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What’s Challenging About Paul?

[ 316 ] December 31, 2011 |

Apparently, a twitter storm has broken out about the post I don’t want to get into, but Greenwald’s latest has a couple things I wanted to respond to on the merits, so I thought I’d go ahead. On this:

As Matt Stoller argued in a genuinely brilliant essay on the history of progressivism and the Democratic Party which I cannot recommend highly enough: “the anger [Paul] inspires comes not from his positions, but from the tensions that modern American liberals bear within their own worldview.” Ron Paul’s candidacy is a mirror held up in front of the face of America’s Democratic Party and its progressive wing, and the image that is reflected is an ugly one; more to the point, it’s one they do not want to see because it so violently conflicts with their desired self-perception.

One thing missing from both Greenwald and Stoller are cites from people who find that Paul challenges their “desired self-perception.” Who, exactly, expects Obama or any Democratic president to be good on the drug war? I’m as strident a critic of Naderist “not a dime’s worth a difference” arguments as you can find anywhere, but I certainly agree that the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs really is one area where the differences between the national parties are trivial. On national security, the differences are less trivial (I don’t think that Al Gore or Obama would have invaded Iraq and I don’t think McCain would have wound it down), but certainly Obama has advanced any number of awful policies. Paul’s isolationism isn’t my ideal foreign policy orientation, either, but if you want to say that on balance it’s preferable I won’t argue with you. The thing is, I don’t know who disagrees with this. I don’t think I’m alone in not finding Paul to be an admirable political figure but is happy that he’s expressing positions on these issues, and I don’t think any civil libertarian is under the impression that Obama or any Democratic president is likely to share their values in an absolute as opposed to relative sense. Progressives are prone to idealizing past Democratic presidents — although I note that if anything especially with FDR this is rather more common among the harshest Obama critics — but not really current ones. And I don’t think it’s news that Paul expresses more agreeable positions in isolation than the other Republican candidates; I don’t know who disputes this.

My second puzzlement is why Greenwald thinks that for a conventional left-liberal Obama vs. Paul might be a tough choice. If you scroll to the italicized section — which does do a pretty good job of evaluating the real tradeoffs inherent in supporting Obama — there are two related problems. First, what Paul would like to accomplish is compared what Obama can accomplish under institutional constraints, and second the comparison is cherry-picked in a way that underplays the grotesque extremism of Paul’s economic agenda. Paul wants to return to a 19th century state, supplemented by a constitutional amendment that would make performing an abortion first degree murder in all 50 states. It’s true that this means an end to much of the bad stuff that the federal government does, but the modern welfare and regulatory state is an immense amount of babies to throw away with this bathwater. (And while it’s true that Paul wouldn’t succeed in eliminating the 20th century welfare state, it’s also true that “America’s minorities” would continue to be “imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason,” as there are severe limits to what the president could unilaterally do to end the drug war.) If you want to say that Obama/Paul is a clash between lesser and greater evils I don’t have any objection to that, but Paul is very much more evil, and it’s not close.

Anyway, Ron Paul will not be the Republican nominee and will not be president, so the question is whether his vision is an attractive one even compared to other political figures, and the answer is that obviously is an extremely unattractive one even if we leave his racist newsletters out of it. But I’m still glad he’s using his platform to make a case against the drug war and American imperialism.

UPDATE BY ROB:

I want to add a bit to this, focusing mainly on Tom Hilton’s post about the same subject:

Similarly, Paul’s positions on civil liberties issues aren’t actually about civil liberties as we understand them; they’re about his opposition to Federal authority. (An opposition that is somewhat conditional, it should be noted.) For example, in talking about the death penalty, he makes clear that he opposes it only at the Federal level. His opposition to the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, and domestic surveillance come from the same root as his opposition to the Civil Rights Act. He has no real objection to states violating the rights of their citizens; it’s only a problem if the Feds do it.

The assumption underlying this is that people are freer when states (as opposed to the Federal government) have more power. Now, it may seem obvious to some of us that the distinction between one arbitrary administrative unit and another isn’t exactly a human rights issue, but let’s just consider for a moment: does state or local control actually translate to more liberty?

It’s wrong to think of Ron Paul’s racism and his libertarianism as two distinct parts of his political persona, when in fact they are deeply tied together. White supremacists understand what Glenn, apparently, does not; the absence of Federal authority makes it easier for private actors and local governments to repress the civil and political rights of minorities. Paul’s libertarianism emerged in a regional and cultural context that was deeply hostile to Federal efforts at integration. The newsletters give strong indication that none of this is lost on Ron Paul. A notional President Paul is just as likely to use the powers of the office to gut Federal enforcement of a wide range of civil liberties protections as he is to do any of the things that Glenn would like him to do.

….Edroso with the shorter.

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  1. Christopher says:

    I like this site, but man… this is terrible.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that when people talk about Ron Paul, whether they like him or not, their analysis ignores congress and the courts when it supports them and invokes them as obstacles when it doesn’t.

    Why should we assume that amending the constitution to make abortion first degree murder would easier then ending the drug war?

    Or, if we aren’t assuming that, and he’s going to be severely hamstrung, notching our War on Terror and Drugs(tm) down a bit, and notching the welfare state down a bit too, why is it so obvious that this would be worse then the alternative? Abortion is a fine litmus test, but why isn’t, indefinite detention and assassination of Americans an equally fine litmus test? Aren’t you sort of begging the question there?

    Incidentally, why the counterfactual with Obama? We don’t know what he’d have done as President in 2003, but we know what he’s done now, which is start a war that sure looks illegal to this layman, and he’s awfully damn aggressive towards Iran, so I’m not sure what the fact that it seems to you like maybe he wouldn’t have supported Iraq is supposed to prove to Nader or anyone.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Why should we assume that amending the constitution to make abortion first degree murder would easier then ending the drug war?

      I’m not. I said that was Paul’s vision; I didn’t say he could do it. The problem, he also couldn’t do many of the things Greenwald assumes he could accomplish.

      • piny says:

        Why should we assume that, if Paul’s libertarian principles have a major forced-childbirth exception, that he wouldn’t simply use the current and highly successful anti-abortion strategy of making abortion impossible to obtain by inflicting the death of a thousand cuts on available women’s health services?

    • Abortion is a fine litmus test, but why isn’t, indefinite detention and assassination of Americans an equally fine litmus test?

      Perhaps because 1.2 million women have abortions each year in the United States, while zero (0) Americans have been indefinitely detained since Barack Obama came to office, and three (3) Americans have been killed in military strikes.

      Why is one of these more important than the other? Are you kidding me?

      • wiley says:

        Oh, come on, Joe— we’re talking about principles— thoughts that run through the mind unobstructed by thoughts of consequences, which aren’t just clean, unadulterated mind stuff, but something anecdotal and feminine. We’re talking mental algebra that goes if not a, then why not b. You know— purity. Which is pretty much what I get from Greenwald most of the time.

      • T. Paine says:

        And don’t forget that personhood amendments also make contraception (other than condoms or similar) illegal. So that’s another fifteen million (15,000,000) or so women who would be affected.

        So, yes to everything wiley wrote.

      • Christopher says:

        Oh, so Obama’s only assassinated 3 American citizens based on the results of a secret tribunal?

        You’re right, obviously if he’s only done it to three of us, there’s not much reason to be concerned.

        Am I fucking living in bizarro world here? How did “I don’t want my government to detain and murder people based on secret evidence” become a pie-in-the-sky “I want a pony” dream of a few radicals who will never be pleased and when did it stop being the fucking bedrock of our legal system?

        Jes’ to be clear, anybody who wants to ban abortion in this country is off my list of acceptable Presidents, but if you for some strange reason feel the need to support a major-party candidate, I think it’s far from obvious Paul is the greater evil.

        • I was wondering how long it would take somebody this stupid to write this reply.

          If you can’t handle a discussion of “what’s more important, A or B” without conflating “second place” with “not much reason to be concerned,” then kindly go chew you cud elsewhere.

        • On the upside, it took an entire 24 hours for this level of teh stoopid to manifest itself, which speaks well of this site.

          On half the sites on the ‘net, this would have been the first, second, third, and probably fourth reply.

    • 4jkb4ia says:

      But Paul has signed the pledge to only have anti-abortion people in his administration. I assume that applies to federal judges. This will have no effect on the Kagan haters but a very stark consequence of Ron Paul would be more Scalias–or Posners and Kozinskis only inasmuch as they oppose abortion.

  2. bob mcmanus says:

    What Chris said. You must reconcile your analysis here with your views of the Utterly Impotent and Ineffectual Presidency.

    However, President Paul would have, if I am correct, the absolute and incontestable power to deploy troops. IOW, not one single Army, Air Force, or Navy (intelligence, diplomatic) resource outside the US Borders as fast as he could get them home. Saving possibly a half trillion dollars in the 2nd year.

    But you would not like that either. Democrat who hates the war stuff. Supposedly.

    Could Pres Paul reschedule the drug classifications? I think he might be able, and after marijuana was effectively nationally legal and all Federal prisoners pardoned he wouldn’t need a very large bully pulpit.

    Etc. You need to do a better job than this.

    • bob mcmanus says:

      Oh, and some one who tries to scare us with “abortion 1st degree murder in all fifty states” has no standing anymore forever to argue about what is politically plausible in domestic policy and relations with Congress and state law again. Nice knowing you.

      • PTS says:

        You three all miss the point utterly. There are TWO distinct claims being made by Scott:

        1) If you compare what Paul would ACTUALLY accomplish against what Obama would ACTUALLY accomplish, then many of the benefits of a Paul candidacy disappear (no end to the drug war, no real end to ‘imperialism’ full stop, either)

        2) But if you want to compare Obama and Ron Paul in the ideal sense (where only their ideology matters), then you have to actually include all of Paul’s ideology.

        The pro-Paulites essentially mix up 1 and 2 as they see fit to make Ron Paul more acceptable. But if you actually consistent in what you let in to the calculus, Paul always stacks up much worse.

        The second point is that ideologically motivated executive indifference to reproductive freedom, income inequality, environmental regulations etc will have all sorts of negative consequences at the level of day to day policy.

        • bob mcmanus says:

          No the topic should be analyzed according to criterion used on this site for years:what is legally possible for President Paul to do by himself, what is politically possible and politically plausible for Pres Paul to do with institutional constraints, current and theoretical.

          If Ben Nelson had absolute and total veto power over every ACA provision, then what will Olympia Snow do with the bill to make abortion homicide.

          Greenwald is dead-on, although polite and kind. Farley and Lemieux would be calling for impeachment with the redeployment of the first Carrier group, sons of Empire they.

          Enough.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            Allow me to highlight this passage from the post, since some people seem not to have read it:

            And while it’s true that Paul wouldn’t succeed in eliminating the 20th century welfare state

            Obviously, Paul would be constrained in terms of pursuing his agenda. But this also applies to the good things, and Greenwald completely ignores this.

          • IOW, not one single Army, Air Force, or Navy (intelligence, diplomatic) resource outside the US Borders as fast as he could get them home. Saving possibly a half trillion dollars in the 2nd year.

            No the topic should be analyzed according to criterion used on this site for years:what is legally possible for President Paul to do by himself, what is politically possible and politically plausible for Pres Paul to do with institutional constraints, current and theoretical.

            Submitted without comment.

          • cleter says:

            What would Olympia Snow do with the bill to make abortion homicide? In a world where Ron Paul was president? She would do nothing, because she’d be afraid of being primaried out of office.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Oh, and some one who tries to scare us with “abortion 1st degree murder in all fifty states” has no standing anymore forever to argue about what is politically plausible in domestic policy and relations with Congress and state law again.

        If I had said that this would happen, you would be right. But I didn’t. It’s Greenwald who wants us to evaluate Paul on what he would like to accomplish. If you want to do that, you can’t just cherry-pick the stuff you like.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I think he might be able, and after marijuana was effectively nationally legal and all Federal prisoners pardoned he wouldn’t need a very large bully pulpit.

      Yes, but most drug prosecutions are state, not federal. The ability of state governments to abuse civil liberties would, as Rob notes, get worse under a Paul administration.

    • UserGoogol says:

      Ron Paul is inherently more advantaged by the system than Barack Obama, because the constitution favors inaction, and Ron Paul just wants to burn the Federal government to the ground. If you want to do something productive, you’ll have a bunch of roadblocks in your way, but if you just want to cause anarchy, all you have to do is sit back and refuse to do anything.

    • Warren Terra says:

      However, President Paul would have, if I am correct, the absolute and incontestable power to deploy troops. IOW, not one single Army, Air Force, or Navy (intelligence, diplomatic) resource outside the US Borders as fast as he could get them home. Saving possibly a half trillion dollars in the 2nd year.

      Anyone else notice what a fine job “if I am correct” is doing here? Really, it ought to be congratulated. Because – shockingly – Bob is flat wrong. He may recall that the senate voted, iirc, 98-to-nothing to prevent Obama from spending any money to move even a single military detainee the 90 miles from Cuba to Miami. Anyone who thinks the President will have an easier time in dissolving the entire overseas American military endeavor really needs to share their obviously industrial-grade intoxicants. Unless the commander-in-chief orders the troops to abandon all their equipment and personal possessions and hitchhike home, he can’t do any such thing on his own. It also might be a treaty violation.

