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At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Defeating the Case Against Ron Paul

posted by Jack Kerwick

Ron Paul is persona non grata among establishment Republicans and other party loyalists—including and especially those in the mainstream “conservative” media. 

On its face, the very idea that any self-professed lover of liberty should have anything but the utmost respect and admiration for Paul strikes us as a paradox of the first order.  After all, to hear Republicans tell it, liberty consists in just those things—“limited government,” personal and fiscal responsibility, the United States Constitution, etc.—of which Paul has proven himself as adamant and impassioned a proponent as any.  And yet, these very same Republicans deride him as a “nut,” a “fraud,” and, in some instances, a “racist,” an “anti-Semite,” and even an American hater.  Paul, they say, is no real conservative, for he befriends 9/11 “truthers” and “neo-Nazis.”

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Occasionally, Paul’s GOP detractors suspend their efforts to assassinate his character by speaking to the substance of his positions on the issues.  However, no sooner than they suspend their campaign of besmirching his person than one fallacy gives way to another as the ad hominem attack is replaced by the straw man fallacy.  Whether through advertence or a genuine lack of understanding, it is never Paul’s actual views that they engage but their blatant misrepresentations of them.

Domestic Policy

Take Paul’s position on our drug policy.  His critics argue that he favors the legalization of recreational drugs.  They are mistaken.  What Paul favors is an end to the federal government’s ban on drug usage for recreational purposes.  That is, he believes that whether drugs should be legal or not is a question that properly, constitutionally, belongs to the states to address.  If the residents of a state decide that they would prefer to maintain the current policy of the federal government, then so be it; they have the right, as far as Congressman Paul is concerned, to make that decision. 

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As far as his positions on marriage, prostitution, gambling, and virtually every other issue goes, his reasoning is identical to that which informs his perspective on drug policy: it is the individual states, not the federal government, that the Constitution entrusts with the authority to settle these matters.  Thus, Paul argues for the dismantling, not of all laws governing such activities, but of all federal laws designed to do so. 

Paul’s Republican critics would be well served to attend to the Paul Derangement Syndrome that has overtaken them.  You see, if Paul can be said to affirm the legalization of drugs and prostitution because of his stance that these are “states’ rights” issues, then, by parity of reasoning, every other self-proclaimed “pro-life” Republican who insists upon making abortion a “states’ rights” issue stands convicted of fraudulence, for they expose themselves as proponents of abortion. 

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That Paul is as strong and consistent a foe of abortion no one who knows of his record as an obstetrician would think to deny.  This is telling, for it suggests that the distortions of his viewpoints spring not from ignorance, but bad faith.  Anyone doubting this should just bear the following consideration in mind: Because Paul thinks that drug usage, prostitution, and gambling, are matters with respect to which the federal government hasn’t the constitutional authority to speak, his objectors don’t hesitate to conclude that he champions their legalization.  Yet when he makes the same claim about the federal government’s role vis-à-vis abortion—that is, when he makes the same exact claim that they do about this issue—his fellow Republicans do not so much as remotely suggest that he advocates the legalization of abortion.  In convicting Paul of this, they would just as quickly condemn themselves.  So maybe, just maybe, they do understand his positions on these other issues but refuse to justly characterize them.

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Foreign Policy        

It is really Paul’s position on foreign policy that incenses his critics to no end.  As everyone knows, Ron Paul staunchly opposes what he refers to as “militarism,” a doctrine—sometimes euphemistically described by its apologists as “American Exceptionalism”—that calls for America to essentially “police” the globe against “human rights” violators or, what amounts to the same thing, the enemies of “Democracy.”  Since this enterprise has, within the last decade, been prosecuted in the name of combating Islamic terror, it is principally Paul’s objections against the assumptions, implications, and tactics of “the War on Terror” that have earned him both the contempt and fear of his competitors.

