Fred Clark, normally extremely perspicacious, has jumped on the anti-Paul bandwagon with both feet, giving space to some pretty dreadful stuff from Kevin Drum, who calls Paul “the dictionary definition of a crank” and practically gets the vapors considering such radical Ron Paul ideas as legalizing all drugs and challenging the apparently inviolable orthodoxy that America’s involvement in World War II was The Best Thing The Ever Happened:
Now… you have the fact that Paul opposes the War on Drugs and supports a non-interventionist foreign policy. But guess what? Even there, he’s a crank. Even if you’re a hard-core non-interventionist yourself, you probably think World War II was a war worth fighting. But not Ron Paul. He thinks we should have just minded our own damn business.
Look, right here and right now, can we please add a corollary to Godwin’s Law that says that the first person to bring up the righteousness of World War II in any discussion of war loses, automatically? Like bringing up Nazis/Hitler, it’s a complete conversation-ender. And that’s exactly how people like Drum and Clark use it, too. “If you support/defend/are mildly interested in Ron Paul, YOU’RE SAYING WE SHOULD HAVE LET HITLER TAKE OVER!!!”
Drum and Clark would also like you to believe that Ron Paul is irrelevant to the anti-war sentiment that has welled up in this country recently. Here’s Drum:
I’ll concede up front that it’s not possible to know for sure what impact Ron Paul is having on public views toward non-interventionism. But come on. It’s true that the American public is less enamored of war these days than it used to be, but the obvious reason for this can be summed up in two words: Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans are more skeptical of military adventurism than they were ten years ago because the shock of 9/11 has worn off and we’ve gone through two spectacularly disastrous foreign wars. Ron Paul has played almost no role in this at all.
Horseshit. If Paul weren’t in the race, there would be no mainstream candidate giving a voice to that skepticism about military adventurism — especially among the young, and most especially among members of the military, who are Paul’s largest source of financing and who are four times more likely to donate to his campaign than to Romney’s. Maybe Drum should look at what the people who actually fight these wars are saying with their campaign contributions: Paul is the standard-bearer for people who would like us not to risk the lives of our fighting men and women on the whims of politicians.
Drum encourages anti-war liberals, disingenuously, to shun Paul (because he’s “toxic”) and seek out the “plenty of voices these days not named Ron Paul” that are speaking out against military interventionism. I say “disingenuously” because Drum knows perfectly well that those “voices” are not running for president. Who gives a fuck if you read Noam Chomsky? We’re talking about voting. And, I repeat — Paul is the only candidate within even hailing distance of a major party nomination who is taking a firm anti-war stance. (Obama has every bit the hard-on for foreign wars that Bush did, even if he’s smarter about executing them.)
Drum quickly fluffs his chickenhawk feathers, though, combining a pretty trenchant cynicism with straightforward neocon bloodthirstiness:
We won’t know for sure about this until some kind of serious military action rears its head again, but here’s a guess: if Iran makes even the slightest overt military move to block the Strait of Hormuz, the American public will be every bit as keen for blood as they’ve ever been. And frankly, that’s probably about as true among Ron Paul’s supporters as everyone else. They’ve always cared mostly about his economic crankery and his opposition to social welfare, not his foreign policy views….
I’m not a hardcore non-interventionist like Paul. If Iran seriously tried to mine the Strait of Hormuz, for example, I’d fully expect the U.S. Navy to put a stop to it, even if that meant sinking a few Iranian vessels.
Great. Good for you. Meanwhile, the sailors and soldiers you’d send over there to kill Iranians are sending checks to Ron Paul as fast as they can.
But the real disappointment here is Clark, a blogger whose work I’d previously always read first when starting up Google Reader. Clark is best known as a voice for liberal evangelicalism — yes, there is such a thing — and he often writes sensitively and wittily about the Christian obligation to give up one’s possessions and serve others. But here, while adding his own twists to Drum’s “DO YOU WANT HITLER TO WIN??” hyperbole (Clark starts with the idea of just war and, sadly, comes out in favor of the air strikes on Libya), he actually reproduces two WWII era cartoons by Dr. Seuss. They’re blatant, bullying, and kind of revolting pro-war propaganda, but maybe Clark figures that Seuss is some kind of sacred, unchallengeable authority for people who grew up in the last few generations.
As is often the case, it’s The Atlantic‘s Ta-Nehisi Coates who’s willing to really grapple with the hard questions. Here he confronts, head-on, Glenn Greenwald’s challenge to liberals to admit that a vote for Obama is a calculated vote to protect what remains of abortion rights and the American welfare state, at the explicit cost of the lives of Muslim children in foreign wars. Coates accepts, broadly, Greenwald’s framing, and admits that for him, that trade is worth it. And you know what? He’s probably right. It probably is worth it. Or at least saying that it’s worth it is a defensible position. But liberals should not kid themselves that there is no trade. (Except, I guess, “liberals” like Drum, who can’t wait for the Hormuz shoot-’em-up, and therefore feel no pinch of compromise at all.)
But Coates, a Civil War enthusiast, also brings out a far more damning argument against Paul’s anti-war credibility: namely, that he doesn’t know history, and therefore his anti-war stance is ill-informed. Watch this video of Paul explaining to the late Tim Russert why he thinks Lincoln really fought the Civil War:
“He did this just to, uh, enhance and… get rid of the original intent of the Republic.” Mmm, okay. So Lincoln’s motive was to undermine federalism, and he could easily have ended slavery by buying out the slaveholders, but chose not to. As Coates notes drily,
It’s dismaying to see that we don’t have press corps that might challenge him on facts, as opposed to just looking at him incredulously and repeating the question. Not to speak ill of the dead, but journalists should have at least a passing familiarity with the secession documents and Alexander Stephens “Cornerstone Speech.”
Read Eric Foner’s Lincoln biography. Or at the very least google Lincoln and compensated emancipation.
Maybe there is no credible anti-war candidate. Or maybe, at the end of the day, Paul has too much other shit going on to attract liberals, even if his anti-war positions are both sincere and credible. But is this really a cause for the kind of righteous smugness Paul critics like Drum and Clark are exuding? Is it really acceptable for major voices in the liberal blogosphere to say, “Sorry this guy’s not good enough, but there are still plenty of ‘voices’ expressing your concerns, so why are you complaining?” I submit that it is not, in a season where the supposedly liberal candidate for president can’t get past his fantasy of himself as the country’s Cowboy-In-Chief.