Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

June 14, 2000


I don't get mail from presidential candidates all that often. Although Pat drops me a line now and then, Dubya has yet to ask my advice on what shape his Kosovo policy should take, and – for some reason – Al Gore hasn't gotten back to me on my generous offer to write all his foreign policy speeches and position papers. But I am pleased to report that one bona fide presidential candidate has gotten back to me: Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party candidate, sent me the following note:

"Dear Justin:

"In your June 5 column, you say: 'So, today, with Buchanan the only candidate who would stop the murderous war on Iraq, on those grounds alone he is the one possible choice for antiwar activists of the left as well as the right.' This doesn't happen to be the case. I am for total non-intervention – even more so than Buchanan is. He finds American interests in some intervention; I find it in none. The principal difference between Buchanan and me is that he believes a wise leader (he) can decide properly when government should overrule your freedom – as in when foreign intervention is warranted, when you should be prevented from buying what you want from overseas, when your constitutional liberties should be abridged in the name of fighting drugs or immigration, and many, many other areas.

"I believe neither Al Gore, George W. Bush, Ralph Nader, or Pat Buchanan is qualified to run your life – and neither am I. I believe in you. You might believe I'm not worth supporting because I have no chance to win. But any thought that Buchanan is going to win is a fantasy. At the present time, the polls show him with 2% and me with 1%. Given such figures, it would seem you can make a much better statement on behalf of your beliefs by supporting the candidate who actually shares those beliefs.

"With best wishes,

He also graciously sent me the foreign policy chapter from his new book, The Great Libertarian Offer – an excellent chapter, and a very readable book, by the way. As one of the few remaining movement activists who remember the good old days before Jesse Ventura and Bill Maher were somehow inducted into the libertarian ranks, Browne is practically the only movement leader of any stature who still retains an interest in the Libertarian Party as a vehicle for social change. He is a charming and knowledgeable man, and a good candidate. (He is head and shoulders above his critics – pygmies to a man – who carp and complain that he isn't "purist" enough: this about a man who would immediately get rid of most government as we know it!) As for his foreign policy positions, they reflect the consistent opposition to US military intervention overseas that has been encoded in the Libertarian platform since around the mid-1970s – thanks to Murray N. Rothbard and Williamson Evers, who in the early days had to fight off the Randians and others who wanted to enlist the party in the Cold War. How come I know so much about the Libertarian Party? I joined the party in 1974, and was active in the MacBride for President campaign, the LP's second White House bid, but the first I'd ever heard of – and I had been looking.


You see, I had been an active libertarian from a very early age; as a member of the libertarian faction of Young Americans for Freedom in the sixties, which later made up the founding cadre of the LP, I was there at the beginning. The first issue of Reason arrived in my mailbox, way back when that glossy anodyne was a self-stapled 16-page photo-offset magazine that wowed its mostly teenaged audience. So I was a prime candidate for recruitment: it was just that I couldn't find them! My parents, who were all-too-familiar with my political enthusiasms, sent me clippings about the founding of the Libertarian Party, in 1972, but it wasn't until the MacBride campaign, in 1976, that I actually met a real live member of the Libertarian Party – and the next few years were a frenzy of political activity. Back then, the libertarian movement was essentially the Libertarian Party, and all the movement "greats" played some sort of role in its internal politics – first and foremost being Murray N. Rothbard, the libertarian social theorist and economist, who for years was the Grand Old Man of the LP, and guided it through its early successes. I stayed in the party until 1983, playing a very active role, in association with Rothbard, and ran as a candidate for office several times in the San Francisco Bay Area, garnering at one point as much as 8 percent of the vote in a race for State Assembly. In 1983, however, catastrophe struck. . . .


