Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Election 2008: The Candidates

I thought it would be a good idea to say where I stand regarding each of the candidates now, given what I know about them, so that later comments by me regarding the candidates can be taken into context. This will be a series of posts, each dealing with one or perhaps two candidates.

The Republicans: Ron Paul

I'm going to spend the most time discussing the candidates I absolutely reject and those I absolutely accept; Ron Paul falls firmly into the former category. Dr. Paul, to me, is an idealist who lacks an understanding of the complexity of the real world, and as such I cannot support him.

There are certain anecdotes that have stuck in my brain regarding him that exemplify this. First, there's his stance on evolution: he dismissed it as a "theological issue", and said he didn't accept it. Paul supporters will tell me that he only said that there are no absolute answers on either side, but that he spent so much time expounding on that subject only indicates that he doesn't know/care that theories CAN'T be proven. Also, to me he staked out an absolute position the second he said "It's a theory, the theory of evolution, and I don't accept it." His discussion of science left me seeing only his ignorance on the subject, hardly an encouraging trait.

Though Paul's rejection of evolution is tolerable, as science is at best a minor issue for the presidency, his thoughts on the Civil War, as expressed on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, left me more worried. Here's the relevant excerpt:

MR. RUSSERT: I was intrigued by your comments about Abe Lincoln. "According to Paul, Abe Lincoln should never have gone to war; there were better ways of getting rid of slavery."

REP. PAUL: Absolutely. Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war. No, he shouldn't have gone, gone to war. He did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic. I mean, it was the--that iron, iron fist..

MR. RUSSERT: We'd still have slavery.

REP. PAUL: Oh, come on, Tim. Slavery was phased out in every other country of the world. And the way I'm advising that it should have been done is do like the British empire did. You, you buy the slaves and release them. How much would that cost compared to killing 600,000 Americans and where it lingered for 100 years? I mean, the hatred and all that existed. So every other major country in the world got rid of slavery without a civil war. I mean, that doesn't sound too radical to me. That sounds like a pretty reasonable approach.


So much misunderstanding, so little time. My primary beef is with two points. First, does Ron Paul honestly think Lincoln could have avoided the war and kept the Union together, when the South seceded even before his inauguration? Or perhaps Paul thinks that we'd have been better off split up and not resolving the slavery issue at all? He pins the whole war on Lincoln, not understanding that the Civil War has at least 85 years of history behind it. And this leads right to the second point: Ron Paul trivializes the war by making it just about slavery. The war was the result of a deep schism between South and North, of which slavery vs. abolition was merely a symptom. At least two other major causes were present: the conflict between industry and agriculture, and the conflict between Federalism and Nationalism. At the same time, Paul thinks Lincoln did this to enhance the federal government's power, to "get rid of the original intent of the republic." So the war shouldn't have been fought because "there were better ways of getting rid of slavery", but Lincoln only fought it because he wanted to enhance his own power. Get your story straight, Paul. When I heard this on top of the science issue, I started to think maybe Dr. Paul slept through high school; to get such a crucial period of our history so completely wrong...

But the most annoying anecdote of the lot is the most relevant to the debate. Ron Paul, running as the Consitutional Candidate who will Elevate that Sacred Document to the Level it Deserves, doesn't seem to think the Sixteenth Amendment exists at all. He has denounced the income tax as unconstitutional numerous times, the most recent of which was just a week ago:

BECK: We`re with presidential candidate Ron Paul.

And, boy, there`s something that nobody else says. Nobody on Wall Street will say that. And it only makes common sense that we are destroying our own currency.

One of the things that I think attracts me to libertarians is the idea of getting back to the gold standard and abolishing the IRS. Is it true -- I believe I have read that you say if you don`t pay your taxes, you are in the category of civil disobedience akin with Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

PAUL: Well, I -- I think it`s practicing the same principle, yes, because the income tax, the way it`s collected is unconstitutional. And if you believe that, and you practice civil disobedience, you to suffer the consequences.

I chose to try to change the law. I haven`t chosen that method.

But people who sincerely believe that it`s unconstitutional to be guilty until you prove yourself innocent and you be your own -- you have to testify against yourself, I think they have a legitimate cause. And I think it`s a libertarian principle to practice civil disobedience. It`s non-violent.


Now, the only possible justification I've found for this position is that there were wording errors in most of the ratification documents for the Sixteenth Amendment - but that argument has been cut off at the knees by the Supreme Court several times. So either Ron Paul doesn't know that the Sixteenth Amendment exists (unlikely since he's referenced it often); he's clinging to an age-old argument refuted by the Court; or he doesn't have any respect for the process of amending the Constitution. None of these are palatable to me, especially not coming from The Only Honest Candidate In Politics (TM).

