December 21, 2014

A skeptic’s case for Gary Johnson

TAMPA, September 26, 2012 – You may be an independent that finds the major party candidates for president particularly weak this year. You may be an “Old Right” conservative that can’t bring yourself to vote for Mitt Romney. You may be a died-in-the-wool liberal who thinks Barack Obama’s presidency has been just a little too similar to Dubya’s.

Or, you may be a libertarian.

If you belong to any of those groups, you might be considering voting for Gary Johnson. Ironically, if you are a libertarian, you may need the most convincing.

Gary Johnson isn’t well-grounded in libertarian theory and it results in him taking some positions that libertarians don’t like. I made the argument myself that Johnson is not really a libertarian at all. In two subsequent interviews (here and here), Johnson didn’t allay those concerns.

Regardless, Gary Johnson is the best choice for president this year for voters from all over the political spectrum.

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Romney and Republicans live in a dream world

TAMPA, September 20, 2012 – Just when you thought that nothing interesting could come out of this presidential election, Mitt Romney shocked the world. He did the last thing that any rational person could expect.

He told the truth. Of course, his poll numbers immediately plummeted.

“47 percent of Americans pay no income tax. So, our message of low taxes doesn’t connect,” said Romney.

What isn’t true is what most Republican voters believe. They believe that electing Romney as president or more Republicans in Congress will result in spending cuts that will justify lower income taxes.

Republicans live in a dream world where the $85 billion Food Stamp program or the $9.6 billion Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program causes $1.3 trillion deficits (that’s one thousand three hundred billion). If only those lazy people would get off welfare and get a job, we’d have that $9.6 billion back and…

While portraying Obama as a socialist for supposedly driving more people into government dependence, Republicans openly campaign for “preserving and protecting” Social Security and Medicare, as if those trillion dollar programs ($1.23 trillion combined in 2011) are somehow different from TANF (a.k.a. “welfare”).

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What Ron Paul didn’t say

TAMPA, September 6, 2012 — There was no big announcement during Ron Paul’s appearance on Jay Leno Tuesday night. On the contrary, Paul’s appearance was somewhat anticlimactic given Mitt Romney’s nomination at the Republican National Convention last week. Of course, he still said what he has been saying for over thirty years in public life: America must stop spending money it doesn’t have, must liquidate its debts and rethink the role of government as cradle-to-grave caregiver and policeman of the world.

Ron Paul has said many memorable things during his two most recent campaigns for president. A debate moderator tried to put him on the spot regarding his position on leaving Iraq, asking contemptuously, “What is your plan to get U.S. troops out of Iraq?” Paul replied without hesitation, “We marched right in there without a plan, we can march right out.”

When asked about Newt Gingrich’s suggestion that the U.S. government explore colonizing the moon, Paul replied, “No, I don’t want to go to the moon, although I’d like to send some politicians up there.”

A few days ago, I posed a question at the end of my story on the Maine delegation fiasco. What were they really so afraid of?

It wasn’t what Ron Paul said that had them so scared. It was what he didn’t say.

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The real story behind those Ron Paul delegates from Maine

TAMPA, September 2, 2012 – By the time of Marco Rubio’s speech at the Republican National Convention (RNC), rhetoric overload and sore feet had overcome any desire I had to listen. I sat down at a table in the corridor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum. A few minutes later, several young people sat in the other chairs.

One of them was wearing a tee shirt that read, “Texas Remembers the Alamo, and the Maine, and the Oklahoma, and the Louisiana, and the Oregon, and the Massachusetts.”

Those are the other five states in which Ron Paul had majorities one week before the RNC. Together with the three states he actually won (Iowa, Minnesota and Nevada) Ron Paul would have carried eight states had many of those delegates not been unseated at the last minute.

The man wearing the tee shirt was Chris Howe, Ron Paul supporter and alternate delegate from Texas. Rob Hinojosa was a guest and the graphic designer of the tee shirts.

One day before, both had marched out of the RNC along with the Maine delegation and an army Ron Paul’s other delegates chanting “As Maine goes, so goes the nation!”

Howe and Hinojosa went to work on their smart phones and in short order produced Ashley Ryan, 21, the youngest national committeewoman in the history of the Republican Party.

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Peter Schiff on The Real Crash, Austrian economics and Ron Paul

TAMPA, August 30, 2012 – Like Ron Paul, Peter Schiff was predicting the 2008 economic meltdown long before it occurred. Schiff is the president of Euro Pacific Capital, a firm that pursues investment strategies based upon Schiff’s contrarian economic analysis. Clients who took his advice over the past decade did very well, even after the financial crisis.

Both Paul and Schiff are proponents of the Austrian school of economics, which emphasizes free markets, sound money and Carl Menger’s subjective theory of value. Asked to describe what the “Austrian school” is, Schiff quipped,

“It’s kind of like you’re asking me ‘What’s Science? Or what’s astronomy, because you believe in astrology. Austrian economics is economics. Keynesianism is like a witch doctor. It’s all a bunch of nonsense, but politicians love Keynesianism, because it justifies what they want to do to get elected, which is spend more money, promise something for nothing, play Santa Claus.”

Schiff was Ron Paul’s economic advisor during the 2008 campaign.

Schiff became a national sensation when the predictions documented in his 2007 book, Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse, came true. Not only was Schiff the darling of nationally televised financial and investing programs, but he found a whole new audience among Ron Paul supporters, who drove millions of page views to the You Tube video “Peter Schiff was right.”

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Doug Wead not a typical Ron Paul supporter

TAMPA, August 30, 2012 – Anyone who has followed the Republican Party presidential nominating process knows the typical Ron Paul supporter. He or she is young, passionate about Paul’s platform, and willing to ride buses all night and knock on doors all day to support Ron Paul. Most often, he or she has never participated in the political process before.