      Look: it’s pretty obvious President Paul won’t happen – but if it somehow did, he would probably manage to get his party to back him on their shared interests (no rights for women, minorities, gays, or heathens, and especially their agreement that no rich person should ever pay any taxes), and all the principled stuff Greenwald claims to admire would be quickly forgotten.

      • Murc says:

        To be overly fair to Bob, you can make the case that a hypothetical President Paul could easily get around these hypothetical restraints Congress put on him. Congress is a big sluggish body that takes a lot of time to get even the simplest things done, and a hypothetical President Paul (and I feel scared just typing that) could do something like ordering all ships and troops stationed abroad to return to the continental U.S on his first day in office, and refusing to issue any orders to the contrary. Congress would have to scramble around finding ways to pass veto-proof bills to try and micromanage the military at one step removed, which Paul would challenge in court, setting off a protracted legal battle.

        And then he’d be impeached, and we’d all get on with our lives.

        • Fraud Guy says:

          Yes, apparently no one has heard of Andrew Johnson.

        • R Johnston says:

          The hypothetical President Paul who ordered the troops home on day one would be met by a not-at-all hypothetical Kim Jong Un who nuked Seoul, knowing that President Paul wouldn’t do dick about it.

          • Walt says:

            If there was an actual shooting war, South Korea would crush North Korea like a bug, with or without the help of the US. The collateral damage to South Korea would be immense, but the outcome would be as foreordained as imaginable.

          • Murc says:

            … you honestly think that the ONLY thing holding North Korea back from deploying nuclear weapons against the South is the US? The South Korean army, its relations with China, the presence of Japan, none of that signifies at all?

            • R Johnston says:

              Mostly I think that Ron Paul wouldn’t deploy troops outside the U.S. mainland in any situation whatsoever. I think that because he wouldn’t. The world could burn for all he cares. He’s an isolationist crank who’d actually see the world burning as a good thing.

      • cleter says:

        Let’s assume, for a moment, that Congress actually lets Ron Paul remove every American soldier from foreign countries. Where will they go? They aren’t going into disintegration chambers, are they? President Paul isn’t going to sell all their organs and then use the organ-harvesting money to pay down the deficit or buy Kruggerands, is he? The soldiers and sailors and airpersons are going to end up on bases in the US. This is not going to save any money, and in fact would end up costing more. Those “we’ll save half a trillion dollars by bringing the boys home” speculations are pure fantasy.

        First, it ain’t going to be cheap to move every soldier. Second, once they are on US bases, no US congressman is going to vote to get rid of them or shut down their bases. All you are doing by moving a bunch of guys from Ramstein to Ft. Hood is incurring the tremendous expense of moving them, and then the additional expense of expanding Ft. Hood to house them at the behest of the Texas congressional delegation. There’s not going to be any net savings. Third, what do we do with the bases overseas? Decommissioned military bases can be environmental nightmares. Is Germany going to clean Ramstein up? Or are they going to expect us to do it?

        • elm says:

          One positive benefit of putting them all in Ft. Hood rather than Ramstein: they will do all their shopping and dining in the U.S. rather than Germany. This will be a boon to the areas where the bases are located (and the expansion of bases would provide construction jobs, rather needed at the moment.)

          This is not to say that this is a good idea, just that there are benefits to it you’re leaving out!

          • cleter says:

            Right, but those benefits are the reason there would be no actual budget savings. The congressman for that district will fight tooth and nail to keep newer, bigger Ft Hood the way it is.

            • DocAmazing says:

              You would send our military personnel to a petroleum-soaked desert haunted by religious fanatics?

              There has to be an alternative to Texas.

            • elm says:

              Well, yes, anyone who thinks removing soldiers from overseas will yield much in the way of budget savings is wrong unless removing them from overseas means downsizing the military and not just shuffling the military from one area to another.

              But there are non-budgetary upside to the plan that in no way outweigh the downsides to the plan.

    • cleter says:

      bob mcmanus,
      The entire DoD budget is about a half a trillion dollars. Moving the pieces around on the RISK board is not going to save a value equal to the entire department budget.

      • Murc says:

        Wait, really? We only spend 500 billion a year on the entire military and all our foreign adventures?

        That seems low.

        • R Johnston says:

          If you exclude the debt burden of military adventurism, military pensions, the VA and medical care of current personnel, etc. then you can lie about the size of the military budget with numbers that are close to real but deliberately misleading rather than completely made up.

        • cleter says:

          Well, there’s a bunch of off-budget stuff, and the official number is low compared to actual expenditures. But my point was moving the troops around won’t save anywhere near half a trillion dollars.

  3. rea says:

    Paul isn’t even really a libertarian–he’s a Rushdoony-style Christian Reconstructionist. Any resemblence between his positions and libertarian positions–or sane positions, for that matter–is purely an example of the stopped clock principle

  4. LFS says:

    Good post. First point effectively articulates why I didn’t much care for Greenwald’s post.

    And while I’m skeptical that a Paul presidency would result in making abortion murder (although I do think that his administration would be shit for abortion rights), I’m not buying Prez Paul rescheduling drug classifications. That’ll happen over PhRMA & co.’s dead, broke body.

  5. T. Paine says:

    Wait, why are bob and Chris finding this difficult? “President” Paul wants to destroy the regulatory state, decimate the economy, and also make women second-class citizens. I’m not exactly sure why this is supposed to be more convincing than Obama’s admittedly terrible record on war and civil liberties. Moreover, given Paul’s willingness to compromise his alleged principles, I’m not sure why we should be assuming that women’s second-class status won’t be expanded to encompass everyone who isn’t a white male property owner.

    • bob mcmanus says:

      I am finding it difficult because you are not telling me, in plausible detail, how Pres Paul does those things, and what might happen after he tried and/or succeeded.

      This is the exact equivalent, if reversed, of “the Obama changes everything with his Green Lantern Ring” theory of politics.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        You are aware that the president is in charge of the executive branch, right? Do you think that having a president who thinks that the 20th century regulatory state is evil might affect who is appointed to regulatory agencies and how laws are enforced?

      • T. Paine says:

        No, I’m applying the same method you have, which is to simply assume away roadblocks to implementation for your favored policies. Except I’m doing it for unsavory things that Paul has advocated as well.

  6. John says:

    It’s true that this means an end to much of the bad stuff that the federal government does, but the modern welfare and regulatory state is an immense amount of bathwater to throw away with this.

    Surely the modern welfare and regulatory state is the baby?

  7. Bijan Parsia says:

    Let’s consider two sorts of candidate: Those we believe can win the nomination (and the election) and intend to do so and those we believe cannot and perhaps don’t intend to (call the former “serious” and the latter “nonserious”; these arent ideal labels but are ment to indicate whether they are serious about winning). In the nonserious camp, we can ignore those who are involved for book promotion, or other frivolous, reasons. Presumably, reasons for being a nonserious candidate including wanting to further a cause/change the conversation/move the overton window or to affect the outcome by draining support from one side (or some combination of the two, or improving the former via the threat of the latter). 

    So, you might support a nonserious candidate because you believe that their candidacy advances some cause or helps expand the conversation in ways you favor.

    Clearly, nonserious candidates have freedoms that serious candidates don’t, including advocating highly unpopular or strange positions. We can (partially) evaluate them both on whether those positions are good ones to have advocated as well as the candidates’ efficacy in their advocacy.

    Frankly, I don’t see Paul is all that great an advocate, precisely because of his noxious views and, as Rob’s update points out, the actual structure of many of his apparently non-noxious views. I don’t really want the idea of a saner foreign policy coupled to racism or goldbugism because I don’t think that that coupling promotes a saner foreign policy. I was happy to have folks like Sharpton or Kucinich (or more venerably, Jesse Jackson…whose attempts I think helped make it possible for Democrats to nominate and elect a black president, which is a tremendous accomplishment) in the primaries as non-serious candidates because, while they were much made mock of, they reasonably advocated views I shared and I don’t think they, themselves, were too damaging to those views.

    One point about Paul that I think makes him particularly unwise is the myth — or perhaps the reality — that he has a consistent world view and is admirably honest about pursuing them (i.e., the valor of a libertarian). I think his views are consistent with some first principles, but, as Tom points out, the principles are noxious.

    • Spud says:

      One point about Paul that I think makes him particularly unwise is the myth — or perhaps the reality — that he has a consistent world view and is admirably honest about pursuing them (i.e., the valor of a libertarian). I think his views are consistent with some first principles, but, as Tom points out, the principles are noxious.

      So essentially Paul is straightforward and consistent about his views, which would be admirable if not for the fact that the ideas themselves are abhorrent. He’s a dangerous jerk, but honest about it.

      Frankly, I have never considered his supporters to be overly intelligent, sane or honest. One would be voting for someone who essentially refuses to faithfully carry out the job he is running for. A vote for Paul is literally a vote for nothing.

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        “…a dangerous jerk, but honest about it.” does seem to sum up Paul or at least the Paul mythos.

        His reaction to the racism in his newsletters obvious casts considerable doubt on his honesty.

      • My experience with Ron Paul supporters…and none of them are particularly intelligent. I have pretty much given up on talking to them after the time two of them responded with visceral indignation when I pointed out that they were trying to elect a candidate to take away their federally guaranteed student aid. Because, of course, Ron Paul doesn’t really support ending federal programs that benefit THEM.

        • Eli Rabett says:

          Try this out, a lot of the worst articles were written by Boy Rand. That assumption explains a lot about how Ron and supporters are reacting.

        • elm says:

          I have found that any criticism of Paul is met with visceral indignation by his supporters. Even Palin supporters (the few I knew) seemed to accept that criticism of their candidate and their candidate’s positions were legitimate exercises (and even that their candidate had some flaws to criticize) but Paul supporters seem to think any criticism is beyond the pale.

      • Ken says:

        So essentially Paul is straightforward and consistent about his views, which would be admirable if not for the fact that the ideas themselves are abhorrent.

        In related news, Dexter has been renewed for a seventh, and likely final, season.

    • John says:

      I don’t really want the idea of a saner foreign policy coupled to racism or goldbugism because I don’t think that that coupling promotes a saner foreign policy.

      It seems to me that even this statement gives Paul way too much credit by summarizing his foreign policy views as “a saner foreign policy [than Obama].” Paul is an old school isolationist, in the America First/Pat Buchanan school. I don’t think that’s a sane foreign policy, and I don’t think that’s a saner foreign policy than Obama has pursued.

    • mpowell says:

      This is a great point, and I agree with it. This is the right framework to think about a candidate like Paul. It makes a lot more sense than debating which of Paul’s views he would be able to act on as President since a President Paul (or similar) would be sui generis in modern American politics. Even if you could figure out what would happen, how useful is it to predict what happens after the impossible happens?

  8. The civil libertarianism of people like Ron Paul and Glenn Greenwald Is more concerned with whether Osama bin Laden was given time to put his hands up than with actual, existing, widespread civil liberties transgressions in our society such as racial profiling, or Darryl Gates-style policing.

    • Murc says:

      That’s unfair, joe. To Greenwald, I mean, not to Paul. Greenwald is another in the parade of otherwise intelligent people with a baffling affection towards Ron Paul because he says a few things that are very rare in politics, but to imply that his concern for civil liberties runs only skin-deep is disingenuous at best.

      Greenwald tends to focus on abuses that happen at the highest federal level, this is true. That doesn’t somehow mean he cares less than, say, Radley Balko.

      • R Johnston says:

        If Greenwald really believes that Ron Paul has ideas that would reduce the incidence of the violation of civil liberties then Greenwald is an idiot. Ron Paul is clear as day about wanting to strangle the federal government to death so as to enable state and local governments to abuse civil liberties as much as possible.

        A focus on the federal level is no excuse at all for validating those who explicitly seek to empower state level violations of civil rights and liberties.

        • Murc says:

          Er… all of that is true, but I’m not sure what bearing it has on joe’s statement or my response to it.

          • R Johnston says:

            There’s nothing unfair to Greenwald about what Joe had to say. Greenwald’s civil libertarianism is either brain dead or non-existent if he holds up Paul as a role model.

            • R Johnston says:

              To clarify there’s nothing unfair about calling someone’s civil libertarianism non-existent when it’s merely brain dead and working against the cause of civil liberties. There’s a difference between being wrong and being unfair.

            • Murc says:

              I’m not sure that being taken in by Paul is such an immense error that it completely discredits everything else Greenwald does and calls into question his intellectual honesty, is what I’m saying.

              • Warren Terra says:

                Well, no, if you want to question Greenwald’s honesty there are all sorts of excellent reasons (I particularly liked the way he took money from Hamsher’s fake PAC through a shell corporation, while denying taking money from it), but being taken in by Paul makes him a fool or a fraud, not necessarily a liar.

                Of course, being a libertarian more generally tends to indicate one is a fool or a fraud, even when it doesn’t come accompanied by a willing blindness to Ron Paul’s manifold and magnitudinous faults, but there you are.

                • Murc says:

                  Well, if I completely disregarded people who were foolish (not necessarily total fools, just foolish) I’d have to ignore basically everyone.

                  Including myself.

                • I particularly liked the way he took money from Hamsher’s fake PAC through a shell corporation, while denying taking money from it

                  My favorite was the little tap-dance he did to hide the existence of the television in Bradley Manning’s cell, so he could claim that he was completely cut off from the outside world. “He’s locked in a cell for 23 hours a day, and in the one hour he’s allowed out, he has no access to a television.”

                  Not the most important issue in the world, sure, but it’s a rather blatant smoking gun, an unambiguous demonstration of awareness of guilt.