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To begin with, Paul emphatically rejects the proposition—treated as an axiom by the Republican Party—that Muslims hate us because of our liberties and freedoms.  Rather, it is a hyper-aggressive American foreign policy, he insists, with its occupation of and sanctions and wars against Islamic lands, that accounts for the rage that culminated in the attacks of 9/11. 

For this position, Rick Santorum and legions of other representatives of the GOP establishment have blasted Paul for “blamingAmerica” for the attacks.  There are, though, at a minimum, three fatal problems with their approach.

First, an understanding of an agent’s action need not involve praise or blame.  Descriptive statements are distinct from prescriptive statements: just because something is such and such a way doesn’t necessarily mean that it ought to be that way, and just because one thinks that such and such is this way doesn’t mean that he either approves or disapproves of it.  In our daily lives, most of us have no difficulty grasping this simple conceptual distinction between, on the one hand, explanation, and, on the other, justification.  For some reason, a little elementary logic of this kind manages to elude Paul’s Republican rivals when it comes to his stance on the motivations informing those Muslims who want us dead.

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Second, from Osama bin Laden to the 9/11 commission, from former CIA agents who spent decades in the Middle East to political science professor Robert Pape who, to date, has conducted the most extensive research into the reasons underlying Islamic terror, there is no short supply of authoritative sources from which Paul can readily draw in substantiating his position on the 9/11 attacks. 

Finally, let us say for argument’s sake that Paul did intend to blame the United States government for inviting the 9/11 attacks.  That the government is not equivalent to the United States should be obvious to any and every lover of liberty.  If, by ascribing blame to the government, Paul can be said to be ascribing blame to America, then whenever any other Republican holds the government accountable for objectionable policies or outcomes—something that occurs incessantly—they too must be held to be “blaming”America. 

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As it stands, Republicans do themselves no service in conflating the federal government with the country itself.  In hurling this bogus charge against Paul, they only contribute further to the growing perception among both the base of their party as well as independents that all of their talk of “limited government” and the like is just that: talk.

Iran

Paul has also taken considerable heat for failing to react with the same hysteria that the public has come to expect from Republicans when the subject of a nuclear armed Iranarises.  Now, few of us, including Paul, no doubt, wants for Iran to be armed, and few of us, including Paul, supports the Iranian regime.  Yet none of this is in the least bit relevant to the question regarding how America should proceed in preventing a determinedIran from acquiring nuclear weaponry.

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Paul recognizes that such preventive efforts must consist of actions that can only result in death and destruction: whetherAmericaimposes sanctions or engages in military action of one kind or another, innocent Iranian (and possibly American) lives will be extinguished by our attempt to keepIranfrom obtaining nuclear energy.  He also recognizes that our military, already stretched to the snapping point, simply cannot afford (by any conceivable measure) to involve itself in but another “foreign entanglement,” especially in the Islamic world.

But if, as his Republican nemeses hold, Paul’s perspective on this matter is so unacceptable, then how is their view any better?  On the one hand, the prospect of a nuclear armed Iranis one that they resolutely refuse to entertain: it is imperative that we prevent this state of affairs from materializing, they swear.  However, on the other hand, not only have we long known that Iranwas pursuing nuclear power, it began to expedite its pursuit during the Bush administration. 

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And yet, to date, no action has been taken to deter it.  Moreover, no concrete action to impede its efforts has even been seriously proposed.

“Racism” and “Anti-Semitism”

I usually refuse to dignify accusations of “racism,” “anti-Semitism,” and the like with a response, but they warrant some mention in connection with this defense of Ron Paul.

Paul favors the elimination of all “foreign aid.”  BecauseIsrael is among the nations of the world to which theUnited States supplies financial assistance, some, like David Horowitz, have charged Paul with being “anti-Semitic.”

It is strange indeed that those who never tire of lamenting the ills afflicted by the Welfare State against black Americans and others at home should find fault with a man who seeks only to liberateIsrael(and every other country) from the oppressive burdens of the American Welfare State abroad.  Paul is actually a friend toIsraelinasmuch as he wants for it to be able to give unabashed expression to its sovereignty—something that will be forever impossible as long as it remains dependent uponAmerica. 

