October 24, 2016

What Trump and His Accusers Didn’t Say

trump_in_2013Forget foreign policy, economic policy, civil liberties or “muh roads.” With three weeks to go before Election Day, discussion of the so-called “issues” is over. From here on in, the candidates seem determined to do nothing but fire volleys of character assassination at the two easiest targets who ever ran for office.

Thank goodness for that, too, for as libertarian icon Lew Rockwell, wrote, “In contrast to campaign “substance” which is mostly always wrong, or skewed, the invective is mostly entirely true.” Never has this been truer, as both candidates have made compelling cases the other is unfit to serve as a garbage collector, much less president.

But while the candidates’ accusations have been mostly true, a goodly portion of the media reporting is demonstrably false. The most egregious example is the ubiquitous assertion that Trump admitted to “grabbing women by the …” on a recording made by Billy Bush. Trump never admitted to such on the video and, if you think you heard him do so, then you should watch the video again.

Read the rest at LewRockwell.com…


Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Did the media really “cover” the Trump sexual assault allegations?

trump_in_2013The cast of MSNBC’s Morning Joe conducted a self-examination of sorts on Tuesday on whether media coverage of the election has been biased against Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. The segment was refreshingly sincere and former advisor to Sen. Rand Paul Elise Jordan made a point that’s been lost throughout much of the coverage thus far: the so-called “little people” are as angry at the national media as they are at the government.

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post admitted with a smile that he is, indeed, a “coastal elite,” having attended a prep school prior to Georgetown and now residing “inside the beltway.” But he disagreed the coverage has been biased against Trump, saying, “How do we not cover when nine women come forward against one of the two people who’s the nominee?”

Joe Scarborough gave the obvious, answer: the media should cover that story. But did they? Let’s look at just one of the allegations and try to determine that.

The New York Times broke Jessica Leeds’ story on October 12, providing an edited video interview of Leeds accompanying their print story. Leeds gave the by now well-known account of Trump raising the arm rest between their first class seats and proceeding to kiss and grope her on a flight to New York. Having watched the video and read the accompanying print story, it doesn’t require extraordinary curiosity to wonder:

She says she had been traveling in the “middle West” and was now on a flight to New York. From what city/airport?

What airline was she traveling on?

In what year did this happen? Does the airline have any record of the crews working flights from City X to New York that year? Can they be reached for comment? Do any of them remember Trump on their flights?

Is it possible to obtain a passenger list and can any of the passengers be contacted (privacy concerns makes this one unlikely)?

Leeds says that if Trump had confined his contact to the upper body, she “may not have gotten that upset.” Why did she make that startling statement? Was the contact consensual up to that point? Isn’t that an unusual statement for an alleged victim of sexual assault to make?

Let’s be clear. None of the answers to the questions above may have helped Donald Trump. The problem is there is no evidence from the reporting the questions were even asked. Had the report contained statements like, “Leeds was unable to tell this reporter what airline she was flying or what city the flight originated from,” at least readers would know Leeds was asked and couldn’t remember. And they’d likely consider that information, for whatever its worth, in deciding whether to believe Leeds or Trump.

So, did the New York Times really “cover” that story or did they simply take Leeds’ account at face value, with no attempt to verify its facts? They did perform the bare minimum due diligence in obtaining a response from Trump, who denies the incident ever happened. Besides that, they seem to have just taken Leeds completely at her word and published her account without a hint of skepticism.

Hey, it’s not like vivid accounts of sexual assault ever turn out to be false, right?

One might argue it is unreasonable to try to track down flight crews or other details about a flight from three decades ago. But isn’t it incumbent upon a news organization publishing such serious charges to make every effort to do so and report those efforts along with the information they do have?

And where in any of the reporting is the acknowledgment that Leeds’ and most of the other allegations are based upon their completely unverifiable accounts? Why is it immediately assumed Trump is lying, in the absence of any corroborating evidence? Granted, the media is not a courtroom, but is the presumption of innocence completely foreign to it?

When the New York Post reported an equally unverifiable claim by Anthony Gilberthorpe saying he was on the flight in question and the allegations aren’t true, there was an immediate investigation into his past. A search on his name returns pages of stories attacking his credibility, many published the same day as the New York Post story. Apparently, Gilberthorpe has a history of making extraordinary claims to the press and there is at least some reason to question his credibility.

