December 2011, Week 3


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Wed, 21 Dec 2011 23:18:30 -0500
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Why Do GOP Bosses Fear Ron Paul?

John Nichols

December 21, 2011 - 8:53am ET

DUBUQUE: Ron Paul represents the ideology that Republican
insiders most fear: conservatism.

Not the corrupt, inside-the-beltway construct that goes by
that name, but actual conservatism.

And if he wins the Iowa Republican Caucus vote on January
3--a real, though far from certain, prospect--the party
bosses will have to do everything in their power to
prevent Paul from reasserting the values of the
"old-right" Republicans who once stood, steadily and
without apology, in opposition to wars of whim and
assaults on individual liberty.

Make no mistake, the party bosses are horrified at the
notion that a genuine conservative might grab the Iowa
headlines from the false prophets. Already, they are
claiming a Paul win won't mean anything. If Paul prevails,
says Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, "People are going to
look at who comes in second and who comes in third. If
[Mitt] Romney comes in a strong second, it definitely
helps him going into New Hampshire and the other states."

The party's amen corner in the media is doing its part.
Republican-insider radio and television programs have
begun to go after Paul, the veteran congressman from Texas
who is either leading or near the top in recent polls of
likely caucus goers. Rush Limbaugh ridicules Paul on his
radio show, while Sean Hannity's Fox show has become a
nightly Paul-bashing fest, with guests like former
Education Secretary Bill Bennett trashing the congressman
with lines like: "his notion of foreign policy is

Actually, Paul's notion of foreign policy is in line with
that of conservatives used to believe. The congressman is
often referred to as a libertarian, and he has certainly
toiled some in that ideological vineyard. But the truth is
that his politics descend directly from those of former
Ohio Senator Robert "Mr. Republican" Taft and former
Nebraska Congressman Howard Buffett--old-right opponents
of war and empire who served in the Congress in the 1940s
and 1950s and who, in Taft's case, mounted credible bids
for the party's presidential nomination in 1940, 1948 and
finally in 1952. In all three campaigns, Taft opposed what
he described as the "Eastern establishment" of the
party--the Wall Streeters who, he pointedly noted, had
little in common with Main Streeters.

Taft was a steady foe of American interventionism abroad,
arguing very much as Paul does today that it threatens
domestic liberty. Indeed, just as Paul joined US Senator
Russ Feingold in opposing the Patriot Act, spying on
Americans and threats to freedom of speech and assembly in
the first days of what would become an open-ended "war on
terror," so Taft warned during the cold war that
"criticism in a time of war is essential to the
maintenance of any kind of democratic government."

"The maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run
will do the country...more good than it will do the
enemy," explained Taft, who challenged President Truman's
attempts to use war powers as an excuse to seize domestic
industries and otherwise expand what Dwight Eisenhower
would eventually define as the military-industrial complex.

Buffett, the father of billionaire Warren, opposed
military interventionism during the cold war era,
declaring on the floor of the House: "Even if it were
desirable, America is not strong enough to police the
world by military force. If that attempt is made, the
blessings of liberty will be replaced by coercion and
tyranny at home. Our Christian ideals cannot be exported
to other lands by dollars and guns. Persuasion and example
are the methods taught by the Carpenter of Nazareth, and
if we believe in Christianity we should try to advance our
ideals by his methods. We cannot practice might and force
abroad and retain freedom at home. We cannot talk world
cooperation and practice power politics."

When the threat of increased US involvement in Vietnam
arose in the early 1960s, the elder Buffett wrote in
William F. Buckley's National Review: "When the American
government conscripts a boy to go 10,000 miles to the
jungles of Asia without a declaration of war by Congress
(as required by the Constitution) what freedom is safe at
home? Surely, profits of U.S. Steel or your private
property are not more sacred than a young man's right to

Just as Ron Paul has consistently opposed free-trade deals
and schemes to enrich government contractors, the elder
Buffett railed against the crony capitalism of his day.
"There are businesses that are being enriched by national
defense spending and foreign handouts," Buffett warned in
1948. "These firms, because of the money they can spend on
propaganda, may be the most dangerous of all. If the
Marshall Plan meant $100 million worth of profitable
business for your firm, wouldn't you Invest a few
thousands or so to successfully propagandize for the
Marshall Plan? And if you were a foreign government,
getting billions, perhaps you could persuade your
prospective suppliers here to lend a hand in putting that
deal through Congress."

