Sen. Rand Paul has formally announced his run for President of the United States. Well, good luck to him, he’s going to need it.
It’s really hard to know exactly where he stands on the issues because he has been all over the map, just like Willard (a.k.a. “Mitt”) Romney in his two losing Presidential campaigns. I have a feeling that over the next several months, people will make fun of Rand in his Romney-like pandering to various groups.
Now, for some reason, many in the media have described Rand Paul as “libertarian” and have compared him to his father, former Congressman Ron Paul. But the two are quite different when it comes to consistency in one’s advocacy of liberty, free markets, and opposition to interventionism. The elder Dr. Paul’s views have been consistent and really haven’t changed in his 40+ years in and out of Congress.
For example, Rand Paul votes for sanctions on Iran. In fact, in his campaign launch speech this week, he stated that he was “concerned” over attempts to “prematurely halt sanctions.”
But when a government such as the U.S. government imposes sanctions on foreign populations, it really only affects the civilian people, not the government. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s the U.S. government and UN imposed sanctions on Iraq, which devastated the civilian population. The sanctions backfired because, to the Iraqis a foreign government (the U.S. government) was devastating their economy and infrastructure and they rallied around their leader even more.
In fact, Rand’s father Ron Paul has stated correctly that sanctions are an act of war.
Rand may complain about building roads and bridges in foreign nations with U.S. tax dollars, but in his “peace through strength” message I wonder if he has any comments on all the U.S. foreign military bases which his father Ron Paul has consistently urged be closed down and dismantled.
Here is Ron Paul, the elder Dr. Paul, from 2011. He was asked at about 3:00 into the video which U.S. military bases he would close overseas, and he is not afraid to say what needs to be said about that:
Now, if you’re one of those who believes that the U.S. government needs to have a “presence” overseas, or should provide defense for Europe or other areas, then I guess you probably have a Wilsonian view of things, and so you probably disagree with the early Americans who formed the United States of America.
If Rand Paul really were a “strict constitutionalist,” then he would have to agree with his father on the U.S. government’s empire overseas, as the U.S. Constitution doesn’t authorize the federal government to expand its apparatus onto foreign lands that are not U.S. territories. Article I Section 8 enumerates the various powers of the Congress, and establishing military bases in other countries is not one of them.
But I think that, constitutionally, Congress would have to purchase the land overseas where the expansionists in Congress want to place U.S. military bases. Or if there’s no purchase by voluntary contract, you could make the case that an actual conquest of particular foreign territory could justify the placing of such bases or other governmental apparatus. Has the U.S. government claimed Iraq or Afghanistan as U.S. territory? I think not. The U.S. armed forces conquered and have been occupying Iraq and Afghanistan (and for years now!), but haven’t claimed those places as U.S. territory. (How absurd that would be, anyway.)
Sadly, Rand Paul wants to keep U.S. military bases open overseas, at U.S. taxpayer expense, including in Iraq! But as his father, the wiser Ron Paul stated, close them ALL! So Rand might benefit from reading Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s books, The Myth of National Defense and The Economics and Ethics of Private Property.
Unfortunately, Rand Paul’s views on civil liberties are also not where libertarians would want them to be. Yes, he stood in the Senate chamber and filibustered against the U.S. government’s use of drones to kill Americans on U.S. territory. But my conclusion is that that might have been more of an opportunistic grandstanding move than a sincere concern for our civil liberties. In my view, if some of Rand Paul’s statements and off-the-cuff remarks are any indication, then he actually is clueless about what civil liberties, presumption of innocence, and freedom of speech are all about.
For instance, in 2011 while he was talking to Sean Hannity regarding government surveillance of alleged radical speakers, Rand Paul said this:
I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It wouldn’t be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.
Law professor Eugene Volokh noted at the time that it would be clearly unconstitutional to imprison someone for merely attending a speech promoting the overthrow of the government. And civil liberties expert Glenn Greenwald pointed out that not only do people have a right to attend such a speech, but they have a right to actually give such a speech. Such a constitutionally-protected right was validated by the U.S. Supreme Court in its Brandenburg v. Ohio decision.
