Hello readers and greetings from eastern Tennessee. For the last several days, I have been here and will remain for a while longer, visting family, cat sitting, and the like.
Of course there have been political developments since last I’ve written. After all, with a presidential election bearing down upon us, there is always something new to talk about.
As I’m sure you know, tonight is the first debate between Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R). Unfortunately, the debate excludes the voices of Gary Johnson (L) and Jill Stein (G), two candidates who are on enough ballots to win the presidency. but are not allowed on stage nevertheless. Although the debate is likely to be entertaining, with Trump and Clinton attacking each other relentlessly, I assume it will be fairly substance free. Therefore, I not planning on watching, instead visiting the local gaming store or watching Monday Night Football.
I wish that I could say something positive about any of the presidential candidates or campaigns, but I can’t really. The Gary Johnson campaign (my choice) has been a disappointment thus far, with the odd Johnson sticking out his tongue interview, Bill Weld showing he is more of a liberal Republican than a Libertarian, and the general lack of organization and professionalism overall. As for Clinton and Trump, well, the borrow a quote from Henry Kissinger regarding the Iran-Iraq War, “it’s too bad they can’t both lose.”
In about 48 hours, I will be in Knoxville taking the GREs. I last took them about 8 years ago. I hope I will do as well as I did then. It would be nice to do something more meaningful in politics.
On Thursday, the Knoxville Libertarian Party will be holding a meeting. Their featured speaker is Glenn Jacobs. For the WWE fans out there, you might know him by the name Kane.
Well, the cause of liberty can and will continue, but for the moment I think I’ll take a bit of time for myself here in eastern Tennessee. Nevertheless, I suspect you’ll catch me on tomorrow’s podcast of Freedom Gulch.
Best wishes and I look forward to writing you again soon!
On September 15th, Andy Schmookler and I returned to the radio waves on 550 AM WSVA to discuss what has been going on politically over the last month. The time mainly considered the 2016 presidential election including: Hillary Clinton’s recent health problems, the upcoming debates, and Trump’s rise in the polls. In case you missed the radio hour when it was broadcast, you can find it here.
On July 14th, Andy Schmookler and I (Joshua Huffman) appeared on our monthly radio hour on 550 AM, WSVA. Topics included: the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions, Senator Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton, a discussion of the possible selection of Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine as the Democratic nominee, and more.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the Republican presidential race…a lot. And, after pondering the matter for quite some time, in my opinion the least desirable Republican candidate running for president is…Marco Rubio.
Yes, I know many people will say it is Donald Trump. He certainly has said some offensive, sexist, and racist things and that kind of behavior is unacceptable to me. But, think about Marco Rubio. Trump’s derision of people’s physical appearance is abhorrent when Rubio acted the very same way this weekend? Come on! In Marco Rubio you have a man who hasn’t bothered to show up to work most days and yet still draws a paycheck for a full-time job. He has and continues to deprive Floridians of representation in the U.S. Senate and ought to have resigned his seat if he had no interest in serving so that someone responsible could have taken his place. Furthermore, on foreign policy he is without a doubt the worst candidate running. I think Rubio is the most likely to get us embroiled in another endless overseas war and heaven knows we have had enough of those already. To me Marco Rubio represents a return to many of the failed polices of George W. Bush, policies Republicans and Americans ought to have rejected but are still embraced by the Republican establishment who longs for greater power once more. Marco Rubio has even snagged the endorsement of Virginia’s least principled Republican Representative, Barbara Comstock.
Yes, I know many of my brothers and sisters in liberty are afraid of Donald Trump and I’m not saying that these concerns are unfounded. However, surrendering our principles because of these fears is no path forward.
I don’t care which candidate is the most likely to beat Donald Trump for the Republican nomination if he or she does not embrace the ideals of liberty. Yes, it is likely that if you vote for principle your candidate won’t win, but do you know what else is true? Odds are very good that your one vote won’t influence the outcome in the slightest. Can you name even one national or statewide election whose outcome hinged on a single vote? Although I’m sure there has to be one somewhere, I can’t think of an example. Therefore, why not vote for what you know is right rather than what can “win” or what is popular?
