American Crosscut: The Ron Paul Dialogues

Charlie and I picked up another Crosscut, this time about Ron Paul.  It actually started out as a casual email, and wound up being what I believe to be an interesting conversation.

It seems to me that where Charlie and I differ the most centers around where government powers should lie.  I believe that less federal regulation and more states rights are important, because we can actually change things at a local level.

Charlie, from my perspective, believes that the federal government can solve a problem in one fell swoop.  I can see where he would think this way, because it does seem better at face value, but it all depends on who is in office as to whether or not it resonates with you and your values.  That’s a risk I’m not willing to take, because all control by the people is lost, and we’re left to a roll of the dice every four years.

Charlie: Joey, the recent Republican presidential debate gave many people their first close look at Ron Paul. We’ve both written about him, and I think it’s pretty interesting how he appeals to a very different constituency than has been in the saddle of the GOP.

When we first met, I recall you and several of the other conservatives said you were leaning toward Ron Paul, and I thought, what the hell?!? After watching the debate, and how he fits in field, it’s making more sense to me.

Though I’m a lefty, I score pretty high on the libertarian side of things, so I do see some of his appeal. I resonate with parts of his position on Iraq and foreign intervention. I also respect his personal discipline and the fact he’s worked in a demanding professional career besides politics.

But I also disagree with some of his positions — starting with marriage and reproductive choice — and he strikes me as a rigid, humorless personality who’s not going to try to unite the country.

Since you’ve followed him longer and more closely, I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Joey: Ron Paul. Wow.  Well, I have to say that I agree with Ron Paul on about 85% of his platforms. However, I find him a bit altruistic as far as his foreign policy is concerned.  His comment on the YouTube debate the other night about our military being stationed in Saudi Arabia being the direct cause of terroristic hits and threats didn’t resonate with me at all. But, on the other hand, I’m ready for a serious change.

I have never been completely supportive of the Iraq War, or George Bush. (If this tells you anything about the subject, I can’t stand Sean Hannity. He makes me want to rip the radio out of my car and stomp on it.) I will not blindly follow the Bush Administration – especially when war is concerned – simply because it is a Republican administration.  I’m not a party-line type of person, and my fellow Republicans are pissing me off with their clichés and rhetoric that refuse to question any Republican who simply waves the American flag around.

Bottom line:  I don’t trust government, period, regardless of who is in office.

There are people – many of them, as a matter of fact – who say, “But [Republican Candidate] is better than Hillary. Anyone is better than Hillary.” People like that make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. These are the ignorant Republican masses who will vote for anyone with an “R” behind their name, people who refuse to demand change, because it may “hurt the party”. I, unlike them, don’t give a damn about the party. I do, however, give a damn about my country, and my freedom.

So… If I had to choose amongst all of the Republican candidates thus far, I would pick Ron Paul. I’m not at all happy with any of them, Huckabee especially, since my Christian brothers and sisters have become completely disillusioned by him. The Christian base is intent on electing a Christian, without considering that the President of the United States should represent all of the people and should embrace freedom. Christians should fear a “Church State” in any capacity, whether we are ruled by the religion of Christianity, or the religion of Environmentalism, or the religion of the Nanny State. But I digress…

I’m beginning to be part of the crowd hoping that Hillary gets elected, so that there is an uprising in the Republican Party.  Granted, I would never, ever, in a million years vote for her, or any of the other Democratic candidates (I couldn’t, based on principle), but I think the Republican Party has completely neglected their base, and they take us for a bunch of weak fools. I despise the Republican party almost as much as the Democratic Party, at this point.

What are your thoughts on Ron Paul?

Charlie: Some of his outspokenness is bracing and reflects an independent-mindedness I like. I agree with him about the corrosive effect of our intervention in other countries, including Saudi Arabia where the 9/11 killers came from. His opposition to our interfering in the affairs of sovereign nations overseas — as opposed to positive engagement through trade, diplomacy, education, etc. — seems based on how he’d want America to be dealt with. Is it naïve? Maybe. But it’s morally consistent.

On spending the nation into further debt, he sides with the angels, but like most people in Congress, he also adds earmarks to appropriations bills. He says it’s a way to get back federal income tax money for his constituents who shouldn’t be paying taxes. His view of taxes seems at the extreme end of the party’s anti-government orientation. He doesn’t project a positive vision of government. He just acts like he’d drown it and then sell the bathtub.

