Editor's Note: The libertarian candidate is surging in the GOP primary—but is this something progressives should cheer? Paul's opposition to war and his plan to audit the Federal Reserve have garnered praise from some on the left, including Truthdig's Robert Scheer. But as The Nation's Ben Adler points out, Paul's isolationism and opposition to multilateral institutions like the UN are troubling, as are his positions on civil rights. We present both views below, with more takes to follow in the days to come.
Marginalizing Ron Paul
Robert Scheer is the author of The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.
It is official now. The Ron Paul campaign, despite surging in the Iowa polls, is not worthy of serious consideration, according to a New York Times editorial; "Ron Paul long ago disqualified himself for the presidency by peddling claptrap proposals like abolishing the Federal Reserve, returning to the gold standard, cutting a third of the federal budget and all foreign aid and opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964."
That last item, along with the decade-old racist comments in the newsletters Paul published, is certainly worthy of criticism. But not as an alternative to seriously engaging the substance of Paul's current campaign—his devastating critique of crony capitalism and his equally trenchant challenge to imperial wars and the assault on our civil liberties that they engender.
Paul is being denigrated as a presidential contender even though on the vital issues of the economy, war and peace, and civil liberties, he has made the most sense of the Republican candidates. And by what standard of logic is it "claptrap" for Paul to attempt to hold the Fed accountable for its destructive policies? That's the giveaway reference to the raw nerve that his favorable prospects in the Iowa caucuses have exposed. Too much anti–Wall Street populism in the heartland can be a truly scary thing to the intellectual parasites residing in the belly of the beast that controls American capitalism.
It is hypocritical that Paul is now depicted as the archenemy of non-white minorities when it was his nemesis, the Federal Reserve, that enabled the banking swindle that wiped out 53 percent of the median wealth of African-Americans and 66 percent for Latinos, according to the Pew Research Center.
The Fed sits at the center of the rot and bears the major responsibility for tolerating the runaway mortgage-backed securities scam that is at the core of our economic crisis. After the meltdown it was the Fed that led ultra secret machinations to bail out the banks while ignoring the plight of the their exploited customers.
To his credit, Paul marshaled bipartisan support to pass a bill requiring the first-ever public audit of the Federal Reserve. That audit is how readers of the Timesfirst learned of the Fed's trillions of dollars in secret loans and aid given to the banks as a reward for screwing over the public.
As for the Times's complaint that Paul seeks to unreasonably cut the federal budget by one-third, it should be noted that his is a rare voice in challenging irrationally high military spending. At a time when the president has signed off on a cold war–level defense budget and his potential opponents in the Republican field want to waste even more on high-tech weapons to fight a sophisticated enemy that doesn't exist, Paul has emerged as the only serious peace candidate. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Paul last week warned an Iowa audience, "Watch out for the military-industrial complex—they always have an enemy. Nobody is going to invade us. We don't need any more [weapons systems]."
As another recent example of Paul's sanity on the national security issues that have led to a flight from reason on the part of politicians since the 9/11 attacks, I offer the Texan's criticism this week of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The act would allow the president to order indeterminate military imprisonment without trial of those accused of supporting terrorism, a policy that Obama signed into law and Paul opposes, as the congressman did George W. Bush's Patriot Act. Paul said:
"Little by little, in the name of fighting terrorism, our Bill of Rights is being repealed.... The Patriot Act, as bad as its violation of the 4th Amendment, was just one step down the slippery slope. The recently passed [NDAA] continues that slip toward tyranny and in fact accelerates it significantly.... The Bill of Rights has no exemption for 'really bad people' or terrorists or even non-citizens. It is a key check on government power against any person. This is not a weakness in our legal system; it is the very strength of our legal system."
That was exactly the objection raised by the New York Times in its own excellent editorial challenging the constitutionality of the NDAA. It should not be difficult for those same editorial writers to treat Ron Paul as a profound and principled contributor to a much-needed national debate on the limits of federal power instead of attempting to marginalize his views beyond recognition.