Chances are very good that Trump’s momentum is already too great and if he wins a majority of the states on Super Tuesday then he will be the Republican Party nominee. And that, people say, will destroy the Republican Party. The truth of the matter is that the Republican Party has been dying for decades as it sheds principles in the pursuit of power. What difference does it make if it suffers a quick and explosive death under Trump or a continued slow and painful decline under Rubio? For some of you this is a hard thing to come to grips with but if the GOP isn’t the party of limited government principles, as it claims to be, it is better off dead.
So whom should you support? Well, assuming I vote in the Republican Party primary tomorrow, it will be for Rand Paul. Yes, I know that he isn’t running any longer, but he is really the only candidate on the ballot who comes close to the principles of liberty and limited government, principles which many of us claim to hold but have now jettisoned due to fear. Acting out of fear has gotten us the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, TSA, the erosion of our civil liberties, and much more. How much more of an empire will we become abroad and how much more of a police state will we become at home before we finally declare that enough is enough?
Sure, the GOP may nominate a terrible candidate for president. But guess what? Just because he is the Republican nominee that doesn’t mean that you have to support him or even vote for him. In each election we ought to be voting for the best candidate, not voting against the worst. Remember that there is no ribbon or trophy awarded if you cast your vote for a terrible winner as opposed to voting for a principled loser other than the knowledge that you actively helped install someone horrid who now has power over you. This whole voting for the lesser of two evils nonsense has been making our country worse and worse and the quality of candidates continues to degrade as a result. Hold your head high and if you vote tomorrow then vote for someone you believe in. Don’t look back with regrets of another slightly less bad decision. I know I won’t.
In early September of 2015, I wrote an article detailing my experiences and thoughts regarding Dr. Rand Paul and his campaign for president. Although some fellow Paul supporters advised me to publish at that time, in the hopes of righting a foundering ship, others were concerned that it could hurt his chances. At that time I was tremendously disappointed in his campaign, but as I still hoped Rand Paul would win the Republican nomination (or at least draw more people to the liberty movement), I decided to sit on the post. Since then, unfortunately, I have heard that others have had experiences similar to my own.
Now that his campaign is over, I thought it important to share my dealings in the hopes that doing so will help shed at least some light on what went wrong so that future candidates and campaigns seeking the liberty mantle can avoid acting likewise.
September 8th, 2015
Like many of you, deciding whom to support for president in 2016 has been a difficult decision. Although I worked for Dr. Ron Paul, I did have some important reservations about his son. His support for the reelection of the unprincipled Senator Mitch McConnell over his conservative challenger in 2014 and his newly changed position on drone strikes are two important examples. However, after Rand Paul’s spirited stance in defense of our civil liberties in late May and early June, I decided to seek a position with his campaign on June 3rd. Shortly thereafter I engaged in a series of email exchanges with one of the fellows on the campaign. After a couple weeks, he asked if I could assist with the petition drive to get Rand Paul on the ballot here in Virginia, which I agreed to do.
And then, as has been the case on so many campaigns, I waited. About once a week or so, I would call them, hoping for some kind of update. In late July, this same staffer sent me another email asking if I would be willing to spend the weekend volunteering for the campaign in Northern Virginia. I responded that although I would like to, I couldn’t afford to travel around the state for free. At that point, he did not communicate with me further.
After two months, it seemed that my waiting had finally paid off. On August 4th, I received an email from their Field Director, Dave Ramirez, stating, “I hope you’re doing well. Sorry I’m circling back on this just now. Just wanted to connect with you in regards to the campaign. If you’re still interested, is there a day and time to connect over the phone?” Within an hour, I responded saying that just about anytime would be good for me. I also left a couple of messages with the national office in case he didn’t get my email.
By August 18th, I realized that even though the campaign had asked me to help in collecting signature to get Rand Paul on the ballot, they still had not sent me the proper forms to do so. In Virginia, they need to collect 5,000 signatures, a fairly high threshold. Therefore, I made a few calls to some of my fellow liberty-minded folks in the state and, shortly thereafter, I had the form.