              • John says:

                I think everything else Greenwald does, and the very serious pre-existing questions about his intellectual honesty, call into question Ron Paul, if anything.

                The real question is why there is a parade of otherwise intelligent people with a baffling affection towards Glenn Greenwald.

                • Murc says:

                  Assuming I count as an otherwise intelligent person, my affection for Glenn is basically the same as the affection I have for Balko; I balance the fact that he occasionally goes way off the deep end with the fact that he does important work in an area (civil liberties) that is woefully underrepresented in our national discourse.

                  If he’d just learn to think before posting about politics (or just not write about politics near as much as he does) he’d be astoundingly more tolerable in general, I will agree.

                • Perhaps I don’t read enough Balko, but though I strongly disagree with his libertarian views on economics and domestic policy, I can at least respect the genesis of those views, given that I’ve always read them as Balko being extremely skeptical of state power *because of* abuses of Constitutional rights by law enforcement, the national security state, etc. I think it’s a little juvenile to not be able to separate the nature of those abuses from things like zoning laws and economic regulations/taxing to pay for public goods and services.

                  As for Greenwald, his fundamental view of politics is so totally ignorant I find it hard to take him as a credible source on much of anything. And his love of his own writing makes him completely insufferable to read.

                • The real question is why there is a parade of otherwise intelligent people with a baffling affection towards Glenn Greenwald.

                  Glenn Greenwald built up his reputation by criticizing George Bush.

                  He’s like one of those boxers who has a 9-0 record with seven knockouts against three fat guys, a sixteen-year-old, to guys in their late 40s, and someone’s sparring partner.

                  I find that a lot of the libertoid critics of Obama fit that category. Remember when Unqualified Offerings was an interesting blog?

                • John says:

                  In addition to what Brien and Joe have said, I guess my issue with Greenwald is that I don’t feel like I can trust him on any subject. He is just incredibly, and casually, dishonest. Every link that he posts which is not to an earlier post by himself (as a ridiculous percentage are), is almost guaranteed to include some minor or major distortion.

                  I don’t really read Balko, but my sense is that the issue with him is just that sometimes he has ridiculous substantive views. That’s fine. Have ridiculous substantive views on some subjects; I can just ignore that. Greenwald is dishonest, and I can’t trust him even on issues where I generally agree with his views. The rest of it (the unbelievable self-righteousness, the verbal diarrhea, the lack of any discernible sense of humor, the idiotic understanding of politics) is just icing on the cake.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Greenwald opposed the PATRIOT Act and other civil liberties horrors when many, many nominal liberals and respectable types were busy trimming and making excuses for the curtailment of civil liberties. We still have such people offering up the al-Awlaki family up as an acceptable sacrifice.

                  Greewald is a Libertarian, and has written many, many things with which I disagree, but give him his due: he told the truth when it was not easy or safe to do so.

                • John says:

                  When, exactly, did Greenwald oppose the Patriot Act? Not in 2001.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  You might want to check out his book, How Would a Patriot Act?. While it’s true that he was late to the game, there are a whole lot of people far more late , and some who haven’t even made it to the game yet, calling out Greenwald. Again, I don’t love the dude, but he was making the right noises when a great many people were (are!) still excusing the inexcusable (how ’bout that NDAA signing statement, ladies and gentlemen?)

                • John says:

                  You said,

                  Greenwald opposed the PATRIOT Act and other civil liberties horrors when many, many nominal liberals and respectable types were busy trimming and making excuses for the curtailment of civil liberties.

                  I don’t see how one can read that as anything but an implicit claim that Greenwald opposed the Patriot Act at the time of its enactment.

                • So Glenn Greenwald DIDN’T actually oppose the Patriot Act “when many (of those terrible people I won’t name)” were supporting it – when it counted, when there actually was widespread support for it.

                  Rather, he did so later, when there was virtually no liberal support for the bill. So, to hide that inconvenient fact, you duck behind some vague language, and hope nobody notices the difference between the Patriot Act and using force against al Qaeda operatives overseas.

                  Reminds me of the intellectual habits of a certain political pundit of declining reputation.

      • Murc,

        It isn’t the depth of Greenwald’s feelings that I’m talking about, but his priorities and understandings. I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that sees Greenwald as a fake; I think he’s a model True Believer.

        I’m saying, we can create a spectrum with “everyday experiences of people being bullied by the state” on one end and “ideology-based positions on formal scope and distribution of government powers on the other.” Ron Paul and Glenn Greenwald’s view of civil liberties are both extremely skewed towards the latter – though I’ll acknowledge, Paul is further out than Greenwald.

        • Murc says:

          Hmm. I suppose that’s fair enough, joe. I sort of feel like ideology and practicality don’t exist, or at least don’t need to exist, in that sort of baldly stated oppositional state, but I’m uncertain enough about that in my own mind to not want to argue the point.

          • mpowell says:

            Well, in apparently preferring Paul to Obama, I think Greenwald has made it clear that he would be willing to endorse a change in the ideological stance of the federal government at a real cost in the appreciable civil liberties of the average American.

            Part of being a liberal is valuing the actual content of the liberty we might enjoy. Sometimes it’s difficult to weigh whether an economic advantage of some sort is worth the cost a loss in civil liberties (for example), but in the exchange that Paul offers, it’s not difficult at all.

  9. c u n d gulag says:

    If anyone gives a “Hershey Squirt,” here’s what I wrote about Tom’s post on Steve M’s site.

    And if you don’t give a “Hershey Squirt” about what I wrote, I don’t blame you, and don’t read it, but here it is if you’re interested:

    “I read Glenn for years, but stopped shorty after Obama became President.

    Somewhere along the way after Obama was sworn in, he went off the reservation.

    I don’t know what he expected a Democratic President to do after the damage of the last 30 years, and that.
    It seems as if he, among other Liberals, wanted the first black President to be their ‘Knight in Shining Armor,” and change America back to something it never was. And any deviation from their own personal purity project, led them to want to throw the greater good out as if Obama was toilet tissue, which once soiled, wasn’t good for anything else but flushing.
    To have expected a Liberal Presidency, after 40+ years of anti-Liberal propaganda, and a nation steeped in dogmatic Conservative bullshit, was and is madness – especially from the first black one. If Obama wanted to make sure there would NEVER be another President of color, or possible even a woman, in that office, he would have followed the prescriptions of people like Glenn, and Jane Hamsher, and countless other people, who wanted him to be more dictatorial, like Little Boots had been. But they forget that Bush had not only an event that changed America forever to use to his advantage, but that after that he also had a compliant and complicit Congress and MSM, with many Democrats and media member cowered, or at least silenced, by an administration that fanned the flames of fear and hatred, and was ruthless in accusing anyone in opposition to them as traitors bent on treason.

    Well, Obama wasn’t and isn’t W, and he didn’t have a complicit and compliant Congress and MSM. And even with majorities in both Houses, he had to account for the uselessness, if not outright treachery, of Red Dog (’cause there ain’t nothin’ blue ’bout ‘em) Democrats like the departed Even Bayh, and departing Ben Nelson, in the Senate, and a House full of useless turds like Heath Shuler.
    And so, because Obama was insufficiently W-like in his use of power, and manipulation of the MSM (who, have been trained Pavlov’s dogs-style, to question Democrats and mistrust them, and follow the Conservative narrative taught them over 30 years, that said Democrats = Dope-smoking sex-fiend DFH’s; Republicans = Hard-working Heartland America), and couldn’t get them single-payer, something that would never have had a chance of passing Congress, and didn’t immediately empty Gitmo and try the suspects in legitimate courts of law, stateside, something the moral cowards in both parties in Congress specifically passed legislation to prevent, or whatever other pet project they had that Obama either didn’t, or couldn’t, politically support 100%, or realized he couldn’t get passed, and, instead of realizing that the alternative to Grover’s drowning government in a bathtub, really shouldn’t be to throw the baby out with the bathwater, they instead went right on ahead and threw Obama and whatever good he did and could do, out, and set up an opposition party within Obama’s own party. And not a ‘loyal’ opposition.

    Obama isn’t perfect. But he is far, far better than whatever McCain would have brought, and whoever from the right might get elected in 2012. And if you can’t see that, I’m sorry, but you are nuts!

    I’m starting to see that, just like Conservatives have their own 27% that they can count on, no matter what, the Democrats have their own percentage that they know they can’t count on, almost no matter what.
    Both those Conservative and Liberal camps are dogmatic, and do not accept compromise. Theirs is a Manichean world of black and white and right and wrong. And I’m sorry, but Greenwald and Hamsher fall into that part of the myopic left. And, if you find more Liberalism in parts of Paul than in the whole of Obama, you aren’t myopic, you’re blind!

    Ok, I’ve yapped on long enough – that’s enough from me.

    Cue the Obamabot responses.”

    I do want to take a second and wish the whole gang at LG&M, even the trolling cockroaches, ‘A Very Happy New Year!!!’

    • wiley says:

      I give FIVE Hersheys squi— that doesn’t sound right.

      DITTO.

    • “I read Glenn for years, but stopped shorty after Obama became President.

      Somewhere along the way after Obama was sworn in, he went off the reservation.

      There was no reservation to begin with. Greenwald made a tactical decision as a blogger and as a writer–it is much harder to play defense than play offense.

      When President Obama was choosing his cabinet, it became clear that his administration was going to be dominated by a Rahm-inspired form of political expediency. We now know that a lot of the things that motivated progressives was going to get flushed down the toilet–specifically, a prosecution team for the Bush-era crimes and a focus on getting us out of a financial mess in a Krugman-friendly manner. That led to the loss of two good years, roughly, but a lot of other accomplishments. This country did not go down the rathole, although it seems like it.

      Greenwald decided that to be in opposition to a sitting President is a great move for a blogger–one never has to worry about material. Look at how much fun he’s had as opposed to the bloggers who have had to defend the Obama administration. He has made bank on blasting away while others have seen their enterprises dwindle away. Want to inspire someone’s derision? Start a liberal-aligned blog and say nice things about President Obama.

      I’m sorry but his decision had nothing to do with principle. It was a business move, plain and simple. Each and every President of the United States of America, beginning with the very first one, and excepting maybe one or two who died in office, could be described as either tyrants or steadfast defenders of the Constitution, depending on whether or not the person describing them either voted for them or against them. There is, as the man said, nothing new under the sun.

  10. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    This seems a little odd to me:

    Anyway, Ron Paul will not be the Republican nominee and will not be president, so the question is whether his vision is an attractive one even compared to other political figures, and the answer is that obviously is an extremely unattractive one even if we leave his racist newsletters out of it. But I’m still glad he’s using his platform to make a case against the drug war and American imperialism.

    Granting for the sake of argument your overall view of Paul (with which I largely agree), how helpful is it for such a figure to be virtually the only national political figure (certainly the only major-party presidential candidate this year) to speak out against the drug war and American imperialism? Doesn’t Paul’s advocacy of these positions make it all the easier for those on the “left” who’ve made their peace with the drug war and imperialism as part of the price of “pragmatism” to dismiss–implicitly or explicitly–Paul’s positions on these issues?

    Doesn’t calling for those on the left to treat Ron Paul as a total political pariah for his racism and economic views (not, in and of itself, an entirely unreasonable view) tend to vitiate whatever good might come from his using his platform to make a case against the drug war and American imperialism?

    • Matt says:

      Not really. I view Paul as equivalent to a person who crusades against childhood sexual abuse – and then, when pressed, their underlying reasoning is “only relatives should get to have sex with kids”.

      Right idea, horrifically fucked-up principle.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        The difference is that public figures who crusade against child sexual abuse are a dime a dozen in contemporary America.

        Public figures–especially public figures who are associated with one or the other of the major parties–who crusade against imperialism and the drug war are exceedingly rare.

        • gmack says:

          So is your position something like this: Folks on the left might want to celebrate (aspects of) Paul’s positions on civil liberties/anti-imperialism, if only for pragmatic/political reasons? I could get on board with this, perhaps, but it’s worth thinking about the costs that come with his particular approach (e.g., the sorts of things Rob raises in his update: the principles that lead Paul to reject the drug war can also lead him to support more local forms of oppression).

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            Actually, what you describe as _my_ position is what I see Scott saying in the passage I quoted. I think that position is problematic, especially given Scott’s position on how progressives ought to treat Paul otherwise.

            I’m not sure what I think progressives ought to do i/r/t Paul’s positions on these issues. It’s enormously valuable for the bipartisan orthodoxies on these issues to be questioned. And no serious Democratic presidential candidate has done so for at least three decades. But the fact that Paul is the messenger has the potential to instead reinforce the orthodoxy. And looking the other way at Paul’s racism and economic views is not a viable alternative.

            • R Johnston says:

              The fact that Paul is the messenger has no potential other than to reinforce the orthodoxy. Paul is a lunatic, and is obviously so to everyone. Some people will discount him entirely, some people who already agree with him will cite him as someone who agrees with them, and some people will note that he’s a lunatic supporting a particular position and will run the other way. The sum total of those possibilities is reinforcing the orthodoxy.