This is not an academic question. The right at stake here is absolutely vital. It is crucial to protect and preserve the right to argue that a government has become so tyrannical or dangerous that violence is justified against it. That, after all, was the argument on which the American Founding was based; it is pure political speech; and criminalizing the expression of that idea poses a grave danger to free speech generally and the specific ability to organize against abusive governments. To allow the government to punish citizens — let alone to kill them — because their political advocacy is threatening to the government is infinitely more dangerous than whatever ideas are being targeted for punishment, even if that idea is violent jihad.
However, as an aside, the American Founders did not promote “overthrowing” their British rulers. More accurately, they really promoted separating themselves — seceding — from the British, albeit violently, if necessary, in order to gain their independence and achieve self-governance (such as it was to become).
And here is what Rand Paul said about Bradley Manning (now known as Chelsea Manning), who released thousands of documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, and Edward Snowden, who revealed many NSA crimes to the public in 2013, as reported by EPJ:
“There do have to be laws to protect some secrets. I think if you’ve got the, you know, the plans on how to make a nuclear bomb that is a state secret. If you give that to the enemy, that is being treasonous,” said Rand, “Even if you reveal it, you just have to have laws against that. What Manning did was just willy-nilly, just released millions of pages of things and I think some people have said there is potentially some harm from that. You know individual agents that could have been killed or put at risk from this. So there is a problem with that. So I just can’t support that.”
If you are doing something for a political purpose; you know, in fact, in some ways the Snowden case is a little bit different,” said Paul, “But even with the Snowden case, I still think you have to have laws against what he did. So he did break the law.”
“Treasonous”! Sorry, it is those U.S. government bureaucrats and military personnel whose crimes have been exposed who are the treasonous ones, and who “broke the law”! For instance, here are the Afghanistan War logs, Iraq War logs, and the revelation of U.S. government diplomats spying on foreign diplomats and UN members, as revealed heroically by Manning. And here is the U.K. Guardian‘s dissection of the NSA’s treasonous crimes against their fellow Americans, as revealed by Edward Snowden. No detail too small for the criminal NSA, as detailed by the Guardian. And, regarding Manning, WikiLeaks and Snowden, I have pointed out here and here how We the People have a right to know about the crimes and corruption of our government bureaucrats.
Here is Rand’s father, Ron Paul, on Bradley Manning:
And here is Ron Paul on Edward Snowden:
And an important part of civil liberties, in my view, is freedom of speech and freedom of the Press, which is another area that Rand Paul does not seem to understand. His rude responses in recent interviews with Kelly Evans and Savannah Guthrie show that he is a politician who doesn’t like being asked questions to clarify his point of view or previous statements. And Rand’s allegedly attempting to get Abby Martin arrested or fired from RT, is cause for alarm, in my view.
When it comes to politicians who are seeking power and legal authority over our lives, it is the job of the Press to investigate and get answers to the who, what, where, when and why. And yes, there are times that some mainstream reporters and Internet-based journalists and bloggers can badger a government official or candidate for answers. And in most campaigns some of a candidate’s opponents’ campaign ads can also get testy and downright insulting, which ought to be protected in a free society. But all this is just what politicians have to deal with in a free society.
I hope that Rand Paul doesn’t agree with Dianne Feinstein regarding her anti-First Amendment media shield bill, her wanting the government to have the authority to determine who is or is not a legitimate journalist. As I wrote previously, anyone who wants to be a member of “the Press” has a right to do so. No “credentials,” no licensure or fee, no government approval! To know the truth, we truly need separation of the Press and State.
And more recently Rand Paul’s lawyers issued a legal cease order to TV stations to stop airing “defamatory” attack ads from political opponents. So it seems the younger Dr. Paul really is thin-skinned and doesn’t like being criticized. Contrast with the elder Dr. Paul’s Presidential campaigns, and the daily nonsense that was thrown at him by the media and by his opponents. Ron Paul certainly didn’t try to shut them up, that’s for sure.