Buffett campaigned in 1952 to nominate Taft as the
Republican candidate for president. That effort was
opposed by the Wall Street speculators and banksters of
the day, and it failed--although not without a serious
fight that went all the way to the GOP convention.

After his defeat, Taft griped, "Every Republican candidate
for President since 1936 has been nominated by the Chase
National Bank."

That was the pure voice of old-right conservatism

It is echoed now by Ron Paul, who makes no secret of his
high regard for Taft, Buffett and the old-right
Republicans of the past, and of his disregard for the
neocons and crony capitalists of today. Paul is running
ads that propose to "drain the swamp," a reference to the
insider-driven politics of a Washington where Republicans
such as Gingrich maintain the sort of pay-to-play politics
that empties the federal treasury into the accounts of
campaign donors and sleazy government contractors.

Paul's ideological clarity scares the wits out of the
Republican mandarins who peddle the fantasy that the
interventionism, the assaults on civil liberties and the
partnerships that they have forged with multinational
corporations and foreign dictators represent anything akin
to true conservatism.

The problem that Limbaugh, Hannity and other GOP
establishment types have with Paul is that the Texan
really is a conservative, rather than a neoconservative or
a crony capitalist who would use the state to maintain
monopolies at home and via corrupt international trade

Paul's pure conservatism puts him at odds with a party
establishment that has sold out to Wall Street and
multinational corporations. But it has mad an increasingly
iconic Republican with a good many of the grassroots
activists who will attend the caucuss.

The disconnect between the disdain the establishment
expresses with regard to Paul and his appeal to the base
is easily explained.

The GOP establishment chooses partisanship over principle.
The base does not necessarily do so.

In other words, while the party establishment and its
media echo chamber reject the Main Street conservatism of
the Taft's and Buffetts, there are many grassroots
Republicans in Iowa towns like Independence and Liberty
Center (where Paul campaign signs are very much in
evidence) who find Paul's old-right conservatism quite

That is what frightens Republican party leaders. The
notion that the Grand Old Party might actually base its
politics on values, as opposd to pay-to-play deal-making,
unsettles the Republican leaders who back only contenders
who have been pre-approved by the Wall Street speculators,
banksters and corporate CEOs who pay the party's tab--and
kindly pick up some of the bills for the Democrats, as

What do the party insiders fear about genuine
conservatism? Above all, they fear that a politics of
principle might expose the fact that the Republican Party
has for decades been at odds with the conservative values
and ideals of Americans who do not want theirs to be a
warrior nation that disregards civil liberties and
domestic economics in order to promote Wall Street's
globalization agenda.

Ron Paul is not a progressive. He takes stands on abortion
rights and a number of other issues that disqualify him
from consideration by social moderates and liberals, and
his stances on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and
labor rights (like those of the author of the Taft-Hartley
Act) are anathema to economic justice advocates. But Paul
cannot be dismissed as just another robotic Republican.
Indeed, he is more inclined to challenge Republican
orthodoxy on a host of foreign and fiscal policy issues
than Barack Obama. He does so as something that is rare
indeed at the highest levels of American politics: a

And if he wins Iowa, he could begin a process of
transforming the Republican Party into a conservative

That scares the Republican bosses who currently maintain
the party concession on behalf of the Wall Streeters. But
it, if the polls are to be believed, it quite intrigues
the folks on Main Street who may be waking up to the fact
that the "conservatism" of a Newt Gingrich or a Mitt
Romney is a sham argument designed to make the rich richer
and to make the rest of us pay for wars of whim and
crony-capitalist corruption.

* John Nichols is the author of several books that examine
the legacy of old-right conservatives such as Taft and
Buffett, including: Against the Beast: A Documentary
History of American Opposition to Empire (Nation Books).


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