Tuesday, January 14, 2014


This morning, Conor Friedersdorf published a dispatch from his libertarian bubble entitled "The GOP Isn't the Only Party With an Iraq War Problem." What does he mean by this? Here's what he means:
The tragic news that forces linked to al-Qaeda have retaken Fallujah is just the latest reminder that George W. Bush's war of choice was a historic, catastrophic misjudgment....

The issue is going to be tough for Republicans to navigate, given that public opinion has turned against the war, even as powerful GOP factions still support it.... What's less remarked upon is the challenge Iraq will pose for Democrats.... as Daniel Larison notes, "Virtually none of the politicians mentioned as 2016 candidates in the GOP were even in national office during the Bush year," whereas several prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Kerry, all have pro-war votes on their resumes....

It's conceivable that someone like Rand Paul will win the GOP nomination, and the general election will feature a Republican nominee attacking his Democratic opponent's war support in much the same way that Obama successfully attacked Clinton: "You thought the Iraq War was a prudent invasion, and now you want to be president?"
First of all, it's not conceivable that "someone like Rand Paul will win the GOP nomination" -- it's conceivable that Rand Paul will win the GOP nomination, but there simply isn't anyone else who thinks like him (or his father) on the subject of militarism who's shown any sign of wanting to pursue the Republican presidential nomination. That's because there simply isn't a war-skeptic wing of the GOP right now -- there are the Pauls, father and son, and a handful of other war-averse libertarians, and then there's the rest of the GOP, which is (to say the least) not on the same page.

Ahh, but what about all the Republican resistance to President Obama's announced intention to attack Syria a few months back? Well, that wasn't opposition to war -- it was opposition to a Democratic president waging war. Republicans also sounded like peaceniks back in the late 1990s, when Bill Clinton was waging war in the Balkans; funny, that war-wariness wasn't a sign of a deep-seated Republican isolationism, as we learned a few years and a Republican president later.

Rand Paul is not going to attack Hillary Clinton on the Iraq War because Rand Paul wants Republicans to vote for him, and Republicans still back what Bush and Cheney did. See this CBS poll from December:

Democratic and independent support for the overthrow of Saddam is at 31%. Republican support? 56%, with 32% opposed.

There is no way in hell any ambitious Republican is going to alienate the party base that way. Even Rand Paul -- who's not the militarism opponent his father is -- won't do that.

Did Friedersdorf miss the right-wing freakout over Jake Tapper's recent interview of former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell? Luttrell is the author of Lone Survivor, an account of an operation in the Afghan War that went horribly wrong for American troops; Tapper, speaking to Luttrell as the movie version of Lone Survivor was reaching theaters, referred to the deaths in this operation as "senseless" -- and much of the right howled in outrage. (Luttrell was not happy either.) If Rand Paul makes a big deal of attacking either of Bush's wars -- not just what he's doing now by sponsoring a bill to end the military force authorization but really attacking the wars -- this will be his fate, too: he'll be accused of dishonoring the troops by his own party's voters. Sorry, Conor, he's not going to do that.

And every other Republican will accuse Hillary of letting Americans die in Benghazi because she's a love-bead-wearing hippie who hates America.


trizzlor said...

Wow, Friedersdorf is just writing fan-fiction now isn't he? Not only would candidate Rand have to run against a war that's still vigorously defended on moral grounds by the GOP pooh-bahs, but he would also have to claim that supporting the war at any point in time should be a political disqualification. So ... he'd be running 79% of Americans that supported the invasion at it's launch. We're more likely to see Rand Paul declare Dick Cheney a war criminal and support a National Department of Peace than that pipe-dream.

Phil Freeman said...

"it's conceivable that Rand Paul will win the GOP nomination"

No it's not. Not in a million years.

Steve M. said...

Why not?

Victor said...

Rand could win, as long as he can learn to keep his answers short.

If I was in a Republican Party primary, I would request that each candidate have at least a 6 minute answer for every question.

As the GREAT Charles Pierce says, when you listen to either Paul, you find yourself agreeing with what they're saying the first 5 minutes - THEN, right at that 5-minute mark, they start speaking in gibberish!

Phil Freeman said...

"Why not?"

Because he's insane. All politicians are insane, of course - you have to be fucked in the head to seek power in the first place. But Rand Paul is more insane than most politicians, and that will become abundantly clear if/when he runs for the Republican nomination. (I'm not even all that convinced he will run.) Plus, the media doesn't like him. They'll treat him with the same disdain they treated Santorum and all the other nonentities who tried to convince themselves and others that Romney wasn't gonna be the nominee last time. (And bear in mind, I was saying in 2010 that Romney was going to be the nominee, and that he would lose.)

Voters can spot a barking loon. Even Republican primary voters. And they won't support one all the way to the finish line. They'll play along for a while, as long as it's entertaining to do so, but eventually the sanest-seeming candidate will get the nomination. I don't know who that is yet, but it's for damn sure not Ron Paul. Shit, his hair alone disqualifies him.

Steve M. said...

A lot of crazy people get elected -- Bachmann, Gohmert, Steve King. And if you extend the definition of "crazy" to include "sociopathic," then Nixon at a national level, twice, once by a 49-state landslide.

Phil Freeman said...

Yes, crazy people get elected...on the state level. To the House of Representatives. But do those people make it through presidential primaries? They do not. Because even the most psychopathic voter, on some atavistic level, views the presidency as Different. And you can't "extend the definition of 'crazy' to include 'sociopathic'" in this case, because not to be too flippant, but that applies to all politicians.

Look, what I see by staring at this from a distance (instead of getting all heated up about the "controversy" of the moment, whatever it may be, and granting it way more significance than it deserves) is that most Americans want a benevolent king. That's who they vote for in presidential elections. They don't vote for the guy who seems like he might blow the place up (figuratively speaking). Conflating how people in individual states vote for their local House member, and how they vote for the president of the entire country, is foolish. People recognize that there's a difference between those two things, and they act accordingly.

Rand Paul's going nowhere.

Steve M. said...

And you can't "extend the definition of 'crazy' to include 'sociopathic'" in this case, because not to be too flippant, but that applies to all politicians.

If your argument depends on the premise that there was nothing extraordinary about Nixon's depravity, then we might as well end this conversation right here.

Phil Freeman said...

Nixon was exceptionally evil. More importantly from an electoral perspective, though, nobody knew what a criminal he was until after he was driven from office. You think he could have won re-election in 1972 if Watergate had happened - and been exposed - in 1970-71? I sure don't.