              • Sebastian Dangerfield says:

                Yup. All of which makes Greenwald’s prattling about the value of Paul’s voicing his objection to wars/detention policies, etc. particularly baffling. This could also be called the Pat Buchanan problem. That is, the fact that Pat Buchanan’s nutzoid isolationism occasionally leads him to conclusions I agree with (e.g., on whether we should militarily intervene in South Ossetia) does not mean that Buchanan has a salutary effect on foreign policy debates or that any thinking person should support a Buchanan candidacy for the highest office in the land.
                At the same time, and staying a bit from the point, there is a distinction to be made between supporting (or cheering from the sidelines) a Paul candidacy for president, on the one hand (completely unsupportable from a progressive perspective) and being not unhappy that he has a seat in the House, making it possible for progressives to make temporary alliances with him on issues. For example, Paul has a loony view (the Fed should be abolished) which leads him to support legislation requiring the Fed to be audited (a policy I support). I have no problem with that alliance of convenience on an issue. But that’s very different from suggesting that his loony-tunes show on the national stage has any kind of salutary effect on the treatment of issues as to which his lunacy manages to yield the same conclusion as my progressivism does.

                • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

                  All of which makes Greenwald’s prattling about the value of Paul’s voicing his objection to wars/detention policies, etc. particularly baffling.

                  What makes Greenwald’s view of Paul baffling?

                  It’s Scott, not Greenwald, who both sees Paul as terribly dangerous and yet also writes that he’s

                  still glad [Paul]’s using his platform to make a case against the drug war and American imperialism.

                  Greenwald doesn’t see Paul as so dangerous, so what’s “baffling” about the fact that he’s cheered by Paul’s endorsement of positions with which Greenwald agrees, but which are otherwise largely excluded from our national debate?

                  (Just to reiterate, I’m actually largely in agreement with Scott about Paul’s politics.)

                • Sebastian Dangerfield says:

                  @Incontinentia, I’m not saying that Greenwald is saying that Paul is dangerous. What I’m saying is that it is baffling that Greenwald seeems to think that it is beneficial for those of use who oppose US military adventurism and drug policies for Paul to be advocating against those policies even though it seems quite clear that Paul’s advocacy will do nothing to ameliorate the marginalization of those views and will in fact enhance that marginalization.

    • I do believe that the leader of the House Democratic caucus was a pretty strident opponent of the Iraq war back in 2002 and has been pretty liberal on security/drug war positions.

      Paul gets attention on these scores because he’s a bit of a spotted elephant in that regard, at least on the surface.

  11. Colin Day says:

    I would expand on Mr. Greenwald’s thesis by saying that during elections we not only focus too much on parties, we focus too much on candidates as opposed to policies. To be able to discuss the Opaque State in such a context requires having a candidate who is willing to question its legitimacy. While I might prefer someone beside Ron Paul doing this, it’s difficult to get Democrats to primary the President, and most Republicans oppose Paul’s views.

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      Ok, so do you think Paul’s championing some good views outweighs his championing of noxious views in this context? Does the fact that his good views seem to stem from his noxious views change anything?

      If we focus on Paul’s policies in toto — and in abstraction from whether they are pragmatically possible — then don’t we have to add in abortion being legally murder, etc. etc.?

      • R Johnston says:

        Does the fact that his good views seem to stem from his noxious views change anything?

        Of course it changes things. I don’t know why some people have so much difficulty with this.

        Wanting to limit federal abuse of civil rights and liberties because abusing rights and liberties is the job of the states is not admirable and is a view that if held by a President could only lead to horrible policy decisions far worse than even the decisions of those who support the security state. Similarly, wanting to end imperial adventurism because you want a more generally powerless federal government and because you’re a xenophobic crackpot who wants America to hunker down and watch the rest of the world burn is not admirable and is a view that if held by a President could only lead to horrible policy decisions far worse than even the decisions of the most rabid war hawk.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          (I, of course, agree that it changes things. I also am puzzled why the grounds of the view, esp. when “consistency” is such an important part of the schtick, seem to matter little to many people. I mean, I don’t think that Hilter’s being a vegetarianism is a problem for being vegetarian, but I also don’t see it as a reason to support Hilter!)

          • R Johnston says:

            I got that you agree that it changes things. Sorry if I wasn’t clear about that in my response.

            As for the Hitler/vegetarian thing, I agree, and it makes a nice contrast to the Paul/drug war/neoimperialism matters. Sometimes a crazy person holds an innocuous viewpoint for innocuous reasons. Sometimes he holds an ordinarily innocuous or beneficent viewpoint for crazy reasons that actually make the viewpoint quite dangerous. Either way, when you cite an obviously crazy person as a leading holder of a position you’re arguing against that position, not for it. Your argument may not be particularly strong, and it may even be laughably bad, but it’s definitely an argument in opposition.

            An anti-war activist citing Ron Paul as a leading anti-war voice is hurting the cause and acting contrary to his own interests. Anti-war activists should be hoping against hope for Ron Paul to shut the hell up.

      • Colin Day says:

        Why do we have to link nonintervention, opposition to due-process-free assassination, and other criticisms of police-state legislation to Paul in the first place? Can’t we just examine those policies without regard to any particular candidate(s)?

        Granted, without Paul’s campaign we might not have paid as much attention to these issues as we otherwise would have. Also, having more candidates take similar positions would make it easier to separate the positions from the candidates.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          I’m very happy not to link them to Paul…but then you aren’t defending, afaict, Greenwald.

          We can’t be happy about Paul because of his views and then decouple his views from him or his actual views.

          Finally, is there any evidence that Paul is having a positive effect on these issues? No other Republican candidate has moved even an iota in his direction on the good bits. I can’t really see Obama saying, “Oh no! Paul, the candidate I’m never in this lifetime going to face in an election, is flanking me from the antiwar side! I guess I should denounce my predator drone policy!”

          All that’s left is his noxiousness and clownshowatude.

          So, let’s talk about how to pull back executive power, by all means. But, uhm, with an eye to actually accomplishing something and preferably without lionizing a racist jerk.

          (Or do what you like, but don’t be surprised if people don’t follow you there.)

          • 4jkb4ia says:

            I am essentially writing this because I posted it on ABL’s site and it had far more to do with ABL’s post. If Ron Paul can get enough delegates to be a force at the convention, then the other candidates will have to pay attention to him. Ron Paul can show that there are people who are willing to vote in a Republican primary/caucus who are sick of all the other candidates trying to out-brutalize each other. At least here, Ron Paul can have a good effect, because it is not as if every other Republican candidate does not have at least one completely noxious view.

            • Warren Terra says:

              Ron Paul cannot; no-one can. Republican contests are winner-take all at the congressional district level until April, when they’re winner-take-all at the state level. Under the apportionment rules the Democrats used in 2008 a weak and divided field could have garnered a hung convention, but the Republican rules are going to make sure minority candidates don’t get any delegates. Delegates aren’t likely to be split among more than one or two candidates in any significant numbers.

            • Bijan Parsia says:

              For the sake of argument, let me grant that it is possible for Paul to get enough delegates to “be a force at the convention”. Heck, let me grant that he can be “a force” even with no delegates.

              What makes you think that he’ll be a force for less noxiousness rather than more?

              What’s more likely, that other Republicans will suddenly become less interested in a big military and exciting foreign wars or that other Republicans will find gold bugness and antifedness lots of fun!

              Why should we read “voting for Paul” as “voting for civil liberties” rather than “voting for Jim Crow”?

              (Seriously, if you had some polling data that indicated that Paul was representing a strong antiwar group of Republican primary voters, you could start to make a case. I’m pretty skeptical that there is such polling data.)

              May I say that this seems, on the most charitable reading, to be delusional.

              • 4jkb4ia says:

                What Paul will give up of his worldview at the convention depends on what he himself thinks is most important. Having not read his book, I can’t say what that is. His book is probably a better indicator than his speeches now which may downplay some things for electability purposes.

                Anyone who wants to choose goldbugism and antiFedism has to swallow hard. They have to be willing to give up a lot of money from people who are used to the economy the way it is and have it to give–and at least on Wall Street, Obama really hurt their feelings. They have to think that maybe this is an opening for Michael Bloomberg or some such person.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  Sorry, I don’t understand your reply.

                  I’ll use Kevin Drum‘s version because he did a really nice job. Paul is a kook. Republican’s who support Paul are as likely to be supporting him for the extreme kookiness of his reasons as not. More likely, really. The value of allying with standard US libertarians in a general way over blacks and women as a way of promoting progressive politics seems negative to an extreme. (Allying with them tactically is more than fine, assuming that the game there was worth the candle.)

                  Paul himself, if pushed to the limelight, might well double down on goldbugism than ending foreign wars. (Cf his squishiness there.)

              • 4jkb4ia says:

                Sorry for taking so long to get back. I didn’t even turn on the computer yesterday–and I forgot it was the 10th anniversary of Balloon Juice until it was too late.

                • 4jkb4ia says:

                  I had Elaine Stritch, “I’m Still Here”, ready to go. Thought it was perfect. So many of the people John used to link to have just retired.

                • 4jkb4ia says:

                  And Scott–if I rant and rave about John Cole on this site, ever, ever again, shoot me or call me a fucking troll. I’m done with this mishegass. I’m walking away.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  No worries. You might want to move over to the latest Paul Post, as this one is getting stale.

        • John says:

          We vote for candidates, not policies.

          • Colin Day says:

            Do we vote for candidates because they favor certain policies, or do we favor those policies because certain candidates support them? Or is it a mix of the two?

  12. Pinko Punko says:

    I think Scott is pretty consistent on defending Obama where the critics ask him to magic away the current political environment, where Erik is pretty consistent in hammering Obama for choices on things Obama can control (like environmental policy etc.) so this site is relatively consistent on Obama. I do think that Greenwald does hammer Obama a lot on things that he Obama has a choice on, but he does it in such a Tacitean way, where Obama is Tiberius, and he walks down the street in total moral perversion. And of course Ron Paul cannot be discussed at all the way Greenwald discusses him, especially on civil rights.

  13. brad says:

    The solution to all this is clear; vote Nader in 2000. That’ll show em.

  14. bob mcmanus says:

    Katrina van den Heuvel comes out today against preemptive wars. Wow, radical lefty.

    Look the more important message is the one Matt Stoller sends:the Democratic Party made a deal around the Woodrow Wilson administration to fully submit to Empire:War, Military Industrial Establishment, Finance Capitalism, etc.
    Don’t even ever try to pretend otherwise. Dead babies and banksters will never be a dealbreaker for liberals, in fact dead babies and banksters are the flip side of modernist liberalism. Social progress for Empire:this is your deal. Kid yourselves, but don’t try to kid me.

    This is the real point of the rejection of Ron Paul, and the terms on which the rejection is expressed.

    • bob mcmanus says:

      Oh, I should probably said “bombed babies” to make sure there were no choice connotions.

      And the last sentence may be unclear. Democrats will attack Ron Paul on social issues because they don’t want to talk about Empire.

      Not that I know why it matters. Democrats have been lying and bullshitting about opposing Empire for my entire life.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        Or Democrats will attack Paul on social issues because he is a horrible human being who doesn’t care if people die. One or the other.

      • What is this “empire” that liberals support, exactly? As far as I can tell, liberalism has been pretty consistent in opposing wars that don’t really defend anyone in the post World War II period, and have been somewhat split on the question of wars for the defense of others. But of course there’s a rather large difference between a preventive/imperialistic war like Iraq and a war to defend an ally like Korea, and even if you oppose both actions equally you must still acknowledge the difference.

        Now if by “empire” you mean that liberals generally want the U.S. to be an active player in global affairs and use our considerable wealth to the benefit of the world at large then, yes, that’s true, but it’s a mighty strange definition of empire.

        • Murc says:

          Now if by “empire” you mean that liberals generally want the U.S. to be an active player in global affairs and use our considerable wealth to the benefit of the world at large then, yes, that’s true, but it’s a mighty strange definition of empire.

          Actually, that would not have been considered a strange definition of Empire to a British person in the late 19th/early 20th century. See Kipling, Rudyard.

          • Well there would be a rather large difference in the approach and views of others between Kipling and your median modern American liberal.

          • John says:

            There’s a step missing here. Rudyard Kipling supported empire because he thought it was good for the world. But he supported empire – meaning the whole complex of direct colonial rule. You can perhaps argue that American global hegemony is morally equivalent to the old imperialism (and many have done so ably), but you have to actually argue that – you can’t simply elide the distinction and assume that any effort designed to “be an active player in global affairs and use our considerable wealth to the benefit of the world at large” is morally indistinguishable from the old British Empire.

            • Murc says:

              I… don’t think I did that?

              Brien laid out a definition of empire that he said sounded strange. I pointed out that, definitionally speaking, it wasn’t strange at all.

              • I think you kind of did, but perhaps didn’t mean to. That’s probably my fault for not clearly differentiating the modern notion of liberal internationalism from the venture of imperial colonialism.

              • John says:

                I guess you didn’t say that a liberal interventionist American foreign policy was morally equivalent to the British Empire. I probably shouldn’t have put it that way.

                But I do think you’re wrong to say that Brien’s proposed definition of empire is one that Kipling, et al, would recognize. That’s not how Kipling defined empire. Kipling certainly thought empire was morally good and benefited the people who were being ruled. But “using British influence to benefit the people of the world” was not his definition of empire. His definition of empire was the way that Britain would do this – through direct colonial control.

        • Hogan says:

          Let’s say that in a post-WWII international order, with no more colonies lying around for the taking, “empire” means the entitlement to unilaterally ignore other countries’ sovereignty. Both liberals and conservatives in the US have recognized and exercised that entitlement.

