Monday, September 10, 2012

Rand Paul's Dangerous Use of Language

By, Chris Rossini
Email | Twitter

Politico reports (my emphasis):
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Monday that Republicans can win in New England and on the West Coast if they’re willing to drop the “we need to bomb everybody tomorrow” foreign policy.

“I think one of the problems we face, as a Republican party, is that we’re behind the eight-ball to begin with,” Paul said on CBS’ “This Morning.” “We’re not winning the West Coast. We’re not winning New England. Maybe we need to embrace more Ron Paul Republicans, more libertarian Republicans. … It means people who are a little bit less aggressive on foreign policy. They believe in defending the country, but they don’t believe we need to be everywhere all the time.” ...

“We should have a more defensive foreign policy, a less aggressive foreign policy,” Paul said. “I think that would go over much better in New England than the typical ‘we need to bomb everybody tomorrow’ policy you hear from some Republicans.”
This is where trouble slippery language.

First of all, is Rand Paul making these half-hearted comments to "win votes"?

It sure looks that way.

But who knows? Trying to find out where Rand stands is like attempting to nail Jello to the wall.

Rand doesn't say "We need to embrace more Ron Paul Republicans..." Instead he goes with "Maybe we need".

Then a scary definition of Ron Paul Republicans. A group "who are a little bit less aggressive".

Is this what Ron Paul stood for?

Is this the definition Ron Paulians are willing to accept?

Rand is obviously for aggression...just a little less, so that it goes over better in New England.

To all the Ron Paulians out there who believe Rand is taking you to the light...two words:



  1. Hey Chris,

    Where is Robert Fellner? We could really use that guy right now to do a critical weighing of Rand Paul's various policy stands so he can inform us as to whether the tradeoff between getting rid of the TSA and being a little less aggressive on foreign policy is a worthwhile one for us to all consider.

    As for me, I can't make up my mind about these kinds of tradeoffs on my own, because I am irrational and pathologically obsessed with ess-canning an otherwise erstwhile and worthy friend of liberty. That's why I am glad we have people like Robert Fellner to centrally plan our reactions to stuff like this for us.

    No need to think on my own. It's an objective value!

  2. Robert you have no shame in your endless attacks on Rand Paul...he is his father's son and he won a senate seat his first time about
    "Robert Wenzel for Senator" I dare you, Sir!

    1. Yeah Wenzel. Put your money where you mouth is and run for the House or Senate.

    2. Two infinitely stupid comments.

  3. Good analysis, Chris. Perfect on the "less aggression" point.

  4. Good Lord, Rand Paul can't say anything without drawing flack from this site even when he's advocating standard libertarian doctrine.

    He's trying to sell this line to conservative Republicans, and he won't do that by sounding like Noam Chomsky. In fact, one of the conservative complaints about Ron Paul was that he sounded like Noam Chomsky. I recall a gallup poll of Republicans taken late last year that showed that most Republicans actually supported Ron Paul's position on most issues, and even where they didn't over 40% still favored the position closest to Paul.

    The fact is that Ron Paul often DID sound like Noam Chomsky. He often DID appear to fall into the "blame America first" camp, and the is a rhetorical blunder when you are trying to appeal to Main Street America.

    To say, "Perhaps we should" is clearly a criticism of past policy, but it stops short of condemning U.S. policy generally. And it puts the focus on practical decision-making not ideological rigidity. Ron Paul favors a policy of non-intervention, but as president he would be presiding over a country that has treaty obligations throughout the world. You may oppose those treaties but you can't ignore them. Ron Paul's non-interventionist policies, taken literally, would have meant the abrogation of these treaties which is not something that I think that he had in mind. No ideology can be complete enough to provide the answer for every contingency. That's why Rand Paul is perfectly correct to keep the debate on the level of practical policies and not ideological purity.

    1. Robb,

      By your logic there are no consistent principles and knowable truths by which we can rightfully or wrongfully live our lives, so we should all make it up as we go along!

      By your logic, how could we know beforehand if the man robbing the corner store is in the right or in the wrong? We can't really say without "practically" examining the event devoid of any other meaningful context or reference to absolutes.

      Maybe theft is justified sometimes, right? Maybe every now and then, murder, isn't murder, but something better, higher, maybe even supportive of a Greater Good. Right?

      Your post unwittingly exposes one of the central problems of politics as generally practiced in this country as well as many others-- large swaths of the population are braindead, illogical morons, who can't stomach (let alone swallow) consistent, logical, honest ideas unless they're tricked or "sold" these ideas without their being aware what they've consented to in the first place.

      Do you see how intellectually and morally bankrupt it is? How hopeless a world it is that you've constructed by describing it as so?

