Rand’s Quest For a Transparent Health Care Bill

Photo from Rand Paul’s Facebook page

Guest piece by Philip Haddad

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) had launched on a mission to find a draft of the House GOP’s bill to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“I have been told that the House Obamacare bill is under lock and key, in a secure location, and not available for me or the public to view,” he tweeted, and then he went into action.

Paul went to a Capitol meeting room with staff and a photocopier to surprise members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that were rumored to be discussing the ACA.

“In my state, in Kentucky, it’s illegal to do this,” he said, beckoning to a door where he was told there was no bill. “This is being presented as if it were a national secret, as if this were a plot to invade another country.”

Paul held a press conference on the spot and told a dozen or so reporters that “We’re here today because I’d like to read the Obamacare bill. If you’d recall, when Obamacare was passed in 2009 and 2010, Nancy Pelosi said you’ll know what’s in it after you pass it. The Republican Party shouldn’t act in the same way.”

Later on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Paul said reports claim, “It keeps the Cadillac tax but renames it. It starts a new entitlement program with refundable tax credits, and it also keeps the individual mandate.”

Paul is concerned that a cloak and dagger routine is being employed to hide parts of the bill that would run counter to many wanting to see the ACA repealed, and he fears this maneuvering may be a ploy to force Senate Republicans into a “take it or leave it” mindset when the legislation gets to them.

Whatever someone’s position is on this issue Paul should be applauded for bringing focus to an important issue, namely healthcare and the backroom deals that too often accompany legislation.

Paul produced a reaction not only from the media, but also from establishment politicians with Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan saying, “…I like Rand, but I think he’s looking for a publicity stunt here”, Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger called Paul “the master of theatrics“, and former Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi posted a twitter picture with two dogs with the caption “Just helping out @RandPaul. #ReleaseTheHounds #WheresTheBill,”. However, Paul wasn’t alone in his concern as some Democrat members of the House were also going to different rooms on a quest to find the bill and the Washington Post quoted Rep. Thomas Massie as saying “We asked for the score and all that. We were told we’ll have that by the time it gets to the floor. We need to have that now! You can’t have a discussion about this proposal independent from costs. It’s ridiculous. That’s kind of like, just ‘vote for it to see what’s in it.’”

Paul has introduced his own ACA replacement bill allowing people to:

  1. Choose inexpensive insurance free of government mandates;
  2. Buy insurance across state lines;
  3. Save unlimited amounts in a health savings account (HSA) and expanding options for using said funds; and
  4. Join together in voluntary associations to gain the leverage of being part of a large insurance pool.

It remains to be seen if Paul’s bill will pass but Senators Cruz and Lee are joining with him voicing similar concerns, backing by the House Freedom Caucus, and his tech savvy team continue to capitalize on all of the media attention by creating a Twitter account @randpaulcopier posting pictures of a photo copier with a sign “SHOW ME THE Bill” in front of numerous landmarks in front of the Capital.

It’s tough to disagree with his main message: “This should be an open and transparent process…This should be done openly in the public…”.
Paul continues to be the most interesting person in the Senate and we all are better for him being there!

UPDATE: The GOP’s Obamacare Repeal Bill has finally been released and Paul’s concerns have been vindicated!

American Health Care Act: https://housegop.leadpages.co/healthcare/

 

Philip lives in Harrisonburg with his wife, son, & two cats: Swirl and Rand Paul. He has worked on political campaigns ranging from his city council run to the presidential level. He is the co-editor of the book “Ron Paul Speak”.

A Few Thoughts Before Voting Tomorrow

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.

Image from Marco Rubio's Facebook page
Image from Marco Rubio’s Facebook page

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.

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.

Thoughts of Iowa

Well, the Iowa Caucuses have come and gone and with it the battle for both the Republican and Democratic Party nominations for president are in full swing.

