling a political philosophy in Trey Grayson is quite a task.

As I reported in May, Secretary Grayson’s campaign website leaves plenty to be desired. The shallow opening message that remains there today is still the closest visitors can come to finding that political philosophy: “I look forward to traveling across the Commonwealth and hearing how best to address the problems that face our country. As I explore this opportunity to continue serving you, I am committed to representing all Kentuckians and the issues that are important to you.”

Again I ask, does this mean he doesn’t have an actual agenda and is going to shape his platform according to what he discerns the people want to hear? And again, this smacks of a man without political principles.

But there is another option.

Rand Paul.

When Kentucky’s Republicans could be resigned to the fate of another lockstep Republican who knows how to recite conservative-sounding rhetoric but will inevitably bow to his party overlords, they need to know that they have another option. They could have a candidate who will swear fealty to the Constitution.

Sure, but doesn’t that sound like the standard Republican mantra of “respect for the Constitution” that is selectively followed? Where is the proof that Rand Paul (aside from the genetic argument) is not just another Republican who is spouting his assigned script and actually means it when he says we need to follow the Constitution?

That is because Rand Paul urges that the Constitution needs to be followed on the one issue Republicans want no part of: officially declaring war.

In this time of Republican exile, one can frequently hear GOP pols complain about how the new Democratic administration is constantly violating the Constitution with an endless list of economic usurpations that the U.S. Constitution in no way permits. Not that that is an incorrect assessment of the new regime, but the Republicans’ credibility on the issue is lower than low.

As the Constitution reads in Article 1, Section 8, it the Congress, not the President, who has the power “to declare war.”*

According to Rand Paul’s much more detailed campaign website, “any military action that takes more than a few days or weeks to organize and is directed against a country's government should require a declaration of war. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Congress met and declared war within 24hrs.”

How’s that for proof? Rand Paul isn’t talking ad nauseum about the Republican-safe issue of the Second Amendment, (although he does support the right to own a gun) but he is prepared to invoke the Constitution on the one issue that most haunts the Republicans and the one clause in the Constitution Republicans forfeited in order to give President Bush a blank check for a war of his choosing.

This is the bravery necessary for the Republicans to make a real comeback. Courage to obey the Constitution at all times, not to pay lip service about “respecting” the Constitution while out of power. They must shed the remnants of the Bush years and embrace the traditional conservative credo of caution and adherence to the law, by no means a mutually exclusive phenomenon.

So the candidacy of Rand Paul is full of promise and brimming with integrity. But let us not forget the lesson of Jim Bunning: politics requires money. While young Dr. Paul is raising a respectable amount (over $160,000 at this writing), more is needed. He still trails the presumed frontrunner Grayson by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This is where the grassroots soldiers enter.

On August 20, Ron Paul’s birthday, there is scheduled to be a “money bomb.”** If you are reading this, love liberty, and want real change within the American government, Rand Paul is one of the players who is worth supporting because he is one of the few in the 2010 discussion who is likely to keep his promises.

But he needs our moral and financial support. I am normally loathe to ask for money for anything (I think it can border on begging) but it is necessary here. Nobody needs to donate very much, but please, donate something. Even a little is enough. The Kentucky establishment effectively threw out an imperfect, but worthwhile conservative in Jim Bunning who was the victim of empty coffers.

Bunning over Grayson, but Rand Paul over all for liberty in the Bluegrass State.

Please help make it happen and donate.

*Though often conflated, the Authorization to Use Military Force resolution is not the same thing as an official declaration of war. In 2002, when Ron Paul suggested that an official declaration of war be issued against Iraq, supposed-conservative Henry Hyde told him that such action was “anachronistic” and something that just “isn’t done anymore”. That is not the attitude or mindset of anyone who thinks they are one and the same.

**A “money bomb” has nothing to do with violence, despite the imaginations of people like David Horowitz and Glenn Beck who have tried to re-define a day of numerous donations with one tied to political violence.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sarah, the Country Club Republican?

After an interview with Politico, Ron Paul is being ripped for accusing the soon-to-be former Alaska governor of being aligned with the northeastern, fat cat snobs who make up the establishment of the Republican Party.

