It’s All About Ron Paul

Hike on over to National Review Online, where they’re having Ron Paul Day, in the guise of a general symposium on the South Carolina Republican debate: I especially liked Kate O’Beirne’s remark:

“I thought [McCain’s] most uncomfortable moment was during the introductions when the sidebar bios reminded us that he is only a year younger than Ron Paul, who is old enough to remember that Republicans used to want to eliminate Cabinet agencies — now that’s old!”

What the debate showed is that the Republican committment to war and torture trumps the old Republican philosophy of fiscal sanity and limited government: this is why Giuliani, the furthest from a traditional conservative Republican sensibility in temperament as well as ideology, is widely viewed as having won. His rise represents the triumph of Bizarro Conservatism, otherwise known as neoconservatism: Ron Paul’s campaign represents the death-agony of the old Goldwater-Taft-limited government legacy of the GOP. Or at least that’s the scenario we’re all supposed to believe. Whether it plays out like that, in the long run, remains to be seen. In any case, the gang over at National Review is caught in a conundrum: they all proclaim that Rep. Paul is a “fringe” candidate, and yet they can’t stop talking about him.

According to Jonah Goldberg, Paul’s raising the banner of Robert A. Taft makes him “irrelevant.” But then why is every commentary on the debate in NRO fixated on him? I’ll tell you why: because Paul offers not only a coherent alternative to the crazed foreign policy views of the neocons, but also one that has deep roots in the GOP (as I pointed out in my soon-to-be-reprinted Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement). As I have argued at length over the years, the anti-imperialist legacy of the Old Right is ready for a revival, and the neocons are deathly afraid of it: that’s why the NROdniks are up in arms about Paul’s heresy.

To Jonah, bringing up the ghost of Taft is an “argument from authority” — which is an oddly anti-traditionalist trope coming from an avowed “conservative.” As far as the neocons are concerned, however, history is something to be made, not revered or even remembered. Yesterday may belong to Ron Paul and Robert A. Taft, but tomorrow belongs to Benito Giuliani, who isn’t running for President but for Maximum Leader.

At least Jonah tried to engage Paul, and what he represents, intellectually, albeit in his typically facile manner, but the real exemplar of the new mutant “conservatism” of leader-worship and sado-masochistic paeans to waterboarding is one Kathleen Parker, whose overtly sexual “big Daddy” imagery of Rudy “spanking” Ron Paul shows the psychopathology of red-state fascism. She writes:

“Giuliani played daddy tonight and spanked Ron Paul for blaming the U.S. for 9/11. Big points for calling on Paul to withdraw his absurd statement. Message: Don’t mess with Rudy.”

These people are twisted in more ways than I care to imagine: this is Weimar “conservatism” of a most degenerate sort, and it is really impossible to argue with Ms. Parker’s pornographic politics. To the cadre of Bizarro conservatism, the biggest Daddy wins the title of Maximum Leader, and dissidents are “spanked.”John Derbyshire, on the other hand, isn’t buying Giuliani’s act:

“Ron Paul vs. Rudy Giuliani punch-up about the motivation of the 9/11 attackers. Ron Paul put forward the ‘blowback’ theory, which I first heard on or about Sept. 12, 2001, from Pat Buchanan, and which is perfectly plausible, though in my opinion an over-simplification. Rudy: ‘I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before.’ For goodness sake, Rudy. Don’t you READ? The reality is, Rudy, that entire books have been written to promote the blowback theory. Have your staffers read some of them & write up abstracts for you. You NEVER HEARD of this theory? Gimme a break.”

I agree with this, but would add: it all depends on the meaning of the word “hear.” Of course Giuliani has heard of the “blowback” theory, in one form or another, but did he really hear it in the sense of understanding it intellectually? The totalitarian mindset of a man like Giuliani doesn’t admit to ideas he disagrees with: he merely reacts, with indignation, as Benito did in response to Paul’s disquisition on the long history of our deliberately provocative policy in the Middle East. Of course Giuliani was being disingenuous when he exclaimed that he’d “never heard” of such an explantion for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and that’s because intellectual dishonesty is part and parcel of who Giuliani is, and what he aspires to become. If you think he’s lying now, just wait until he’s President. The man is a danger to the Republic, and its only fitting that he should take umbrage at Ron Paul, the Republic’s last defender in Washington: it’s a classic confrontation of good (Paul) and evil (Benito) — and you couldn’t ask for a more dramatic narrative.