The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XLIX)

Although originally scheduled to air today, August 16th, WSVA moved our radio hour to Monday, August 14th, due to pressing events at the time.  And despite Andy Schmookler being in Shenandoah County and my recent move to Morgantown, WV, the show will go on!

For our 49th episode, the issues centered around the rally and violence in Charlottesville over the weekend as well as a possible military strike against North Korea due to threats against Guam.  We also touched on the failure of Obamacare repeal and the feud between Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump.  We would have also spoken about Elizabeth Warren and the fight for ideological control of the Democratic Party, but we ran out of time.

If you missed the show live, you can can listen to it here (once they have finished processing it).  Thanks for listening!

Now That the Paul Campaign Is Over…

Photo from Rand Paul's Facebook page
Photo from Rand Paul’s Facebook page

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.

hqdefaultRecently, 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.

Looking back on the 2016 Paul campaign, it is important to remember Morton Blackwell’s Laws of The Public Policy Process including:

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.

The GOP is Falling Apart

Image from sodahead.com
Image from sodahead.com

On Saturday night, before sitting down to play Die Macher with a handful of friends, I had the opportunity to speak with a local professor about politics.  A self-identified Republican, he voiced his frustration with the direction that the party has been heading.  In an earlier conversation he mentioned that although he had donated to the party in the past, he has not done so in some time.

As a libertarian within the GOP, the professor said that he now has little in common with the other factions in the party.  Although the Republican Party used to be an advocate for both fiscal responsibility and limited government, those haven’t been primary concerns in many years.  Amusingly, the professor has a Republican elephant magnet on his refrigerator, but it is turned upside down as if the party were now dead.

Looking at the matter objectively, what have limited government advocates gained in the past 15 years with the Republican Party?  Yes, in the first half George W. Bush was president and in the second Barack Obama has been at the head.  All the while the Republican Party has been in control of Congress more often than the Democrats.  But the policies under both the Republican and Democratic leadership have been fairly consistent.  We’ve gotten a massive increase in our national debt and an expansion of government programs including: No Child Left Behind, Common Core, Medicare Part D, Obamacare, the Patriot Act, NDAA, continual war in the Middle East, the TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, curtailing of our civil liberties, extrajudicial killings of foreign civilians, scores of executive orders, and the list goes on.

As the professor lamented, far too many social conservatives seem to tolerate or even embrace these intrusions so long as Republican politicians continue to offer lip service to God in the public sphere while national defense Republicans howl at any sort of cost saving measures regarding our armed forces or the idea of cutting back on our ever-expanding policing of the world.

Perhaps the worst part is that limited government conservatives are actively being fooled (or more realistically they are fooling themselves).  For example, when the 10th district of Virginia was deciding upon a Republican candidate to replace Frank Wolf, anyone who had been paying attention would know that based upon her rhetoric and record that Barbara Comstock was not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination.   After she won the nomination and the election many seemed surprised when she voted more like the Democrats than any other national Republican legislator in the state.  Or how about Paul Ryan?  When he campaigned for vice president in 2012, I had an opportunity to listen to him in person and came to the unfortunate conclusion that he was about as committed to limiting the power of government and reducing the national debt as my own representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6).  It seems odd that people are now calling Speaker of the House Paul Ryan a traitor after he pushed through the latest budget given that his track record showed that that was exactly what he was going to do if he were given such authority.  Isn’t it painfully obvious that neither Paul Ryan nor Barbara Comstock share our ideology?  Therefore, why in the world should we support them?

Over at Bearing Drift Brian Schoeneman bemoans the infighting in the Republican Party, declaring that the libertarian Republicans “openly flaunt their unwillingness to stand by the Party when it does things they disagree with, going so far as to run and support third party candidates that have cost Republicans victories”.  However, the better question one should ask is, why should liberty-minded folks continue to support the Republican Party?  In the last decade and a half can you name even one federal department that has been eliminated or drastically curtailed as a result of Republican leadership?  Can you point out more examples of ways that the Republican Party has reduced government involvement in our lives…or ways that they have expanded it?