First, let’s focus on the more crowded field, the GOP.  Here are the results of candidates who picked up at least one delegate:

Candidate          Votes      Percentage    Delegates

Ted Cruz             51,666    28%                8

Donald Trump   45,427   24%                7

Marco Rubio      43,165    23%                7

Ben Carson         17,395    9%                  3

Rand Paul           8,481      4%                  1

Jeb Bush             5,238      3%                  1

Photo from Ted Cruz's Facebook page
Photo from Ted Cruz’s Facebook page

Going into the final days, it looked as if Iowa would be a contest between Cruz, Rubio, and Trump and that’s exactly what happened.  Although Ted Cruz captured the most votes and delegates and thus is deemed the current front-runner, only one delegate separates the three candidates.  Therefore, one could make the argument that all three of these candidates had a good night.  Ben Carson, the once rising star with amazing amounts of cash was outclassed.  Rand Paul’s campaign, who boasted of having a thousand precinct captains and having made a million phone calls finished with very disappointing numbers.  Jeb, once the establishment favorite, has seemed to have lost a lot of steam.  Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, the 2012 and 2008 winners of Iowa, were little more than a blip on the radar.  And both you and I were only thirteen votes away from beating former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, and we weren’t even candidates and the ballot!  As a result of Iowa, Mike Huckabee has ended his campaign.

Before the results were announced, I posted this message on Facebook.  “However Iowa turns out tomorrow, I encourage you not to read too much into it. After all the GOP winner in 2012 was Rick Santorum and the 2008 winner was Mike Huckabee.  As John Sununu said, ‘The people of Iowa pick corn, the people of New Hampshire pick presidents’.”  In recent elections Iowa has typically gone for the Republican candidate with the best ground game who also most appeals to social conservatives.  Therefore Cruz’s victory shouldn’t be all that surprising.  Trump was likely buoyed by the endorsement of the head of Liberty University, but reports indicate that he didn’t have much of a presence in Iowa in terms of staff, phone calling, door knocking, and other traditional campaign apparatus.  And Rubio is starting to solidify the Republican establishment base behind him after besting Bush and Kasich.

Interestingly, according to CNN, when it comes to education, Trump won a plurality of the least well educated, while Cruz did best with those with some college, and Rubio won with college graduates and postgraduates.  The Paul results were terribly disappointing for many liberty folks.  After all, in 2008 Ron Paul received 11841 votes in the Iowa Caucus or 9.93% and in 2012 Ron Paul received 26035 votes in the Iowa Caucus or 21.43%.  Although there were more candidates in 2016 than either 2008 or 2012, the Rand Paul campaign gambled heavily in Iowa and fared poorly.

Switching over to the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were neck and neck with Martin O’Malley being little more than an afterthought.

Candidate              Percentage    Delegates

Hillary Clinton     50                    26

Bernie Sanders     50                    21

Martin O’Malley   0                      0

Photo from Hillary Clinton's Facebook page
Photo from Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page

Both Clinton and Sanders finished with about 50% of the vote.  However, Clinton received 26 delegates and Sanders got 21 due to a series of six coin flips as a result of ties at several polling places, all of which Clinton won.  As a result of Iowa, O’Malley has ended his campaign.

Again, according to CNN, Sanders was very popular among the younger voters and the poorer voters, while Clinton shined with the older and richer crowds.  Curiously while Clinton won the married vote, Sanders picked up the singles, divorced, and widowed.  While Cruz and Clinton fared the best among people who had previously attended a caucus, Sanders and Trump did the best with first time voters.

Although Iowa is an early and important contest, it primarily serves to winnow the field as it has done eliminating Huckabee and O’Malley.  It’s far too early to declare either Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton the nominee of their respective parties.  It should be interesting to see what New Hampshire brings next.

The Republicans’ Foolish Pledge

Picture from Reuters and Fox News
Picture from Reuters and Fox News

When Donald Trump refused to agree to support the eventual Republican Party nominee for president during the first debate, that move upset the Republican Party establishment.  After all, many worried that, given Trump’s current popularity in the polls, he could end up bolting the party and siphoning away enough voters to lead to a Democratic victory in 2016.

As such, many state parties, including Virginia, considered making each candidate sign such a pledge in order to be included as a choice on their primary ballot.  With the deadline to appear on the “first in the south” South Carolina primary approaching, after some tough decisions, or perhaps merely theatrics, Donald Trump ended up signing the pledge.

If case you haven’t read it, here is the text of the pledge:

I (candidate’s name), affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for President of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is.

I further pledge that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party.

Think about this pledge for a moment if you will.  It doesn’t pledge any of the Republican candidates to a certain set of principles.  It doesn’t even pledge the candidates to uphold the Republican Party platform.  Instead, it encourages unquestioning allegiance to the GOP and whomever ends up being their standard bearer.

