Campaign Journal

Browne on Maher – "Libertarian Sells Out"
by Justin Raimondo

We live in a disgusting age, with a vulgar popular culture that mirrors the vulgarity of America's imperial pretensions, but what could be worse than talk-show host Bill Maher? His latest artistic achievement was as the reader in the audio version of Joe Esterhazy's novel in which the main character is Slick Willie's willie. With his sneering, leering public persona, Maher was a natural for the part – and his politics are even more depraved than his esthetics.


Here is a man who praised the Kosovo war as "the liberal thing to do" chumming it up with none other than Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party presidential candidate: "You know, I'm a libertarian too," gushed Maher – who then launched into an argument about why we need an amoral "Machievellian" like "Slick" Willie in the Oval Office because "it's good for America." Poor Harry just sat there, brow furrowed, as the host of "Politically Incorrect" – a show whose name is the biggest misnomer in the history of television – ranted on about how much Americans just loooove power-mad SOB's like Bill Clinton, and a good thing too, because they're "real leaders." If Maher is a "libertarian," as he constantly claims, then up is down, black is white – and I renounce the label.


While Maher is brazenly evil, the hapless Browne is just plain stupid. Ceaselessly repeating the simplistic manta that "Bush and Gore want to run your life," he coasted along for most of the show by either keeping his mouth shut or else agreeing with Maher's inanities. At the tail-end of the hour, however, Browne waded into some pretty deep water – and plunged in over his head. After getting a lot of applause for questioning whether the US government had the right to indiscriminately kill Iraqis with sanctions and bombs, the LP presidential candidate agreed with Maher's proposal that the US government ought to kill the leaders of foreign countries, such as Saddam Hussein. "I would put a price on their heads," he declared, referring not only to Saddam but also presumably to Slobodan Milosevic and anyone else that gets in our way. "And I would make it available for anyone to collect, including their wives."


Not since Edward E. Clark, the Libertarian Party's 1980 presidential candidate, declared to Ted Koppel on Nightline that libertarianism is low-tax liberalism has the party's national spokesman made such an embarrassing faux pas. It is little short of incredible that a man who presumes to speak for the party of peace and liberty has the gall to go on national television and call for the murder of foreign leaders. In a letter to me, he asked how I, a professed libertarian, could support Pat Buchanan over him:

"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."


But if assassinating foreign heads of state isn't "intervention," Harry, then what the hell is? This is precisely why the rest of the world hates us, and justly so: because even the nice Americans, like Harry Browne – really a well-meaning kind of guy, quite likable if a trifle slow – have the supreme arrogance to see themselves as naturally wielding the power of life and death over the rest of humanity. That this role should properly fall to Americans is not questioned even by the presidential candidate of a party that calls itself "Libertarian." And that is why I am not supporting Harry Browne, or any Libertarian Party candidate this year, or ever again – because they are flakes, one and all, who know nothing about the application of libertarian principles to real-world events. There are many good rank-and-file LPers, especially among the libertarian youth, but the aging and opportunistic leaders of the party are so pathetically eager to be liked that they will literally say anything to please a schmuck like Bill Maher and his nightly salon of third-rate Hollywood hangers-on and has-beens – even that the US ought to go on yet another international murder spree.


What I want to know is this: whom would you have killed, Harry? Having made your "let's assassinate the bad guys" proposal, you owe it to your supporters and potential supporters to make public your list of foreign leaders slated for death. We know you've got Saddam Hussein in your sights, and probably Milosevic – but who else merits such "noninterventionist" treatment? How about the leaders of Communist China? And what about Putin – isn't he getting a little too big for his britches? I'll bet even wily old Fidel Castro, who survived dozens of assassination attempts by the US government, wouldn't get to breathe any easier once you move into the White House, Harry: by privatizing the assassination industry, I'm sure you'll succeed where others have failed. Leave it to the "Libertarians" to come up with a "free market" way to knock off any and every foreign leader who dares to stand up to Washington. In the name of truth in advertising, however, they really ought to consider changing their name to something like the Useful Idiots. . .


Why Buchanan over Browne? Because Buchanan would never kowtow to the likes of that slimeball Maher – or accept the premise of the Maher-Browne contention that Americans ought to go around deciding who shall live and who shall die. No amount of applause from Maher's ditzy West Hollywood audience, or hectoring from the host, would blind Buchanan to the ominous moral, military, and national security implications of such dangerous arrogance. He would want to know: What are we doing running around the world gunning down the leaders of foreign countries who never attacked us? The violation of a nation's sovereignty is appalling to Buchanan, but hardly a crime in Browne's book.


After all, the Libertarian Party advocates effectively erasing US borders, opening them up not only to free trade but also to unlimited immigration, a position he touts in his letter to me. What does it matter if a country's sovereignty is violated? I have dealt with the inadequacies of the Libertarian Party as currently constituted in a previous column. However, Browne's appearance on the Maher show not only confirms my prognosis of the LP but also brings fresh evidence of its ongoing degeneration into an organization that bears almost no resemblance to the principled party of the past. Always sadly lacking in the vital realm of foreign policy – where context and facts are everything, and safe-sounding bromides won't get you very far – the Libertarian Party is now reduced to calling for a US-led worldwide jihad against any foreign leaders our chief executive deems objectionable. That this will all be done via the "private sector," using market methods to carry out a policy of ruthless aggression, somehow makes it okay. Has a more lame-brained idea ever come out of the mouth of a Libertarian Party presidential candidate?


In 1980, at the height of the LP's prominence and voter appeal, if Ed Clark had dared to declare that certain foreign leaders needed to be knocked off at the instigation of a US President, the party leaders and policy wonks would have had his head on a plate. At the very least they would have demanded a retraction, albeit one composed in the form of a "clarification." Today, with the ideological savy and knowledge of the LP rank-and-file worse than ever – and that is saying a lot! – I'll bet there isn't even a peep out of the brain-dead envelope stuffers and contributors . . . to say nothing of the burnt-out and cynical cadre, whose only real ideology is careerism. The LP is as desperate for votes as Browne was desperate for Maher's approval, but this is a new low. While the LP has been pushing a crude lowest-common-denominator form of pared down "libertarianism" and relying on some rather ambiguous sloganeering, the party and its presidential candidates have always adhered to a formal orthodoxy. But Browne's plan to get rid of Saddam Hussein and the leaders of other alleged "rogue states" is the first sign of open sellout since 1980. While Ed Clark thought he could sell libertarianism as "low-tax liberalism," Browne apparently believes he can market it as low-tax jingoism.

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