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The William & Mary College Republicans and Margaret Thatcher in 2000.

I would argue that regardless of party Americans desperately need a Margaret Thatcher.  After World War II the Conservative Party more or less surrendered on the issue of limiting the power of the British government, much like the current Republican Party, instead trying to make the bloated national government as efficient as possible.  However, Thatcher upset the wisdom of the day by openly questioning government involvement in a variety of areas that used to be under the control of the private sector, charities, or churches and, once she became prime minister, instituted policies which began to dismantle government control.  How many leaders of today’s Republican Party are willing to take such a step?  Certainly not Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and not most of the Republican or Democratic candidates running for president.

The traditional three-legged stool of the GOP is falling apart because the party has almost completely abandoned the tenets of liberty and limited government.  The party is led by men and women who treat power and not principle as the holy grail of politics and are willing to sacrifice anything to achieve it.  When these people don’t get the influence that they so desperately desire, rather than blaming their failed policies they blame us for not blindly following them!  If the Republican leadership is unwilling or unable to abide by the limitations set forth in the Constitution, perhaps liberty-minded folks ought to take the advice of Dr. Henry Jones at the end of Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade:

The Thing About Trump

Photo by Gage Skidmore
Photo by Gage Skidmore

There isn’t much neutral ground when it comes to the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump.  Some conservatives have expressed a very strong support for the billionaire while others have denounced him.  His brash style and frank opinions have propelled him to front-runner status for the Republican nomination even while a large segment of Republicans have declared that they have no plans to support him.

So what makes Donald Trump so attractive?  Well, part of it has to due with the fact that much of the Republican base feels betrayed by the party leadership.  Election after election Republican politicians say that they can advance conservative legislation the grassroots wants…if only they are given control of the government.  Regrettably, but perhaps not surprisingly, once the party assumed control, the leaders broke every (or almost every) single promise to roll back the size and scope of the federal government.  Is there any wonder why the grassroots is pissed off?  Is there any wonder why a third to a fourth of self-identified Republican voters say they are willing to break from the GOP if they had another alternative?

And so, with the backdrop of this volatile situation, Donald Trump has found a perfect storm.  Whether you agree with him or not, Mr. Trump has certainly made some bold statements.  I can certainly appreciate standing up for what you believe in.  Although some Republicans were horrified when Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently gave a speech on the Senate floor denouncing Senator McConnell (R-KY) as a liar, the simple truth is that Senator McConnell has deceived and continues to deceive many people and is usually not held accountable.

Unfortunately, for all of his boldness, a lot of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric appeals to some of the worst elements of our society.  For example, as you most likely already know, in his announcement speech he declared that the immigrants coming from our southern border are rapists and bringing drugs while “a few…[he assumes]…are good people”.  Although I believe it is important to know who is coming over the border and we ought to do our best to prevent criminal elements from entering, the idea of painting most or all immigrants from the south as undesirables expelled by the Mexican government, as Mr. Trump has done, is, quite frankly, reprehensible.  To offer another scenario, Donald Trump has expressed the opinion that he was treated unfairly in the first debate by Megyn Kelly.  Perhaps he was; that is a fair point to consider.  However, Mr. Trump said, “you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever…”.  Again, to suggest that Ms. Kelly acted the way she did due to being on her period is extremely degrading to women and demonstrates that he isn’t presidential material.  And yet again some of his fans have cheered at these comments.

Donald Trump is a showman, as demonstrated from programs like The Apprentice and his guest spots on WWE.  He has switched political parties repeatedly and has held contradictory political positions on a whole host of issues.  Is he a conservative?  Is he a liberal?  Yes, it is possible that he is sincere both then and now…or it is equally possible that his behavior is merely a political stunt to garner as much attention as possible.