Then, on August 21st, the staff told me that they would contact me on either that Friday or the early part of the next week. Finally my waiting had come to an end…or so I thought. However, Friday came and went…as did Monday. On Tuesday, shortly before close of business, I contacted them again. I was told that they would now contact me on Wednesday, August 26th. Fine, I thought. Wednesday came and went. There was no phone call, no email, there was nothing. Did they intentionally mislead me?
As you might imagine, at this point I was rather annoyed that the Rand Paul campaign did not honor any of their own self-imposed deadlines or at least have the courtesy to explain what the holdup was. I certainly didn’t want to bug them, but after those target dates slipped away I began calling them regularly in the hopes that I might get someone, anyone, on the phone. And, from time to time, I was able to speak to someone. Most days I called several times until I could actually talk to a real, live person. However, each and every time it was some different staffer and he or she always told that either Mr. Ramirez was out of the office or in a meeting. For several of them I would take several minutes to explain the situation. Surely they would have the decency to get back in touch, right? Last week, I spoke with a fellow who identified himself as part of their legal team, but he promised would relay my message.
I was at a loss as to what to do. I reached out to a group called Virginia for Rand Paul. Although they were more than happy to speak with me about volunteer opportunities, they ignored my request for assistance in reaching the national campaign. I tried emailing the first guy and Dave, but neither answered me. Over this most recent weekend, I received the Twitter handle for several of the Paul staffers and decided to tweet to them in the hopes someone would respond. One did on Sunday and he asked for my email address. However, as of Tuesday, there was no additional follow-up.
On September 8th, I was determined that that day would be the day I would finally get my conversation. However, things took an interesting and unfortunate turn. I called their office in the morning, right around 9 AM, when I assumed that they were opening and no one answered. I didn’t see much point in leaving a recorded message, as doing so hadn’t worked so far. I tried again about an hour later with the same result. Right after lunch I called again. Still no one. Would the Paul campaign finally honor their word? Then, at 1:50 PM, I finally reached someone. The person on the other end of the line asked me if I was Joshua. I told her that I was. At that point, I was expecting her to say that she would transfer my call to Mr. Ramirez or perhaps she would apologize for all of the waiting that they had put me through. Instead, she told me something exceedingly shocking…that if I called their office again they would contact the police and acquire a cease and desist order. A threat?! I tried to explain myself, but she interjected by adding that they would call me if they wished to speak to me and then hung-up before I could get a word in edgewise.
I must say that I am floored by this response…a loss for words. As a fellow Rand Paul supporter told me after I relayed the story to him (and please pardon the language), “Yeah we can’t have that shit, this election could still be won but we appear to have a bunch of sycophants in charge.” Prior to this time I was collecting signatures to get Dr. Paul on the ballot, but now? How can I continue?
I have to wonder. Who is running the Paul campaign? Are they so dishonorable or lazy that their word means nothing? Are they so incompetent, shortsighted, or unprofessional that they treat all of their supporters with such disdain? Does the campaign have even the slightest interest in winning? Do they have any hope to spread the liberty movement like my former boss and Rand Paul’s father, Dr. Ron Paul, did? Or is the campaign nothing but a farce, run by people who don’t care about our shared principles, are deceiving the liberty movement, and perfectly willing to take our time and money and offer nothing substantive in return like a 1980s style televangelist? Is there any wonder why recent polls have shown that Rand Paul’s support has been cut in half…or more?
All I can say is that I am profoundly disappointed with the Paul campaign. I don’t know what is wrong with them. Who in the world has Dr. Rand Paul chosen to surround himself with?
February 15, 2016
Getting back to the present day, my anger and frustration began to dissipate after a few weeks of fuming. But, as no one likes to be led on, either professionally or personally, I didn’t help the Rand Paul campaign any further.
