July 5, 2000


The day after the July 4th holiday is the traditional kickoff of the political season, and the preliminaries indicate that this is going to be one wild and wacky presidential election year. The first hint of the fun to come was the news that the Republican National Convention will eschew the usual political speeches and policy pronouncements, and get right down to the boom-schickey-boom. If you faithful GOPers had your hearts set on a 45-minute peroration on the glories of Star Wars or the genius of Ronald Reagan – forget it. According to Bush "insiders" cited by Time magazine, the Republicans are ditching politics this year in favor of music with a subtle ideological twist – as in the twisting hips of Latin heartthrob Ricky Martin. One Bush aide confided to Time that convention planners are "putting the convention's emphasis on 'nontraditional groups' that include 'lots of women, lots of minorities.' In addition, planners have suggested trying to land Ricky Martin or the Backstreet Boys as the evening's entertainment." I guess Bush's pow-wow with the Log Cabin Republicans really turned the GOP's prospective nominee around. Dubya told us he came out of that meeting "a changed man," but few of us thought to take this quite so literally. . . .


Politics as entertainment – it's the American way. We like a good show. But the deadly-dull Al Bore is determined to scotch any possibility of a good time this year by refusing to include any of the "minor" party candidates in the presidential debates. Bob Novak gives us the somewhat surprising inside scoop that Dubya is eager to go up against Buchanan and Nader, and I'm liking this guy more every day. According to Novak, "The GOP candidate has told prominent Republicans that he is not happy taking direction from the self-appointed bipartisan commission that sets ground rules for Presidential debates." The arbitrary 15%-in-five-different-polls standard laid down by the event's corporate sponsors would exclude both Nader and Buchanan, but "Bush has said privately he would welcome a four-way debate giving all candidates a chance." But is Bush running his own campaign, or is he just some kind of marionette – and who, in that case, is pulling the strings?


On the other hand, Gore, the much-vaunted champion debater who humbled Ross Perot and pulverized Bradley, is quaking in his boots at the thought of having to face down Nader. Novak quotes one top Gore official as saying: "The debate is the purest form of Presidential campaigning. That means the two major candidates only, with no minor candidates taking up the precious time." The debate is too "precious" to sully it with the presence of "minor" irritants to the bipartisan duopoly that runs this country. Such impurities must be flushed out of the system, along with all dissent on such issues as foreign policy, immigration, international trade, and the meaning of American sovereignty in the age of "globalization." Some issues, after all, are beyond discussion.


This not-all-that-astonishing expression of the ruling elite's unlimited arrogance and sense of entitlement was trumpeted on the editorial page of the New York Times, which singled out Nader as being driven by "ego" to run for President on the Green party ticket, while conceding (albeit somewhat reluctantly) that "of course, both Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Nader have the right to run." How liberal and open of the Times editorial board to say so. "But," they continue, "given the major differences between the prospective Democratic and Republican nominees, there is no driving logic for a third-party candidacy this year, and the public deserves to see the major party candidates compete on an uncluttered playing field." Why even bother having elections? Why clutter up the electoral landscape with all those messy, troublesome parties – why not have just one and be done with it?


The great "differences" between the Republican and Democratic candidates were rightly mocked by Nader in a Crossfire segment, where Novak gleefully questioned him about the impact of his campaign on Al Gore's presidential ambitions. But in an interview with Jim Lehrer on PBS, Nader revealed that when it comes to the crucial area of foreign affairs – that most presidential of all issues – the Greens don't offer much of an alternative to our bipartisan policy of global intervention. Lehrer hit him early, and hard:

JIM LEHRER: "Some people have suggested that the most important issue outside domestic issues in this Presidential election campaign should be how would you, a candidate for President of the United States, and I'll ask you this question – how would you decide when to use this great military force that we have in the United States of America?"


Nader's answer was a masterpiece of obfuscation. "Well, first of all I would set a priority of waging peace. . . ." Eh? What the heck is that supposed to mean? According to Nader, it means "anticipating conflicts abroad, finding out when two egos collide and cost thousands of young men's lives like Eritrea and Ethiopia, which could have been prevented." Now that's the answer: every head of state on earth ought to be compelled to undergo counseling, like drunk drivers and perpetrators of spousal abuse, and maybe we can cure them of their illness or at least cut down their egos to the proper size.