This much convinces me that Ron Paul is ignorant; his noninterventionist foreign policy and "the perfect is the enemy of the good" economic policy shows me that his naivete leads him to dangerously simplistic idealism. The real world is more complicated than Dr. Paul seems to believe, and I would not want such a man holding the highest office in the land.

EDIT: Ah, yes, one more nail in the coffin for Ron Paul: the crazy newsletters of his past. It seems there are only a few possibilities: first, he actually wrote those diatribes (or knew about them), which makes him a racist homophobic bigot; or second, he had no knowledge of what was being printed under his name, which makes him criminally careless. Neither of these are presidential qualities. Myself, I suspect a bit of both; there's substantiation of my point about Lincoln in one of the articles as well as personal information in some others, but the overall position doesn't sound like Paul. Anyway, if Ron Paul's candidacy isn't already dead, this drives a stake through its heart, burns the corpse, and scatters the ashes to the wind.

6 comments:

fafner88 said...

How is Ron Paul's non-interventionist foreign policy naive? According to the 9/11 commission, bin Laden has constantly justified al-Quaeda as a response to American intervention in the Middle East. If we stop interfering, the will to wage war in America will decrease. Note Paul does not want to withdraw from Afghanistan. Furthermore, how are we succeeding in Iraq if there is still no peace or any sort of agreement between Sunnis and Shiites, which is going absolutely nowhere?

As for his stance on the Civil War, I agree to some agree with Paul. Lincoln used his role as president to suspend Habeas Corpus and shut down several papers that criticized him. Furthermore, there is the issue of the Tenth Amendment, which would technically allow states the right to secede. Still, you have a point about the Civil War being about more than slavery (which Paul has also claimed, actually). It's also nice to note that when the war DID start, the US government created a central bank to fund the war...money they could have used to buy the slaves and release them.

Also, Paul's stance on the Sixteenth Amendment is NOT misguided due to the fact that the Supreme Court is not infallible (as we've seen in such cases as Plessy v. Ferguson, Scott v. Sandford, Roe v. Wade, etc.). Just because it ended up being added (it was originally intended to be temporary) doesn't make it right.

I'll ask more questions when I have these answered.

Alioth said...

"...money they could have used to buy the slaves and release them."

Would the South have sold, though? I highly doubt it.

Math_Mage said...

"How is Ron Paul's non-interventionist foreign policy naive? According to the 9/11 commission, bin Laden has constantly justified al-Quaeda as a response to American intervention in the Middle East. If we stop interfering, the will to wage war in America will decrease. Note Paul does not want to withdraw from Afghanistan. Furthermore, how are we succeeding in Iraq if there is still no peace or any sort of agreement between Sunnis and Shiites, which is going absolutely nowhere?"

Gee, so much wrong in so little time.

"if we stop interfering, the will to wage war in America will decrease."

Wrong. If we pull out of Iraq, Al Qaeda claims a victory. They still have past justifications to fuel them - what do you think keeps the Israelis and Palestinians going at it? - and new fuel for their cause because they just made the world's most powerful country back down in defeat. This is one of the reasons why Paul's policy is too simplistic - it assumes that we caused all the animosity towards us in the ME (maybe, maybe not, I don't know the history well enough to untangle that web) and that therefore if we leave the animosity will dissipate (WRONG).

"Paul does not want to withdraw from Afghanistan."

So? See above - "winning" Iraq will fuel the AQ fire. Iraq becomes a real training ground with much less real risk to AQ agents in Iraq. Unless you invade Pakistan in direct opposition to Musharraf's wishes (alienating him and making any action in Pakistan that much harder), you're not going to stamp out AQ in Afghanistan, and meanwhile they've got a new terrorist haven in Iraq.

"how are we succeeding in Iraq if there is still no peace or any sort of agreement between Sunnis and Shiites, which is going absolutely nowhere?"

Wrong. It's true that national political reconciliation - reconciliation at the highest levels of government - is going slowly (though Bush reported progress in the last few days, I'm skeptical). But there's been a huge amount of progress from the bottom up, with tribal leaders and sheiks and the common people of Iraq. Just look at the Anbar Awakening - it's projected that we can hand that area over to the Iraqis inside two years. You don't think the surge reduced the violence by itself, do you?

"Lincoln used his role as president to suspend Habeas Corpus and shut down several papers that criticized him."