Still, it was shocking that Paul did so relatively poorly in Iowa. After all, his campaign touted that they had made over a million phone calls in the state and had over a thousand precinct captains. In 2012, Ron Paul finished a close third, winning many counties, and ended up with the lion’s share of the delegates (22). However, at the end of the day the Rand Paul campaign only managed to get a disappointing 8,481 votes or 4.5%, winning zero counties, finishing fifth in the crowded field, and capturing only one delegate. Nevertheless, one would assume he would have fared considerably better in the next contest of “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire. I don’t think many of us could have predicted that Rand Paul would drop out after the first state.
Unfortunately, as I wrote as early as 2014, I think Rand Paul surrounded himself with some disreputable people who routinely offered him poor advice such as: in order to win a greater following you need to cozy up to the establishment, jettison some of your libertarian principles, and it would help to publicly denounce your father, Ron Paul. I would argue that anyone who suggests such ideas isn’t really an ally of the liberty movement. Yes, it is important to say things with tact and to be mindful of your audience, of course, but if you dilute or pervert the message, if your campaign deceives your supporters, or if you have left the liberty movement weaker than when you have found it, then you have forgotten your most important purpose.
Recently, we’ve heard that some of Rand Paul’s top staffers have gone to work for establishment candidates. His campaign manager has shifted to Marco Rubio and one of his senior advisors works for John Kasich. My question is, how can you ever hope to “Defeat the Washington Machine” if many of your key employees will gladly prop up the Washington Machine assuming the price is right? When your campaign is run by people who don’t support the overall message of liberty or you prop up a corrupt Senate Majority Leader, then it should come as no surprise when your loyal, long-time followers melt away like snow in a spring thaw. I think Dr. Rand Paul realized this fact, and pivoted back to his roots in some of the recent debates, but by then it was too late to recapture the momentum of his father’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
11. In politics, you have your word and your friends; go back on either and you’re dead.
15. Don’t treat good guys like you treat bad guys.
26. Personnel is policy.
31. Don’t fully trust anyone until he has stuck with a good cause which he saw was losing.
34. You cannot make friends of your enemies by making enemies of your friends.
And, perhaps most importantly
36. Keep a secure home base.
Sure, things may seem down right now, but the good news is that the drumbeat of liberty marches on. It is perfectly reasonable to feel depressed about the outcome of the Rand Paul campaign, but always remember that the movement is much greater than a single candidate or campaign. Rand Paul 2016 may be over, but the fight for liberty continues. We cannot surrender; we still have important work to do.
Last night, the Democratic Party held their first presidential debate. Aired on CNN, the event lasted about two hours. The five participants were: former Virginia US Senator Jim Webb, Vermont US Senator Bernie Sanders, former First Lady, former New York US Senator, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, and former Rhode Island US Senator and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee.
Some of the Democrats gathered at a local brewery in Harrisonburg to watch the debate. Although I didn’t watch it live, I thought it would be useful to see it in its entirety and not merely snippets in order to be informed.
Here are my my thoughts:
I was very unimpressed by the front-runner, Hillary Clinton. It is quite possible that she articulated some point on which she and I agreed, but, if so, I do not remember it. Her declaration that she is running to be the first woman president sounded like needless pandering. Yes, there is nothing wrong with a female president, but voting for a candidate strictly based upon gender is as foolish and myopic as voting for a candidate based upon race. She repeatedly attacked the Republicans without offering specifics sounded like nothing more than an effort to score cheap points with the Democratic audience. In addition, she used far more generalities than anyone else. Even though she has the highest name ID, based upon her performance in the first debate, she would be my least desirable choice.
Likewise, Martin O’Malley failed to wow me at all, more or less sticking to traditional Democratic talking points. However, he did make a good comparison in his closing statement about the difference between the Republican and Democratic debates thus far.
There was a time or two that I agreed Lincoln Chafee, especially when it came to foreign policy, but his defense of several of his early votes was pathetic; his excuse that he had just gotten into office sounded like he had no idea what he was doing and shouldn’t have run in the first place. I didn’t care much for him when he was a liberal Republican and not much has changed.