Doug Wead couldn’t be less typical in that respect. Wead is a longtime Republican Party insider. He’s worked on seven Republican presidential campaigns, starting with Barry Goldwater’s in 1964. He’s also worked in three administrations, for Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. He has entertained presidents at his house and visited theirs.

Before 2008, he didn’t know who Ron Paul was and wouldn’t have agreed with him on much..

Like so many others, Wead first became acquainted with Ron Paul during Paul’s 2008 bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Wead had concerns based upon his long experience about the Iraq War. That was how Ron Paul first caught his attention.

“When I saw the debate you mention in 2008, I thought I was the only person in the world who knew this or felt this way, and I hear Ron Paul start talking about this stuff, I didn’t know who he was. I said, ‘Who is this guy? How dare he talk about these things in public?”

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How long are Ron Paul’s coat tails?

TAMPA, August 29, 2012 ― As I walked up to the Gate B entrance of the Tampa Bay Times Forum last night, I was greeted by the sound of a large crowd inside chanting “President Paul!” followed by “End the Fed!” For a moment I thought I was back at Ron Paul’s “We are the Future Rally.” I was not. I was entering the Republican National Convention.

While Paul was not nominated and will not be a speaker at the RNC, he has something usually reserved only for winners in the general election. Ron Paul has coat tails.

After weeks of negotiations culminating in a heated debate at the RNC on Tuesday, Ron Paul finally had a portion of the delegates he’d won at Republican state conventions seated on the RNC floor. Even with his total diminished by agreement, Paul actually won Iowa, Minnesota and Nevada, garnering approximately 200 delegate votes total.

That delegate strength has allowed Paul to achieve his secondary goal of influencing the Republican Party platform. According to senior campaign advisor Doug Wead, the Republican Party platform will contain major planks of Paul’s, including auditing the Federal Reserve System, requiring a congressional declaration of war before engaging in military operations, a commission to examine instituting a gold standard, and keeping the internet free and unregulated.

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Ron Paul’s “We are the Future Rally” unlike any other political event

TAMPA, August 27, 2012 ― Everyone knows what to expect from a political rally. Speakers recite the party line on various subjects. The audience already agrees with them and knows what they are going to say. The crowd cheers. The opposition is trashed. The crowd cheers again. The keynote speaker is introduced. Standing ovation. More talking points.

Ron Paul’s “We Are the Future Rally” couldn’t have resembled that model less. Rather than politics, the entire program focused on ideas.

His first three speakers were libertarian philosophers Lew Rockwell, Walter Block and Butler Shaffer. There were no talking points. Instead, attendees were treated to intellectual arguments for individual liberty from three of the most powerful libertarian thinkers alive.

Not everyone agreed, either. Block’s controversial argument for a new libertarian stance on abortion actually drew boos. Block argued that a woman has a property right in her body and thus can evict a “trespassing” fetus from her womb, but does not have a right to take the fetus’ life. Block claimed that this was possible now during the third trimester of pregnancy and that as the science advanced, it would be possible earlier and earlier.

Some of the more conservative among Paul’s following weren’t ready to hear it.

There were speeches by politicians Barry Goldwater, Jr. and South Carolina State Senator Tom Davis, but even these were atypical. Goldwater read from and commented on passages from his father’s Conscience of a Conservative, while Davis focused exclusively on attacking the Federal Reserve System.

Paul’s official campaign blogger and rising conservative star Jack Hunter continued with a talk on conservative philosophy, citing Ronald Reagan, Russell Kirk and other noteworthy conservatives. Hunter reminded supporters of Reagan’s “three-legged stool” theory of conservatism: equal parts national security conservatives, religious conservatives and economic/libertarian conservatives. Hunter argued that it was the absence of the libertarian leg that led to the profligacy of the Bush years. He quoted Reagan saying, “libertarianism is the very heart and soul of conservatism.”

None of this is to suggest that the affair was a quiet seminar with attendees nodding their heads and taking notes. Right from senior campaign advisor Doug Wead’s opening remarks, the atmosphere was electric and the applause thunderous. As usual, remarks on the Federal Reserve System and Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy got the most enthusiastic response.

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Why does Ron Paul insist on a declaration of war?

TAMPA, August 14, 2012 – Ron Paul insists that the U.S. government shouldn’t go to war without a declaration of war by Congress. His son Rand has also taken this position, as have a few other libertarian-leaning Republican candidates. The U.S. Constitution delegates the declaration of war power to the Congress, but they have not exercised this power since WWII.

Why is this important?

Most people misunderstand the declaration of war power as “permission” to start a war. By that definition, George W. Bush argued that H.J. Res. 114 (October 16, 2002) fulfilled this constitutional requirement regarding the Iraq War. With that resolution, Congress authorized the president to use military force in the war on terror.

The declaration of war power is not the power to start a war. It is the power to declare that a state of war already exists. This can only be true if the nation in question has committed overt acts of war against the United States.

Each time the U.S. Congress has declared war, the resolution has followed the same format.

1. Congress cites the overt acts of war committed by the nation in question against the United States.

2. It recognizes the existence of the war because of those overt acts.

3. It directs the president to utilize the military to end the war.

The process is some what analogous to a criminal trial. The president “makes his case” to Congress that certain actions by a foreign nation amount to acts of war. Congress then deliberates, renders its verdict and passes sentence. The president is directed to execute the sentence.

Here is just one example. When James Polk asked Congress to declare war on Mexico in 1846, he said,

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The Mullen Minute: Audit the Fed