      Anyway, you got one thing right-- a Ron Paul presidency would be a true disaster because he wouldn't get to come in and flip the "Off" switch on America's empire. There'd be all those sticky treaties and, erm, whatchamacallum, "laws", that he'd be responsible for not only upholding, but following. The whole thing would turn out to be quite a clusterfuck... if he managed to survive it.

      On this I have to agree with you and it's too bad most people don't take the idea as far as you do and imagine "What, really, would Ron Paul, one man, have been able to accomplish if he suddenly found himself in the middle of the vipers' den?"

    2. An ideological view of the world is not the same as the real world. Your model of reality is, at best, a rough approximation of reality. The principles deriving from your model may be valid, but the model itself does not allow the literal implementation of your policy. A great example is the gold standard. Do a YouTube search of the gold standard and Austrian economics and you will find lots of different Austrian economists with different ideas on how a gold standard could be implemented and the feasibility of it in the real world under present economic conditions.

      You can certainly be guided by principles while still being open to the problems and difficulties of implementing them. During his campaign Ron Paul did not advocating abolishing social security even though "in principle" he is opposed to it.

      Rand Paul did not depart from libertarian princples at all in his statement. His language was not "dangerous." It was well thought-out, and "a little less aggressive" is an obvious understatement, not an actual endorsement of slightly less aggression.

      Of course, we always have the option of doing nothing and retreating to our armchairs to dream about how we think things ought to be. The reality is that even if the liberty movement won out, it would only be able to change things at the margins of our present way of functioning. On that point we seem to agree.

  5. I'm still on the fence about Rand Paul. I think his approach might just be different than his father's.

    I'm in sales, and Rand's approach resembles my approach to changing someone's mind when he/she doesn't agree with me.

    He's working incrementally, which reminds me of the book "Getting More" where you slowly and gradually move someone towards your way of thinking.

    It's like dating; if you move too fast, the lady won't like it.

    Ron had the right idea, but maybe he moved too fast for the bulk of Americans to accept it. Rand will move much more slowly so that other Republicans will get it.

    That's my hope at least. I seriously hope that he doesn't fight for increases in spending or warfare.

    1. Ok. If that's Rand's approach, then fine.

      But that's not the bag of goods that's being sold.

      He should not mention Ron Paul supporters, and define them as those who want "a little less aggression," which is almost a slap in the fact.

      And he shouldn't use Ron Paul supporters as bait to "maybe" get votes.

    2. Right, but our country is so far gone that saying you're for "no aggression" is considered an extreme position which makes a lot of rank and file feel uncomfortable. I believe it's possible that Rand describes Ron Paul supporters in this way to not put anyone off.

      I think the liberal equivalent would be the way a democrat might say "we need to court these Occupy protesters because they also believe that the richest 1% need to be taxed more" instead of saying what the Occupy protesters really believe which would be "socialism is a good idea" which would make a lot of other democrats uncomfortable.

      Our views make a lot of people uncomfortable. People are afraid of freedom. For the few of us who understand it now, we have to be extra patient with all of the other kids and slowly move the ball down the field. And just like in a football game with a lot of running plays, there's going to be some brain damage along the way.

    3. If our country is so far gone, then it's even more important for so called extreme positions on liberty to exist.

      I understand all the political reasons that Rand does these things. I understand how it can be advantageous for him.

      However, Ron Paul and his hardcore supporters are not political panderers. His reputation and the movement that followed was specifically because of his "extreme" positions.

      Rand has chosen (so far) to be just another political neocon in the crowd.

      Fine...let him go that way. But he has no right to use the "extremists" to achieve his political goals.

    4. I have to protest the very idea that in using the phrase "a little less aggressive" that Rand Paul is endorsing aggression in any way at all. That is taking language way too literally, and would not constitute a routine understanding of the expression.

      It is really quite revolutionary for a Republican to be expressing the notion that our policies are aggressive at all. That isn't the way most Republicans think. They think of our policies as a kind of preventive defense. "We have to fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here," as Bush expressed it. Rand Paul is trying to undermine that way of thinking rather than launching a frontal assault as Ron Paul did. That's when you wind up sounding like Noam Chomsky and that doesn't play in middle America.

    5. I would agree, while the approach is different, the verbage slightly changed, the underlying message is the same. Peace is better for everyone. Rand Paul is not a libertarian, but he is for sound money, markets and peace. I am quite happy he is in the news. If his subliminal messages bring people to EPJ, or Mises it will be an improvement. Let the guy speak his mind.

  6. It's quite simple. Rand is not his father. Like Walter Block said half-jokingly to Ron, "Can't you just spank him or something?!"

    However, they do want those votes of his followers. I'm sure Romney is looking to Rand to try and deliver some of that.