I wrote a post in which I said his apparent inflexibility and reliance on personal experience and religious beliefs to make decisions affecting others was his least appealing characteristic. Restricting reproductive choice and the rights of gays under the banner of states rights doesn’t seem very libertarian to me.

Joey
:  Yes, Paul has added earmarks to appropriations bills.  Although I understand where he’s coming from by attempting to return income to his constituents who are already overtaxed, it still doesn’t look good.  Although, I have to say that I relate to him on his views of taxation.  I’m sure you know from our previous exchanges that I only see a need for taxation for infrastructure, protection, military, and our justice system.  Anything else – to me – is a luxury.  This is what makes me more of a libertarian, and why I often disagree with my republican mother. 

(“Drown it and sell the bathtub”!  Ha!  That was pretty funny, but I actually like the sound of it.)

I don’t believe that Ron Paul would restrict reproductive rights.  He simply wants to repeal Roe v. Wade (which is just bad constitutional law) and allow the states to decide on the issue of abortion.  I think this is fair, just, and follows our constitution.  As far as “the rights of gays”…I haven’t looked into Paul’s stance on this issue.  Personally, I don’t believe that we should have a federal marriage amendment (which I’m sure Paul is against), because again, it’s bad constitutional law, just like Roe v. Wade.  The states should decide on civil unions, not the feds.

I guess, for me, it all comes back to placing government where it belongs…closer to home.  When more and more comes from Washington, we get a little further away from being able to control it, which is not what our founding forefathers had in mind.  This is another area where I support Paul wholeheartedly.  He seems intent on returning the government to the people.  No other candidate comes close to holding this view, from my perspective.

As far as his humorless personality, I would agree with you.  However, although I’d love to have another president who possessed Ronald Reagan’s wit and mischievous grin, I’m more inclined to vote for someone who is going to get down to business, at this point. 

Charlie: Paul said, “We need a new method to prioritize our spending. It’s called the Constitution of the United States.” Well, that’s one approach. But it doesn’t offer a vision that gets me excited. Worse, it’s a loopy, reductive way of dealing with the nation’s challenges, such as declining infrastructure, security, global competitiveness, etc. It’s sort of like a CEO getting up and saying, “We’re going to prioritize our spending based on the third law of thermodynamics.”

I may have misrepresented personal Paul’s position on gay rights, but it’s hard for me to tell exactly where he stands. I think his states rights and limited government positions would have the effect of further limiting reproductive rights and resisting same sex marriage. That for me amounts to exerting restrictive control over individual rights — it’s just someone else doing the restricting.

I respect people like Ron Paul who act consistently with their values, and I think you do, too. In conducting your personal life, that’s admirable and it’s generally a positive leadership trait. But I also think when you are leading and representing the nation, it matters that your personal values are reasonably aligned with a broad range of people. It matters that you can act out of empathy as well as principle. It matters that you can be flexible in the face of change. For me, those are areas where Ron Paul ranges from questionable to frightening — and I think no one is more frightened than the Republican Party.

Joey: Returning more decision-making to the states isn’t just “someone else doing the restricting”.  You and I can actually get involved in our state and local governments, and change things.  I think it’s safe to say that the only change you and I would ever hope of having at a federal level is voting for a president, which, as we both know, winds up bringing precious little of it. 

If we follow the constitution, and allow people to be free to have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, protect private property rights, treat everyone equally, and punish those who take those rights away, everything else will fall into place. It won’t be perfect, and it never will be, because humans aren’t perfect, but I still have to say that the American experiment was – and I hope still is – the greatest civilization in the history of the world. I see where Ron Paul is coming from on this.  We will never have a utopia, and that’s not what I expect.  I simply expect to be free and have that freedom protected by my government.    

Paul’s position on gay rights doesn’t seem to be much of a position, other than keeping the federal government out of civil unions and leaving it to the states to decide on the issue.  I can relate to Paul’s position, because I don’t really have one, either. I don’t plain think anything of people who are gay.  I think that Ron Paul’s non-position on the “morality” of homosexuality is refreshing, actually, because he doesn’t seem to have one.  Christians who take an active stance with the issue of homosexuality as it relates to government, on either side of the issue, are saying something about their priorities (screwed up).  I’m pretty sure that Ron Paul thinks the way I do on this issue, and people who are gay shouldn’t be afraid of that.  They should know that they will be treated as human beings, not a sexual preference.

However, people like Ron Paul and I don’t believe that someone should have more rights or have more value placed upon their lives than another human being simply because of who they choose to have sex with. (Hate crimes legislation comes to mind.) 

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