The Spectacle Blog

Ron Paul and Ronald Reagan

By on 9.7.11 | 10:35AM

Interestingly, Jeff's column on the main site comes as Ron Paul goes up on the air in New Hampshire with an ad contrasting Paul's early endorsement of Ronald Reagan -- he was the first sitting member of Congress to back the Gipper in 1976 -- with then-Democrat Rick Perry's 1988 support for Al Gore.

It's fair to note (as Jeff does) that Paul also ran against the Republican ticket that year as a Libertarian. But Paul ran to the elder George Bush's right, lamenting that the Reagan Revolution was unfulfilled on federal spending and the budget deficit. Gore ran to Bush's left, pledging to reverse the Reagan Revolution. Perry would probably protest that Gore ran to the right of Jesse Jackson and Michael Dukakis.

William F. Buckley, Jr. had an episode of Firing Line around this time debating conservatives who were disaffected with Reagan because they didn't think he had gone far enough. One was the paleoconservative Howard Phillips, who called Reagan a "useful idiot" for his arms reduction agreements with the Soviets. Ironically, many neoconservatives didn't like Reagan's deal-cutting either. Norman Podhoretz accused Reagan of "helping the Soviet Union stabilize its empire."

Not so cut and dry. It's true that Paul and many in his intellectual circle are unmistakably disciples of Murray Rothbard. But Paul never went the full Rothbardian route on the Cold War, just as he has never agreed with Rothbard on abortion. And while Rothbard wrote a radical (and to my mind, fairly absurd) defense of abortion, he was annoyed by pro-choice Libertarians who wanted to deny Paul the nomination because of the Texan's pro-life views.

Finally, by 1992 Paul and Rothbard joined Russell Kirk in backing Pat Buchanan for president. This is despite the fact that Kirk had just over a decade before denounced Rothbardian libertarians as "chirping secretarys" and only five years ago Buchanan had been closer to the neoconservatives, who Kirk said "mistook Tel Aviv for the capital of the United States," on the INF Treaty.

If these conservatives and libertarians all had to describe their relationship status via Facebook, the description that would best apply is "It's Complicated."

Send to Kindle

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article

More Articles From Jonathan S. Tobin, W. James Antle III