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Yet it is Paul’s detractors who want to maintainIsrael’s dependence uponAmericawho claim the moral high ground.  It is they who are supposed to be the best friends of Israeli Jews.

As for the charge of “racism,” the widely respected black thinker Thomas Sowell is among many who have long noted that, whether measured in terms of street violence or rates of incarceration, the federal government’s “War on Drugs” has had incalculable deleterious effects on blackAmerica.  Paul has labored indefatigably to end this war.  His accusers want to continue waging it.  And it is his critics, not Paul, who insist upon displacing, injuring, and killing untold numbers of non-white peoples (Middle Eastern Muslims) through “the War on Terror” or George W. Bush’s “Freedom Agenda.”  Paul not only wants to end the wars, at considerable cost to his presidential campaign and his popularity among the fellow members of his party, he has spared no occasion to articulate to audiences an understanding of the terrorists’ motives that counters the conventional Republican account that reduces the Islamic terrorist to an embodiment of raw, undifferentiated irrationality.  For this, this “racist” has been accused of “blamingAmerica.”

It is one thing to disagree with Congressman Paul.  It is another thing to throw one baseless allegation after the other against him. 

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American as “The Case Against Ron Paul is Defeated” 

 

 

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9/11 Ceremonies and Liberty

posted by Jack Kerwick

As the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001 dawns upon us, Americans will come together to recall the happenings of that infamous day.  Ceremonies and even parades will occur in cities and towns around the country as television and radio stations allocate time for special programming and school children partake of numerous activities.

At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, to say nothing of heartless, I confess to having little patience for the pomp and circumstance to which we are treated year after year around the eleventh of September. 

For sure, the attacks of that day were as awful as any that this country has experienced during our lifetime. Those who personally suffered loss on that day are as deserving of our compassion as those who attacked us are deserving of our justice.  Yet from these facts it most certainly does not follow that there is an obligation on our part to annually engage in ritualistic expressions of our collective angst over the losses that we endured a decade ago. 

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There is more than one reason for this verdict.

Ostensibly, we must annually commemorate 9/11 so that “we will never forget” what transpired on that day in our history.  But we are no more at risk of forgetting that event than we are at risk of forgetting the attack of Pearl Harbor; the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King; the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger; and any number of other national tragedies that we refuse to commemorate by way of countrywide ceremonies.  Even if we tried, there isn’t a single one of us who lived through 9/11 that will ever be able to forget it.  In fact, not only are the images of the planes flying into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and innocent human beings jumping to their deaths forever ensconced in our minds; chances are we will remember what we were doing that day much more vividly than we will be able to recall the details of most days from our pasts. 

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As for those who do not personally recollect 9/11, it is as impossible for them to “forget” it as it is impossible for us to do so.  The world in which we live is a world that is defined by the events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  The terrorist attacks that robbed 3,000 or so of our fellow Americans from us, though they occurred in the past, are still very much a part of our present.  At any rate, if countless ceremonies must be orchestrated each year in order to impress upon future generations the significance of 9/11, then comparable ceremonies commemorating every significant historical event should be no less mandatory as far as instructing our posterity is concerned.  But if the latter claim is ridiculous, then it is not obvious that the former isn’t equally so.  

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Second, 9/11 was a tragedy of epic proportions for America.  Due to bureaucratic incompetence, a ragtag group of Islamic terrorists from the Middle East were wildly successful (from their perspective) in striking a devastating blow against the United States.  Admittedly, and thankfully, it didn’t take our country long after 9/11 to regain its bearings and strike back, but on 9/11, America wasn’t just sucker punched; she took a baseball bat to the skull. 

Why, we must ask ourselves, do we continually want to remind, not just ourselves of this ugly fact, but the entire world?