No wonder Nader is doing so well in California. Surely this strikes the rest of humanity as being somewhat vague, if not altogether odd, and Lehrer, too, seemed puzzled: after letting Nader waffle on about "preventive diplomacy" for a few minutes, he asked the question again:

LEHRER: "But if somebody is listening to you right now and says okay, I want to know one thing from you, Ralph Nader, and that is when would you send my young people, our young people into harm's way? And when would you not? What criteria would you use for deciding that?"

NADER: "Well, let's use the usual phrase: When our essential security interests and the safety of the American people is at stake."


Ah yes, "the usual phrase" – not exactly what we were expecting from this purported maverick, who claims to represent a real alternative to the usual suspects. Isn't this the same rationale trotted out by American Presidents to justify intervention from Iraq to Kosovo and a lot of places in between? Nader, obviously flustered, then started talking about "preventive diplomacy" again – only this time he gave a concrete example that practically had me standing up and cheering:

"For example, looking backwards there were ways to have deterred the Japanese; there are ways to signal to the Germans. Historians have shown that. We have just got to be more rigorously attuned to that. If we abhor the use of violence, except as a last resort of self-defense, we will be seriously focused on how to deter it and how to prevent it."


Atta boy, Ralphie! It's good to see that, although you haven't mentioned Kosovo once in any public speeches or comments, I'm glad to see that you're not afraid to stand with Pat Buchanan on the World War II question. I'm puzzled, though, that Nader's foray into World War II revisionism has so far gone completely unremarked on, while Buchanan's very similar thesis – as explained in his book, A Republic, Not an Empire – provoked a blizzard of smears. Though Nader attacks corporatism and even the international bankers of the IMF in militantly populist terms, how many articles have we seen in The New Republic comparing him to Father Coughlin and Huey Long and likening his movement to the Spanish Falange? Will we now be treated to the spectacle of Norman Podhoretz accusing the Green nominee of anti-Semitic tendencies – and if not, why not? Nader will not get the Buchanan treatment for the simple reason that he goes along with the rest of the gang on the vital foreign policy issues of the day. Bosnia, the Middle East, our system of alliances, and, most of all, the universalist conception of a one-style-fits-all capital-D Democracy as the apotheosis of human evolution – Nader goes along with it all, and thus represents no real threat to the foreign policy Establishment.


Without the so-called minor parties, this presidential election year would surely be a colossal snooze, and as usual the Libertarian Party makes its own unique contribution to the general air of merriment. The LP nominated investment counselor and author Harry Browne to head the top of its ticket, and their convention was the subject of a three-day CSPAN marathon, with gavel-to-gavel coverage of this momentous event. Having been a member in the 1970s and early 1980s, it was old home week for me, as the same familiar faces, somewhat the saggier for age, made motions and struck postures as if the world had stood still since 1979. Amid the points of order and the seconding speeches, two incidents stood out. The first: a roll call vote on the question of whether a soldier in the armed forces of the United States has the right to quit his job. Listening to one LP stalwart after another get up and explain why all contracts, even those with the government, must be followed to the letter, made me remember why I walked out of the party in 1983. Apparently, things have gotten much worse. The exasperated voice of one delegate, a young fellow with a British accent, who calmly explained why he certainly hoped the bombers of Belgrade would walk out in protest reflected my own sentiments exactly. With extraordinary foresight, the wise founders of the Libertarian Party arranged it so that it takes a two-thirds majority to amend the party platform: the amenders, in this case, had a majority but not quite two thirds. The older and more experienced and educated cadre managed to pull it off this time, but how much longer can they hold out against the average LP member who thinks Bill Maher and Jesse Ventura are major libertarian theoreticians?


