Michael Medved, the radio talk show host, wrote on December 29th in the Daily Beast about Ron Paul’s candidacy. He was not supportive.
His overall point was thus: ‘Any honest assessment of Ron Paul’s unconventional campaign suggests that whatever successes it manages to achieve can send only two signals, both of them disastrous to Republican prospects and the conservative cause.’
The first ‘signal’ is that ‘the perplexing Paul phenomenon only serves to strengthen the core argument for Barack Obama’s reelection: that today’s Republicans have become a wild and crazy bunch, harboring oddball, irresponsible notions that place them far outside the American mainstream and make them untrustworthy when it comes to the serious business of governance.’
Now, this is plausible, but only if those who advocate for a large federal government, both Democrats and Republicans are allowed a monopoly on terms like ‘wild,’ ‘crazy,’ ‘oddball,’ ‘irresponsible,’ ‘American mainstream,’ ‘untrustworthy,’ and finally ‘serious business of governance.’
Charitably, to support his point, Medved ‘puts aside’ the issues of the newsletters. While the newsletters will continue to be a stumbling block for Rep. Paul until he identifies their author, it is incredibly difficult to allege that their ‘paleo-libertarian’ viewpoint has at all made an appearance in any part of Paul’s career.
So Medved then sets firstly into Paul’s rhetorical espousal of the ‘outrageous’ doctrine of state nullification of federal statute which a state finds unconstitutional. Other than stating that nullification has been settled against, constitutionally, by force of practice and by force of violence (Civil War), Medved doesn’t seem it worthwhile to consider whether Dr. Paul might have been making a normative rather than legal point regarding the doctrine.
As a second piece of support for Dr. Paul and his supporters being ‘wild’ ‘crazy’ and ‘irresponsible’, Medved cites the admittedly crazy views of a radio host on whose show Dr. Paul has appeared. But if guilt were to follow from such an association then we could indict Dr. Paul, on the basis of his appearance on Medved’s show, as thinking himself ‘wild’ ‘crazy’ and ‘irresponsible.’
Thirdly, he cites the report of a former congressional aid of Dr. Paul, Eric Dondero, also known as Eric Rittberg, that Rep. Paul said, ‘shortly after Sept. 11 that “the attacks were coordinated with the CIA, and that the Bush administration might have known about the attacks ahead of time.”’ Medved thusly relies on testimony first given last month, from an individual most likely disgruntled after having seemingly been fired for incompetence in 2004.
Medved then casually mentions Paul’s antipathy for the Civil Rights Act without at all mentioning the reasons for Paul’s position, namely that the act fundamentally abridges individual property rights and does so, furthermore, from the federal level.
Then, Medved makes a variety of his own suggestions regarding the chapter on Zionism in Ron Paul’s book Liberty Defined. Paul, in that chapter discusses the continued American involvement in the post 1947 Zionist project of a U.N. mandated partition of Palestine. Paul notes that, in contrast to the long history of pre-’47 aliyahs which were peaceful but effective in bringing about a Jewish resettlement of the Holy Land, the birth of the Israeli state was violent and dis-possessive of those who felt they owned the property on which they lived.
However, when addressing the current situation, Paul notes the issue of property rights is a complicated one and longevity of tenancy is not a clear and decisive argument in favor of Jewish settlement.
In reaction, Medved accuses Paul of ‘associating’ himself with ‘temple-deniers.’ The passage in Paul’s book for which Medved condemns Paul states that, ‘Historian Juan Cole has pointed out that Jerusalem (Palestine), through the many centuries was under Jewish rule for only about 170 years. In other words, there are many competing claims for the same land, and it is impossible to decide between them. Dozens of other regimes occupied the land for much longer periods of time. For instance, Muslims ruled Jerusalem for 1,191 years.’ When the subject of Cole’s claim is Palestine, there is a very real sense in which it is true. 170 years would roughly correspond to the reigns of David and Solomon, the only time in Jewish history in which the larger portion of the Levant was ruled by the Jewish people. When the subject is Jerusalem, the claim is not readily plausible. However, Paul’s point stands. When the claim to property rights, which is Paul’s concern at this point in the chapter, is to be determined by length of occupation, it does seem impossible to decide between the conflicting groups. Paul’s position on property rights in Palestine, ambiguous citation of Dr. Cole aside, is in no way, ‘crazy,’ ‘wild,’ or ‘oddball.’
And then Medved brings us back to ‘Ron Paul according to Eric Dondero.’
Medved concludes regarding his first point that, ‘Every additional vote cast for the Mad Doctor in the primaries, every additional delegate he secures, will only help Team Obama in using his prominence in the nomination fight to discredit the entire Republican Party.’ Whether or not Medved has shown this to be true, I leave to you, dear reader.
On to his second point, that support for Ron Paul does nothing more than purvey amongst the electorate, ‘the notion that the Republican Party remains hopelessly divided, helpless to cope with its most oddly obsessed activists, and utterly unable to provide the unifying, competent leadership that most Americans crave.’
For this Medved cites Paul’s refusal to back the GOP nominee in 2008 and that he instead held his own rival ‘convention’ in St. Paul. This combines with Paul’s refusal to explicitly rule out an unlikely third party run, to make Medved wonder, given all this intransigence, ‘How could GOP strategists possibly invite Dr. Demento to address the assembled delegates (and, through the wonders of live television, the rest of the country) without some iron-clad assurance that he wouldn’t use the occasion to trash the party itself and its newly selected candidates?’ That, it seems, is a fair question. But this line of thinking, as far as it goes, fails at all to identify those responsible for a party ‘hopelessly divided,’ ‘helpless to cope,’ ‘unable to provide…competent leadership.’ If Sarah Palin has our ear, that responsibility would lay squarely at the feet of the party as a whole.
We are left wondering whether this represents the sum total of Mr. Medved’s substantive reasons for so strongly disliking Ron Paul. Or maybe it is that Mr. Medved, like so many, is committed to the ‘conservative cause’ to such an extent that he would prefer a candidate more in the ‘mainstream’ and less ‘oddball’ like one who has been so committed to individual liberty that he was for the individual mandate before he was against it or maybe he prefers another that understands that ‘It takes a family.’
By Brandon Mitchell