That was the year more than half the party walked out of the national convention in a debilitating split from which the LP never really recovered. Although the party's 1980 standard-bearer, Ed Clark, got more votes, the really high point of the LP, in an organizational sense, was the presidential campaign of Ron Paul, in 1988. Paul had previously been a Republican congressman, gerrymandered out of his district by party bosses, and thankfully he has regained his seat – but in the interim he agreed to take on the onerous task of running for the highest office in the land on a hopeless third party ticket. He garnered some 470,000 votes, and more importantly built up the heretofore sagging reputation of the LP as up-and-coming – "America's third largest party," we used to boast. What he got in return was ill-treatment by his internal party critics, a "left" opposition that did not so much object to Paul's politics as they did to his cultural stance: he didn't pander to "gays" and concentrate 90 percent of his energy on the drug issue, he wouldn't mouth liberal platitudes about abortion, and – far worse, in the critics' eyes – both he and his charming wife Carol were themselves exemplars of traditional American culture and bourgeois values: their "lifestyle" did not involve smoking dope and dancing 'til dawn. In short, they were (and are) precisely the kind of people that make up the overwhelming majority of Americans, the Great American Middle that is yearning to be set free of their bondage to the federal government – and naturally the LP rejected them.


I won't go into a history of the Libertarian Party here, suffice to say that, in the meantime, the hypnotic regularity of Libertarian presidential campaigns has become a quadrennial ritual that tries the patience – and stretches the pocketbooks – of its remaining supporters. In spite of supporting a hefty bureaucracy, the party apparatus does little other than put out the monthly LP News, run a website, and send out fundraising letters: the main activity is getting and retaining ballot status. There is no internal education, and new recruits are likely to be more familiar with the Jesse Ventura brand of fruitcake "libertarianism" than the beloved cause of Ludwig von Mises, Murray N. Rothbard, and the founding cadre of the party. Amid much brouhaha, the national party leadership has been touting the success of its membership drive, in which they claim to have reached a membership of some 33,000 dues-payers. An impressive achievement, on paper, but if you look a little closer . . .


And you don't have far to look. One of the featured articles in the March [2000] issue of LP News vividly dramatizes the principle that in politics, as in other aspects of life, quantity is not quality: the breathless announcement that Irv Rubin, the "international chairman" of the Jewish Defense League, has joined the Libertarian Party! The subhead reads: "JDL head: Jews 'need the Second Amendment.'" We all need the Second Amendment, but the JDL's endorsement of this libertarian principle may be less valuable than the writer of this headline imagines. After all, is it really all that great to have the "international chairman" of a terrorist organization that openly and proudly advocates violence, and has a long history of thuggery, suddenly proclaim that he is a capital-'L' Libertarian and join the party? Who's next – Osama bin Laden?


The LP News article reporting on this fusion of terrorism and "libertarianism" is a classic of unintentional humor, and will doubtless go down in the annals of LP history as the low point, marking the final stage of its degeneration into a standing joke. According to this mercifully un-bylined piece, Rubin was motivated in part "by 'recent attacks on Jews," such as the shootings in the Midwest last July." Huh? The JDL, like the Minuteman, white supremacist groups, and other nutball outfits who have armed themselves in preparation for some supposedly inevitable apocalypse, operate in effect like criminal gangs. Rubin's devotion to the Second Amendment to the contrary notwithstanding, the JDLers want to keep their guns because they fully expect and intend to use them. It used to be that all Libertarian Party members had to sign a pledge, attached to their membership application, that they abjured violence as a means to obtain their political goals; not that they pledged themselves to pacifism, but that they could not advocate the 'initiation of force or violence." But one of the five principles of the JDL is:

"JDL upholds the principle of Barzel – iron – the need to both move to help Jews everywhere and to change the Jewish image through sacrifice and all necessary means – even strength, force and violence."

Hel-LO? Earth calling Libertarian Party – is anybody home? Am I really the one and only libertarian on earth who thinks that this seeming contradiction requires at least some explanation – for we don't get any in this dopey LP News article. Blithely rattling on, the anonymous author tells us all about Rubin's career as the Jewish answer to – and mirror image of – George Lincoln Rockwell in admiring tones:

"Rubin brings to the Libertarian Party a long history of political and social activism – and an association with an organization that has been both praised and condemned for its vow "to defend Jewish rights, property, individuals, institutions, and honor by any means necessary.'"