I was glad to hear Senator Sanders standing up for our civil liberties against the overreaching power of the federal government when it came to matters of the NSA and the Patriot Act, as well as his arguments for a more reasonable foreign policy. However, pushing for a domestic policy that advocates so much “free” stuff and raising the minimum wage indicated to me that he doesn’t have a sound understanding of economics and the free market. College degrees for all, especially those who don’t even want one, makes them almost effectively worthless.
Lastly, although I didn’t agree with quite a lot Jim Webb said, I appreciated his views on foreign policy, gun rights, and trying to stand up for all citizens, regardless of the colour of their skin. He may have not gotten the most time, but from a liberty perspective, he sounded like the best Democratic choice at this point.
Therefore, based solely upon this debate, I would presently rate the candidates as follows: Webb, Sanders, Chafee, O’Malley, and Clinton at the bottom. Assuming I didn’t vote in the Republican primary, which I am planning to do based, of course, upon who is in the race and who is leading, I would consider voting for Webb in the Democratic primary. After all, I voted for Webb in the 2006 Virginia Democratic primary for U.S. Senate (but not in the general election) as I felt he was the best option in that race.
Nevertheless, I encourage you to watch the debate and decide for yourself.
Right now there are a lot of candidates running for president, especially on the Republican side of things where there are 17 major and semi-major challengers. However, some people think we ought to have even more choices…I guess.
Earlier today, I received a rather peculiar email from a fellow named John Turner which read, “Please note your involvement with our Vote for ‘Virginia Sen. Emmett Hanger for U.S. President’ PAC FEC ID No. C00579839 statement for the Buena Vista, Virginia, Labor (& Political) Day Parade 2015.” For the record, I have had no involvement with such a PAC nor do I plan to have any involvement with this PAC. Curious, I sent a reply asking for clarification about two hours ago, but have not gotten a response yet.
Now, it is true that many years ago Senator Hanger did seek higher office. But this idea failed after he ended up not qualifying for the ballot due to missing the deadline to have his petitions filed. So, making a move for other position does have some historical merit. Nevertheless, whether you support or oppose Senator Hanger, it seems virtually impossible for any state legislator anywhere to make a credible play for the presidency. Both the name ID required and the needed fundraising capability are well beyond the scope of a vast majority of politicians.
So, that begs a question. What is this PAC all about and what are its goals, if any, beyond electing Senator Emmett Hanger as the next president? Quite strange if you ask me!
In case you haven’t heard, today Politico announced that several members of the 2012 Ron Paul Presidential Campaign have been indicted for allegedly bribing an Iowa state senator prior to the 2012 Iowa Caucus. As I wrote in early 2014, there were some of us who heard or personally witnessed some shady dealings during Ron Paul’s most recent presidential run.
Now Jesse Benton, John Tate, and Dimetri Kesari are all facing charges for their supposed role. And personally I believe this revelation is a net positive for the liberty movement. Yes, the timing is poor, coming right before the first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 season and it will likely cause a considerable headache for the Rand Paul campaign. But, I think it is important to root this corruption out of our cause before it becomes even worse.
During my nineteen or so years in the Republican Party, from time to time I would hear about shady, immoral, and possibly illegal dealings. And, when these revelations came to light, what do you think would happen? Would the politician or staffer stand up for what is right? Rarely. Unfortunately, the typical mentality was to condemn the other side for their transgressions but turn a blind eye when it involved “one of our own”. What gross hypocrisy!
When thinking of it objectively, either something is wrong or it is right. How can an act be wrong when one guy does it and ignored when another acts in the same fashion? Is bribery wrong? Yes! Is theft wrong? Yes!! Is election fraud wrong? Yes!!! Is sexually assault wrong? Yes!!!! Wouldn’t any rational person agree? And yet I’ve either witnessed or heard about all of these things and more. I regret to say that the typical response from the higher ups is simply to ignore or, even worse, use their political power to cover up such transgressions. It is a system of justice for some, but not for all. Regrettably, politics often attracts the worst people in our society. To make matters worse, these people work in tandem to make certain their subordinates, colleagues, and bosses get away with these nefarious deeds as much and as often as possible.