The second aspect of the LP national convention that struck me was the use made of Carla Howell, the Libertarian Party candidate for US Senate from Massachusetts, a square-jawed young woman with short hair and a way with a bromide. She is the lone candidate running against Senator Ted Kennedy – thanks to the LP's challenge to the Republican candidate's petition signatures, Jack E. Robinson was ruled off the GOP ballot. Considering the big fuss made about the difficulties of achieving ballot status, and the many onerous obstacles put in the path of third parties by the state – a constant theme of LP speakers – the hypocrisy of this highlighting of Howell was breathtaking in its blatant dishonesty. Never once did anyone allude to just how it happened that Howell was the only other candidate for Kennedy's seat. Furthermore, Ms. Howell's speech to the convention was a study in ideological as well as political sleight-of-hand, for she made a big point of calling for the abolition of the income tax and the elimination of the IRS – while reassuring her audience that the shortfall in revenues would be made up for with tariffs and other taxes. Tariffs? Since when does the LP advocate tariffs? If you're going to organize a political party supposedly dedicated to pure libertarianism, instead of working within one of the major parties – or even within one of the major "minor" parties, such as the Reform party – then what's the point of selling out, especially when nobody's buying?


The Reform Party nightmare drags on, with the Stop Buchanan movement sputtering badly – and the gaggle of wackos, weirdos, and tinpot party bosses aligned against Pat showing signs of increasing desperation. Lenora Fulani, the erstwhile Commie cult leader who turned on her ex-friends in the Buchanan Brigades, has traded in her pitchfork for a flying carpet: her recent endorsement of John Hagelin, the Transcendantal Meditation Party candidate who has set himself up as the only alternative to Buchanan, should be enough to sink his candidacy.


Speaking of Hagelin and his party of flakes, an alert reader sent me some very interesting information about Rob Roth, Hagelin's press secretary and a big honcho in their TM party organization. My correspondent is convinced that this is the same Robbie Roth who was in his graduating class at Bayside High School in 1966 – named "handsomest boy" in the school yearbook. Roth went on to Columbia University where he became a leading member of the Students for a Democratic Society chapter on campus: he later joined the Weather Underground, a group of violent political psychopaths who went on a bombing campaign in which they mainly succeeded in bombing and maiming themselves, although they managed to take a few innocent bystanders along with them. Roth was ultimately put on the FBI's most wanted list, an honor that is nowhere listed in his official biography. He surrendered sometime in the 1980s, and my correspondent recalls that he was given a suspended sentence. If this is the same Roth – and I wonder how many reporters will follow through on this one, while writing stories about Hagelin that don't even mention his intimate connection to TM? – then the "yogic levitation" cult is the perfect place for him. In this case, the odes to Fidel Castro and Robert Mugabe coming out of the mouth of the Maharishi, Hagelin's supreme guru and acknowledged mentor, begin to make a twisted kind of sense.


Hagelin's campaign is spamming people with email, urging them to vote in the free-for-all anybody-can-vote Reform Party national primary in order to "stop Buchanan" – by voting for Hagelin and his cult of cosmic levitation and warmed-over New Leftism. Jim Mangia is still screeching about "brownshirts" and gleefully predicting that the Long Beach convention will turn into a "brawl" – he hopes. Meanwhile, the Buchanan organization continues to pick up grassroots support from the Reform ranks and beyond, with his poll numbers rising and the prospect of his nomination looming ever larger on the Republicans' radar screen – potentially as much of a problem for Bush as Nader is for Gore.


Together, the two campaigns, Buchanan and Nader, must work together when they can to challenge the biggest monopoly of them all – not Microsoft (although I'm sure Ralph would love to get his hands around Bill Gates' neck) but the Republicrats (or is that Demopublicans?), the two wings of that same bird of prey so jealously guarding the electoral process. What is needed is a joint national crusade to open up the presidential debates and expose the bipartisan monopolists who will stop at nothing to destroy the competition before it has a chance to even develop. What the US ruling elite is getting away with in this country would not be tolerated today in Mexico – taken together, operating in tandem they are far worse than the PRI.


All across the world, we are told, people are moving toward democracy and the creation of a truly liberal society on a global scale. The values of the Enlightenment, of equality before the law and democratic procedures are supposedly acknowledged everywhere, with the Leninist project in ruins and all other competitors such as fascism completely discredited. Some theoreticians of a particularly rarefied sort have even proclaimed that we have come to "the end of history," so final and uncontested is the victory of the democratic spirit. How is it that these ideologues seem to have overlooked the one great exception to this supposedly universal (and inevitable) trend – the United States of America? Funny how that works. . . .

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).

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