    My suggestion to others is, "Get over Rand Paul. He's not cut from his father's cloth."

    I understand that people are looking to Rand to walk in his father's shoes to keep what Ron did going, but it doesn't end with Ron. It's just the beginning, regardless of Rand.

  7. Honestly, I love otherwise love this site, but you guys are going overboard on the attacks on Rand and I think your nitpicking here. Rand's comments were fine, and they are actually quite true. If the Republicans could tone done the aggressiveness of their foreign policy views, it would make political cooperation with them much easier and I think they would be much more successful in the areas mentioned--the West Coast, Northeast, and just about any Blue State you can think of.

  8. You can criticize Rand for a lot of things but this is not one of them. Find me any other Senator, let alone Republican Senator, who is willing to speak out on this issues. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if Rand tried to replicate his father as a Senator he would not be a Senator for very long. He's one of the few half decent politicians we got, can we please focus our time on criticizing the real scumbags in Washington?

    1. Rand need not replicate his father.

      He also need not misrepresent and neuter his followers.

    2. Who cares if people are willing to speak about the issues. Obama speaks about Healthcare all the time. Romney speaks about the Economy.

      It's all about the words used and more importantly what they mean. Everyone speaks about the issues, the problem is no one speaks clearly or honestly about them...

      Oh wait there was one but the Republicans tossed him aside and chose his son's ambiguity instead.

  9. When I write, it is to uphold libertarian ideas (of the Rothbardian tradition). The very first principle being the non-aggression principle.

    If Rand Paul comes along and tries to neuter that (for whatever reason) it's not "fine"...At least not here.

    1. Rossini is my brother from another mother.

    2. What percentage of Libertarians are "of the Rothbardian tradition?" I'm not. Mises certainly wasn't. Stossel isn't. Do you think Hayek and Friedman were Rothbardians?

      Think how crazy and intolerant it is to exclude so many people with such a narrow definition of Libertarian. And it really comes down to Rothbard good, anyone who Rothbard didn't feud with okay, and F everyone else. If Ron Paul hadn't been associated with the Mises Institute and have Rothbard's blessing, he would get bludgeoned as a fake Libertarian by the same people who whine about Gary Johnson and Rand Paul.

      If you are especially batshit insane like Jesse Ventura or Alex Jones, somehow you get a Rothbardian pass, even though I would bet even money that neither one could name a book by Rothbard let alone ever read one.

    3. Anon, you don't capitalize libertarian. It makes you sound like a noob to the philosophy when you constantly capitalize it. Also, who cares how many people are Rothbardians or whether you are. The fact is, the authors of these posts are, and they are writing from that perspective. Just because you don't believe in the non-aggression principle, or at least you don't consistently believe in it, doesn't mean those who do should compromise their principles to appease people like you.

    4. Dan, what you fail to see is they shouldn't write from that perspective.

      Libertarian should mean exactly that... libertarian.

      You know. That aggregate libertarian that is universally and objectively definable. The one's we incorporate in the 'what will libertarians do next' models. The libertarian who knows just what it is to be libertarian. Screw that individuality stuff. That's for the batshit crazy. I like real libertarians warmongers like Gary Johnson, closet government sweethearts like Rand Paul (possibly out of the closet), and inflationary wealth redistributionists like Friedman.

      How intolerant to hold onto that non-aggression axiom.

    5. Ha! Chris B., I read your fist two sentences and was about to lay into you until I saw the sarcasm that followed.

    6. Why the fixation with Rothbard? He was a good economist and might have been a great historian if he has chosen to write for an academic, rather than a popular, audience. But he was a lousy political theorist, and that seems to have been where he has had his greatest impact. The Ethics of Liberty is a logically incoherent book. He contradicts himself. He does not define his terms precisely. He never addresses his presuppositions. He gets of view of human nature wrong, and that defeats the rest of his argument.

      And remember, this book was written to refute Mises and Hayek. It is hardly the last word on the political implications of Austrian economic theory.

    7. Robb, all you did was make some assertions. I can do the same thing.

      Why does this Robb guy think anyone cares what his opinions are? He has shown no grasp of libertarianism. He talks down on Rothbard, but doesn't demonstrate any knowledge of his theories. He pumps up non-libertarians and can't understand why actual libertarians don't fawn over his favorites like Rand. He thinks that adhering to the non-aggression principle is a lousy political theory, and thinks commiting acts of aggression against innocent people is being pragmatic. He spews conservative nonsense while remaining befuddled that libertarians don't agree with him. All around he sounds like a confused statist.