To the grassroots Palinistas, this is a charge of treason.

Governor Palin has certainly been the recipient of some awful treatment from establishment types. These folks would have been fine with Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge on last year’s vice presidential slot, as they certainly would not have rocked the boat.

But people who fixate on the country club comment are on the wrong topic. Ron Paul did not call Palin herself a “Country Club Republican,” but regarded her followers as “more establishment, conventional, Country-Club type Republicans.”

At first, this does look like a statement at least a little divorced from reality. Surely all those hockey moms and pro-life demonstrators can’t be part of the dreaded establishment. That’s because they’re not. They are the poor folks who have been duped by the establishment into thinking that a Palin presidency would immediately benefit them. If the Palin supporters who had the influence to push the governor into the vice presidential slot are the ones we’re counting, then maybe Dr. Paul isn’t so crazy after all. He continues:

“I wonder whether she’s engaging 15-20 year olds . . . Because she doesn’t talk about the Federal Reserve. . . . She doesn’t talk too much about personal liberties, civil liberties, getting rid of drug laws, attacking the war on drugs, punishing people who torture.”

I might also add that after her rousing, war-centric convention speech last fall, coupled with an Israeli flag in her governor’s office, Sarah Palin, while exceptional at throwing red meat to the eager Republican base, at the least, does a mean impersonation an establishment lackey.

But this highlights the continuing rift in the Republicans, and if nothing else, their refusal to acknowledge the main cause for their woes: Iraq and the possibility (inevitability?) of even more foreign wars. And when the American Enterprise Institute and The Weekly Standard, a think tank and a magazine where the Iraq war germinated, think of Sarah Palin as a “project,” one conjures up memories of Texas Governor George W. Bush’s rhetoric of “no nation-building” being replaced with a “crusade to end tyranny.”

So is it possible that the appeal of Sarah Palin for the executive branch can be an odd combination of establishment appeal and grassroots rhetoric?

As I wrote recently, I’m not a Palin-aholic, but I am inclined to like her and I’ve said before that I want to like her. When I began reading about her last year, I rather liked what I learned: Lived by a pro-life creed that put other Republicans to shame, publicly questioned the “Surge” in Iraq and the lack of an exit strategy, and her husband had membership in the Alaskan Independence Party. This didn’t exactly scream George W. Bush reborn. But that someone who seemed to possess these fine qualities would hitch her wagon to John McCain was a bit odd. Perhaps it was telling.

Ask a Palin supporter what they like about her. Chances are great that what you will find is someone caught up in her personality. Yes, the story is inspiring, raising a big family while maintaining a career, and while that’s admirable, that’s not enough for me to throw support. “She’s a fighter” or “she’s a maverick” or “she’s one of us,” do not constitute solid arguments. Chances are also great that many of these same people are revolted by the cult of personality that still very much surrounds the current commander-in-chief. And a cult of personality around Palin is exactly what will be exploited by a Republican establishment that has no qualms about returning to the days of Bush.

It is this very cult of personality that makes me yet more wary if Sarah Palin chooses to re-enter elective politics (although I don’t see how). She clearly has a very devoted band of followers (I’m not sure, but I wonder if Palin had been caught in an affair like Mark Sanford, whether her supporters would have been screaming “Resign!”, not that I am making the charge) who are ready to fight for their beloved figure and what the GOP needs right now is a figure for their masses to unite around, even if it’s someone who seemingly threw her electability out the window with her resignation.

This is worthy of wariness because until very recently, George W. Bush possessed a cult-like following and one could say he still does when it comes to matters of war and the military. Because of that, President Bush got away with a lot of patently un-conservative behavior because his base would never question him. And they didn’t. So why would a base, even more in love with Palin, act any differently?

And like Bush, should Sarah Palin ever assume the presidency, she would enter with little background in foreign policy. But just as Governor Bush once sounded like a cautious interventionist, Governor Palin could just as easily be hoodwinked into the Forever War camp as well – in fact, it appears the neocons’ project worked. How else might someone who questioned the 2007 troop surge now sound like the editorial board of The Weekly Standard? And just for the record, didn’t she support McCain’s vote for TARP and his decision to bailout the banks?