This is true of practically every major war that has ever been fought. Propaganda was not invented by the United States. We do it far LESS than any other country (hell, in THIS war we've got newspapers in the US propagandizing AGAINST the US). Your complaint is true, but insignificant and furthermore has nothing to do with the point Paul was making.

"Furthermore, there is the issue of the Tenth Amendment, which would technically allow states the right to secede."

Actually, it doesn't matter whether the Constitution gave that right, since the South was seceding (i.e. announcing that it wasn't going to follow the rules of the Union anymore).

"Still, you have a point about the Civil War being about more than slavery (which Paul has also claimed, actually)."

Where? And why does he then contradict himself?

"It's also nice to note that when the war DID start, the US government created a central bank to fund the war...money they could have used to buy the slaves and release them."

Alioth has this one right. It takes two to make a contract. Furthermore, since the slave trade was prohibited in the North by this time, they'd basically prevented themselves from buying (unless I'm wrong about where the capital was at this time...)

"Also, Paul's stance on the Sixteenth Amendment is NOT misguided due to the fact that the Supreme Court is not infallible (as we've seen in such cases as Plessy v. Ferguson, Scott v. Sandford, Roe v. Wade, etc.). Just because it ended up being added (it was originally intended to be temporary) doesn't make it right."

You're kidding yourself if you think the Supreme Court is going to overturn the Sixteenth based on wording errors that don't change the meaning of the amendment. Heck, the guy who was in charge of the process considered it at the time and rejected it. And if Paul actually managed to get the Supremes to overturn their decision, Congress would just pass it again.

fafner88 said...

"Would the south have sold, though? I highly doubt it."

It worked with the British Empire. The chief argument against the abolition of slavery in the South at the time prior to the Civil War was that the Southern economy would collapse due to the immediate loss of revenue, and compensation for such losses, which would help the South shift to a freer market, would've probably been a solution at least as effective as war. After buying the slaves, the North would then have subsequently freed them, a process that while not easy, would be worth the sparing of 600,000 lives.

"Actually, it doesn't matter whether the Constitution gave that right, since the South was seceding (i.e. announcing that it wasn't going to follow the rules of the Union anymore)."
I'm confused to what your point is here. If the Constitution gives them that right, then doesn't it therefore make it a breach of power to stop them?

"Withdrawing from Iraq would fuel the AQ fire..."
"This is one of the reasons why Paul's policy is too simplistic - it assumes that we caused all the animosity towards us in the ME."

To answer the former first, Iraq as a nation shouldn't exist in the first place; the lines to the nation were arbitrarily drawn out during de-colonization, and it has only been through the influence of a strongman as leader that the nation has been able to keep itself together. I say give the Kurds their own nation, let the people of Iraq decide how they want their country split up. The nation is destined to die.

To answer the second question, remember that we invaded Iraq in the first place on dubious charges and without a declaration of war, all this after such instances in history as the installation of the Shah in Iran and our support of nations such as Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries who are on unfriendly terms with the state of Israel, which we likewise also fund and arm (not that I'm not against the state of Israel; the Jews definitely deserve their own homeland). Nearly all animosity against us has been a result of our foreign policy both past and present.

"You're kidding yourself if you think the Supreme Court is going to overturn the Sixteenth based on wording errors that don't change the meaning of the amendment. Heck, the guy who was in charge of the process considered it at the time and rejected it. And if Paul actually managed to get the Supremes to overturn their decision, Congress would just pass it again."

There was a great discussion on YouTube with an ex-IRS agent and Ron Paul concerning this. In it, Paul discusses how the carrying out of this amendment is flawed:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZl6
202HJGQ

"It's true that national political reconciliation - reconciliation at the highest levels of government - is going slowly (though Bush reported progress in the last few days, I'm skeptical). But there's been a huge amount of progress from the bottom up, with tribal leaders and sheiks and the common people of Iraq. Just look at the Anbar Awakening - it's projected that we can hand that area over to the Iraqis inside two years. You don't think the surge reduced the violence by itself, do you?"

We constantly hear reports of "progress", yet we are seeing very little of it staying. The Awakening Movement is going against a strong tide; its success has been fairly mixed in its three years of existence. Since the assassination of its leader, Sheik Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, its effect has actually decreased, and control of many of these awakening armies is very minimal.