Third, it is more than just a bit ironic that it is precisely those Republican politicians and “conservative” media personalities who never tire of railing against the “victim mentality” that has overcome our generation who are usually the most vocal supporters of ceremonies commemorating 9/11.  Yet there could be no better illustration of this mentality, and the extent to which it has supplanted all others, than our conduct as a nation in the second week of September each year.  Again, September 11, 2001 is the date on which Americans were victimized en masse.  What is worse is that we were victimized as much by the negligence and incompetence of our own government as we were the 19 savages who, armed only with box cutters, changed forever the most powerful nation in all of human history. 

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To a people devoted to liberty and the individuality that this liberty entails, public exhibitions of mourning one’s victimhood should be nothing less than anathema. It is achievements and victories, the products of strength, courage, genius, and all of the virtues the exercise of which liberty renders possible that such a people should celebrate.   On the other hand, though they will remember weaknesses, failures, and set-backs, they will steadfastly refuse to adorn them in grand displays for all time.

Our liberty is potentially diminished in another way through these annual national reminders of 9/11.  The ceremonies make it all too easy for our government to exploit this tragedy for the sake of amassing an ever greater scope over our lives.  Whether the office holders are Republican or Democrat, as long as Americans are constantly reminded by way of these public exhibitions of remembrance and mourning of the destruction that our enemies would love to visit upon us, the easier it is for the government to prey on that fear in order to grow and grow.

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Fifth and finally, because of their ubiquity and grandiosity, the 9/11 ceremonies have the effect of inducing in Americans the belief that nothing short of patriotism itself demands that they support any and all actions that are done in the name of either avenging the victims of 9/11 or of preventing “another” 9/11 on our shores.  This, however, can only lead to all manner of abuse.

I will attend church this Sunday, as I usually do.  There, I will pray for both those who lost their lives on 9/11 as well as their loved ones.  I will not, though, be partaking of any 9/11 ceremonies.  

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. 

 

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Michael Bloomberg and the Cleric-Free Zone

posted by Jack Kerwick

As the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001 approaches, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg finds himself at the center of controversy.  As it turns out, it is the mayor’s decision to exclude clerics from participating in the commemorative ceremony scheduled for Sunday that has so incensed his critics.

Among the issues with which Americans are currently concerned, this one hardly even registers.  Still, while I personally do not believe that Bloomberg is deserving of the avalanche of criticism that some clerics and their supporters have poured down upon him, I confess to being at something of a loss regarding his reasons for omitting clergymen and women from the roster of speakers at the 9/11 commemoration.

There is but one rationale that Bloomberg has stated for his position: it is for the sake of the families of those who lost their lives on 9/11 around which this commemorative event will center.  There are a couple of problems with this line of reasoning.

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First, while our hearts can’t but bleed for the thousands of our brethren who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks, inasmuch as these attacks constituted a national tragedy, the event in question should most certainly not be designed solely or even primarily for the sake of family members: 9/11 ceremonies, whether they are held in New York or anywhere else, should aim at preventing the events of that infamous day from slipping from the collective consciousness of our nation. “We must never forget.”  These ceremonies should no more be held for the survivors of those who the attacks claimed than should our post 9/11 counter-terrorist measures—from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security to everything else—be so enacted.

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Second, even if the mayor’s premise regarding the objective of the 9/11 anniversary was correct, his conclusion does not follow.  How, any remotely reasonable person must ask himself, could the appearance of clerics on the dais impede to any extent the grieving process of the family members of those who lost their lives?  After all, the family members and the clergy are hardly mutually antagonistic groups that must at all costs be kept apart.

It isn’t just the forgoing considerations that raise questions regarding Bloomberg’s decision here.  That the mayor unabashedly supported the intensely controversial “Ground Zero Mosque,” and that he obstinately refused to consider the probability, or even the distinct possibility, that it was a Muslim who was responsible for the Times Square car bomb (that, thankfully, failed to detonate) combine to strengthen suspicions that Bloomberg just may be motivated by another agenda.