          • Let’s say that in a post-WWII international order, with no more colonies lying around for the taking, “empire” means the entitlement to unilaterally ignore other countries’ sovereignty.

            That’s not actually what “empire” means. It’s not even close, actually. It’s using the word “empire” to mean “whatever I see today that I don’t like.”

          • In what sense have liberals embraced the notion of ignoring other nations’ sovereignty?

            • I can answer this one: humanitarian interventions backed by international bodies.

              Since the end of World War Two and the exposure of the horrors of the Holocaust, most liberals have modified their opinions about sovereignty to allow for interventions like those in Kosovo and Libya, or the ones that never happened in Rwanda and Darfur.

              • Hogan says:

                One of us doesn’t know what “unilateral” means, and I don’t think it’s me.

                The Iran and Guatemala interventions didn’t seem to get much liberal objection. Indochina. Cuba, Guyana, Indonesia. Are the drone strikes and special forces operations in Pakistan not violations of Pakistani sovereignty, or are they somehow multilateral?

                • One of us doesn’t know what “unilateral” means, and I don’t think it’s me.

                  One of us can read Brien Jackson’s comment, and it’s not you. The comment I replied to contains neither the word nor the concept unilateral.

                  Reading is fundamental.

                  The Iran and Guatemala interventions didn’t seem to get much liberal objection. Indochina. Cuba, Guyana, Indonesia.

                  Is this a joke? Have you ever met a liberal and discussed history? Because you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find any liberals who don’t object to the 50s-era coups, the Vietnam War, the incursions into Cambodia, the Bay of Pigs, or the other Cold War-era episodes you described.

                  Are the drone strikes and special forces operations in Pakistan not violations of Pakistani sovereignty, or are they somehow multilateral?

                  You mean the air strikes that are primarily launched from Pakistani bases? Or the raids that many liberals oppose, as part of the war that many liberals oppose?

                  All of those examples, and you haven’t managed to come up with one good one. Perhaps that indicates something.

              • Hogan says:

                Oh, and may I just say how much I sppreciate you answering questions on my behalf. If you could cut it the fuck out, I’d be even more grateful. Ta!

        • DocAmazing says:

          But of course there’s a rather large difference between a preventive/imperialistic war like Iraq and a war to defend an ally like Korea, and even if you oppose both actions equally you must still acknowledge the difference.

          Right, and there’s also a difference between those and funneling money to terrorists undermining a government we don’t like (Nicaragua in the ’80s, Afghanistan at the same time), training and supporting various kinds of secret police (Greece, the Philippines, El Salvador, et al.) and simply economically blackmailing small countries (via the World Band and the IMF).

          Okay, so the US is not an empire in the British mold. You don’t like that word. Give us another that describes a hegemon with a gigantic military and intelligence presence abroad and the economic clout to impose its will on foreign governments.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Ok, Bob, we get it. You sincerely believe Paul when he claims that he wants to stop killing foreigners, and you apparently don’t believe him when he says that he wants to blithely watch uncounted Americans die for lack of healthcare, other social protections, education, environmental protection, etcetera. And you see no difference between Obama trying to handle the messes Bush made and Bush making them. That says just about everything we need to know about you.

  15. Erik Loomis says:

    I would think Greenwald would understand the relationship between an ineffectual federal government and Jim Crow and how Paul makes these connections. I guess not. I will write more about this tomorrow night when I am back at a regular computer.

    • Pinko Punko says:

      My Randroid friend likes to joke “I prefer discrimination be left to the private sector”

      • Murc says:

        He’s joking when he says that?

        A lot of Randroids like to say that unironically.

      • R Johnston says:

        Assuming your friend’s really a Randroid, your friend most likely isn’t joking.

        • LeeEsq says:

          I’m presuming that the word friend is being used ironically.

          • R Johnston says:

            That’s certainly a possible alternative. Irony and sarcasm are, however, extremely dead. They’re best avoided in pseudonymous loosely knit internet communities, and I long ago gave up trying to figure out when someone on a random widely trafficked internet forum is being sarcastic or ironic. It just isn’t worth the effort.

            • Pinko Punko says:

              He’s more of a cobag than all that- he recognizes it is both a good line and an extrapolation of his philosophy, I think the views it as unlikely to come about so he goes for the “yucks.” This is the essence of the 3 Bulls- the Randroid, the ‘Nut, the Pinko. Playing our parts, pretending to be the stereotypes we accuse each other of being in reality, with the reality being deep down we all believe the others to be actually the stereotype we grin and smile about.

    • LeeEsq says:

      Remember what Lewis Sinclair wrote about how hard it is to get somebody to understand something when his or her paycheck depends on them not understanding. This principle applies to Greenwald. Intellectually, I’m sure that he knows that a weak or weaker federal government allows state and local governments to wreck havoc with constitutional liberties. However, he pretends not to understand this because he gets his money by making these sort of attacks on Obama.

  16. bobbyp says:

    I should hope that most here understand the institutional constraints on a liberal activist president (yes, would that we should actually have one so we’d actually know for sure) are much different as opposed to a Paulista vision wedded to Calhounist nullificationism, local control parochialism, white racial supremacy, misogyny, and general all around ignorance of how the world actually works.

    The obstructionist GOP minority in the Senate has shown the way in this regard.

    This is not to denigrate in any way the fatal error of the Lemieux assertion that the GOP and the Democratic Party are, in some deep political sense, essentially “different”…..because, well, they are not.

  17. DocAmazing says:

    There’s a simple angle to all of this, as well: Greenwald is, after all, basically a Libertarian. He’s taken Koch money in the past. I’m not saying that he’s not honest, but his bias is always going to be toward making excuses for the Paul family.

    • Tom M says:

      Or maybe he wants to be preemptively provocative and make erstwhile Obama supporters consider just what they have elected. I think he overplays his hand, as usual, in order to make the comparison as stark as possible.
      I agree with Scott that It’s not clear what mythical, thinking Obama voter he is trying to address. He is unlikely to get his wish that the Paulite positions on war and FP will be made a part of the serious discussions (which we won’t see in any “debate”) and so his prolixity spins off into an Internet kerfluffle.
      I guess as long as Joan thinks he gets eyeballs, he will get to keep pretending to keep Obama supporters “honest”?

      • I think the issue is that, once again, Greenwald doesn’t really understand actual politics very well, which is why, as Scott points out, Greenwald compares what Obama has done under institutional constraints to what a hypothetical President Paul would do absent any such constraints. As has been well established, there’s no difference between the two in Glenn’s worldview.

        In the real world, of course, Presidents need support from somewhere in Congress, and a President Paul would simply be neutered by pairing deeply angering Democrats on domestic policy with alienating Republicans on foreign policy. The most likely outcome, as Scott notes, is that a Paul presidency would ultimately focus on those areas of common ground between him and the larger conservative movement: rolling back the rights of women and gays, gutting federal civil rights regulations, trying to repeal the Voting Rights Act, etc. He probably wouldn’t propose any new wars, and might get away with some relatively minor apostasy on the War on Drugs front, but that’s probably about all you’d get to be happy about as a progressive.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Right. I mean, OK, so Paul vetoes the military appropriations bill saying it should be cut by 2/3rds. It’s the easiest override in history, and then what?

          • Murc says:

            Then Paul refuses to spend it as directed, citing unconstitutional overeach by the legislative branch, provoking a constitutional crisis that would likely be cut very short by his impeachment.

          • Well there’s obviously only two outcomes:

            1. The appropriations bill goes into law, nothing changes, and Paul does a lot of complaining about Congress that I guess would warm Greenwald’s heart.

            2. Paul declares his view that the bill is un-Constitutional, refuses to write the checks, and orders his Secretary of Defense to begin downsizing the military anyway. He’s then promptly impeached and removed from office.

        • I think the issue is that, once again, Greenwald doesn’t really understand actual politics very well

          I keep going back to Greenwald’s statement about only becoming politically aware in 2006, and thinking about myself when I’d been paying attention to politics for as brief a time as Greenwald. Of course, I was about 19.

    • LeeEsq says:

      This is all well and good but Will Wilkinson (sp) is also a libertarian and recognizes that Ron Paul is a horrible human being.

    • John says:

      There is every reason to think that Greenwald isn’t honest. The fact that most of his posts contain flagrant dishonesties in summarizing what he’s linking to (or else are simply links to earlier posts by Greenwald that distort earlier links), for instance.

  18. soullite says:

    The primary fact that this post seems to be more about defending the choice of voting for Obama, rather than acknowledging anything Glenn actually said, pretty much proves his point.

    You still don’t acknowledge that this same calculation can lead people to decide that Paul’s flaws are so much less than Obama’s. A lot of people care more about preventing America’s devolution into a police state than they do about abortion or race relations. Since you assert that caring nothing about Democracy is not so wretched as to put you beyond the pale, you can’t really claim that not caring about racism makes you so horrible that nobody can ever support you.

    You’re supporting a man who claims he has the right to order me shot and killed with no review whatsoever. You don’t get to play this like you’re on a high horse here, and that’s exactly how you’ve been acting; like your position is so inherently noble that no good or decent human being can disagree with you.

    • Murc says:

      The primary fact that this post seems to be more about defending the choice of voting for Obama, rather than acknowledging anything Glenn actually said, pretty much proves his point.

      This is just straight-up wrong. Scott, and then Rob, address what Glenn actually said just fine. They simply object to the double standard Glenn is applying, and they call into question the underlying principles he’s proceeding from.

      You still don’t acknowledge that this same calculation can lead people to decide that Paul’s flaws are so much less than Obama’s.

      I think Scott acknowledges this just fine. He just thinks people who come to that conclusion are stupefyingly wrong.

      A lot of people care more about preventing America’s devolution into a police state than they do about abortion or race relations.

      I care about all of those things, and while I wouldn’t care to set them in a matter of strict priority because I feel like doing so both denigrates those things that don’t make it to the top of the list, and implies that there’s some sort of choice to be made among them, I would say that I make civil liberties my top priority.

      Which is why I could never support Ron Paul, who doesn’t care, at all, about protecting my civil liberties, and proclaims this loudly and frequently.

      You don’t get to play this like you’re on a high horse here, and that’s exactly how you’ve been acting

      I do not think you want to play this game, soullite. I don’t have it handy myself, but I do believe Mal will be along shortly with that link to your post in which you unapologetically assert that you don’t give a fuck about any issue that doesn’t affect you personally. That’s the sort of thing that leads to an automatic loss in the game of ‘who is the bigger comparative moral monster?’

      • Of course, because as Scott and Rob pointed out, a part and parcel of Paul’s brand of “civil libertarianism” is the strain of thought that leads him to oppose measures like the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, etc. So a Paulian utopia would involve a world in which the federal government did nothing to protect the democratic rights of minorities from systematic state-level discrimination, and I rather suspect Paul would be downright supportive of such discrimination.

        But in so much as I gather that soullite is not a non-white person, it stands to reason that’s of no concern to him. It’s not terribly surprising he’d be fond of Paul, either, as he strikes me as a sort of kindred spirit of your typical militia member.

    • A lot of people care more about preventing America’s devolution into a police state than they do about abortion or race relations.

      A lot of people care more about the health effects of the fluoride in their drinking water than about quitting smoking, too.

      We call such people “idiots.”

    • chris says:

      A lot of people care more about preventing America’s devolution into a police state than they do about abortion or race relations.

      Sucks to be them, then, since Obama’s past and very likely future opponents are significantly more pro-police-state than he is. At least on the latter issues you can have some effect on the outcome by picking one politician over another.

      But, of course, only a hopelessly unprincipled pragmatist would consider who a candidate’s opponent is before evaluating the moral standing of voting for him.

      Greenwald always said (back when 90% of his criticism was focused on GW Bush) that he wasn’t a partisan, but I never interpreted that to mean he evaluated politicians in a vacuum rather than comparatively. Oh well.

    • IM says:

      Aren’t you supposed to be an old fashioned leftist, who shows all the social issues limousine liberals the importance of class?

      And now you just ignore the economic policies of Paul? The man is an manchester capitalist sans phrase, for god’s sake.

  19. [...] article: What's Challenging About Paul? : Lawyers, Guns & Money ch_client = "trevone"; ch_width = 550; ch_height = 250; ch_type = "mpu"; ch_sid = "Chitika [...]

  20. I didn’t spend the Bush years supporting a foreign policy like Ron Paul’s. I spent the Bush years supporting a foreign policy like Nancy Pelosi’s, or Barney Frank’s, or some Kenyan d00d who gave an awesome speech against invading Iraq during the 2002 campaign.

    Like Greenwald, I have come to realize that there were a lot of people who were on my side in opposing Bush’s policies that hold views that aren’t exactly like mine. Unlike Greenwald, I don’t interpret this observation as iron-clad evidence that I am a paragon of all that is good in a world that’s not good enough for the likes of me.

  21. lawguy says:

    I may have missed this up thread, but isn’t the point of Greenwald’s essay that Paul forces the discussion of issues that wouldn’t otherwise be discussed?

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      1)I don’t think that’s his central point, no.

      2)As many people have pointed out, having a crank who wants to drown the federal government in a bathtub expressing these views is arguably a net negative.

      3)Even if #2 isn’t right, the effect is negligible. I think we can be pretty safe in assuming that the drug war and isolationist foreign policy are not going to be common topics of discourse in the upcoming campaign.

      • lawguy says:

        The problem is that he is the only one who is a “real” candidate who is expressing those points.

