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Ron Paul’s Rally: Appalling. and Appealing.

Thomas F. Roeser 24 September 2007 One Comment

Far from Conveying Freedom, His Group Gives a Whiff of Decadent Self-Indulgence


For one with a long history of conservative Republican political participation…and mine goes back to the 1952 presidential campaign of Robert Taft…the rally Saturday afternoon at the Hyatt-Regency hotel celebrating Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) could not have been a greater shock. Taft, son of the 27th president, was constitutionally (and this word is used advisably) unable to demagogue. His message of hoped-for return to the policies of the past did not contain many personal incentives. In place of entitlements he advocated work, instead of farm subsidies he emphasized the free market. He accepted Social Security and few other accoutrements of the corporate state but not many. He opposed expansion of the size of government, soaking the rich, a multiplicity of federal alphabetical agencies that robbed personal initiative.. He preached the hard lessons of fiscal rectitude. Most particularly in foreign policy in believed in the enlightened self-interest of America First.

His speeches were laced with statistics and legal scholarship which made his audiences apply the hard work of speculative reason. Thus his prescriptions were not simple nor applicable to a stick-on bumper sticker. On foreign policy, for instance, his “magnum opus” was a 127-page book he wrote in 1951 as a prelude to his entering the race for the presidency. It was called “A Foreign Policy for Americans.” In the book he stated in Chapter One that “I believe the ultimate purpose of our foreign policy must be to protect the liberty of the people of the United States…Only second to liberty is the maintenance of peace”. P. 11. He stated that the tradition of “neutrality and non-interference with other nations was based on the principle that this policy was the best way to avoid disputes with other nations and to maintain the liberty of this country without war” p. 12.

But he added, “I have always felt, however, that we should depart from this principle if we could set up an effective international organization because in the long run the success of such an organization should be the most effective assurance of world peace and therefore of American peace. I regretted that we did not join the League of Nations” p. 12-13. But the UN had failed to protect the peace. He added, “I was never satisfied with the United Nations Charter and stated my criticism definitely at the time. The fundamental difficulty is that it is not based primarily on an underlying law and an administration of justice under that law. I believe that in the long run the only way to establish peace is to write a law, agreed to by each of the nations, to govern the relations of such nations with each other and to obtain the covenant of all such nations that they will abide by that law and decisions made there-under” p. 39.

By the time you finished the book you were filled in completely on the complex thought that Taft had given to international affairs. He rejected the manipulation by which FDR maneuvered us into World War II. Whether Pearl Harbor came as result of presidential manipulation or incompetence he did not offer an opinion—but he stated that once involved in the war he supported the winning of it in the shortest possible time.

With respect to the Korean War which was being waged at the time he wrote the book, he insisted that the action of President Truman was unconstitutional. “…[I]n the case of Korea where a war was already under way, we had no right to send troops to a nation with whom we had no treaty, to defend it against attack by another nation, no matter how unprincipled that aggression might be, unless the whole matter was submitted to Congress and a declaration of war or some other direct authority obtained.” But in the case of Korea, he pledged to win the war if feasible or settle it on honorable terms.

Likewise, he recognized the Communist threat and urged that the U.S. concentrate on turning it back—specifying air power rather than massive enlistment of men. P. 75. But, “while defense of this country is our first consideration, I do not agree with those who think we can completely abandon the rest of the world and rely solely upon defense of this continent. In fact, the very thesis of an effective control of sea and air by the free nations requires that we do interest ourselves in Europe and the Near East and North Africa and the Far East so that Communist influence may not extend to areas from which it is still possible to exclude it by many methods other than land armies.” Pp. 77-78.

However, he questioned and voted against the North Atlantic Treaty and NATO. While the president had the right to send troops to Europe, NATO was a different matter, the creation of “an international army, apparently established by twelve nations, with a commander who is appointed by the twelve nations.” He added: “It seems to me perfectly clear that the president’s power as commander-in-chief does not extend to the delegation of that power to a commander who is chosen by any other nation or any other group of nations” (p34).

When Truman appointed General Dwight Eisenhower as supreme commander, “he exceeded his authority” p. 35. “When the president undertook to carry out that recommendation he usurped the powers of Congress. He had no authority to carry out that particular agreement made at Brussels without submitting it to Congress” p.35.