But what about Jessica Leeds’ credibility? Did the Times reporters investigate it? Does she have any political connections, especially to the Clinton campaign or the Democratic Party? Has she ever had any disputes with Trump or any of his businesses? With the Republican Party?

Again, the answers to the questions above may not be helpful to Trump. But there is no evidence in the New York Times story they were even asked of Leeds or investigated secondarily before the story was published.

It’s not unreasonable to say the other accusers have similarly been taken completely at their words. There is a well-intentioned tendency to believe women who allege sexual assault because many in the past have been reluctant to seek justice because they feared the consequences of making their accusations. But we should recognize the danger in that tendency for completely annihilating the rights of the accused. Our legal traditions compel us to not believe the accuser until the defendant has been proven guilty.

At the very least, professional reporters who were aware the Leeds story would have a monumental impact on a presidential election should have taken more pains to verify their facts and presented their story in a way that made their due diligence apparent to the reader. Since they did not, it’s hard to blame Trump supporters for believing the media is biased against their candidate.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Isn’t Hillary Clinton’s Syria no-fly zone worse than Donald Trump’s lewdness?

ap_16284103255269Unsurprisingly, Sunday’s presidential debate opened with a question on Trump’s “locker room talk” scandal. Neither Trump nor his supporters raised any serious objection. It had to be asked and Trump handled it about as well as anyone could expect to handle his indefensible comments. There is even an argument for it being charitable to Trump to open the debate with it, allowing him to address it and get it out of the way, instead of it hanging over the debate like a Sword of Damocles, waiting to torpedo any momentum Trump might have built later in the evening. John King made exactly that argument for why he opened a presidential debate with a Newt Gingrich scandal back in 2012.

And while the “debate” never got far out of the gutter for long, the two candidates did manage to move on and discuss other issues, one of which is getting surprisingly little emphasis from the media or the public at large: the candidates’ positions on Syria and Russia. Here, we have one of the few genuine issues of substance upon which the candidates fundamentally disagree, one far more important than any idiotic statements either of them may have made when they thought no one was listening.

Clinton has stuck by her position that deposing the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria is a foreign policy priority for the U.S. She has not backed away from her support for a no fly zone over Syria, despite Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford’s unqualified statement that it would “require us to go to war” with Russia.

Read the rest at Rare…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Earth to Bill Weld: Trump’s foreign policy is more libertarian than Clinton’s

william_weld_by_gage_skidmoreLibertarian Vice-Presidential Nominee Bill Weld has a legitimate beef with the media. On Tuesday, the Boston Globe reported Weld “plans to focus exclusively on blasting Donald Trump over the next five weeks.” Weld denied that claim in an interview with Reason, adding, “No, somebody’s making that up,” in reference to a further claim by the Globe that Weld would henceforth be focusing exclusively on red states.

But libertarian talk show host Kennedy wasn’t entirely satisfied with Weld’s explanations, and with good reason. For while the Boston Globe and other media may have exaggerated or even distorted Weld’s statements, they didn’t just make all of this up out of thin air. Weld himself admits he has been less antagonistic towards the campaign of Hillary Clinton, a personal friend, since accepting the nomination.

Weld says he does not want to see Trump gain the White House because his “proposals in the foreign policy area are so wrongheaded that they’re in a class by themselves.” Bill Kristol and other neoconservatives may agree with him, but virtually no libertarians would. On the contrary, many libertarians ignore Trump’s many odious positions and support him precisely because his foreign policy is so much less hawkish than Clinton’s.

Even Weld’s running mate recognizes this. He’s said on numerous occasions, including during an interview with this writer, that he considers Clinton “a major architect of the conflict going on around the world.” He also said during that interview he agrees with Trump that the next U.S. president should sit down and negotiate with Russia, and went as far as to say he is willing to go “all the way down that road” regarding withdrawing troops from Europe, Japan, and Korea.

Weld has on occasion muddied the water on what “foreign policy proposals” consist of, lumping trade policy in with military intervention, possibly to justify his preference for Clinton. But that dog won’t hunt, either, as Clinton is as protectionist as Trump at the end of the day, with only superficial differences in emphasis and rhetoric. The real difference in foreign policy between Clinton and Trump is on military intervention and Trump’s stance most closely aligns with Johnson/Weld’s. If foreign policy is the chief measuring stick, Clinton is the worse of two bad choices for libertarians, not Trump.

