Ron Paul’s ‘Principles’

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Alex Knapp

Alex Knapp writes about pretty much everything under the sun, including politics, art, religion, philosophy, sports, music, culture, and science.

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  1. Avatar Keith Beacham
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    says:

    I am in no way a Ron Paul fan, but you twice accused Paul of pork barrel politicking.

    “grabbing all the pork he can”     ” he’s really, really good at making sure that lots and lots of pork makes it into his district.”

    Can you cite evidence of this? If so he’s a bigger fraud than I initially thought.

     Report

    • Avatar Mike in reply to Keith Beacham
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      says:

      I had a long list of it in an earlier thread, I linked to the Opensecrets listings for Ron Paul’s pork-barrel earmark requests for the years 2010, 2009, and 2008.

      The “open secret” of how it works is this: Ron Paul will take a bill he knows is overwhelmingly going to pass – military spending, or something else that’s going to pass with 80% or greater support for whatever the primary bit is. He attaches his pork-barrel earmarks to these bills.

      Then he votes against the bills, knowing that he’s overwhelmingly in the minority. Best of both worlds: everybody else sends a bunch of pork to his district, and he gets to claim he “voted against” a bunch of bills with earmarks in them.Report

  2. Avatar Charles
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    says:

    The counterfactual by which you evaluate Paul’s legislative career is unfair. You make it sound as though there all kinds of potential coalition partners in Congress who would like to move policy in the same direction as Paul, but just not as far as he does. That’s just not true. The overwhelming majority of Congresspersons, on nearly all issues, want to move the status quo in the opposite direction from Paul. When that’s the case, there’s nothing to compromise over. Victories for Paul mean losses for the others, and vice versa.

    In order to see his ideas become reality, Paul first needs better peers in Congress, and the only way to get them is by changing minds out in the public and building a political movement around your ideas. That’s the really hard work of politics, not tactical skill in horsetrading. And Paul, by just about standard, has excelled at this (especially since 2008), largely owing to his refusal to compromise. That’s what people like about him, that’s why people give him money, that’s why more people are giving him a hearing than ever before, and that’s why (hopefully) he’ll someday have some legislative partners who actually share his goals.Report

    • Avatar Morzer in reply to Charles
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      says:

      Does it suggest anything to you, when you realize that Ron Paul has been a vanity candidate for president for 20 years now – and there’s no sign of a national appetite for more legislators like him?  Could it possibly be that the American people just don’t think cranky “libertarianism” is worth a second look?Report

      • Avatar Charles in reply to Morzer
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        says:

        So, in other words, your contribution to this conversation is “ESAD, libertarians.” Much appreciated. The sarcastic, patronizing tone, too.

        At any rate, whatever a “national appetite” is, the fundraising statistics and the national polls for Paul’s candidacy pretty clearly indicate that it’s headed in the right direction. And at this stage of the game, that’s the point.Report

    • Avatar Alex Knapp in reply to Charles
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      says:

      He’s been in politics in one way or another for 40 years. At some point, you have to do some work.Report

      • Avatar Charles in reply to Alex Knapp
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        says:

        Again, like what? I don’t understand this dismissive attitude, when you can’t seem to even provide an example of the sort of thing he ought to be doing. Name a way in which Ron Paul could have compromised with existing Congresspersons so as to move public policy in a more libertarian direction, but declined to do so, and then your critique will at least make some sense.Report

  3. Avatar Christopher Carr
    Ignored
    says:

    “Paul doesn’t do that. He introduces legislation that has no chance of passing and never makes it out of committee.”

    Like his Audit the Fed bill, co-sponsored with Barney Frank? I’d say that, more than anything else, is an example of the kind of legislation you’ll see a President Paul introduce. And it’s damn good legislation. The Fed should be transparent.

    Claiming that Paul is pandering to voters is something I just can’t take seriously. He has the most consistently ridiculous voting record in Congress. Why take those chances if you’re just pandering? The pork-barreling accusations are worth taking seriously, and here is an article that does so: http://freestudents.blogspot.com/2007/07/ron-pauls-personal-pork-projects.html, but criticizing Paul for participating in the normal way to get funding for projects in his district is kind of like criticizing libertarians who don’t believe the FDA should regulate food for buying food that’s regulated by the FDA.Report

    • Avatar Charles in reply to Christopher Carr
      Ignored
      says:

      “. . . criticizing Paul for participating in the normal way to get funding for projects in his district is kind of like criticizing libertarians who don’t believe the FDA should regulate food for buying food that’s regulated by the FDA.”

      I agree 100 percent with this statement, and it highlights a pretty nasty inconsistency by the original author. Playing the pork-barrel game in order to stay elected (when your replacement would do the exact same thing, and when the spending would just go to somebody else is you refused it) is somehow beyond the pale to Mr. Knapp, even though it’s just a concession to political reality. But in every other way, the willingness to make concessions to political reality (e.g. compromise your principles) apparently constitutes the highest virtue one can practice in public life.