Let's get a grip on whom and what we're talking about here: The JDL was founded in 1968 by Rabbi Meir Kahane in Jewish neighborhoods of New York City, first as a vigilante group like the Guardian Angels and quickly moved into the realm of political hooliganism: attacks on Arab diplomatic missions at the UN, and bombings of Soviet tourism, trade, and diplomatic facilities. The FBI listed the JDL as an official "terrorist" organization, and, in the period from 1968-83, law enforcement officials ascribed at least 37 terrorist acts to JDL members. According to the Historical Dictionary of Terrorism, by Sean Anderson and Stephen Sloan (Methuen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1995):

"While the International Terrorism: Attributes of Terrorist Events (ITERATE) database developed on behalf of the United States Central Intelligence Agency by Edward F. Mickolus recorded 50 such incidents from 1968-1987, making the JDL second only to the Puerto Rican FALN (q.v.) as the major domestic terrorist group. Nonetheless the JDL is a legally incorporated political action group and has officially disavowed responsibility for any violent actions carried out by its members. Bombings accounted for 78 percent of all JDL terrorist activities; shootings accounted for 16 percent; while arson attacks, vandalism, kidnapping, threats, and verbal harassment accounted for the rest."


Rubin has "a long history of political and social activism" alright – it is the history of an organization of outright wackos and racists who are, furthermore, armed and dangerous. These are the same psychopaths who bombed the San Francisco branch of the Iranian Bank Melli on January 26, 1981 and a JDL bomb tore through the Iraqi UN Mission on April 28, 1982.. The JDL planted a bomb in the office of impresario Sol Hurok, who was targeted because he helped arrange performances of Soviet ballet troupes in the United States – and killed one of Hurok's employees. On October 11, 1985, the Los Angeles offices of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) was bombed, killing the ADC director Alex Odeh, and on August 15 of the same year 1985, a sixty-one-year-old Tsherim Soobzokov, was bombed at his Paterson, N.J., home and later died of his wounds. As Anderson and Sloan put it: "In such attacks an anonymous caller would claim the action in the name of the JDL, and afterward an official JDL spokesman would disavow the group's responsibility. In 1987 several JDL members were convicted on a variety of criminal charges." When Odeh was killed, Kahane disassociated himself from the group and went to Israel, where he founded the virulently racist Kach movement. Kach advocates the forced expulsion of all Arabs (and non-Jews) from Greater Israel, the creation of a theocratic police state, and a relentless war against the Arab states.


The death of Odeh did not disturb Rubin in the slightest: he publicly stated that Odeh "got what he deserved," adding "I'm not crying over the death of Alex Odeh. The only reason JDL was brought into the picture is because Arab Americans were putting pressure on the government to blame us for it." While Rubin's group has not been caught breaking the law since the arrest and conviction of JDL members for terrorist acts in the late 1980s, Rubin's warnings about alleged "rising violence" against Jews coupled with his intense desire to be able to get hold of guns sounds an ominous note. Could the JDL be about to go on another terrorist binge – just in time to associate the LP with its demented activities? Although the innocent victims of the JDL's terrorism have our deepest sympathy, it will serve the LP right – what are they doing getting in bed with this nutcase and his cult of deluded and violence-prone followers?


Naturally the LP News does not mention the terroristic history of its newfound allies: instead the JDL is described a "a nationwide organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, racists, white supremacists," and "confronting them." Confront how? The LP News admiringly relates:

"For example, Rubin has personally been arrested more than 30 times for agitating against neo-Nazis. And the JDL was denied a permit to join a counter-protest against a Ku Klux Klan demonstration in Washington, DC in 1999 after the group candidly told the Park Service that its members would disregard police barriers in an effort to physically prevent the Klan from marching."


