Jack Hunter, the Ron Paul 2012 campaign blogger, responds to Jeffrey Lord’s Tuesday column. With a reply by Mr. Lord.
In a recent column, Jeffrey Lord warned that Ron Paul’s presidential bid was secretly a “Neoliberal Reeducation Campaign.” Writes Lord: “the Paul campaign is not just a campaign for president. This is a campaign — a serious campaign — to re-educate the American people…” For Lord, Paul’s alleged reeducation mission means passing off liberal ideas as conservative. This is amusing — because this is precisely what self-described conservatives of Lord’s ilk have been doing for years.
Imagine that there never was a President George W. Bush, and when Bill Clinton left the White House he was immediately replaced with Barack Obama. Now imagine Obama carried out the exact same agenda as Bush — Medicare Plan D, No Child Left Behind, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — the whole works. Would conservatives have generally supported Obama as they did Bush — or would they have rightly criticized the most big government president in our history at that time?
Despite his glaringly statist record, did Lord ever consider Bush a “neo-liberal”?
Arguably the loudest conservative critic of Bush was Ron Paul, and this was certainly true during the 2008 election. Yet, as we head toward 2012, many presidential candidates are sounding a lot like Paul. Would Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich be attacking the Federal Reserve if running in 2008? Would Michele Bachmann be questioning the Libyan intervention if carried out by Bush? Would Mitt Romney now be saying it is not the United States military’s role to fight for the independence of other nations — the exact opposite of what he said about our role in Iraq in 2008?
Which brings us to Lord’s main beef with Paul: foreign policy.
Woodrow Wilson is the president most associated with early 20th century liberalism, second only to Franklin Roosevelt. During the Bush years, every self-described conservative who believed, as Wilson did, that it was America’s mission to “make the world safe for democracy” spoke the language, however unknowingly, of an earlier left-wing liberalism. William F. Buckley and George Will explained in a 2005 interview:
WILL: Today, we have a very different kind of foreign policy. It’s called Wilsonian. And the premise of the Bush doctrine is that America must spread democracy, because our national security depends upon it. And America can spread democracy. It knows how. It can engage in national building. This is conservative or not?
BUCKLEY: It’s not at all conservative. It’s anything but conservative…
In 2006, The American Spectator’s Neal Freeman also described the Bush administration’s post 9/11 liberalism: “the Bush administration began to rumble about ‘regime change’ and ‘going it alone,’ and ‘building a democratic Iraq.’ Call this 9/12 approach whatever you will — utopian, neoconservative, Wilsonian — it could not fairly be characterized as ‘conservative.”
Reflecting a more conventional Republican view likely in line with Lord’s, talk host Sean Hannity said in 2009: “You can’t deny that George Bush was conservative on national security issues.” Well, at varying times, Bill Buckley, George Will, Robert Novak, Jack Kemp, Pat Buchanan, Paul Weyrich and many other conservatives did indeed deny that Bush’s foreign policy was conservative.
So did Ron Paul.
So did some of the most prominent figures in the history of American conservatism — and that’s even leaving out the libertarians. Traditionalists such as Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver and Robert Nisbet were some of the heaviest intellectual hitters at early National Review and each held foreign policy views far closer to what Paul believes than what today’s Republican hawks try to portray as conservatism.
Ronald Reagan even won the Cold War with a foreign policy marginally closer to Paul’s cautious approach than what Bush represented, or as former chairman of the American Conservative Union David Keene notes: “Reagan resorted to military force far less often than many of those who came before him or who have since occupied the Oval Office… . After the (1983) assault on the Marine barracks in Lebanon, it was questioning the wisdom of U.S. involvement that led Reagan to withdraw our troops rather than dig in. He found no good strategic reason to give our regional enemies inviting U.S. targets. Can one imagine one of today’s neoconservative absolutists backing away from any fight anywhere?”
No, one can’t imagine it. In fact, if using the definition of 2008 Republican presidential nominee and hardline neoconservative John McCain — Reagan would be considered an “isolationist.”
Ah, but Lord thinks anyone who uses the term “neoconservative” must be anti-Semitic. Is David Keene anti-Semitic? When Ann Coulter asks “Didn’t liberals warn us that neoconservatives want permanent war” is she being anti-Semitic? Is George Will anti-Semitic for writing that the “most magnificently misnamed neoconservatives are the most radical people in this town.”
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