Ron Paul's Lapses Give Libertarianism a Bad Rap

Texas Congressman Ron Paul, now officially seeking the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, says that the raid which killed Osama bin Laden "was absolutely not necessary." In the same radio interview, Paul conjectured that the United States could have convinced Pakistan to turn over bin Laden. The congressman added a bizarre non-sequitur.

What if [bin Laden] had been in a hotel in London? So would we have sent the... helicopters into London because they were afraid the information would get out?

Can Ron Paul not distinguish between steadfast ally Britain and a Pakistani regime poisoned by duplicitous people? The London scenario seems to have sprung from a mind unable to discern the difference between close friends and shifty acquaintances that cozy up close just often enough to collect handouts.

In answer to Paul's two questions, if bin Laden had been in London, British Special Forces would have popped the scoundrel as a favor to a close friend. That the congressman offered the implausible London ploy presents voters with a scary view into the "thought process" of an aspiring President of the United States.

The bin Laden raid condemnation gives clear-thinking Americans a reason to turn away from Ron Paul. And there is another, less-noticed reason. On a recent episode of Fox Business Network's Stossel, self-declared "man of the left" and history Professor Thaddeus Russell stated that "if we're going to end the wars, if we're going to end the American empire, the only thing that will do that is a coalition between the left and people like Ron Paul. And in fact, he knows that he's talked with Ralph Nader in public and with Bernie Sanders and other very leftwing people in American political discourse about doing just that. And so I know that Ron Paul agrees with me in this project of working with the left."

"Do you?" host John Stossel asked Congressman Paul.

Paul responded, "I have certainly worked with those on the left and with the progressives. I think our problem that we face is..."

Stossel interrupted, "And just to back that up. I mean, you're right about Bernie Sanders, Barney Frank. You've co-authored bills with Tammy Baldwin, Dennis Kucinich."

Paul replied, "Right. I worked with coalitions. People talk about our solution comes from compromise and I don't like the word compromise. That's why you give up half your beliefs and I don't believe that."

So while Paul clearly declares no intention to compromise his values, the man is unclear as to what those values may be with respect to working "with those on the left and with the progressives." Absent from the exchange between "man of the left" Russell and libertarian Paul, was any retort to Russell's observation that the Congressman has "talked with Ralph Nader... and with Bernie Sanders and other very left wing people" to determine how to "end the American empire." From a libertarian point of view, drastically reducing America's involvement in foreign countries would be a good thing. But hatching plans with "very leftwing people" seems like a horrific way to achieve said reductions. That Paul offered no response to Russell's exhortation leaves Americans wondering how liberal the "libertarian" may be.

Ron Paul's bin Laden comments and his willingness to "work with the progressives" provide Americans with reasons to be skeptical of libertarian ideas. The two lapses in judgment are unfortunate, because America's core principles are indeed libertarian. Those principles are as right for America today as when set forth more than 230 years ago: free markets, low taxes, small and non-invasive government, no special interest influence on government, maximum personal freedom, and overseas involvement only in the interest of commerce and self-defense. When a libertarian Presidential candidate shows a tad too much love for big-government-loving progressives and shies away from bringing an enemy to justice, libertarianism gets a bad name.

A writer, physicist, and former high tech executive, Chuck Rogér invites you to sign up to receive his "Clear Thinking" blog posts by email at Contact Chuck at

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