The current field of Republican candidates appeal to different and diverse groups of voters, ones that increasingly don’t have much in common.  Are you telling me neoconservatives, like Lindsey Graham, will support a libertarian nominee?  Will constitutional conservatives, like Rand Paul, support a neoconservative nominee?  Will social conservatives, like Mike Huckabee, support a pro-choice candidate like George Pataki?  Will a candidate who has railed against the establishment, like Ted Cruz, end up supporting the establishment choice Jeb Bush?  Does it matter to any of them if their ideological opposition is elected?

Along those same lines, does it matter to you if the Republican nominee is a liberal… or a conservative… or a libertarian…or perhaps an authoritarian?  Is it important if he or she will work to shrink the size of the federal government…or expand it?  Or are you happy so long as a Republican is elected over a Democrat regardless of his or her positions?

When it comes down to it, do principles guide Republican politicians?  Or, like the Mafia, does blind and unquestioning support for the party and their candidates hold the greatest value?  As long as people like Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell have a willing accomplice in the presidency, is that all that truly matters to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the Republican Party?

11951774_10204377543189733_4022918454679309719_nWill the Republican Party win the presidency in 2016 or will it fall for the third election in a row?  Although voters gave the party control of both Houses of Congress, given the GOP’s repeated failures to accomplish anything of substance, the 2014 election is a decision that more and more citizens are coming to regret.  According to Quinnipac, support for the Republicans in Congress has reached a six year low, with a 12% favorability rating and 81% disapproval.

Given this foolish pledge that the Republican Party has forced upon all of its potential nominees, one has to wonder if the party cares about anything other than gaining power for itself?  And, if principles don’t really matter, why would the American people send a Republican to the White House ever again other than as a protest to express disapproval of the Democratic Party?

Where Rand is Wrong

Photo from the AP and Manuel Balce Ceneta
Photo from the AP and Manuel Balce Ceneta

In the first Republican debate of the 2016 season, Senator Rand Paul and Donald Trump got into a mini-debate of their own after Donald Trump refused to guarantee that he would support the eventual nominee of the GOP.  Although this maybe the only time I utter these words, I agree with Mr. Trump…on this point.

The Republican Party hasn’t been particularly adept at advancing the principles of limited government nor taking to task their elected officials who repeatedly and often flagrantly violate these supposed values.  Even worse, both in D.C. and in Richmond, they often reward the most unscrupulous politicians with positions of leadership.

If we rewind the clock to the 2008 and 2012 elections, there is no question that the GOP treated several of their candidates unfairly.  In 2008, Senator Rand Paul’s father was often excluded from the process and ended up endorsing the Constitution Party candidate, Chuck Baldwin, in the general election.  In 2012, the Republicans shunned former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and so he left the party and ran as the Libertarian Party nominee.

If the party nominates a candidate who stands in stark contrast to a person’s values, then no one should feel compelled to support him or her.  No one.  And yes, even though I think Trump is just playing the Republican audience, he shouldn’t be forced to blindly support the Republican nominee either.

Senator Paul is right to criticize Trump for being on both sides of almost every major issue.  However, at a recent campaign stop in South Carolina he was wrong to say “Ross Perot gave us Bill Clinton” or “are you ready for Donald Trump to give us Hillary Clinton?”.   President George HW Bush lost to Clinton because he misled the American people when he pledged that there would be “no new taxes”.  The voters who cast their ballot for Perot in 1992 aren’t owned by the GOP and so they couldn’t be stolen by Perot.  Using that same logic, did Ralph Nader steal the election from Democrat Al Gore in 2000?  Wouldn’t most Republicans have considered this theft a positive development?  In the same way, if Donald Trump ends up running as a third party candidate and Hillary Clinton is elected, that doesn’t mean that Trump stole the election but rather the GOP did a poor job advocating its message, rallying their base, convincing undecided voters and/or likely nominated a poor candidate to be their standard bearer.

If the Republicans lose in 2016 as they did in 2008 and 2012, maybe, just maybe it is because they had a bad candidate, ran a poor campaign, or both.  I don’t blame Trump for not blindly pledging support for the GOP nominee no matter who he or she is or what he or she stands for.  At this point, I have no plans to support a few of the Republican candidates if they make the general election ballot and many of my liberty-minded brothers and sisters have said likewise.  As one example, so far Donald Trump hasn’t convinced me that he is worthy of the support of conservatives or libertarians.