        Incidentely I do like the way you use the phrase isolationist foreign policy for the idea that we should not have military bases in mostly every country in the world and a military budget as great as all the rest of the world combined.

        • Your claim is that Ron Paul does not believe in an isolationist foreign policy?

        • It’s interesting to have a politician willing to throw away the only nearly-inviolate massive subsidy program. I wonder if he’d outsource military manufacturing to China.

        • Incidentely I do like the way you use the phrase isolationist foreign policy for the idea that we should not have military bases in mostly every country in the world and a military budget as great as all the rest of the world combined.

          Wow, you really have no idea what Ron Paul’s foreign policy is, do you?

          You know what? I’m perfectly comfortable calling someone who wants to pull out of NATO, pull out of the UN, end foreign aid, build a border wall, end overseas aid missions and reduce the military “isolationist.”

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Incidentely I do like the way you use the phrase isolationist foreign policy for the idea that we should not have military bases in mostly every country in the world and a military budget as great as all the rest of the world combined.

          I hate to tell you this, but Ron Paul isn’t Johnathan Schell. He doesn’t want to just trim the military budget and close some bases; we wants to withdraw the US from all international organizations.

          • lawguy says:

            Perhaps I should have asked you to define the phrase. And I guess I shouldn’t have gone to his web page to read what he says there.

            But really this is all beside the point. The point being that he happens to be right on some important things and not on others, and he is the only person running who is raising these issues.

            • This, I think, goes to the somewhat abstract notion of what it means to be right. Is it enough to simply end up at the “correct” conclusion, or must the underlying process of getting their be sound as well. To re-frame it as an example of a more concrete discipline, in math I suppose arriving at the correct answer by any means will suffice on a single question, but it’s pretty obvious that if you don’t know how to work out the steps of the problem you’re going to get the answer wrong far more often than you’ll get it right, which is basically how I see Paul. So as others have said, it’s great that Paul opposes Iraq and the drug war, but from the same principles he opposes international human rights agreements, NATO, the UN, federal civil rights laws, etc.

              I’ll stick with Nancy Pelosi.

              • Bijan Parsia says:

                To be fair, it’s possible to work with someone who is “clock stopped” right in various circumstances. Having Paul as a co-sponsor on a bill to pull back some drug war provision is likely overall beneficial. Championing him as an expander of the conversation, not so much.

  22. [...] more Hosni Mubarak Walker Republicans into the House. L,G and M also makes some good points – What’s Challenging About Paul? UPDATE BY [...]

  23. [...] Anyway — I fear Glenn Greenwald finally jumped the shark with this post. Yes, there’s plenty to criticize about President Obama’s civil liberties record. But holding up Ron Paul as some paragon of virtue on civil liberties is nuts. See also Scott Lemieux. [...]

  24. cleter says:

    Ron Paul is a crank who has never been able to persuade his caucus to do anything during his decades in the legislature. I don’t see this changing if he magically became President. Congress has been ignoring him for years. I think that would continue. I don’t see him getting anything that requires congressional approval done.

  25. giantslor says:

    The scariest part about Ron Paul is the types of judges he would nominate. Paul’s judges would do long-lasting damage to the country.

  26. Kal says:

    Not being a lesser-evilist, I’m not really interested in trying to figure out whether Obama or Paul is a lesser evil. But if you are planning to vote for the lesser evil, it seems to me, you have to give Paul real consideration, not just dismiss him on the basis of a single odious position. I think it’s telling how some liberals want, say, Paul’s stance on abortion to be an automatic disqualifier, but Obama’s prosecution of murderous imperial wars is just something to balance against what the other guy would do. We see some of that right at the top of this thread. Greenwald is wrong to see Paul as a helpful spokesperson, but right to call out people who treat terrible positions held by people on Team Blue differently than those held by people on Team Red.

    • Not being a lesser-evilist

      The only people who think this are people who know for certain they will never be effected by the evil in question.

      How the hell does anybody manage to convince themselves that they’re adhering to a humane, moral position by not caring how much evil there is?

      • Kal says:

        It’s flattering that you’re so interested in how I developed my political views, but I don’t reciprocate your interest, so I’m going to avoid the conversation.

      • Christopher says:

        The only people who think this are people who know for certain they will never be effected by the evil in question.

        You mean like people who excuse Obama’s wars and drone assassinations?

        • Whatever do you mean? I’ve been assured that any one of us could be a target at any time.

          Also, you seem to be a bit confused about the difference between the term “excuse” and “celebrate.” You don’t excuse the killing of top al Qaeda commanders. You don’t excuse saving tens of thousands of Libyan lives while they free themselves from a dictator. You don’t excuse the end of the Iraq War. You celebrate those things. There’s no wrong there that needs pardoning.

    • John says:

      A few points:

      1) not everyone agrees with Greenwald’s assessment of how horrible individual policies are.

      2) I’ve never seen anybody dismissing Paul on the basis of a single policy. If anything, it is people like Greenwald who are holding up Paul as a shining beacon of hope on the basis of a single policy. The vast majority of Ron Paul’s policies are ones that any liberal (or “progressive”, ugh) ought to find abhorrent. The few policies that are not abhorrent to liberals are ones that are based on abhorrent basic principles.

      • Kal says:

        1) Fair enough. (Hey, Greenwald thinks Paul’s let-it-burn stance on Wall Street is better than Obama’s infinite-free-money-for-rich-assholes stance, which I don’t.) But a lot of liberals think a lot of Obama’s policies are pretty horrible.

        2) Paul has enough atrocious ideas that no liberal ought to support him. But he’s right on more than one issue where Obama is wrong – even if you lump everything to do with ‘foreign policy’, there’s civil liberties and the drug war. And on many issues where he’s wrong, Obama is pretty bad too – take immigration, where Paul is easily nastier on paper, but Obama has after all carried out a record number of deportations.

        • Kal says:

          Oh, one more thing.

          The few policies that are not abhorrent to liberals are ones that are based on abhorrent basic principles.

          I don’t get why this is supposed to matter. We’re not talking about Paul as a candidate for good guy, we’re talking about him as a candidate for lesser evil. Does Obama’s candidacy for lesser evil depend on what you think his inner motivations are?

          • It matters because it speaks to what his ancillary policies will be. Ron Paul won’t invade Iran, but his isolationist roots also means he won’t be amendable to international agreements on things like arms control, human rights, womens’ rights (not that many dudely “progressives” give two shits about that), etc. He might not detain people indefinitely at Gitmo, but his Justice Department won’t do a damn thing about state level civil rights abuses, won’t enforce the Voting Rights Act, and so on.

        • John says:

          I don’t actually think that foreign policy is an area where Paul is right and Obama’s wrong. I have issues with Obama’s foreign policy, but I’d say my own position is much closer to that than it is to Ron Paul’s neo-isolationism.

          As to civil liberties, Obama’s certainly not been good, but Paul’s position of letting states do whatever they want seems potentially worse in practice, since state and local governments, in aggregate, are actually capable of much more extensive and pervasive civil liberties violations than the federal government, and I trust the discretion of state and local officials even less than I trust that of the federal government.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      not just dismiss him on the basis of a single odious position.

      ?

    • piny says:

      Hey, it’s kind of insulting to pretend that anti-choice politicians are not really fucking misognynist in a global sense, okay? A Paul administration would be terrible for women across the board: salary equity, wage and hiring discrimination, disability, sexual harassment, domestic violence, reproductive choice, women’s healthcare, support for female heads of household, HIV prevention, sexual violence, you name it. Because that’s how it works. If you believe women should be forced to have children (especially if that’s your one gigantic exception to your belief that nobody should be forced to do anything), then you do not respect them as wage earners, workers, parents, or citizens. You treat them like chattel. You talk about them as an abstract. And, Jesus, talk about some sterling opportunities for “local bullies.” It’s not a single issue here, okay? We’re not an issue; half the population is not an issue. It’s my whole life. I’m not voting for Ron Paul because our country would not be helped by a guy who talks like a 19th-century factory boss. I don’t care if he’s also a Know-Nothing.

      • Kal says:

        Look, I’m not supporting Ron Paul. He is a misogynist and we should have neither any illusions about that nor any tolerance for it. But look, you know, if you’re a Pakistani who lost your kid to a drone strike, or a Mexican being tortured by a drug cartel whose reason for existence is to smuggle marijuana into the US, that’s your “whole life” too. Let’s please not pretend that the issues on which Obama is wrong are somehow purely abstract just because the victims are less likely to have an Internet connection, or that when Joe from Lowell gets on his moral high horse and demands that people vote for Obama on your behalf he’s doing something different than a hypothetical Paulite demanding a vote for his guy on behalf of that Mexican or Pakistani.

        • commie atheist says:

          Your incoherence is staggering. Obama is a greater evil than Paul because Paul only considers half the world population to be second-class and unworthy of civil rights, while Obama is unconcerned about killing a few Pakistanis as part of the GWOT? And I really don’t even know how Obama is responsible for the Mexican being tortured.

          It’s like I woke up this morning and discovered that liberals really are fascists, and Ron Paul really is a progressive, and Tim Tebow really is an NFL playoff quarterback. Well, one out of three, anyway.

          • Kal says:

            Your incomprehension is staggering. I haven’t argued that Obama is a greater evil than Paul. Beyond that… eh, not worth repeating myself.

            I’d thought the connection between the US drug war and the Mexican one was obvious, but if you want everything spelled out, it’s not hard to find.

        • Look, Kal, I love how large I loom in your consciousness, that you’re motivated to invoke me irrelevantly, but for you, of all people, to accuse anyone else of being on a high-horse just makes you look silly.

          Try not to make every argument a clash of personalities, kay?

          • Kal says:

            If you need a reminder what I’m referring to, you only need to scroll up.

            If you want substantive replies in the thread below, you could try posting something other than chest-beating.

  27. you have to give Paul real consideration, not just dismiss him on the basis of a single odious position

    Fortunately Paul has multiple odious positions.

        • Kal says:

          Oh, come the fuck on. Are you really having that much trouble following the conversation here?

          • It does move around a bit, doesn’t it?

            • Kal says:

              It seems to me that the subject has remained an alleged double standard for Obama and Ron Paul. But maybe I’m missing something.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                So if liberals consider the complete dismantling of the 20th century state (including all welfare provisions and all civil rights and federal civil liberties protections) a deal-breaker, this proves they’re exercising a double standard? Fascinating.

                • Kal says:

                  If liberals dismiss Paul on the basis of a dealbreaker among his paper positions, but evaluate potential dealbreakers for Obama in the context of what power the president actually has, the position of the 60th Senator, and who the alternatives are, then yeah, I think that’s evidence of a double standard.

                • Murc says:

                  Speaking as someone who periodically wavers on the verge of deciding he isn’t going to vote for him, I feel comfortable saying that Obama stacks up incredibly favorably to Paul no matter which standard you use; paper positions only, or what they’re likely to be able to do in the context of being restrained by Congress.

                  It’s not even close.

                  Ron Paul’s positions on paper are odious, and, astoundingly, its likely he would be EVEN WORSE than he looks on paper if by some miracle he won the Presidency and didn’t get impeached, because the few positive things he would like to do would be squashed by Congress while many, many horrible things he wants to do would enthusiastically supported. He loses either way.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  If liberals dismiss Paul on the basis of a dealbreaker among his paper positions, but evaluate potential dealbreakers for Obama in the context of what power the president actually has, the position of the 60th Senator, and who the alternatives are, then yeah, I think that’s evidence of a double standard.

                  It’s Greenwald, not me, who’s using the double standard (twice-over in fact: comparing paper Paul to actual Obama, and then carefully cherry-picking Paul’s paper positions to emphasize the handful of good ones rather than the dozens of horrible ones.)

                  As Murc says, using any apples-to-apples comparison Paul is infinitely worse than Obama.

                • If liberals dismiss Paul on the basis of a dealbreaker among his paper positions, but evaluate potential dealbreakers for Obama in the context of what power the president actually has, the position of the 60th Senator, and who the alternatives are, then yeah, I think that’s evidence of a double standard.

                  You are using the word “dealbreakers” to refer to two very different things. As applied to Paul, you’re using it to talk about wrong, destructive, stupid, and racist things he wants to do, but would be prevented from doing so by institutional forces. In the case of Obama, you’re using it it refer to good, decent, intelligent things Obama wants to do, but is being prevented from doings so by institutional forces.

                  Yes, indeed, it is legitimate to treat those two situations as quite different.

                • Kal says:

                  @Scott: I don’t agree with every argument Greenwald makes, but I also don’t think “infinitely worse” is defensible. There’s no way Paul’s good ideas are implemented in this world, but supposing they were, there are a lot of people who would be saved from death in one of Obama’s wars. If you really meant Paul was infinitely worse, you would be saying those lives were entirely valueless. I don’t think you want to say that.

                  @Joe: I don’t think bombing Somalia and forcing West Coast marijuana growth south of the border and deporting more people than Bush and railroading Fahad Hashmi are “good and decent” acts. You may, but you have a pattern of taking positions that suggest a view of brown people as less than fully human…

                • @Joe: I don’t think bombing Somalia and forcing West Coast marijuana growth south of the border and deporting more people than Bush and railroading Fahad Hashmi are “good and decent” acts.

                  So now you’re completely dropping the argument you just made about constraints on their ability to act, and throwing out (allegedly) Bad Things Obama has Done. Desperate.