This outright thuggery is lauded by implication, since the LP News makes no other comment on this incident except to note that Rubin has been arrested "over 32 times." Yeah, I'll bet, and it probably should have been double that: this guy is a walking time bomb, just waiting to go off. And it makes one curious as to what other types of rallies and gatherings Rubin would like to disperse with the fist of the JDL. At the very top of his list are any public manifestations of Patrick J. Buchanan's presidential campaign – and he has already embarked on such a campaign in alliance with the Libertarian Party. As the JDLers report it:

"On April 30th, fifty members of the Jewish Defense League allied with half a dozen members of the Libertarian party confronted Patrick Buchanan and his so-called "Buchanan Brigades" at 1823 Foothill Blvd in the city of La Canada. At a palatial estate, 1000 adoring fans of this filthy antisemite had to walk by the angry JDL members and a Libertarian contingent. The JDL and its allies, armed only with megaphones and signs, appealed to those people not to support this demagogue because of the numerous antisemitic statements made by Buchanan. . . . Due to the overwhelming police presence, and discretion being the better part of valor, the league was forced to continue its protest in a peaceful manner."


Discretion being the better part of valor my eye! If it hadn't been for the heavy police presence, the JDLers would have been delighted to spill a little Buchananite blood that day. The Buchanan campaign is lucky they didn't bomb the place. And that's not all: In a blatant act of intimidation, this creep Rubin had the nerve to publish the home number and address of Sam Cohen, the father of the neutron bomb and a Buchanan supporter who spoke at the LaCanada event, asking JDL members and supporters to contact Cohen and "persuade" him to stop supporting Buchanan. Is this the kind of person that the LP is welcoming into its ranks – and joining with in public demonstrations? If so, then on those grounds alone I can never support the Libertarian Party or any of its candidates, not even for dogcatcher.


By the way, Rubin stipulates that he "agrees with the Libertarian Party on almost every issue except non-interventionism, arguing that the LP should endorse the U.S. government's military support for Israel." Oh well, sacrificing this principle will be a small price to pay for the privilege of an alliance with this strutting pumped-up fifth rate rabblerouser – his loutish countenance leering at us from the pages of the LP News like a Semitized vision of Mussolini: stomach held in, arms pumped up like a poisoned dog's, a hostile glare emanating from his fanatical staring eyes. "However," the LP News continues, "on almost every other subject, Rubin said he endorses LP positions – and thinks the LP and the JDL can work together to accomplish mutual goals." Well, thank goodness for that! One thing we have to say about the Libertarian Party, instead of covering up its craven opportunism, the LP trumpets it. As to who is using whom, it is hard to say, but LP members and sympathizers would do well to bear in mind Rubin's own words as reported in the LP News:

"Rubin said he intends to be an active Libertarian Party member, and may someday seek elected office as a Libertarian. My LP membership gives me a platform that I currently don't have in the broad general public – [and] I hope for a glorious future in the Libertarian Party."


By giving this nutball a platform he would not otherwise merit, a great disservice is being done to an organization that once stood for high principle, whatever its shortcomings in the realm of electoral politics. There is something very wrong with the Libertarian Party, but I long ago gave up trying to do something about it. Consider this column a kind of valedictory, a final attempt to come to terms with the party I left behind but still felt a kind of link to – the way a man feels towards a divorced spouse, a mixture of empathy and distaste. With this incident, the empathy is completely gone – and the distaste is underscored. The crazy alliance of the LP and the JDL, into a kind of "liber-terrorism," is a nightmarish concept that I never thought I would live to see. That the Libertarian Party, of all organizations on earth, was on the same side of a picket line with this crazed loony bird is a disgrace to the memory of what the Libertarian Party once was – and can never be again. I suppose next time I attend a Buchanan for President event, I am likely to meet up with this same band of wack-jobs – the rabid racists of the JDL and the burnt-out remnants of my political past. What a haunting that will be! I can hardly wait. No, Harry, I think I'll stick with my chosen candidate, Pat Buchanan, thank you – and I'll see you and the JDL on the other sides of the police barriers.

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