Obviously, the race is still in its early stages and a lot can happen in the next several months.  However, other than fanning the flames of anger combined with narcissism, racism, and sexism, so far I haven’t discovered any reason why a conservative or a libertarian should support Mr. Trump…unless, of course, you believe our country would be great if it wasn’t for those darn (insert various slurs here).

Yes, voters have every right to be upset with the Republican leadership in Washington; after all, the actions of many elected Republicans are virtually indistinguishable from their Democratic counterparts.  But, from what you’ve heard at this point, do you honestly believe that electing Donald Trump will improve this problem?  I don’t.

The Battle for Kentucky and the GOP

Sorry for little pause in updates.  My personal circumstances are changing including a potential move, though I should still be in the 26th district.  But on to the topic at hand…

Limited government conservative and establishment Republicans have long butted heads and 2010 is no exception.  For starters, you can look south to Florida for The Rubio/Crist feud.  How about blowback against the maverick John McCain in his primary fight in Arizona?  We in the limited government camp are not alone.  The tea party movement itself rose to tell not only the federal government, but also the Republican Party, that to quote the movie Network, we are “as mad as hell and not going to take this anymore!  Things have got to change!”  Now we don’t merely want change for changes’ sake.  We have seen the supposed hope and change that President Obama offers, and now our future is clouded and uncertain.  We need a new and better direction.  Neither citizens nor corporations should endlessly suckle at the teat of the government, merely crying for bread and circuses.  That crooked road doesn’t lead to freedom and prosperity, but to shackles and serfdom.  To reclaim our nation we need a path paved with the promises of liberty and personal responsibility, not welfare and bailouts.

This year, I believe no battle is more important in war for the heart and soul of the GOP than in Kentucky.  For the side of the limited government crowd we have Rand Paul, son of Texas Representative and 2008 Presidential candidate Ron Paul.  For the side of the establishment, we have Trey Grayson, the Secretary of State of Kentucky.  With the primary less than two weeks away, politicians and political leaders from both wings of the Republican Party have taken notice and have come out swinging with endorsements.  In Grayson’s column, we have Senate Minority Leader and Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, Dick Cheney, Rick Santorum, and Rudy Giuliani.  Paul’s supporters include Senator Jim DeMint (SC), Steve Forbes, Dr. James Dobson, and Sarah Palin.  These endorsements alone should give you some indication of the quality of the two men.

On many issues both candidates share the same (or nearly the same) views: abortion, taxes, and spending.  Therefore, I don’t believe it would be fair to say that either candidate is not conservative.  What makes Paul a better choice, in my mind, is his limited government mindset.  I think Erick Erickson of Red State sums up my thoughts pretty well.  “The problem with Republicans in Congress is that they lost their way. They were willing to do things they otherwise would oppose because George Bush told them to.  And they have been willing ever since to go along with strategies that were poll tested and mother approved because that is what the leadership wanted and told them to do.”  He goes on to add, “I want men and women of high moral character who are men and women of conservative principle, not of party.

When of party, politicians think too often of saving themselves, not the country. For too long the Republicans have invested in solid party guys who advance the party’s agenda, but not conservatism and certainly not smaller government.”

Amen Mr. Erickson.  We need leaders who are not afraid to actually lead.

Like his father, Rand Paul is against bailouts of all kinds, the Federal Reserve, and even opposes the Patriot Act and the War in Iraq.  Although such a line of thinking is not popular with the establishment Republicans and may even be considered radical, I believe that this path is the only method to save the Republican Party and, more importantly, our nation as a whole.

Although I do not live in Kentucky, I wholeheartedly endorse and support Rand Paul.  Neither side will be able to claim ultimate victory as a result of this primary, but a win for Paul will likely create aftershocks felt across the land.  Sooner or later in our own cities, counties, and states, both you and I will have the opportunity to choose between the status quo and a limited, constitutional government.  On that day, will you have the courage to take a stand?