      So, which is it? Should Paul stick to his principles, or not?Report

      • Avatar Alex Knapp in reply to Charles
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        says:

        Paul gets the pork so he can get re-elected and then does…. Nothing. The Audit the Fed bill is a rare exception in a career that’s done virtually nothing to make life better for the country.

        On a side note, I think pork generally gets a bad rap.Report

        • Avatar Charles in reply to Alex Knapp
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          says:

          “The Audit the Fed bill is a rare exception in a career that’s done virtually nothing to make life better for the country.”

          Name for me a single area of public policy that is presently ripe for legislation moving from the status quo to a more libertarian policy, if only Rep. Paul weren’t so stubbornly immune to compromise.

          There aren’t any — you’re not only shedding crocodile tears, you’re shedding crocodile tears over an impossible counterfactual. If Joe wants a more libertarian policy than the status quo, and Mike wants a less libertarian policy than the status quo, then there’s nothing for Joe and Mike to compromise over. It’s a zero-sum situation. Only when both people agree on the direction of the change to be pursued in the first place can compromise occur.

          The vast majority of Congresspersons don’t want to change things in the same direction that Paul does — and so, he gives speeches, and he raises money, and he builds an organization, which is what you have to do to get actual legislative partners with whom you can compromise.first change the composition of Congress, since any kind of progress towards his goals is impossible with the current one.Report

        • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Alex Knapp
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          says:

          “Paul gets the pork so he can get re-elected and then does…. Nothing”

          He apparently is quite successful at getting funding for projects in his district; i.e. representing his constituents. That he has generally failed to introduce bills to create national projects or special agencies that employ 500,000 people is evidence that he does not support the creation of such institutions or that he thinks the Federal government is beyond the pale. In fact, he votes against every such bill that crosses his desk, consistently.

          That all the other legislation he’s introduced is laughable reveals more about where the other 533 legislators want to take the country. Granted, withdrawing from the U.N. is an absurd idea, but you can’t say it’s unprincipled.Report

        • Avatar Koz in reply to Alex Knapp
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          says:

          “Paul gets the pork so he can get re-elected and then does…. Nothing.”

          It would be great if the Demos tried that. But when they get elected they do Stupid Lib Tricks instead.Report

    • Avatar Mike in reply to Christopher Carr
      Ignored
      says:

      Before I forget:

      This is pretty strong evidence that Ron Paul actually DID write those racist newsletters. Either that or his ghostwriters were up on the latest OB-GYN-centric medical journals.

      Supporting Bobby Fischer isn’t really a good way to show that you’re not a racist, either. The man was an anti-semite like few in the world have been since a guy named Adolf shot himself in the head on April 30, 1945.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Mike
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        says:

        Agreed. That’s pretty disturbing.Report

      • Avatar BradP in reply to Mike
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        says:

        This is a real turd of a post.

        1.  Nothing says pandering to liberals like extreme opposition to entitlement programs and housing subsidies.  Liberals love a man who will stand up and call taxing and spending on welfare a violent invasion of property rights and a moral wrong.  I mean, Paul Ryan pushes grannies off a cliff, but Ron Paul’s a fucking saint, man.

        2.  Ron Paul has been a big supporter of earmarking since he became a congressman as his constitutional reverence would dictate.  This just remains a “Gotcha” point among his detractors who tend to doze off when he explains why he does what he does.

        3.  Your “Politicians of principle”  point is so vapid and skewed towards “We gotta do something” big government, that I can’t fathom any libertarian ever being principled to you.  So let me explain something, in our current political climate, a principled libertarian is going to be grandstanding and voting “No” A LOT.

        4.  You don’t even mention his glaring abandonment of principle on an abortion ban.Report

  4. Avatar thom
    Ignored
    says:

    ”  A real man of principle, who wants to see the law make things better the way he sees it, rolls up his sleeves and gets to the hard work, with all of the frustrations and compromises that that entails. ”

    That’s really been working well for us. I bet NDAA took some “hard work” and “compromise” from some real “principled” politicians in order to get it passed, and I’m sure it will “make things better” for all of us.

    Ron Paul not principled? Ron Paul “pandering to liberals” in the 00’s and 10’s? The man has never changed his convictions, nor his message. People are starting to finally listen to what the man has to say–policies he’s supported for 30+ years. But I guess once people from both sides of the aisle (as if this old dogma of bipartisanship is anything more than semantic nonsense by now) start finally giving you your due, well I guess that’s considered “pandering.”

    I respect your opinion and acknowledge your clarity, but to say RP is unprincipled seems to be a desperate cry for some reader attention, ie, some page views/comments. And I guess it worked, at least for me!

