Monday night’s debate reminds me of an insightful analysis from the last campaign. Randy Barnett, Georgetown University law professor and anarchist, wrote the following in The Wall Street Journal in July 2007:
While the number of Americans who self-identify as “libertarian” remains small, a substantial proportion agree with the core stances of limited constitutional government in both the economic and social spheres — what is sometimes called “economic conservatism” and “social liberalism.” But if they watched the Republican presidential debate on May 15, many Americans might resist the libertarian label, because they now identify it with strident opposition to the war in Iraq, and perhaps even to the war against Islamic jihadists.
During that debate, the riveting exchange between Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul about whether American foreign policy provoked the 9/11 attack raised the visibility of both candidates. When Mr. Paul, a libertarian, said that the 9/11 attack happened “because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years,” Mr. Giuliani’s retort — that this was the first time he had heard that “we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq . . . and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11” — sparked a spontaneous ovation from the audience. It was an electrifying moment that allowed one to imagine Mr. Giuliani as a forceful, articulate president.
Four years later, we’re still imagining the utopia that could have been if America’s mayor had picked up only 1,191 more delegates. Well, don’t despair, pro-war anarchists. There’s always Rick Santorum.