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Right-leaning commentators have long remarked upon what they perceive as the militant secularism of the political left—a group to which Mayor Bloomberg belongs.  But I think this way of putting the matter isn’t quite correct.  It is, of course, true that there is no small number of leftists who find religion in all of its guises to be as false as it is destructive.  It is also true that there are leftists who despise religion because they recognize that, perhaps second only to the institution of the family, religion serves as a powerful buffer between the naked individual and an otherwise omnipotent government. 

But in many instances, at least in contemporary American political life, it isn’t religion per se that leftists loathe.  Rather, it is those forms of religion that threaten to impede the advancement of their political agenda that they are determined to silence.  More specifically, it is most expressions of Christianity upon which leftists set their sights.

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The reason for this should be obvious: those Christians who are politically active overwhelmingly endorse that party and those politicians who they (rightly or wrongly) associate with conservative causes.  That is, when religion becomes a formidable political force, it tends not to work to the advantage of leftists.

However, in those instances when it appears that the left has an opportunity to exploit religion for its own purposes, it wastes no time in doing so.  The very same left-wing Democratic politicians who inexhaustibly caution us against violating “the separation between Church and State,” religion and government, are all too eager to visit black churches while on the campaign trail.  And the very same left-wing Democrats who, for the sake of “tolerance,” proudly proclaim their resolve to further abortion rights in spite of their “personal” opposition to it, are unsparing in their allusions to the Bible when such invocations promise to facilitate their redistributive schemes for “the poor.”

Unfortunately, we are left speculating as to what Bloomberg’s real reasons are for excluding clerics, for his stated reason, as we’ve noted, makes no sense.   

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Letter to Michael Medved

posted by Jack Kerwick

Dear Michael Medved,

On August 25, you had Jeffrey Lord on your nationally syndicated talk show.  Lord had written an essay for The American Spectator in which he articulated several criticisms of Texas Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. Anyone who has ever listened to your show for any given length of time knows full well that you had no intention of taking Lord to task for his comments.  Quite the contrary, as expected, your interview with this former Reagan staffer proved to be but one more opportunity to feed your apparent obsession with ruining Paul’s reputation among the ever growing number of voters who are gravitating toward him.

It is interesting, though, that for however misinformed and, thus, uncharitable, Lord’s criticisms of Paul were, they weren’t unqualified.  In addition to conceding Ron Paul’s soundness of character, he acknowledged as well the single-handedness with which he has altered the national dialogue by reshaping the dialogue within the GOP: in 2008, Paul was well ahead of the curve when it came to the Federal Reserve and spending generally. For Paul’s contributions to altering the character of the GOP, Lord confesses to being grateful.

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One need not read Lord’s critique of Paul or listen to your exchange with him in order to know that it is the good doctor’s conception of foreign policy above and beyond anything else that renders him the object of your rage.  Ron Paul has consistently, passionately, and—judging from his increasing number of supporters—persuasively argued against the prohibitively costly enterprise of compelling the peoples of other countries to replicate America’s political framework.  In observing the practical impossibility of simultaneously supporting, on the one hand, “limited government” and the “fiscal responsibility” that this entails and, on the other, a gargantuan military with engagements the planet over, Paul has exposed the rhetoric of his party as confused at best, deceptive at worst.

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For this, there can be no pardon.

Yet because Paul’s vision carries significantly more resonance with American voters in 2011 than it did just a few years earlier—an inconvenient fact born out by poll after poll that shows Paul holding his own with, and sometimes even besting, the top-tier Republican presidential contenders—the contempt that you breed for Paul is fueled as much by fear as by wrath. So, in order to discredit him, you choose to both ridicule him as a marginal or “fringe” character and demonize him as a “racist” and “anti-Semite.”

I would kindly urge you, sir, to bear in mind just a couple of considerations. 