Principles are and must be more important than unquestioned party loyalty.  I hope all the candidates, including Rand Paul and Donald Trump, remember this point.

How An Indictment is Good For Liberty

paul1In 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!

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XXV)

IMG_0243This morning, I returned to the radio on 550 AM WSVA and was glad to have Andy Schmookler join me in studio once again.

The main focus of the day was the 2016 Presidential race.  We spoke about the various politicians currently vying for both the Republican and Democratic nominations.  On the Democratic side, the main candidates were Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton with a small sampling of Jim Webb.  Switching over to the Republicans, Donald Trump took center stage and there was some discussion of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and even a little Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Jim Gilmore thrown into the mix.  Although I would have liked to mention Gary Johnson and the Libertarians, we are still waiting for his official announcement.

In addition, we also discussed the problematic issue of gerrymandering in Virginia.

If you missed our twenty-fifth installment, you can find it here.

Anti-Collectivism in a Collectivist Political Race

kwiatkowskismallVC Note: A guest piece from Karen Kwiatkowski

I like where Rand Paul is taking the national imagination.  Clapper sharing a cell with Ed Snowden, discussing liberty!   Ending the war on drugs and even more astounding – proposing that justice be blind, and applied equally to rich and poor, white and black, politically connected and political outcast?  Allowing an Act to sunset as the Congress “intended”?  This guy is a freaking radical!

As libertarians, AnCaps, Rothbardians, Menckenites, Lysander-lovers and whatever else we are, we should be exceptionally pleased with what is coming in the next 18 months or so.   Towards that end, it might be helpful to lay down a few ground rules in our endless discussion and critiques, of all things political, and specifically of all things Rand.

We could see as many 15 Republicans running in the primaries!  Given the two party national setup created by the Holy Constitution, it could really be a wild west shootout leading to the GOP convention – and what a convention it will be!

The hairy will line up against the hoary, Old Testament thumpers and zombie apocalypse predictors will align and realign against Constitution worshippers and the ragged liberty wing of the GOP.  Candidates include racist autarchs, non-racist autarchs, Neo-Progressives, Neo-Conservatives, bureaucrats, crooks, liars, and pseudo populists.  Then there is Rand Paul.  Stuck in the GOP because he opposes collectivism, hated by the GOP because he opposes collectivism, fascinating to the rest of us because he opposes collectivism, and an extremely dangerous man in Washington because he opposes collectivism.  Predictably, because he opposes collectivism, he stands mostly alone in DC, and voterland sees him simultaneously as a liberal conservative, a conservative liberal, an out-of-touch populist, a patriotic un-American, and idiotic genius.

Leading up to the GOP convention, the odd statements, retractions, clarifications, and pile-ons by the candidates in their political slugfest will become delightful truffles for the rooting hogs we become as we seek to become involved in “the direction of our country.”   The Republicans alone will be delicious, but with Bernie Sanders chiding Hillary, and potentially pulling every old Naderite still in the party plus the whole of the social justice antiwar element, well, it’s going to be just wonderful!

I have yet to become aware of what the third parties will offer candidate-wise, but it is increasingly apparent that what we think of as “the two major parties” are nothing of the kind.  A party must have structural discipline, a creed of sorts, and a semblance of consistency of its candidates to that creed.  Neither major party stands for anything, and Katie Perry once roared about what that leads to.

Without a party creed, code, or spine, the Republican baker’s dozen will be disciplined by the campaign itself.  This discipline will be cat-o-nine-tails style – by pundits, other candidates, cynics, wisecrackers, meme-makers, and the odd viral video or federal crime.   It will be non-stop entertainment!

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

But back to Rand Paul.   Because it really does come back to Rand Paul, early, often and always.  He is driving the train, pushing the train and riding on the train, all at once.  The RNC, the old guard and the crony collectivists in both parties are asking, “Who gave him permission to do that?”  The media is asking “How does he do that?” But the question we should be asking is, “For how long can he do that, and how can I help?”

Towards that end, I’ll propose some guidelines, that if followed exactly as I have described, to the letter, 100% of the time, will absolutely and instantly calm the Internets, and bring a glowing perpetual peace to the blogosphere. I personally guarantee it.