To say Libertarians were skeptical of Weld at the party’s convention in May would be an understatement. Presidential runner-up Austin Petersen endorsed Gary Johnson during his concession speech, but refused to endorse Weld, who failed to gain the nomination on the first ballot. Kennedy’s openly hostile interview of Weld crystalized the accumulated frustration with Weld’s many disappointing statements (from a libertarian perspective) since then. Her charge that Weld was merely using the Libertarian Party for personal advancement may have been unfair. To his credit, Weld handled it well.

What is more concerning for libertarians is that Weld may truly believe his positions are libertarian, rather than merely “centrist” or “moderate Republican.” Contrary to Johnson/Weld rhetoric, libertarianism is not merely “fiscally conservative and socially accepting.” It certainly is not a combination of the “best from both sides” of the Democrat/Republican divide. It is a self-contained political philosophy with its own first principles, most of which depart completely from conservatism and progressive liberalism.

Neither Johnson nor Weld have demonstrated a firm grasp of those principles during the course of their campaign, leading them to positions most libertarians outright oppose. And while there is still a strong case for libertarians to support the ticket, Weld needs to come up with a more believable argument on why he’s #NeverTrump, rather than #NeverHillary. His foreign policy argument for Clinton makes no sense at all.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Tom Mullen on WBFO 88.7 FM Buffalo, NY – Libertarian Party, Johnson/Weld

libertarian_conventionI sat down with Jay Moran of WBFO 88.7 FM here in Buffalo, NY to discuss the Libertarian Party and the Johnson/Weld ticket. The short version that aired is at the top of the page; the full conversation can be found at the bottom. Listen here.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Brexit Leave voters: Don’t give in to Establishment pressure

brexit flagsU.S. markets continued to sell off Monday, with the Dow falling over 300 points and the S&P down over 2%. Global elites are blaming Brexit, the referendum last week in which United Kingdom citizens voted to leave the European Union. Opponents of the “Leave” movement predicted a market crash and are now wagging their fingers, saying “I told you so.”

They’re also accusing the Leave campaign of going back on its pre-referendum promises, reporting that over one million Leave voters now want to change their vote to remain, and continuing the narrative that Brexit was nothing more than a racist, xenophobic reaction against immigration.

Leave voters should expect their convictions to be tested nonstop until the break with the EU is official.

As I wrote just after the vote, some of the same scare tactics were used against the American people in the wake of the infamous TARP bill failing to pass on its first vote. American voters had deluged their representatives with angry phone calls, emails and letters warning against a vote in favor of the $700 billion bank bailout. On September 24, 2008, George W. Bush made an impassioned plea to the American public to support it.

If TARP didn’t pass, warned Bush, the markets would crash and Americans would lose a large portion of their retirement savings.

Pressure from voters relented and TARP passed on the second vote. But equities markets continued to crash, losing an additional 20% of their value after the bill passed. A prolonged recession followed, from which we arguably have never recovered.

That’s what comes of believing politicians when they claim that only giving them your money can save you. Let it be a lesson those under pressure to change their minds on Leave.

There isn’t much doubt a referendum of this magnitude would cause some uncertainty in financial markets. Uncertainty usually results in selling. But any attempt to blame a prolonged crash or recession on Brexit should be seen for the scapegoating it is. If this a major correction, it’s the result of a bubble that’s been looking for a pin for years, blown up by unprecedented inflationary policies by central banks all over the world.

On this side of the pond, the federal funds rate target for the Federal Reserve remains at .038%, following seven years targeting zero percent interest rates. This is the stuff the 2007 bubble was made of. Brexit now provides an excuse for the Fed to continue to inflate, something it was going to do regardless.

240 years ago, Thomas Paine wrote the following to Americans wavering in their support of our own secession from Great Britain:

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

Americans maintained their resolve in the face of a mighty empire waging war against them on their own soil. In 2008, faced only with the scare tactics of an unpopular president spouting economic gibberish, we folded our tents and gave in to the crony capitalist establishment. We’re still paying for it.