    If Ron Paul has no principles, then what does that make the rest of us? Oh, and as for this “racism” nonsense that the media just loves to brood over for the sake of upholding their journalistic obligations (what a joke, talk about lacking principles): 

     Report

  5. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    Shhhhhhhhh!Report

  6. Avatar Tom
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m 50/50 on your first point, however I don’t think your second point makes any sense at all. It’s his consistency that has given him (and his ideas) credibility in the first place. Decades of sticking to his principles has him in first place in Iowa. All in all, I would say he’s played “the long game” extraordinarily well.Report

  7. Avatar Robert Cheeks
    Ignored
    says:

    I’ve read this critique, or something like it, in the past. Why then, I ask, do I think a Paul presidency would make a wonderful, a delightful change in governance in Washington City? Would he betray republican principles and continue Barry’s K-M, commie dem, policies? I don’t think so. I really do think a Paul Administration would be a refreshing change, though he’d alternatively drive the commie-dems and the conservatives nuts!Report

  8. Avatar Kolohe
    Ignored
    says:

    Say what you will about the tenants of the Bush/Obama administrations, at least they were principled.Report

  9. Avatar Ryan Bonneville
    Ignored
    says:

    If Paul were elected president, would he engage in wars of aggression? Would he seek more funding for the drug war?

    It seems to me that your argument is just confused about what the word “principled” means.Report

    • Avatar Alex Knapp in reply to Ryan Bonneville
      Ignored
      says:

      If Paul were elected President, would you trust his Justice Department to investigate allegations of discrimination against minorities by law enforcement?

      Would you trust his SEC to implement regulations to enforce securities laws and prevent fraud?

      Would you trust his Department of Homeland Security to treat illegal immigrants fairly?

      Would you trust his FDIC to perform its role in insuring banks?Report

      • Avatar Ryan Bonneville in reply to Alex Knapp
        Ignored
        says:

        Do any of those represent a lack of principle, or are they just symptoms of a set of principles you disagree with?Report

        • Avatar Charles in reply to Ryan Bonneville
          Ignored
          says:

          That’s the real issue here, and that’s why Mr. Knapp’s original post is nothing but one big case of crocodile tears. He wouldn’t like if Ron Paul had achieved things in line with his principles, but will criticize him for not doing it anyway.

          “The food here is awful — and such small portions!”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Alex Knapp
        Ignored
        says:

        Swap out “Paul” with “Obama”.

        Do your answers change?Report

        • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          Yes they do change.Report

          • Avatar dhex in reply to ThatPirateGuy
            Ignored
            says:

            If Paul were elected President, would you trust his Justice Department to investigate allegations of discrimination against minorities by law enforcement?

            yes. if nothing else, in service of picking at the corners of the drug war.

            Would you trust his SEC to implement regulations to enforce securities laws and prevent fraud?

            yes.

            Would you trust his Department of Homeland Security to treat illegal immigrants fairly?

            no. i figure the situation would either get worse or remain in its current shi.

            Would you trust his FDIC to perform its role in insuring banks?

            yes. dude is not some magical unicorn of hope und change.

            in the quite odd scenario of a paul win, we’d see a lot of wailing and gnashing but few – if any – up against the wall and defund ’em scenarios.Report

  10. Avatar Mark Thompson
    Ignored
    says:

    The better way of making this point would be to say “swap out ‘Paul’ with any of the other candidates for the GOP nomination currently polling over 5%.  Do your answers change?”

    I view Paul as more of a wild card on these specific questions than the other GOP candidates, if only because the set of “people with something approximating Paul’s worldview capable of getting confirmed to a major cabinet position” is essentially null.  For most of these positions, he’d have to nominate either a died in the wool liberal or a die-hard conservative.  It is not clear to me at this time which he would choose for which position.  I view this as a positive for him in my evaluation vis a vis the other GOP candidates.  I’m not certain it would necessarily be a positive in the general election.

    That said, it does seem worth pointing out that he’s publicly stated that he would want Dennis Kucinich to be part of any hypothetical Paul cabinet.Report

  11. Avatar BlaiseP
    Ignored
    says:

    One man’s pork is another man’s bacon.

    The “earmarking” process is a grotesque parody of a reasonable apportionment process, let’s all stipulate to that much of the argument.   Yet this apportionment is well within the purview of Congress:  if Congress doesn’t do it, the Executive branch will.

    For all my deep reservations about Ron Paul, here’s one instance where I’m not sure we’re criticizing him properly.   The earmarking process has been reformed substantially from the era of LBJ putting NASA in Houston and Robert Byrd putting the FBI in West Virginia.

    It seems we want government officials to do their job but when they do, we get angry at them for being pushy power-grabbers.   This is their job.   Don’t like it?   Who do you propose to run the apportionment process?   You won’t like them any better, dammit.Report

  12. Avatar Brian Houser
    Ignored
    says:

    Some things you find on the web aren’t worth the time to read them. People should learn to know when to stop reading. In this case, it jumps the shark at the fourth & fifth sentences:

    “And I can say that Ron Paul never does the hard, right thing. He always does the easy, opportunistic thing.”

    Immediately, you know it’s not worth your time. The author of the post obviously doesn’t know much about Ron Paul other than what he’s heard in the mainstream media smear campaign.

    Agree or disagree with Ron Paul, you cannot argue that he’s not principled. No one has as consistent a record as Paul at defending the principles of the Constitution and personal liberty.Report

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