Michael Gerson takes on Ron Paul’s bid for the GOP nomination, and he rightly exposes Paul’s libertarian record for what it is. Gerson writes:
No other recent candidate hailing from the party of Lincoln has accused Abraham Lincoln of causing a “senseless” war and ruling with an “iron fist.” Or regarded Ronald Reagan’s presidency a “dramatic failure.” Or proposed the legalization of prostitution and heroin use. Or called America the most “aggressive, extended and expansionist” empire in world history. Or promised to abolish the CIA, depart NATO and withdraw military protection from South Korea. Or blamed terrorism on American militarism, since “they’re terrorists because we’re occupiers.” Or accused the American government of a Sept. 11 “coverup” and called for an investigation headed by Dennis Kucinich. Or described the killing of Osama bin Laden as “absolutely not necessary.” Or affirmed that he would not have sent American troops to Europe to end the Holocaust. Or excused Iranian nuclear ambitions as “natural,” while dismissing evidence of those ambitions as “war propaganda.” Or published a newsletter stating that the 1993 World Trade Center attack might have been “a setup by the Israeli Mossad,” and defending former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke and criticizing the “evil of forced integration.”
Each of these is a disqualifying scandal. Taken together, a kind of grandeur creeps in. The ambition of Paul and his supporters is breathtaking. They wish to erase 158 years of Republican Party history in a single political season, substituting a platform that is isolationist, libertarian, conspiratorial and tinged with racism. It won’t happen. But some conservatives seem paradoxically drawn to the radicalism of Paul’s project. They prefer their poison pill covered in glass and washed down with battery acid. It proves their ideological manhood.
Gerson argues that the federal government does have a role to play in protecting civil rights.
Government can be an enemy of liberty. But the achievement of a free society can also be the result of government action — the protection of individual liberty against corrupt state governments or corrupt business practices or corrupt local laws. In 1957, President Eisenhower sent 1,000 Army paratroopers to Arkansas to forcibly integrate Central High School in Little Rock. This reduced Gov. Orval Faubus’s freedom. It increased the liberty of Carlotta Walls LaNier, who was spat upon while trying to attend school. A choice between freedoms was necessary — and it was not a hard one.
Paul’s conception of liberty is not the same as Lincoln’s — which is not a condemnation of Lincoln. Paul’s view would have freed African Americans from the statism of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Act. It would have freed the occupants of concentration camps from their dependency on liberating armies. And it would free the Republican Party from any claim to conscience or power.
Read the rest here.