Perhaps Sarah Palin is not exactly a “Country Club Republican” herself, but what she did in Alaska did little to truly unhinge the state’s establishment. That Palin is even still discussed as a presidential contender should signal to us that she is acceptable to the establishment. This is what her ardent supporters should be paying attention to. The establishment snobs we often disdain might not have such a problem with her after all. That can be because they might have already broken her and see her as the vessel that George W. Bush was: someone who can be manipulated and molded into someone quite different from the person we first saw.

Let us hope that Sarah Palin sticks to her pledge to effect positive change outside of government because she bears many of the markings that made the Bush administration possible.

And that is no good news at all.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Olbermann to call Homeland Security!

On Tuesday of this week, Keith Olbermann, MSNBC’s equivalent of Sean Hannity, demonstrated why I refuse to watch that network with the rare exception of when they permit Pat Buchanan to utter five syllables in a row.

In Olbermann’s notable segment, “The Worst Person in the World,” the former sportscaster took aim at Fox News’ Glenn Beck and the CIA’s former head of its bin Laden unit Michael Scheuer. The charge: Scheuer is advising that Osama bin laden detonate a nuclear device in the United States and Beck should “be stopped” for allowing such speech to take place.*

How awful. What American would have the temerity to suggest that our enemy, our real enemy, ought to attack the U.S.? By all means, keep Guantanamo open just for Americans such as these.

If only that’s what Michael Scheuer actually said.

Listening to Olbermann’s opinion of the conversation, one could easily conclude that Scheuer is a traitor to the country he once worked to defend while Beck is his accomplice. Listening to Olbermann, Scheuer must have said this: “Osama! Get a nuclear bomb as soon as you can! Detonate it in this country so thousands, maybe even millions of my countrymen can be vaporized!”

Here’s what was really said:

Beck: Do you really, honestly believe, that we have come to a place where those very senior people in the highest offices of the land, Congress and the White House, really will not do the right thing in the end, that they won’t see the error of their ways? [in their failure to prevent terrorism]

Scheuer: No, sir, they will not. The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States, because it‘s going to take a grassroots, bottom-up pressure, because these politicians prize their office, prize the praise of the media and the Europeans. It‘s an absurd situation, again. Only Osama can execute an attack that will force Americans to demand that their government protect them effectively, consistently and with as much violence as necessary.

So Scheuer did say that a nuclear device needed to be used in order for real change to American foreign policy to be enacted. He is not saying that he desires it to happen.

If Olbermann knew anything about Scheuer, or did a meager amount of research, he would know, by virtue of Scheuer’s career, books, and articles, that he is an American nationalist and patriot who does desire to see America protected from terrorism. During the Bush administration, Scheuer was frequently labeled a “Bush Basher” for suggesting that the invasion of Iraq would isolate America and would further radicalize Islam. Now he is vilified by a faux journalist for describing what may very well be necessary before real change in foreign policy takes place.

Scheuer, the author of 2008’s “Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq” and the anonymous author of “Through our Enemy’s Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America” and “Imperial Hubris: How the West is Losing the War on Terror,” has the consistent theme that our country’s ruling elites are either oblivious to the terrorist threat or are unwilling to change a policy of American intervention that led to the September 11, 2001 attacks. And most Americans, it would seem, are oblivious to this fact as well.

During the presidential campaign of 2007-2008, Ron Paul was the only candidate Scheuer endorsed because, as he said in the article “Stuck in the Cold [War] (McBama’s Nostalgia for the 20th Century):

“The difference between parties is just nuance. Republicans prefer to provide a strong, close-up whiff of gunpowder before coercively imposing their values on foreigners, while Democrats prefer raining anonymous death from 20,000 feet on foreigners, who – if they live – will have new values drilled into them. All are imperialism’s paladins . . . they are: aching to dictate their kind of freedom to various little brown brothers.”

This is the language of someone who has warned about the follies of the current policy. Since the current policy is what inflames would-be terrorists, there is no reason to believe that continuing it would reduce the incentive for terrorists to acquire a nuclear device. If a patient has a severe allergic reaction to penicillin, the cure is not more penicillin, especially if other prescriptions are available.

