Saturday, July 3, 2010

Thank You, Rand Paul, House Stands Firm on Withdrawal

Thank You, Rand Paul

Van Gosse, Historian and author
Huffington Post, June 30, 2010

Rand Paul is a gift to historians. As a candidate he embodies some of the
longest-lasting, most picturesque -- and most reactionary and dangerous --
elements of the American political tradition: contempt for government;
veneration of personal property over all else; freedom defined as the
absence of restraint, meaning the 'freedom' to exploit.

Like his father Ron, Rand Paul is schooled in the late-modern ideology of
libertarianism (Ayn Rand, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman). But learned
discourses on "capitalism and freedom" hardly matter to their base, which
wouldn't know Hayek from a hole in the wall. When they rouse audiences, they
appeal to currents in American life that predate Friedman's "free markets"

The real ancestors of the Pauls, Sarah Palin, and the rest of the Tea
Partiers are the antebellum Jacksonian Democrats, who drew on the "Old
Republican" tradition of Southern slaveholders. Deeply concerned about
threats to their way of life, they accused national government supporters of
"monarchical" tendencies, and authored the doctrine of states' rights and
nullification of federal authority. Sound familiar?

Like today's Tea Party, Jacksonians considered themselves the inheritors of
the American Revolution. Above all, they venerated private property of two
types. First was the land they had extorted at gunpoint, following
massacres, from the Southern Indians, who mistakenly thought federal
treaties protected them. The second form of property was the slave labor
that turned the forests of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana into
the "Cotton Kingdom" after Jackson's armies expelled the Indians. Led by
Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis, the men who rose to power on the wealth
slaves created broke up the Union rather than accepting Lincoln's victory.

Jacksonians like Davis believed in their rights, as white men, over everyone
else--their women, children and slaves, the Indians, the land itself. They
asserted that this was America's identity: conquering nature, accumulating
wealth and ruling over others. They wanted only enough government, under
their control, to protect them in these endeavors. Anything else they viewed
as treason. To libertarians and Jacksonians alike, freedom belongs to those
who can take it, and practicing freedom means having the liberty to make
money any way you can.

No wonder Rand Paul called Obama's criticism of BP and the Massey Coal
Company "un-American" and told Rachel Maddow that government had no business
deciding whom restaurant owners must serve. The sanctity of "private
property," no matter how you got it or the societal effects of how you use
it, is the dogma animating this kind of "constitutional conservative."

I'd really like to know Paul's views on the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and
Fifteenth Amendments -- respectively, the abolishment of slavery in 1865,
the creation of government-enforced equal citizenship in 1868 and requiring
the states to let all black men vote in 1870. My gut tells me that's not the
"Constitution" he has in mind!

The Jacksonian attitude toward the rule of law also prefigures today's Tea
Partiers. As Daniel Walker Howe points out in his 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winner
What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, Jackson
"did not manifest a general respect for the authority of the law when it got
in the way of the policies he chose to pursue." A notorious duelist, Jackson
regularly executed without trial his own soldiers and Indians, and he used
his 1835 State of the Union address to endorse mob violence against
abolitionists while gangs burned black churches in New York and

It is a short move from that brand of vicious demagoguery to Palin's telling
white rural audiences in 2008 that only they were the "real Americans" and
instructing her followers after health care reform passed: "don't retreat,
just reload." The Pauls' antigovernment rhetoric about the income tax and
the Federal Reserve stokes the Patriot movement, which denies the authority
of the federal government entirely. The benighted "Patriot" trucker Jerry
Kane and his son, who both died in a shootout with police May 22, are only
the most recent casualties in the long history of Jacksonianism.

"States' rights," a glorification of the private interest over the public
good, and race hatred are certainly, historically speaking, American, but
there's nothing "constitutional" or "conservative" about them. So, I would
like to thank Rand Paul for bringing history so vividly to contemporary
light, if only I didn't think these elements of our history were far better
left in the past.


House Stands Firm on Afghanistan Withdrawal Timetable

Tom Hayden
The July 2, 2010

One hundred sixty-two House members, including a large majority of
Democrats, sent a significant antiwar message to President Obama last night,
forcing the White House to depend for Afghanistan war support on the
Republicans who want to unseat the Democrats and Obama himself in upcoming

Despite claims by punditry that the antiwar movement has disappeared,
stalwart Representative Barbara Lee gained 100 votes for her amendment
rejecting $33 billion for 30,000 new troops already being sent to
Afghanistan. Seven of her votes were Republicans. The measure would have
redirected the $33 billion to expenses incurred in redeploying the troops
out of Afghanistan.

More significant numerically, there were 162 votes cast for Representative
Jim McGovern's amendment, co-authored by representatives David Obey and
Walter Jones, which articulated a game plan for ending the war. Only a year
ago, the same measure was introduced as a general and non-binding
resolution. This time the proposal required, as a condition of funding, an
exit proposal including a withdrawal timetable, by next spring, before the
president's announced plan to "begin" withdrawals in July. Further, in
response to rising pressure to delay withdrawals, the McGovern proposal
would require another Congressional vote if the administration succumbed to
pressure from Republicans and the military to delay the beginning departure

Among Democrats, the vote for McGovern was 153-98, with nine Republican
supporters. Significantly, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who this week predicted a
strong Democratic push for a "substantial drawdown" by next year, voted with

Beltway-based peace groups were surprised by the outcome. "All in all, we
did better than I expected," blogged Paul Kawika-Martin of Peace Action as
the televised vote rolled across the CSPAN screen.

Though the war will escalate as a result of the final vote, the opponents
sent a powerful message to the president and newly confirmed Gen. David
Petraeus that antiwar pressure will only increase in the period ahead,
adding important pressure for the July 2011 deadline to be maintained and
clarified by a timeline for completion, as originally proposed by Senator
Russ Feingold.

The message is sure to reinforce the belief in the Karzai administration,
the Pakistan government and among NATO allies that time is running out, thus
giving an impetus for accelerating talks with the Taliban.

The escalating offensive in southern Afghanistan will continue apace, with
uncertain results.

The Taliban may misread the message from Congress, however, and overplay
their hand. Their strength lies in southern Pashtun communities in southern
Afghanistan and Pakistan, suggesting that their future lies in a negotiated
power-sharing arrangment with the northern tribes and warlords they fought
in the civil war nearly a decade ago. The McGovern proposal foreshadows a
scenario of peace diplomacy that stabilizes a deeply divided country

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