Unfortunately, many of us knew that there were some powerful and corrupt elements in the 2012 Ron Paul campaign. However, without tangible proof, the liberty-minded activists couldn’t do anything other than watch the campaign spiral inward, while the well-connected got their cut of the pot. I’m sure many of us thought, as it is written in the book of Job, “Why do the wicked prosper, growing old and powerful?” Job 21:7 (NLT). It was so frustrating!
But, to borrow a quote from Batman Begins, “What chance does Gotham have when the good people do nothing?” As advocates of liberty who hopefully strive for honesty, it is the duty of each of us to report any and all illicit activity. How much does it harm our cause for us to stay silent at a bribe? How terrible is it to hear of a person getting assaulted and stand mute? What would the average person think of us and our principles if we promoted a man whose hand is deep in the till of liberty?
If Benton, Tate, and/or Kesari are guilty of the crimes of which they are accused, we should not rally to their side or excuse their behavior simply because they are supposedly “one of us”. Despite what principles they may profess to have, anyone who abandons basic human morality to achieve their goals was never really on our side. Just remember that the cause for which we fight is greater than any of us. Although I wish this revelation would have been dealt with much earlier, I am glad that it is finally going to be resolved. Perhaps this terrible stain can finally be scrubbed from the liberty movement. We ought to rejoice that justice is being done!
In a recent article in the National Journal, Gary Johnson may be considering another run for president in 2016. As was the case in 2012, the former New Mexico governor suggests he may run under the banner of the Libertarian Party. As he puts it, “I would love running as a Libertarian because I would have the least amount of explaining to do.”
Certainly some liberty-minded Republicans wish that Gary Johnson would return to the Republican fold. After all, he was elected as a Republican in New Mexico.
However, any memory of the 2012 Republican presidential primaries would make such a switch highly unlikely. For those who do not recall, Johnson first began his presidential run as a Republican in 2011. Despite being a fairly important former elected official and offering a memorable quip that several dogs created more “shovel ready” jobs than President Obama, he was only allowed to participate in two debates. In a party and media fueled catch-22, his poll numbers were low because he didn’t get much coverage. And as he didn’t get much coverage, his poll numbers could not improve.
In addition, former Governor Johnson has some philosophical differences too. Although marking himself as a strong fiscal conservative during his time in elected office, Gary Johnson holds a number of social views which put him at odds with the religious right wing of the Republican Party.
Now there are some Republican politicians who have used the Libertarian Party as a resting point before returning to the GOP. For example, 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr has since rejoined the Republican Party. Then again, I thought Barr a rather curious choice for the LP. Although I didn’t consider myself libertarian in 2008, given his previous support of the Patriot Act and the War in Iraq, I thought that I was more libertarian than Mr. Barr.
On the other hand, the Republican Party is still searching for an identity and unfortunately there is a sizable contingent of the leadership that is openly hostile to libertarians and conservatives.
So, it should be interesting to see when and if Gary Johnson kicks off his presidential campaign. I assume that if he runs as a Libertarian again, it should increase public understanding and membership in the LP.
With the blessing of Governor Bob McDonnell, Virginia’s General Assembly recently passed a transportation bill has upset huge numbers of conservatives across the state. Labeled as the largest (or second largest) tax increase in Virginia history, many activists see the move as an outright betrayal of McDonnell’s election pledge to find other ways to fund transportation without a tax hike.
Rumors circulate that after leaving office in November, the governor will set his sights on either the 2014 U.S. Virginia Senate seat or even the 2016 presidency. In order to thwart McDonnell’s higher political ambitions, a group called the Patriot SuperPAC recently ran an ad in Iowa warning voters in that state that McDonnell is not the fiscal conservative he pretends to be. Today, the PAC released another ad targeting the people of New Hampshire.
Although the 2016 presidential race will not begin in earnest for at least another year, these sorts of messages clearly illustrate an important reality. Bob McDonnell has upset a whole lot of Virginia conservatives and his effort to cement a legacy for himself through transportation tax hikes likely makes it almost impossible for him to ever win back the support of this key constituency.