On other issues, besides issues of war, national security and civil liberties, there are some areas of economy and government bureaucracy in which Rand Paul is not the “limited government” promoter he claims to be.
On the TSA, as Becky Akers pointed out, in 2012 Rand Paul came up with a bill to “privatize” the TSA, but the airport porno-scanners, gate-rapers and child molesters would still be under the control of the feds and the DHS. His father, however, Ron Paul would get rid of the TSA (and the DHS) completely and let each airport control its own security matters.
On the NSA, Rand Paul said, “I’m not against the NSA, I’m not against spying, I’m not against looking at phone records . . . I just want you to go to a judge, have an individual’s name and [get] a warrant. That’s what the Fourth Amendment says.”
Ron Paul, however, says, “Get rid of the NSA.” Period. (And the CIA, too!) That actually is the true libertarian view, whereas attempting to reform all these criminal agencies which can’t be reformed is how statists think. Perhaps he is more like Gary Johnson, “libertarian lite,” or just a plain old statist, who knows? Well, if Rand doesn’t win the GOP nomination for President, perhaps he can run on the Libertarian Party ticket.
So the statists want to keep the government as it is currently structured, but make reforms and rearrange the deck chairs. The elder Dr. Paul, however, had promised to repeal unconstitutional and immoral laws and dismantle the Leviathan apparatus, nearly root and branch.
Anyway, on to taxes. According to Robert Wenzel, Rand Paul wants to have a “fair tax.” And Rand told Erin Burnett of CNN that his tax “reforms” would close all loopholes and it would be “absolutely” okay if his reforms called for some people’s taxes to go up!
Meanwhile, Rand’s father Ron Paul says to “repeal the income tax and shutter the doors of the IRS once and for all.” Channelling his inner Rothbard, Dr. Paul recognizes taxation for what it is: Theft. And it’s theft because it’s involuntary and not a transaction based on voluntary contracts.
Regarding drugs, one thing that Ron Paul promised to do in his campaigns for President was to free all those in the prisons and jails for non-violent “offenses,” mainly drug-related, as well as legalizing all drugs. The elder Dr. Paul advocates not just self-ownership and each individual’s right to consume what one chooses, but also personal responsibility with those choices.
With the younger Dr. Paul, 15 years ago Rand had stated that he’ll “do everything to end the war on drugs,” but in more recent years has been pandering to the social conservatives, the evangelical wing of the GOP. Most recently he has sponsored legislation in the Senate, the CARERS Act, which would let the states legalize medical marijuana. But what about all the laws which criminalize non-medical marijuana?
According to DrugPolicy.org, the Act would also reschedule marijuana to Schedule II. “Schedule II”? But why are there any “schedules” for any drugs? And, as Laurence Vance has pointed out, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t authorize the federal government to get involved with drugs, period.
Now, if Rand Paul agrees with his father that it’s none of the government’s business what drugs people might be using, and that NO ONE should be in jail or harassed by police for it, then he should just say so publicly, and let the chips fall where they may.
This is one thing I really don’t like about politicians, they are so afraid of losing one damn vote that they can’t say what they really believe. And you can’t say that Ron Paul the elder Dr. Paul lost many votes because of his anti-drug-war position, because during the 2012 campaign he was winning head-to-head matchups against Barack Obama, in a Rasmussen Poll, a CBS News Poll, and an NBC News/Marist Poll as well. (Too bad Romney had to take the nomination away from the elder Dr. Paul! Why oh why must conservatives and Republicans always shoot themselves in the foot?! Doh!)
So it seems to me that while many libertarians’ instinct is with liberty as our pre-existing right, Rand Paul’s is with the State and the power it has over the people. How else can we explain his attempt to get Kentucky law changed to run for both Senate reelection and President at the same time, and when that failed, getting the Kentucky GOP to change the primary to a caucus as a way to get around the law?
So to me it appears that Rand Paul has alienated many non-interventionists, antiwar libertarians and conservatives, and civil liberties advocates as well. I really don’t think he has much of a chance at winning the Republican Presidential nomination.