                  You may, but you have a pattern of taking positions that suggest a view of brown people as less than fully human…

                  Hey, look, we’ve finally found a situation in which the Ron Paul defender will express concern about racism: when he’s getting his ass kicked so badly that he needs to throw up some chaff to cove his escape.

                  Lol. I can smell your flop sweat through my monitor.

              • You may, but you have a pattern of taking positions that suggest a view of brown people as less than fully human…

                Oh, btw, champ: I teach in a majority-minority urban public school district. I work with more of those “brown people” every period than you do in a week.

                Perhaps that’s why I’m able to see people of other races as individuals to be judged on their actions, and you see them “brown people” to be invoked en masse when attempting to one-up somebody in a political debate, and otherwise given all of the respect implied in writing strenuous defenses of Ron Paul.

        • T. Paine says:

          I almost ruined my keyboard when this loaded. Awesome!

  28. LosGatosCA says:

    Could it simply be that Greenwald is running a straightforward reverse Soviet style disinformation campaign with the intention of making Paul seem more electable to the wingnuts thereby extending his primary season effectiveness and helping Obama by weakening Romney?

    Or, is he conducting a straightforward non-reverse Soviet style disinformation campaign to make Paul radioactive by pretending that liberals like him causing Paul to take more extreme views, moving the Republican primary Overton window toward complete insanity thereby helping Obama be easily differentiated as the sane candidate in the general election?

    Or is Greenwald simply making a Charles Lindberg type of mistake with misplaced admiration?

    Well, if it’s the first or second case, my admiration of his subtlety is immense. If it’s the third case, I urge him to take the loss and move on.

  29. dave says:

    Boy, are you Yanks fucked.

  30. LarryR says:

    I don’t understand why everyone is so critical of Glenn. He’s not saying that Paul is a good guy, or that Paul’s support of any particular position has a liberal foundation. He’s just saying “it’s important that someone is saying these things, and it seems to make liberals’ heads explode that it’s a Republican.” I worked to get Obama elected, but let’s face it folks, if you don’t think Obama is a fucking disaster, and if you think Obama’s failures are solely the result of Republican obstructionism and the mess Obama had when he started, then you’re seriously deluded.

    Obama had both houses of Congress and could have had the Senate overturn the filibuster rule, and instead he did jack fucking shit, wasted his mandate, and showed himself to be a weak leader. He spent three years listening blindly to discredited Clintonite economists. His civil liberties policies are 180 degrees from what he campaigned on. You might be able to hold your nose and vote for him, but please don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

    • John says:

      I don’t think Obama is a fucking disaster. I don’t think anybody would claim that his failures are solely the result of factors beyond his control (that’s what we call a straw man), but I do think that those are the most important factors at play.

      How could Obama have had the Senate abolish the filibuster rule? I don’t think there have ever been 50 votes for it in the Senate – certainly there was not anywhere close to that on January 3, 2009. And he passed a large stimulus package (not large enough, but probably the largest that could get through congress), health care reform, and enough other stuff that people who actually know what they’re talking about have called the 111th Congress the most productive since the Great Society congress of 65-66, or thereabouts.

      We have a system that is totally fucked up, and most of that is beyond Obama’s control. But Obama still made things better, and is still way better than any Republican alternative, emphatically including Ron Paul.

      I don’t think any of this is “seriously deluded.” I think, rather, that you are unbelievably naive about the limits of the possible in American politics, and that you, like your beloved Glenn Greenwald, ought to stop talking about things you know nothing about.

    • Obama had both houses of Congress and could have had the Senate overturn the filibuster rule, and instead he did jack fucking shit,

      Stop. Please, stop.

      You’re saying President Obama should have “told” the United States Senate to change its own rules?

      Really, how does that happen in the civilized world in which we live? The Senate doesn’t do anything that it does not want to do, up to and including changing its own rules.

      This idea that President Obama could have just put his fist in someone’s face and gotten them to change the way they’ve done business since forever and a day is ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong–he failed to do a lot of things, but he cannot be blamed for the fact that the Senate is a gentleman’s club full of sanctimonious twits (wait, isn’t that why he ran for Prezudent? to git away from them dudes?)

      • R Johnston says:

        It works by having the President of the Senate make procedural rulings as he’s constitutionally entitled to do.

        • Murc says:

          Er. The filibuster is IN the Senate procedures. It’s right their in its organizing resolution in pretty black and white language. I’m not sure what good having Joe Biden take a look at it and say ‘yup, there it is’ is a productive use of anyones time.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          I do not believe Article I says what you think it does.

          • R Johnston says:

            It doesn’t say that the Vice President shall be President of the Senate? Since when? That Vice President’s haven’t traditionally bothered to take up the role doesn’t write it out of the Constitution.

            • Hogan says:

              I think you’re misremembering the nuclear option. It was to have Cheney rule, not that you couldn’t have filibusters, because the Senate rules clearly allow that and there’s no constitutional or parliamenary basis for throwing them out, but that you couldn’t have them on judicial nominations.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                More to the point, it only would have worked if Cheney actually had majority support. The President of the Senate isn’t given any actual authority other than the tiebreaking power. The idea that Joe Biden could have unilaterally ended the filibuster is nuts.

                • John says:

                  Right you need 51 votes to eliminate the filibuster (or 50 and the VP). There have never been anywhere close to 50 votes to end the filibuster. Certainly there were not in 2009.

              • What Scott said. The relevant point is that the chair would issue the ruling, and then a majority of the Senate would enforce the ruling of the V.P. Without said majority, the V.P. would have no authority at all to uphold the chair ruling.

      • lawguy says:

        I do seem to remember that Obama insisted that Lieberman keep his seniority and his chairmanship. So he was happy to shove himself into Senate procedures that way. And he was successful.

        Obama could not have done more, no one could have known. Look Obama started out by putting Wall Street mogols into positions of power in his administration and then just continued shoveling money into their pockets.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          I do seem to remember that Obama insisted that Lieberman keep his seniority and his chairmanship. So he was happy to shove himself into Senate procedures that way. And he was successful.

          1)Please to be showing some evidence that Obama was the reason Lieberman kept his leadership posts.

          2)The decision to keep Lieberman pissing inside was, of course, vindicated. The main result of stripping Lieberman of his leadership position would have been no ACA and no DADT repeal.

    • Murc says:

      As someone who agrees with a lot of that, please, please, for the love of God, you need to excise the idiotic criticisms before you try to promulgate the legitimate ones.

      Yes, Obama has been pretty fuckin’ awful on civil liberties, has been listening to a lot of neoliberal claptrap he really shouldn’t, and has failed to properly advance even his weak-ass centrist agenda in effective ways.

      But let’s not pretend that many of his failures can’t be laid at the feet of the feckless wing of the Democratic Party, and the broken nature of the Senate.

      And the thing about him being able to tell the Senate to end the filibuster is incredibly stupid. Harry Reid floated a trial balloon about that at the beginning of the current Congress. It was shot down so hard by members of his own caucus that he actually promised not to even try again until 2014. And that’s Harry Reid, who, while deeply wrong in many ways, has a Senate tenure longer than Barack Obama’s entire political career and knows where bodies are buried and has actual arms he could twist. If the Senate told HIM to fuck off, what chance would Obama making a big push have?

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      I don’t understand why everyone is so critical of Glenn. He’s not saying that Paul is a good guy, or that Paul’s support of any particular position has a liberal foundation. He’s just saying “it’s important that someone is saying these things, and it seems to make liberals’ heads explode that it’s a Republican.”

      If you don’t understand then you didn’t read the thread.

      The main problem isn’t that Paul is nominally a Republican (i.e., it’s not a “tribal” issue). The problem is that he’s a fairly normal modern day Republican, that is, he’s nuts and he’s nuts in a lot of very odious ways. Now his odious ways are somewhat different than the odious ways of the other Republican candidates, and some of his odious ways have a surface intersection with sensible views. But again, that Hitler was a vegetarian isn’t a reason to support Hitler. If Hitler had been a vegetarian for “Jews are Evil” reasons, then that would be very bad for sane vegetarians (from a tactical political perspective).

      (Additionally, supporting Paul doesn’t produce the teeniest, tiniest bit of pressure on Obama or, frankly, anyone toward being less noxious.)

      So, why on earth would anyone want to yoke themselves to all of Paul’s insanity and toxicity?

      One thing that really gets up my nose about supporting Paul against Obama is that it is legitimately — nay, correctly! — seen by black people as a betrayal. But to support a batshit crazy, wild eyed peddler of racist newsletters and of policies that almost surely would be hugely destructive for black people (and women, and ….), well, Greenwald needs to wake up.

      It’s perfectly possible (and welcome!) to criticize Obama on civil liberties, drone warfare, etc. etc. Hold his feet to the progressive fire! He himself has called for that. But to make common cause with Paul…that’s just plain wrong. It’s not progressive. It’s not pro-civil liberties. It’s libertarian, perhaps, but that is an argument against libertarianism.

  31. [...] material has been posted here under the Ron Paul tag. Also see the rebuttal to Greenwood written at Lawyers, Gun$ and Money, including this accurate assessment of the consequences of Paul’s beliefs, tying in his [...]

  32. wengler says:

    I suppose this argument has a lot to do with the red lines people have in what they are willing to support.

    It is unlikely that a Paul administration would have drones flying throughout Pakistan under CIA or military control killing suspected ‘bad guys’. Obama has and will continue using drones to kill people in Pakistan.

    From what I’ve seen the American public doesn’t care much either way about killing Pakistanis with drones, although you’ll find a small number very much in favor and vociferously opposed. Even among those, very few will base their vote on it.

    I’m not quite sure what this argument is about. You are allowed to prefer the views of another candidate on certain issues.

  33. lawguy says:

    Alright, I’ve gone back and reread the Greenwald essay. He starts with a pretty straight forward criticism of our method of choosing a president. He follows with a brutal critique of Obama and most of his most important policies from a liberal perspective. He goes on to point out that the only person running in either party who opposes those policies is Paul. Therefore, at this point in history the only way those policies are getting any discussion is through the Paul campaign.

    You disagree with that analysis?

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      Yes.

      Note that “any” does not imply “useful”. Then reread this thread.

      • lawguy says:

        The point is that there is no one else out there making these points that gets them covered by the main stream. So tell me there how would you recommend a “useful” discussion of these points?

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          You seem to be missing the stuff about how it may well be reasonable for a progressive to prefer Paul to Obama.

        • How about talking about “these points” – the actual observations about foreign policy and articulation of an alternative vision- like Ron Paul does, as opposed to using them as a jumping-off point for some psychobabble about how terrible Democrats are, like Greenwald does?

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          The point you are missing (from me; you’re missing lots of other points as well) is that a bad messager can taint even a good message. And Paul’s overall message ain’t good, and it’s really hard to separate the good bits from the bad. Cf the Hitler’s vegetarianism analogy in this thread.

          Is it really too much to ask that you read the thread you are commenting on?

          I think it’s perfectly reasonable to think that Paul’s advocacy is worse that no candidate advocating these things. I so think this. So, I think that Greenwald’s analysis, on the very best version we can come up with, is wrong.

          This, of course, doesn’t mean that I don’t think we should vigorously criticize Obama on his bad points. And we do this. How a nonserious candidate in the Republican primary who is a kook and has tremendous other negative baggage is supposed to move either the other Republican candidates or Obama toward, e.g., a more restrained view of executive power or an end to drone warfare is an exercise you cannot leave to the reader.

  34. Bijan Parsia says:

    TPM has a bit of interesting wobble from Paul (nicely juxtaposed with his scorn for sexual harassment law — whee!):

    Most of the arguments against Paul from his fellow Republican candidates have not, however, centered on his more extreme domestic policy positions. Instead, they’ve focused fire on his call for military retrenchment, particularly his calls to stand back from a potential confrontation with Iran. When asked on State Of The Union on CNN, Paul said he’s just as concerned as anyone that Iran would be dangerous with a nuclear weapon, but that the current threats of military action go too far.

    “I would say that we just need to be more cautious,” he told CNN’s Candy Crowley. “I think if we overreact and participate in bombing Iran, we’re looking for a lot more trouble. We went into Iraq carelessly. We don’t need a war in Iran carelessly.”

    Don’t need a careless war in Iran! Whew! Now that’s some real fine pushing on the antiwar side of the Overton window!

    Gosh, could it be that Paul can actually be vulnerable to pressure? Whodathunk?

  35. Bijan Parsia says:

    I see a new argument being raised (by Kal above) which somewhat parallels Greenwald’s “honest position”:

    Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for “espionage,” and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court.

    It might be an interesting late night discussion to compare such hypotheticals as a way of testing priorities. (I, as someone with a PhD in Philosophy, find the probability of interest pretty damn low. But whatever.)

    But, of course, this falls afoul of all the problems mentioned in this thread about Greenwald’s cherry picking and more. It’s obviously bonkers. In any scenario where Paul could accomplish all that (and let’s grant the improbable that he would), he’d also accomplish a hell of a lot of crazy stuff (e.g., dismantling the welfare state, abortion treated as murder, etc. etc. etc.). Of course, if we grant Obama the same powers, I think it’s fair to say that at least some of his fails would have been less so (Guantanamo, at least, but also more stimulus, better health care reform). Some things might well be worse.

    BUT!, in this magical world, I would also have the power to convince Obama that we need to dial back on the wars, end the drug war, make John Boehner wear a clown suit, etc. So hurray! Because in this world, the rest of the Republicans do nothing at all except humbling admit they were nuts!