Stand firm in your resolve, Leave voters. What you’ve done is hated by all the right people, who don’t have your best interests at heart. Proponents of freedom the world over are looking to you for inspiration. Don’t let them down as we did.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

What Gary Johnson Should Have Said About Legalizing Heroin

maureen-morella-cnnIn one of the more predictable moments from last night’s CNN Libertarian Town Hall, Gary Johnson was confronted by the mother of a young man who ingested a single line of heroin and was disabled for life. Jacob Sullum has already weighed in on what Johnson should have said from a libertarian perspective, but his thoughtful and informed piece is still too verbose for a political campaign.

Libertarians like to make fun of “sound bites” and slogans, but if they ever want to win an election for dog catcher, much less President of the United States, they need to face the reality that people stop listening and stop reading when the answer is long and developed. Here is how Gary Johnson should have answered:

“Ms. Morella, I am very sorry to hear about what happened to your son. It’s a tragedy. But I have to tell you the truth, even though it’s not what you came here to hear. What happened to your son may not have happened if heroin were legal. Here’s why:

When drugs are illegal, they’re sold by criminals who have no business address. You can’t sue them if they’re negligent or prosecute them when they willfully defraud you.

Reactions like your son’s usually occur with what’s called a “hot load,” meaning there was another substance mixed with the heroin. If the heroin he ingested were sold by a legitimate business in the light of day, there would be an immediate investigation. If the product had dangerous ingredients in it or otherwise wasn’t what the package said it was, the owner would be sued. If it were discovered he did it intentionally, he’d be prosecuted.

Ms. Morella, no one in America is concerned that when they buy a bottle of gin, there is going to be foreign substances in it that are going to kill them. But they used to be. Know when that was? When alcohol was prohibited. They called it “bath tub gin” and tragedies like your son’s occurred all the time when only criminals could sell alcohol.

There is absolutely no difference between alcohol prohibition then and drug prohibition today. Your son’s tragedy is the 2016 equivalent of what happened to people drinking bath tub gin.

Prohibiting alcohol also led to the rise of heavily armed, violent gangs like Al Capone’s. You don’t see sellers of alcohol today behaving like Capone. Do you know why? Because that’s not how business is conducted in the absence of prohibition.

You said, “Can you people in positions of power please get rid of the drugs?” I’m the only politician who is going to tell you the truth. No. We’ve had a war on drugs for decades and there are more drugs now than ever. It’s a little like the government war on terrorism. Is there less terrorism today than fifteen years ago or more?

What we can do is stop subsidizing criminal drug dealers by taking away their legitimate competition. If you want someone to tell you what you want to hear about drugs, I’m sure Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be happy to do so. Their parties have told you they’ll get rid of drugs for fifty years. If you want the truth, the only way to make America safer is to end prohibition and allow all drugs to be sold like alcohol.”

The answer above is chock full of sound bites. Sound bites become headlines. That’s how you get your message out to 315 million people.

It also answers the woman’s question, something Johnson’s rambling answer failed to do.

This is the way Gary Johnson has to start answering questions if he’s going to take any advantage of the opportunity the Libertarian Party is being presented with during this election. Hopefully, his debate coach is listening.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Trump confirms he’s a Hamiltonian; invokes Lincoln’s protectionist fallacies

GOP-2016-Trump_sham1-725x483Is Donald Trump reading this blog? If so, he’s not grasping that Trump Isn’t Hitler; He’s Hamilton and Reality Check: Trump’s Platform is Identical to Lincoln’s weren’t meant to be supportive of his mercantilist economic ideas. Maybe that’s on me, the writer.

Regardless, Trump invoked both Hamilton and Lincoln, starting at about the 10:30 mark, during a speech yesterday. He quotes Lincoln saying, “The abandonment of the protective policy by the American government will produce want and ruin among our people.”

Like all protectionists, Trump seems to have no idea about the concept of opportunity cost. He posits that tariffs on foreign imports will bring back manufacturing jobs, which he says “the nation” desperately needs. But it never occurs to him that when millions of Americans buy sneakers made in China for $100 instead of sneakers made in America for $200.00, they create other jobs with the $100 they save.

Trump’s speech confirms several of the arguments I make in my latest book. One can draw a virtually straight line from the Federalists, through the Whigs, to the Republicans. Obviously, there are nuances over such a long period, but the core tenets of protectionism, crony capitalism and central banking never cease to be the foundation this house is built on.

