Earlier this week, Michael
Gerson wrote a Washington Post op-ed concluding that
in the end, cannot #StandWithRand.” The piece was notable not
Angry Bird Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called it a “must-read,”
or because Gerson was a speechwriter for former president George W.
Bush and author of the 2009 manifesto Heroic
Conservatism, but because it’s a classic outburst from
what Reason’s Jesse Walker has memorably christened
Start with the conspiratorial headline: “Rand Paul masks his
true worldview.” Masks? Really? The man recently discussed
his worldview for half a day on the Senate floor, and has written
chock full o’
worldview since arriving in Washington. Yet Gerson is
eagle-eyed enough to see through the cover-up:
[I]n the course of a 13-hour filibuster, it becomes impossible
to hide your deeper motivations. Paul employs the prospect of drone
murders in an attempt to discredit the “perpetual war” in which
“the whole world is a zone of war.” His actual target is the war on
terrorism, which he regards as unconstitutional and
Well, praise the Devil and pass the hot sauce! Rand Paul
the war on terrorism is “perpetual,” and that its practitioners and
supporters do not recognize geographical boundaries on its waging,
also largely true. Nothing about those views is secret, masked or
hidden; Paul talks about this stuff
Gerson’s lead paragraph is an
awe-inspiring attempt to make Rand Paul seem so conpiratorial that
he’s hiding his paranoid tendencies. Check it out:
Since arriving in the Senate in 2011, Rand Paul has been probing
here and there for issues of populist resonance.
secretive, sinister Federal Reserve. Rein in
screeners patting down little girls. In each instance, Paul
(R-Ky.) has evoked the fear of oppressive government without
tipping over into the paranoia of his father’s most dedicated
supporters. It has been a diluted, domesticated, decaffeinated
version of the ideology that motivated ;Ron Paul’s ;presidential
Follow the “secretive, sinister” link and you’ll get a Sen. Paul
“Audit the Fed” press
release that has not even a whiff of “sinister,” unless you
count this sentence: “The Fed’s operations under a cloak of secrecy
have gone on too long and the American people have a right to know
what the Federal Reserve is doing with our nation’s money
Is Michael Gerson saying that the Federal Reserve is not
“secretive”? Is he saying that the TSA somehow doesn’t pat
down little girls sometimes? Nah–he just wants Rand Paul to look
like a paranoid kook, and therefore exclude him from the arena of
respectable debate. Which Gerson tried to do,
without success, after Paul won an upstart GOP primary in May
There is an even smaller subset
of the tea party movement comprised of libertarian conservatives,
representing a more developed intellectual tradition. Their goal is
not just federalism but a minimal state at home and abroad. Their
commitment to individual freedom — defined as the absence of
external constraint — is nearly absolute. Taxation for the purpose
of redistribution is theft. The national security state does not
defend liberty; it threatens it. American global commitments are
just another form of big government.
The closest this sect has come to serious political influence is
Rand Paul’s victory in Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary this
week. Paul has attempted to become more electable by distancing
himself from the worst libertarian excesses. [...]
Paul and other libertarians are not merely advocates of limited
government; they are anti-government. Their objective is not the
correction of error but the cultivation of contempt for government
itself. There is a reason libertarianism has never been — and
likely will never be — a national political force: because too
many would find its utopia a nightmare.
predicted back then, with breathtaking inaccuracy, that
conservative leaders “will either repudiate Paul’s candidacy or
they will be tainted by Paul’s extremism.” Equally ineffective was
follow-up warning in July 2010:
The Republican wave also carries along a group of
libertarians, such as Kentucky Senate candidate ;Rand Paul.
Since expressing a preference for property rights above civil
rights protections — revisiting the segregated lunch counter —
Paul has minimized his contact with the media. The source of this
caution is instructive. The fear is not that Paul will make gaffes
or mistakes but, rather, that he will further reveal his own
political views. In America, the ideology of libertarianism
is itself a scandal. It involves not only a retreat from
Obamaism but a retreat from the most basic social commitments to
the weak, the elderly and the disadvantaged, along with a
withdrawal from American global commitments.
Libertarianism has a rigorous ideological coldness at its core.
Voters are alienated when that core is exposed. And Paul is now
neck and neck with his Democratic opponent in a race a Republican
should easily win.
Bolding mine, to focus the attention.
Those conservatives who have been attempting to marginalize Rand
Paul in the way that they marginalized (with more success) Rand’s
father Ron, are in an increasingly uncomfortable position: railing
against one of the few Republicans who is
attracting more popularity both within and outside of the GOP.
Why, they might even be inconvenienced enough to have to
grapple with Rand’s actual ideas, as opposed to the
black-helicopter paranoia of their own invention.
Reason on the
libertarianophobe Gerson here.