First, the media in both its so-called “mainstream” and “conservative” guises regularly reports on there being three top-tier Republican presidential candidates: Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Michele Bachmann.  Latest polls, however, show that Ron Paul has beaten the latter out of her third place showing.  What this means is that if Bachmann was a top-tier candidate when she was in third place, then Paul is a top-tier candidate now that he is in third place.  Simply put, far from being a “fringe” and unviable candidate, Paul is quite viable indeed, to say the least.  In fact, his showing in the polls aside, your insistence upon availing yourself of every conceivable opportunity to mock Paul proves that you yourself are painfully aware of what a formidable force he truly is (how often do you ridicule, or even mention, Gary Johnson?). 

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Second, the attempts that you have been making on the life of Paul’s character for the last so many years are bound to backfire on you. 

For one, they are transparently disingenuous.  Lord launches these same slurs against Paul while at one and the same moment affirming that this much maligned champion of liberty is a “good man.”  But if “anti-Semitism” is the most egregious of all moral offenses, and if Ron Paul is an “anti-Semite” or at least associated with “anti-Semites,” then how can he be a “good man?”

Another reason to let up with these ad hominem attacks is that in resorting to them, you reveal your true identity.  That is, because it is the leftist who is known for the readiness with which he convicts his opponents of the litany of politically correct crimes, your readiness to do the same to your opponents—especially your opponents, like Paul, who are to your right—vindicates those who have been insisting all along that neither you nor your colleagues are the “conservatives” who you claim to be.  Your impulse to besmirch Paul and everyone to your right as politically incorrect miscreants confirms your critics’ assessment that you remain enthralled to the leftist ideology within which you were nurtured.  The ease with which you charge Paul with PC thought crimes, in other words, promises to vindicate those who have sworn all along that you are not a conservative, but, rather a neoconservative.

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The problem is that neoconservatism is woefully unpopular among the American electorate.  If more people awake to the fact that the “conservative” establishment isn’t conservative at all but, of all things, neoconservative, then this could prove to be quite damaging to the Republicans’ electoral prospects—and, for that matter, Mr. Medved, your ratings. 

Besides, outside of those leftists who would vote for neither Ron Paul nor any other Republican, there is no one who will be deterred from voting for him because of the charges that you level.  And since it is on the basis of nothing other than what you and your fellow neoconservatives deem to be Paul’s insufficient support for Israel and his determination to identify your ilk as neoconservatives that you accuse him of “anti-Semitism,” some of these leftists may even begin to warm to him.

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Stop with the silly name calling Mr. Medved.  I know that you can rise above it.

Paul has been under fire for what his critics take to be his frighteningly wrong-headed position on the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.  Paul thinks that, short of war, there is nothing that we can do to impede Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.  Sanctions, we know, not only contribute to the oppression under which the innocent subjects of brutal regimes are forced to live, but almost always lead, ultimately, to war.  Nor does Dr. Paul believe that we are incapable of protecting ourselves against a country, even a country like Iran, with one nuclear weapon.

Mr. Medved, if this is such an unacceptable point of view, I ask you sir, what would you have a Republican president do?  Do you endorse but another Middle Eastern war, a military invasion ofIran?  If not, then why make such a huge deal out of Paul’s stated position?  If so, then why not just come right out and say so?

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The prospect of a Paul presidency scares the daylights out of neoconservatives.  What, Mr. Medved, do you imagine would happen in the event that your nightmare came to fruition?  How would things in our country worsen?  Please, be specific—and realistic.   

Resist the hysteria over Paul that has prevailed over your reason for far too long and, as you regularly tell callers to your show, “focus like a laser beam.”

 Finally, since, as you and Lord would have us believe, it is those of your ilk who are the “real” conservatives, please tell us: if Republicans maintain control of the House and reacquire the Senate and the White House, what should they do in order to prove that they really are the party of “limited government?” What policies should they enact, and what programs and agencies should they aspire to abolish? 

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In short, sir, how, in your judgment, would, say, Mitt Romney’s or John McCain’s or Rick Perry’s Americadiffer from that of Ron Paul’s?

With all due respect, if you make the attempt to tackle these questions, I suspect that even you may find your answers quite telling. 

Sincerely,

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.         

 

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