More importantly, these are the core tenets of true conservatism in the British-American tradition, since  before the dawn of the industrial revolution. You can call Trump a lot of things, but “not a real conservative” just doesn’t hold water. Free markets, individual liberty and limited government are classical liberal ideas that have only resided within the conservative movement recently and have never been very welcome. That’s because they are all anathema to the conservative worldview that any change, from within or without, threatens to break the barriers between society and man’s dark nature.

The creative destruction of the market, the free movement of labor, capital and goods, and Jefferson’s libertarian principle that the government should be limited to “restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement” is the opposite of conservatism. That’s why Hamilton feared and loathed Jefferson; that’s why Trump fears and loathes the free market. He’s a true conservative, like Hamilton, Lincoln, Coolidge, Hoover and the rest.


Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Tom Mullen, Jeff Deist, Jason Rink and Mary Ruwart on the Tom Woods Show

Tom Woods hosted a roundtable discussion on the Libertarian Party in 2016 and the pros/cons of Johnson/Weld. Listen here!

TOm woods




Buffalo News Political Coverage Belongs in the Fiction Section

clinton valentineToday’s Buffalo News print edition features five articles on the Hillary Clinton campaign, including a front page, feel-good piece about how Clinton’s (almost) nomination has inspired other women. The News also chose to run a Politifact piece that endorses Clinton’s criticism of Trump’s trade policies, a criticism this writer happens to agree with.

The other three pieces could at best be described as neutral/supportive, although one questions whether the media has been too quick to pronounce Clinton the nominee. Nothing in these or any other recent articles the News has run on Clinton, outside of reader letters, can be described as remotely critical. This despite a large constituency within her own party that views Clinton as wholly-owned by Wall Street and a war hawk.

There are also five articles on Trump, including the Politifact article. Four of the five are negative. One is neutral, a reprint from Bloomberg News which reported Trump “distanced himself from his own fundraising estimate of $1 billion.”

Even this article could be construed as an attempt to cast a negative light on what Trump’s supporters consider a positive – that he’s not bought off by powerful special interests, as many on both the right and the left believe of Mrs. Clinton.

There is nothing in the Buffalo News that remotely suggests Trump might be better on foreign policy than Clinton, who has a lot to answer for regarding her role in the chaos raging throughout the Middle East and now spilling into Europe. Neither would readers of solely this paper know Trump set a record for votes in the California primary on Tuesday.

This is what passes for reporting on the 2016 presidential election in Buffalo’s only newspaper.

Make no mistake, this writer has no problem with a newspaper being biased. All media are biased and always have been. But there is a difference between bias and severing all connection with reality. Anyone relying on the News for their understanding of national politics might as well go to the fiction section of the nearest public library.

Full disclosure, I won’t be voting for Trump or Clinton in the November elections. I plan on voting for Gary Johnson.

Buffalonians reading this just started making owl noises, because in the fictional Buffalo News universe, neither Johnson nor the Libertarian Party exists. A search on the paper’s website yielded no headlines – ever – mentioning the candidate’s name, despite Johnson polling in double figures in three polls before his nomination and 16% in the latest poll in Utah. Even the left-leaning Washington Post describes the Libertarian Party as “so hot right now.”

Now, I’m just spit-balling here, but in a year where the candidates in both major parties have record-high negative ratings, wouldn’t a presidential ticket featuring two former two-term governors (of New Mexico and Massachusetts, respectively), nominated by the only third party with ballot access in all fifty states, be at least newsworthy enough for its existence to be acknowledged?

Not to the Buffalo News.

That’s not bias. That’s misleading the public. And it’s a disservice to the good people of Buffalo, who may not be receptive to the messages of campaigns other than Hillary Clinton’s, but certainly have an expectation that their only newspaper will acknowledge they exist.

Unlike Mr. Trump, I would never support any legal action against the News, no matter how poorly they serve the public. As a libertarian, I truly believe in free speech. I don’t even support libel laws if a newspaper outright lies (which I’m not suggesting is going on here). I believe the market can sort this out, when it’s allowed to work.

So, maybe it’s time the Buffalo News had some competition. What do you think? Let us know in the online poll below. Who knows? Perhaps an alternative is waiting in the wings (wink).

Does Buffalo need another voice on politics besides the Buffalo News?

I don’t know

Survey Maker

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.