Why do I go into this ancient history? Because the role of Sen. Taft was and is at great variance with that of Rep. Ron Paul whose demagogic phraseology appeals not to conservatives—but, apparently if Saturday’s meeting was any indication—to a sweaty group of boisterous, screaming, jumping up and down in place, obese youth (obviously from hours spent huddled before computers), shaggy, unkempt, hirsute, noisy, obstreperous, rambunctious and raucous. And that’s before we consider the male contingent.

Why the great interest in this element of youth for a 72-year-old man who, were he to be improbably elected, would be easily the oldest president at 73 and 77 when he would complete his first term? A candidate who touts congressional term limits but who has served nine terms already and under unique Texas law will be running for reelection while he runs for president either as a Republican or nominee of the Libertarian party?

The answer is clear. The message that this candidate brings in one of self-indulgence, ideally suited for the mob he addressed. He preaches peace now and the bringing of troops home as soon as possible—which appeals to the special interest of the group which would disdain military service as inconvenient to its proclivities. He favors abolishing the income tax which attracts the group’s interest in self-enrichment. He distributes a palm card that states a curious objective—“legalize freedom.” Legalize freedom? What does that mean? It’s obvious what it means: code for legalizing drugs which the Congressman before some selective groups advocates but which he decorously did not bring up at this meeting. But “legalize freedom” was the catchword. Every one of the pleasure bunnies in the meeting caught on.

It is the promise of self-indulgence and rather than a conservative campaign is a sop to decadence. Intriguingly enough he is on record as favoring an end to abortion—but he didn’t bring up the issue at that meeting where the youths’ hormones were raging. In place of a scholarly talk of foreign relations as was the case with Robert Taft, there was this bit of doggerel nonsense: the clear implication that we invite attacks on us by being involved on any side in the Middle East…code for support of Israel.

Another subject that never was brought up by the candidate was immigration. He has been identified with two contradictory positions on that issue in the past…one which has supported minimum control of the borders consonant with libertarianism…another which supports wholesale crack-down and the building of a fence. Someone looked over the crowd and possibly decided neither approach would be acceptable to factions of the exuberant and viscerally feeling…not thinking…crowd—so no mention was made.

There was the statement that we should withdraw from the United Nations. Fine: I for one see no need for it—but were we not entitled to a reasoned explanation as to the many reasons why? Just a bumper-sticker shout which was returned by a raucous rejoinder.

Then there came the most outrageous so-called “historical” comparison of all. The candidate said that John F. Kennedy was wise to negotiate with Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis and to agree that in exchange for Soviet missiles being withdrawn from Cuba, U. S. missiles would be withdrawn from Turkey. This was greeted by wild applause as the candidate urged this prescription to be used in our dealings with Muslim extremists. Does he or the group believe that Islamic extremists are the same kind of men that ruled the Soviet Union…men who feared nuclear destruction just as did we? Is he serious in equating Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, with our past adversaries in the Cold War? Converts from Islam to Christianity must live in fear—even in the United States. Does he not understand that to a Islamo-Fascist death, often by self-detonation and death to children by detonation is to be rewarded in heaven? Views in American politics have only one equal—the insensate ranting of the Far Left, of The Daily Kos to which the Paul campaign seems uniquely suited.

But even the Daily Kos would refrain from the valedictory Paul gave the crowd: “We have been told that we have to give up our freedoms in order to be safe because terrorism is such a horrible event. A lot fewer lives died on 9/11 than they do in less than a month on our highways—but once again, who owns the highways? Do we own the highways? No, it’s a government institution, you know.” This implies that if the highways were run privately the death toll would be lower. Really? In a Ron Paul world where likely there would be no enforced speed limits?


You can say all you want about Hitler…monomaniac, racist, genocidal tyrant…but he and his people could really run a rally. From the Munich beer hall putsch through to the end of his regime he was unexcelled. Let me say the manipulation of an already excitable, juvenile, impressionable and deliriously passionate youth audience by the Ron Paul people was unexcelled—at least among those I have observed in this country. Hitler’s meetings would involve people packed like sardines in a room that did not allow much area for expansion. That was the case here. The storm troopers would then lead a preparatory with a brief exultation by one not as articulate as the one who was to come later. That happened, too, although the deputy campaign manager and campaign managers were no slouches. Following the warm-up, Hitler’s people ran a documentary by Leni Riefenstahl, the blonde goddess who dramatized Hitler youth…who was in fact probably the greatest film documentarian at that time in the world. When the documentary…showing bronzed athletes swearing allegiance to the Fuhrer and wide-eyed young people marching joyously as far as the eye could see in perfect precision…a groundswell of music would conclude, lights would go up and someone would shout: “Heil Hitler!” and in he would come. The place would go delirious.