    Actually, in this magical world, I have no idea what would happen. But if one just considers how DADT came to be, it’s evident that the ability of the President to make even relatively small changes to the military establishment is extremely constrained. That’s a huge problem. It’s hard to see how any Very White Knight is going to change that.

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      Sorry to go so snarky about this. I’m finding the idea that supporting Paul is a good way to advance key progressive goals rather than a way to piss on large segments of the coalition to be infuriating. Esp. as no one articulating this point of view, including Greenwald afaict, has advanced a scenario where Paul’s candidacy is likely to actually advance these goals. That he gets media coverage itself is not such a scenario.

    • Kal says:

      I don’t think you’re really arguing with me here. I didn’t and don’t advocate supporting Paul – I differ with Greenwald in that I don’t think he’s a useful ally for the left. I’m only interested in Paul because I’m reading a bunch of liberals talk about him in a way that seems inconsistent with lesser-evilism, and I want to see if I can get people to re-think the latter.

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        I certainly feel as if I’m arguing with you. But now I’m unclear what you’re after:

        I’m only interested in Paul because I’m reading a bunch of liberals talk about him in a way that seems inconsistent with lesser-evilism, and I want to see if I can get people to re-think the latter.

        Who? And are you trying to get whomever to rethink what about lesser-evilism?

        I’m kinda finding “lesser evil” language to be unhelpful both analytically and tactically, esp. with Obama. I’m very happy to call and for others to call Obama out for the awful things that he does. (I remember being appalled at his joking about Predator strikes at the press luncheon…awful, repellent. That’s a minor point compared to the substantive things, but I think it’s worth getting a bit upset over.) And?

        Paul is still not helpful in this effort. Greenwald doesn’t seem to be either.

        I think it’s necessary to call out the good stuff too. And?

        Help me out here.

        • Kal says:

          I think people are excusing things from Obama they wouldn’t excuse from Paul. I think they’re right about Paul and wrong about Obama. But I’m criticizing this double standard as revealed in what people say about Paul…

          And I guess I don’t even have as much of a problem with support for Obama as the lesser evil as I do with the way that tends to slide over into support for him as the guy on our team. Most Democrats, even the ones who are consciously way to the left of Obama, don’t take his misdeeds as evidence of bad faith in the way that they do for Paul; they correctly see Paul’s abortion stance as part of a fundamental misogyny, but don’t see Obama’s financial policy as part of a fundamental commitment to profit over people, or his Middle East policy as part of a commitment to protect and expand the power of the US state at the expense of human lives. Instead many talk about how Obama has to be realistic, or how he’s bowing to pressure, as if in his head he’s basically the same as them and his behavior is just what one has to do when put in that position.

          Is that clearer?

          • Malaclypse says:

            I don’t think Paul is acting out of bad faith. I think Paul is acting in accordance with his deeply insane and offensive principles.

            I do think Obama is acting based on neoliberal, imperialist beliefs. I also think he is the least awful person who has any chance of occupying the office in 2013.

            Is that clearer?

            • Kal says:

              Except for the quibbling over the phrase “bad faith”, I think that’s quite clear, thanks.

              And I don’t disagree with anything you said, although I hope that you remember that “least awful” is still “awful”, and draw the conclusion that working outside of electoral politics, to try in the short term to place practical constraints on whichever awful people are elected in 2012, and in the long term to move the country in a direction where better people might have state power, is the most important thing to be doing politically right now. Because Obama may be least awful but his policies are still not acceptable.

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            That’s clearer, but I’d prefer it if you’d identify who you’re arguing with. I don’t think there are many (any?) commentators here who need this correction. Pointers to specific examples would be helpful.

            It’s hard to see how what, e.g., any of Scott’s three posts about Paul reveal anything about his ignoring Obama’s failings.

            I don’t know about “most Democrats” (I imagine most actual Democrats, i.e., voters, are pretty low information), but I, personally, don’t try to speculate about either candidates heart of hearts. But it’s important to do an actual analysis of what was done and what the constraints are. I don’t see that Obama has a huge personal “fundamental commitment to profit over people”. What’s the evidence for that? Do we need him to have that huge personal commitment to criticize his moves? I really think this misunderstands what happened and the constraints. (Cf. Elizabeth Warren.)

            • Kal says:

              Part of the reason I read LGM, though I’m not a liberal, is that I think Scott is more realistic than your average liberal.

              As for examples of who I’m arguing with, how about “commie atheist”, who makes an explicit argument in the other thread that:

              The more we get the “Obama=Bush” arguments, the lower the turnout, the more likely a win for Romney

              That’s an argument to avoid criticism of Obama in order to avoid damaging his electoral prospects. But if you follow that logic, you get 2004, where the antiwar movement largely folded into the Kerry campaign and retreated from any calls to actually end the war, where the million-person March for Women’s Lives ended with a whimper (or with Clinton’s declaration that abortion is a “tragic choice”), Iraqis kept dying by the hundreds of thousands, actual access to abortion kept eroding, and conventional politics moved right.

              Lastly, I don’t care what Obama’s commitments arise out of personal conviction, pragmatism, institutional pressure, or a chip in his brain. (Well, the chip would be interesting.) But whatever the reason, he bailed out the banks in a way that rewarded the people who drove the economy into the ground but did nothing for the debt of the rest of us. He re-appointed Bernanke, appointed Geithner, let HAMP become a predatory lending program, etc. Where’s the evidence that he wanted something substantively different than he got?

              • Bijan Parsia says:

                I think it’s reasonable to debate the timing and overall utility of various sorts of criticism. I look to the interaction of the gay rights movement and Obama for some inspiration there. I think we can reasonably disagree. I think encouraging people to stay home or to think that Obama is far worse than he is or that his likely opponents are far worst than they are is a mistake. It’s not to be wished for. Republican wins at any level of government are not to be wished for.

                I don’t understand the Kerry point. If Kerry had won, I think the chances of an earlier withdraw from Iraq would have gone up, but it wouldn’t have been easy at all. I don’t see how the antiwar movement getting folded in to the campaign and the calls for ending the war ending materially changed anything.

                Re: the Fed et al, well, one bit of evidence that he didn’t get substantively what he wanted was, you know, all the stuff he didn’t get. I mentioned Warren for a reason. But consider further stimulus, what he’s had to do to get unemployment benefits extended, wall street regulation, etc. etc. etc.

                He clearly made some bad calls, but some of them were not easy to make before being made. I can see ways that Bernanke could be better, but he’s also been tremendously better than almost every other central banker out there. By a lot. Who’s the better one that would have gotten through?

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  Oh, and I’m happy to say that some of the bad calls are ones that Obama and his team think were the right calls or even in every way right. I doubt they think that shovelling money to the stupid bankers was in every way right, given all the evidence. But I think they thought slopping money was better than letting the system crash and they didn’t see a lot of available alternative ways to prevent that.

  36. Colin Day says:

    I have read Mr. Greenwald’s article, but I have a hard time seeing where he prefers Paul over Obama as a candidate. Indeed

    I’m about to discuss the candidacies of Barack Obama and Ron Paul, and no matter how many times I say that I am not “endorsing” or expressing support for anyone’s candidacy,

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      And who said anything about who Greenwald would prefer. The complaint is his imputation that those progressives who do not think Paul is remotely good or even remotely reasonably comparable to Obama on a goodness scale are doing so out of blind partisenship, rather than on the merits. E.g.,

      Paul scrambles the comfortable ideological and partisan categories and forces progressives to confront and account for the policies they are working to protect. His nomination would mean that it is the Republican candidate — not the Democrat — who would be the anti-war, pro-due-process, pro-transparency, anti-Fed, anti-Wall-Street-bailout, anti-Drug-War advocate (which is why some neocons are expressly arguing they’d vote for Obama over Paul). Is it really hard to see why Democrats hate his candidacy and anyone who touts its benefits?

      We disagree about the benefits of Paul either as a president or as an introducer-of-key-ideas-we-like-into-the-national-discourse. I don’t hate Greenwald either for touting benefits I think are imaginary or for arguing against a meta-strawman. But, I also don’t think the case made is anything but risible.

      Contrariwise, if Kucinich or Sharpton wanted to primary Obama as a way of raising antiwar or antidrugwar or antidronewar etc. issues, I’d be quite ok with that. I don’t think it’d be hugely effective, but neither is particularly toxic and neither is likely to do much damage in such an act.

      • Colin Day says:

        Sorry, I was trying to reply to a post by Scott Lemieux.

        Also, the second paragraph in my post was a quote from Greenwald.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          I’m not sure what comment you think Scott said that Greenwald himself prefers Paul. That Greenwald think that Paul and Obama are close and that to get there he’s willing to publish a lot of wildly slanted evaluation, not to mention the misrepresentation of progressives not liking Paul, is, frankly, enough de facto support/endorsement for Paul that the de jure denial carries rather little weight.

          And given that his article is rather lacking in specifics of which progressives actually enact his charged degradation of discourse: The only quotes or citations are of progressives who either support Paul’s non-serious candidacy for raising key issues or make the same argument as him about progressive non-support for Paul.

          Well, I think that’s a pretty big degradation of discourse. If he has specific criticisms of specific people, let him name them. If he thinks that there is a general trend, how about showing some data in support rather than bald assertion? Indeed, why argue against the weakest possible version of a progressive critique of Paul rather than the strongest?

          I mean, it’s not that he has to adhere to a word limit, right?

    • Murc says:

      This is true, but he does try to advance the point that Ron Paul ought to be a lot more acceptable to progressives than he is, and implies (implies smugly, as he often does; its a major weakness in his writing overall) that the reason he isn’t is that progressives just don’t care about civil liberties and ending our foreign adventures, but about getting a guy with the right label elected.

      So no, he’s not explicitly supporting Paul. Explicitly.

      • Pinko Punko says:

        But his argument about faux progressives’ hypocrisy is begging the question RE:Paul’s merits. And I do believe I even used that expression correctly.

        • Pinko Punko says:

          Adding, the above then implies that if one is to be a progressive non-hypocrite…then Paul should have more support. And who writes a column at Salon based on being a presumed or assumed progressive non-hypocrite?

      • John says:

        that the reason he isn’t is that progressives just don’t care about civil liberties and ending our foreign adventures, but about getting a guy with the right label elected.

        Hmm…I think Pinko’s right that this is begging the question. Perhaps the reason Paul isn’t acceptable to progressives is that they consider the modern welfare and regulatory state, the environment, civil rights, women’s equality, and so forth to be really important, and aren’t inclined to support a candidate who opposes all these things even more fiercely than, say, Mitt Romney. On about 90% of issues Paul isn’t just “as bad as the average Republican”. He is much, much worse. Of course, these are the issues that Glenn Greenwald doesn’t really care about (except when he’s using them to disingenuously attack Obama from the left, of course), but that doesn’t mean that others don’t care about them.

  37. norbizness says:

    This individual writer for Salon might be annoying and monomaniacal to the point of being disingenuous, but it’s nowhere near as annoying as (1) the re-emergence of shitty DLC thinking and 1.2 party governance and (2) pro-Obama people sounding like pro-Bush people did in early 2004.

    And this comes from somebody who’s pro-idea of Obama, and very super pro-no Republicans ever get elected to anything from any state.

    • jeer9 says:

      I think much of Greenwald’s frustrations stem from the fact that Obama appears pretty certain at this point to get re-elected despite a fairly conservative agenda on any number of issues (civil liberties, foreign policy, refusal to prosecute banksters and torturers, plan B for Chrissakes) and such a result only perpetuates the Dem party’s slide rightward. It’s not an excuse for making the ridiculous argument in favor of Paul, but a sign of desperation.
      Of course, no one has much of a strategy for moving the party leftward other than the silly “reform from within” platitude. (The Right’s destruction of Rockefellerism, which has had big money behind it, and the Left’s fierce adherence to principle are not remotely comparable. Anyone who has worked in a large organization knows that if the big boys in the front office have deemed a policy worthy, no matter how wrong-headed it might be, no amount of agitation from the squirrels farther down the hierarchical chain is going to change their view – especially if there is not a drastic consequence to the result of their inept policy decision: and the only consequence great enough to alter their view is loss of their power which ain’t an option.)
      Arguing over Paul’s “merit’s” seems a death-bed intervention. Now if a Left third party seemed to be gaining traction and garnering some support from those not remotely represented by our 1% Congress critters and senators, then the real knives would be out and the centrist hacks would be pepper-spraying with purity every OWS idealist inclined to vote in such a fashion. Panglossianism rules. History tells us such change is not possible.

  38. [...] on the deeply puzzling question of why progressives prefer LBJ to Goldwater Obama to Paul, see ABL, Barbara O’Brien, Tom [...]

  39. [...] == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}I think a couple commenters have been persuasive that I was too charitable toward Ron Paul, as my closing line implies that he’s having a meaningful and positive impact [...]

  40. [...] href="http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2012/01/the-paul-problem”>Lawyers Guns and Money and Noahpinion, but what I’d like to talk about is something related that this brings to [...]

  41. [...] Obama over Paul is at least as easy as LBJ over Goldwater or FDR over Landon, and to think that progressives could be genuinely conflicted over whether to prefer a moderate Democratic president to a guy who wants to restore the Articles [...]

  42. Davis X. Machina says:

    tl;dr

    Does this mean I don’t get legal dope?

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