    8. I pointed to the errors in Rothbard's main political work, The Ethics of Liberty. If you read it with a critical eye, you should be able to spot them. I could write pages of critique on it, but this site does not provide the space nor is it appropriate for a comments section. I will offer one simple challenge here. Read the book (I suspect most viewers of this site have not) and show me where Rothbard has defined his terms with philosophic precision. He hasn't, and that's why a facile reading of it might be persuasive. But he does not provide the rigor, especially in his fundamental theses, that you see in some of his economic writing.

    9. More mere assertions. Not only have I read The Ethics of Liberty, I've read it more than once. You have yet to demonstrate you have any understanding of his work. You've probably never read any of it.

  10. What's silly is squaw Liz is running on a platform of "We need to bomb everybody tomorrow".

  11. "Trying to find out where Rand stands is like attempting to nail Jello to the wall."

    I just almost died reading this sentence.

  12. Wenzel - I will bet you $100 I can read through your blog and find plenty of examples of your own "dangerous use of language".

    This is some serious (and pointless) nit-picking.

    I am curious why you choose to attack Rand Paul at every possible opportunity?

    1. Because people like you and others continue to cozy up to him and paint him as some kind of libertarian, which he most definitely IS NOT.

      As long as certain people continue to depict Rand Paul as somehow being "one of us", others will weigh his every word and reveal that he isn't.

      True libertarians don't need a bunch of phonies, or people who don't seem to grasp the basic principles underlying libertarianism, to dilute the meaning of the word by bringing frauds like Rand Paul, Wayne Allyn Root, Bob Barr, and others into the 'movement'.

      People like Wenzel are guarding against libertarianism being turned into a kind of neo-libertarianism, the same way William Buckley et al turned conservatism into neo-conservatism.

  13. I didn't think these Rand comments were that bad. He's trying to talk sensibly to the war crowd. Most of the House and Senate are statists. Maybe we're spending too much time picking on Rand.

  14. Robert Wenzel is right to scrutinize Rand Paul very strongly. This is a senator who attempted to get journalist Abby Martin (of Media Roots and Russia Today) fired for asking him questions he did not like.

    Check out this vid: an

    This is a man who, prior to winning the election, acknowledged the existence and menace of the Bilderberg group. After he won: crickets.

    I don't care if he is different from his father. That's fine. But being different doesn't mean he should be a lying flip-flopper like the rest of them, masking his language in ambiguity.

  15. All the Rand Paul supporters are missing the fundamental point, and that is Rand's inconsistency. He is willing to bend the message to the audience, telling the hard core "Who wants to end the TSA?", and then going and telling someone else, "maybe we need to spend just a little bit less and not bomb everybody"?

    Where does this tap-dancing end?

    Should we expect Rand Paul to be a principled libertarian or a politician in the mold of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and Paul Ryan. I fear Rand already answered this question when he said "they will try to hang the libertarian albatross around my neck".

    Rand is a conservative Republican who leans towards liberty waving a red flag at libertarian bulls.

  16. This is a great website, but you've gone a little overboard with the Rand Paul bashing. I'm critical of a lot of things Rand has done, but a little perspective is in order. Rand Paul is not Ron Paul, and I don't think he's ever claimed to be. Rand is also a US Senator that has to try to appeal to a broad audience in KY that overwhelmingly supported John McCain. He's not stupid and understands the need to balance his views with the need to make them tolerable to the Fox News crowd.

    It's real easy to sit on your libertarian high horse and rip on the guy, but perhaps there's a reason why Ron Paul could only get about 10% in the polls. Most people aren't willing to take the time to actually think through the libertarian positions so even someone as amazing as Ron Paul can't break through that barrier. It will take a huge effort to educate people on these issues if we ever want to make progress. Ron Paul is retiring and there are no other Ron Paul's out there, so we must accept that not everyone can live up to the standard he's set. While it's perfectly acceptable and justified to call out Rand on his faults, it might be worth asking what the alternatives are? Is there another member of the US Senate that does a better job reflecting what Ron Paul stands for? At some point people need to realize that representing a small conservative district in Texas is a little different than representing the state of Kentucky. If Rand took the high road and mirrored his father's positions on every issue we wouldn't be having this conversation because he would have never even made it out of the Primary.

    Ron Paul has always said he likes to work in coalitions. Perhaps Rand isn't the guy we all hoped he would be, but if you see a better ally in the US Senate to form a coalition with, please let me know.

  17. Move on. Rand is yesterday's news.

  18. Interesting, the lew rockwell crowd wants more warlike and aggressive republicans. Nice work. Sorry, I will stand with Rand who wants less war and less war spending.

  19. He had a great deal of purpose in what he said. He is trying to get people thinking, to change their minds, slowly but surely. How is this not obvious? You know what his agenda is. Get real!