Just as many Americans probably still assume the Islamic terrorists hate us because we’re free, almost everyone in government assumes that since intervention has taken place since 9/11 that means the intervention has succeeded in defeating terrorism. Relying on the words of Osama bin Laden, instead of government propaganda, the recently retired Scheuer told “60 Minutes” in 2005 that

“No one should be surprised when Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda detonate a weapon of mass destruction in the United States. I don’t believe in inevitability. But I think it’s pretty close to being inevitable.”

So what is the difference between this 2005 quote and the one that so aggravated Keith Olbermann?

Four years ago Scheuer called it pretty much an inevitability while recently he said that that inevitability is what it will take for American citizens to wake up to the gross dereliction of their leaders. That Scheuer is saying that he expects a nuclear detonation to come before Americans wake up to the government’s ineptitude is not the same thing as advising bin Laden to commit the atrocity itself, as if the terrorist’s desire to obtain a nuclear weapon was dependent upon any private citizen. In fact, it is more like a grieved parent coming to grips with the fact that their out-of-control drug-abusing child won’t realize they need help until the latter requires professional rehabilitation, despite all the previous efforts and warnings of the loving parent.

Now while Scheuer does advocate the use of waterboarding, a point at which I diverge, he is an American patriot, and anyone who simply skims through his body of writing will discover that the former CIA man only writes what he does out of a sincere devotion to his country. So when he says he has reason to believe that bin Ladin will send us that nuclear bomb, the good Scheuer hopes can come out of it is that the American people will finally demand to know why their leaders’ actions had not stopped the catastrophe they said the intervention was preventing.

For all the effort he puts into “The Worst Person in the World,” Keith Olbermann might want to take a break from his partisan hackery to investigate why a nuclear device might be detonated in the U.S. in the first place instead of shouting “traitor” at Scheuer and Beck while suggesting that their right to the freedom of speech should be abridged.
*The third person Olbermann selected for his “Worst Person in the World” was suspended steroid user Manny Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Along with Beck and Scheuer’s alleged proposal that Osama bin Laden should detonate a nuclear device is equivalent, in Olbermann’s mind, to rehabilitating baseball player Manny Ramirez’s refusal to spend enough money on luxuries for his temporary minor league teammates. Apparently not spending money on your minor league teammates is on par with suggesting a nuclear device needs to be detonated in your own country.
Final note: Over at Left Coast Rebel, Tim has a piece up about Rand Paul and his potential run for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

She Did What?

Well, she does play by her own set of rules. Unlike Mark Sanford, Sarah Palin seems to have relinquished presidential aspirations voluntarily.

Like many Americans who were actually paying attention to news on the Friday before the Fourth, I was dumbfounded to learn that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was resigning, effective July 26.

Such a decision was out of the blue. The spat with David Letterman had subsided and she defeated another ethics charge, so why would Sarah Palin suddenly resign? As Mark Sanford’s political star has all but certainly been sucked into a black hole, Mrs. Palin had every reason to believe that she would be a frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. Either way, she had more charisma and a wider national appeal than the now-shamed South Carolina governor.

As soon as the news hit, I thought to myself, Mitt Romney is probably having one hell of a party at his mansion tonight, with his family and yuppie guests probably being waited on by an army of illegal immigrants, no less.

There have been a few theories peddled over why she would resign at this time. Could she no longer take the heat of being a public person? If so, why now? She readily bore her claws like a mama bear when her children once again were deemed newsworthy, so it’s doubtful she suddenly can’t take the heat. Anyone who believes Palin has a weak constitution is only watching the parodied Palin and not Sarah Barracuda.

Is she stepping down, as she said, to relieve the taxpayers of Alaska of having to pay the burden of her constant legal fees which have now reached over half a million dollars? I’m willing to believe that and if it’s true, then it’s the most fiscally sane move by a Republican since Mark Sanford decided to wait to see his mistress until he was on state business in South America.

But the most prevalent explanation is that she is resigning in order to stage a run for the presidency in 2012. If that is true, she is undoubtedly wasting her time. Resigning before her term is up, absent a scandal of Watergate or blue dress proportions, labels Palin, unfairly I believe, as a quitter, by critics on both the Right and the Left.