A nice take on the matter by a conservative commentator, no less:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNDubPTrnG0

"This is true of practically every major war that has ever been fought. Propaganda was not invented by the United States. We do it far LESS than any other country (hell, in THIS war we've got newspapers in the US propagandizing AGAINST the US). Your complaint is true, but insignificant and furthermore has nothing to do with the point Paul was making."

I'm talking about the stifling of the First Amendment, not the use of Propaganda. And just because we do it less doesn't make it right. Also the point I was making was backing up Paul's claim that Lincoln abused his powers as president through the Civil War.

Math_Mage said...

"It worked with the British Empire."

Which was a completely different exercise. America had more going on than just slavery, as I've said before.

"The chief argument against the abolition of slavery in the South at the time prior to the Civil War was that the Southern economy would collapse due to the immediate loss of revenue, and compensation for such losses, which would help the South shift to a freer market, would've probably been a solution at least as effective as war. After buying the slaves, the North would then have subsequently freed them, a process that while not easy, would be worth the sparing of 600,000 lives."

Which has nothing to do with Paul's pov that Lincoln should have avoided the Civil War, except that it shares the same misconception that slavery was the only issue.

"I'm confused to what your point is here. If the Constitution gives them that right, then doesn't it therefore make it a breach of power to stop them?"

Actually, that was a stupid statement on my part. I apologize. Allow me to refute your point directly, with the Constitution. From Article 1, Section 10:

"No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation..."

So the Constitution provides the basis for preventing secession, thus rendering moot your Tenth Amendment objection.

"To answer the former first, Iraq as a nation shouldn't exist in the first place; the lines to the nation were arbitrarily drawn out during de-colonization, and it has only been through the influence of a strongman as leader that the nation has been able to keep itself together. I say give the Kurds their own nation, let the people of Iraq decide how they want their country split up. The nation is destined to die."

By those standards, most of the Middle-East was destined to die as well. It wasn't just Iraq that was arbitrarily partitioned. Furthermore, what does this have to do with my point about AQ?

"To answer the second question, remember that we invaded Iraq in the first place on dubious charges and without a declaration of war, all this after such instances in history as the installation of the Shah in Iran and our support of nations such as Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries who are on unfriendly terms with the state of Israel, which we likewise also fund and arm (not that I'm not against the state of Israel; the Jews definitely deserve their own homeland). Nearly all animosity against us has been a result of our foreign policy both past and present."

Ah, yes, that oh-so-horrible Shah, who Carter wisely decided not to aid when the mullahs overthrew him...and we all know how well that turned out. Nor do I understand the point of giving foreign aid to people who hate each other. Make your point more clearly, please. Furthermore, I already noted that I don't know how much of the animosity against us is caused by our previous meddling in the ME. You haven't addressed my actual point: this doesn't mean that if we pull out of the ME, they'll go away.

"There was a great discussion on YouTube with an ex-IRS agent and Ron Paul concerning this. In it, Paul discusses how the carrying out of this amendment is flawed:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZl6
202HJGQ"

Actually, no, he didn't. He took the position that the amendment was never properly ratified, said he agreed with the comment that the amendment was not being properly carried out, and said nothing to support either allegation. Did you watch the same video I did?

"We constantly hear reports of "progress", yet we are seeing very little of it staying. The Awakening Movement is going against a strong tide; its success has been fairly mixed in its three years of existence. Since the assassination of its leader, Sheik Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, its effect has actually decreased, and control of many of these awakening armies is very minimal."

Links, please. I'll also note that the Awakening, being a winning over of various tribal leaders to the American side, doesn't really seem to have a "leader" as such - but I'll look at the links if you provide them.

"I'm talking about the stifling of the First Amendment, not the use of Propaganda. And just because we do it less doesn't make it right. Also the point I was making was backing up Paul's claim that Lincoln abused his powers as president through the Civil War."

Sorry, I looked at the other side of the same coin - propaganda and stifling of dissent are generally linked. Anyway, the wartime powers convention is an informal but fairly well-understood one; the American people loans some of its rights to the government, gives the executive some extra power, etc. Then it takes all that back once war is done. Whether or not the granting of extra wartime power to government is necessary or right is a complicated debate I don't want to get in to; however, Paul's characterization of Lincoln starting the Civil War to gain extra executive authority both slanders Lincoln and misunderstands this informal agreement about wartime power.

Math_Mage said...

Oh, forgot one thing:
"To answer the second question, remember that we invaded Iraq in the first place on dubious charges and without a declaration of war..."

We haven't declared war since WWII. Do you think Korea wasn't a just war because we didn't declare war? We DID have an AUMF, which is functionally equivalent to a DoW these days.