Leni Riefenstahl has gone to her reward and was not available—but in her place was an outstandingly produced video that featured Ron Paul saying only one sentence—this taken from the first Republican debate. “My name is Ron Paul and I am here to defend the Constitution of the United States!” Then the film’s half hour is devoted to panning crowds which are exactly like the crowd packed in the Hyatt-Regency auditorium: bearded, shaggy, pony-tailed, inarticulate, frenetic, unconcerned with ideas. The identification of those in the video with the crowd in the auditorium was perfect. The crowd was alternatively transfixed seeing almost identical representatives of themselves and, in effect, cheered themselves in a cacophony of the Imperial Self. Here was a crowd passionately wanting to have…”legalized freedom”…i. e. the freedom to smoke whatever it wished from marijuana to crack cocaine…pay no taxes…have no war…have no hassle…and not be bothered by restrictions. Were Riefenstahl around, she would have enthusiastically approved the video.

And when the video ended, a voice called out: “Ladies and gentlemen! Dr. R-o-n P-a-u-l !” And the orgy of self-indulgence exploded into an spasm of excitement. He moved into the room swiftly and a forest of hands arose in salutes and waves–you can make of that what you will.

Where Bob Taft spoke as a constitutional lawyer and fiscal scholar…one who had been to Versailles as an aide to Herbert Hoover the World War I food czar…spoke in masterly legal sentences…Ron Paul wasted no time with ramifications. Peace now…end the income tax…”legalize freedom” (we all know what that means, huh?)…don’t tax the Internet (there is a bill to apply postage to emails which is unlikely to even get a hearing much less pass—but it’s good red meat)…get out of the UN!…and “restore our Constitution” which to the crowd means only one thing—more freedom, much more freedom and not order, hell no! Not responsibility! Hell no! F-r-e-e-d-o-m which translated to it means license.

I list this under “Appealing” because I contrast it with the Taft rallies I attended and the Gene McCarthy it was brilliantly derived and entirely nutrition-free with no thought whatever beyond the sloganeering.

Finally, I wish to contrast this with the words Gene McCarthy made at a similar rally against the Vietnam War in Chicago which I attended…not as a follower but as one who knew McCarthy quite well. He began telling the crowd of youth in professorial style the difference between Vietnam and Korea. Unlike Vietnam, he said, “the war in Korea allowed us to make a quit e full moral commitment to the achievements of objectives.” Really exciting phrase, right? “I supported the war in Korea because it was a relatively clear case of aggression against a nation willing to defend itself with the support of the U. S. and other members of the United Nations.” Notice that he was far more in support of Korea than was Bob Taft.

This much I can say: if the Republicans lose the next presidential election…and gamblers’ odds are 80 to 20 it will…there will be a revolution of sorts to reestablish old principles to the party which it sadly forgot….principles of thrift…continuation of tax cuts…deregulation…and true libertarians as well as social conservatives will have says in the reformulation. Let us hope that the reformulation if it is to come following a presidential loss…will be in the mode of Robert A. Taft and not Ron Paul.

Else the Republican party, echoing the New Left, will be Left Out and go the way of the Whigs.


Thomas F. Roeser is chairman of the editorial board of The Chicago Daily Observer.

More Ron Paul Here


One Comment »

  • Bill Baar (author) said:

    Taft’s Dad, the US President and Supreme Court Justice, was a Unitarian and was President of the National Unitarian Association. Few Unitarians know that anymore (I think) as many know little of the Church’s history.

    Anyways, I think Ron Paul is going to pull votes that otherwise would have otherwise gone to Kucinich. Mostly because the Primary in Illinois is going to be a bore, Kucinich is a bore, and Ron Paul generates a lot of noise and that feels like excitement.

    Both Parties are going to reformulate and confront the dilemmas Brink Lindsey has neatly laid out in his book “The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America’s Politics” http://www.amazon.com/Age-Abundance-Prosperity-Transformed-Americas/dp/0060747668

    We not longer have the politics of scarcity practiced by the old Liberals but are now into the conflicts of managing freedom and moral choices.

    I think it’s going to be a tougher go for Dems rather than the GOP, but a reformulation is a coming for sure and you’ve hit on many of the issues from Ron Paul’s campaign. Paul has captured many of them.

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