The most common refrain, predictably, is that she is unqualified for the job of president. Examining the U.S. Constitution, Article II states, “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.” Let’s see: born in Idaho in 1964 and living at least 14 years in the United States. Check. Sarah Palin is officially qualified to hold the position of president of the United States.

But, if one looks at the massive (and utterly unconstitutional) bureaucracy that pervades Washington D.C. and considers how involved the American president is expected to be not just in American life but in events around the world, no one is “qualified” for the job. Therefore, if Sarah Palin is fundamentally “unqualified” for the job, it has more to do with today’s federal government than Governor Palin’s "inexperience."

Of course, her critics assume that she is resigning in order to run for the presidency, perhaps in a strangely lustful desire to continue pummeling a favorite target. It’s difficult to see how even the governor can consider running for president. If she does, Mitt Romney’s line of attack will be that at least he finished a term as governor of his state before ever embarking on a presidential campaign. Personally, I am altogether untroubled that she is resigning. I am unaware of any law that states that once elected, a politician is barred from leaving office, even if they are without scandal.

But the media reaction to her resignation has actually been quite comical from both sides, even reminding me of the hysteria cooked up while Mark Sanford was on his final trip to Argentina. With Sanford it was, Where is he?! We demand to know where our elected officials are at all times because if things don’t go kablooey while they’re away, then people might start to think that they don’t need government in charge of everything after all! Whereas with Sarah Palin it’s, How dare she quit before her term is up! I know she’s an idiot and I hate her, but I demand that she stay in office! How dare she abandon her people! How, oh, how, will the people of Alaska be able to put food on the table if they can’t be sure of who their governor is?!

Or as Tucker Carlson said on the July 6, 2009 episode of Sean Hannity’s television program, “People who think Sarah Palin is dumb and/or insane seem mad that she’s not governing the state of Alaska.”

The point of this little anti-government tirade is to show that states and people actually have the ability to operate without minute surveillance and babysitting from our overlords. It is also to highlight what I found to be the most revealing statement in Governor Palin’s otherwise rambling resignation speech:

“Rather, we know we can effect positive change outside government.”

What a libertarian and non-presidential thing to say.

Readers of this blog (it’s up to four of you now) should know that I am not a Palin-aholic, have been critical of some of her policies, but that I have a mild admiration for her.

Sarah Palin has a nice story, worked hard, defeated an incumbent Republican and almost became vice president of the United States. She espouses pro-life views and walks the walk. I question whether a real conservative would really join the ticket alongside John McCain. I was troubled that such a stalwart conservative would adopt the reckless foreign policy rhetoric of McCain and that she would parrot the it’s-amnesty-but-we’re-not-calling-it-amnesty illegal immigrant policy of the Arizona senior panderer. Despite these troubling issues, I felt like battling for Sarah Palin just because of the ruthless attacks on her from an elitist media. And the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

I was also disappointed earlier this year when she initially held her hand out for stimulus money when she had promoted herself as a fiscal conservative. She did, however, pull her hand back a little and returned some of the money while all the faux fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party cheered.

But I do not consider Sarah Palin’s actions to be those of a quitter. Saying she is a quitter to her state is to hold quite a dim view of Alaskans, as if they won’t know what to do with themselves unless they have Sarah Palin as their governor.

But back to the line highlighted earlier: “Rather, we know we can effect positive change outside government.”

That is perhaps the most likely long-term reason for her early departure from office. Her political action committee, SarahPAC, is doing even better now that their namesake has resigned.

Similarly, the message of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign did not end when the Texas congressman ended his campaign last summer. The Campaign for Liberty, the unofficial extension of Dr. Paul’s campaign currently has over 170,000 members who are dedicated to educating people in their communities about a message of freedom from government and the advocating of sound money -- all this from a presidential candidate who was routinely ignored or mocked by the media and party elites for over a year. Just imagine how many people a similar Sarah Palin (who has garnered exceedingly more attention than Ron Paul) group might attract around a message of energy independence and the preservation of unborn life.

So maybe, just maybe, she does want to enact change in the country or just the state of Alaska by an avenue other than government imposition – education.

Good for Sarah.