First, if Rand Paul says something about putting someone in jail (like Ed Snowden)  for a few years, he is just being moderate.  Obama, his party, and the Republicans have been demanding Ed’s head on a platter, his body on a pike, his nuts in a vise, and his scalp on a mantel for a few years now.  That said, I do think being forced to spend any time in a cell with retired General Clapper is cruel and unusual punishment, as such would violate the Constitution, and I would be against it.

Second, when Rand Paul likens the ACA (aka Obamacare) and the presumed right to health care as leading to doctors in irons, he does frighten people with the concept of 21st century slavery.  But we libertarians are well-qualified to calm the waters, and take the heat off Rand by reminding people that at least forcing doctors to give us health care is a waaaaaaaay more socially useful kind of slavery than say, having the government force somebody to bake a wedding cake against their will, pay their unskilled employees more then they produce, create millions of college graduates who have to live with their parents and work nights at Pizza Hut to try and pay down their stifling student loan debt, and print fiat money to support the warfare welfare state at the expense of human liberty and prosperity everywhere.  Right?

Third, if you hear that Rand Paul likes somebody, or endorses someone, or was nice to someone in the political world, instead of going off the deep end like some kind of ISIS wannabe, couldn’t we instead just call him a lying hypocritical bastard and let it go?  I mean, he is a politician, isn’t he?  Poly and tick, many bloodsuckers, seriously, he’s probably just after food and everybody’s gotta eat.   What are we, monsters?  I think not!

I could go on, but you get the picture.  Rand Paul is our era’s political Janus – a face for every angle, looking back, looking forward, and more than that, every other candidate in every party wants to be him, even as they fear and loathe everything he stands for.   Hillary started talking about police reform for the first time this week, after Rand’s work on that subject over the six months.  As soon as the GOP pack figures out where Rand is on immigration (THE most important issue EVER) they will know what to they are supposed to say.  I imagine the Libertarian and the Green candidate will both echo something Rand has said or written, and then accuse him of trying to out-green and out-freedom them.

I don’t know if elections matter, and a democracy of the dimwitted and damned right is never pretty picture.  I don’t know if the deep state has nefarious plans for Rand, or whether the Janus act is real, faked or just a private illusion.  But I do believe politics should be both dangerous and fun.  Towards this end, I stand with Rand!

Karen Kwiatkowski is a fellow political activist and commentator in addition to being a farmer, a professor, and a retired Air Force Colonel.  In 2012, she challenged the Republican establishment by running for the House of Representatives in Virginia’s 6th district.  Presently, she serves at the leader of the Republican Women of Shenandoah County.

Endorsements Matter

Over the last several years, I have debated the importance of political endorsements with various activists.  Some people argue that endorsements don’t really matter, that they are a mere formality that are doled out without much thought or value.  I disagree.

Endorsements, in my mind, are a strong signal of support, giving a stamp of a approval to a candidate or politician, more or less telling voters and like-minded activists that if you support me you should also support this person that I am endorsing.  Do endorsements make or break campaigns?  Typically not.  But they do say as much about the candidate as they do about the person or group offering the endorsement.

Let me offer some examples.  After Senator John McCain bested Representative Ron Paul in the 2008 Republican presidential primary, did Paul endorse McCain in the general election?  No.  The simple reason for it was that Paul and McCain espoused radically different principles.  While Paul supported the ideas of reducing the size and scope of the federal government and a non-interventionist foreign policy, McCain did not.  The fact that they were both members of the Republican Party was irrelevant.  In fact, Ron Paul went on to endorse Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party candidate in that election.  This scenario repeated in 2012 when Dr. Paul declined to endorse Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for the same reason.  Now, would those of us in the liberty movement have thought considerably less of Dr. Paul if he had endorsed McCain and Romney?  I would think so, because he would be sending a signal that at the end of the day party unity trumps political principles.

Although I obviously wasn’t going to support him given that I was running for the same office, I thought it was impressive that Democratic candidate Alleyn Harned received the endorsement of both Senator Mark Warner and Senator Tim Kaine.  If I supported the positions of either of these senators, this news certainly would have made an impact on my decisions.

Conversely, endorsements can be negative too.  As one example, when Barbara Comstock ran for the Republican nod in the 10th congressional district, some of her listed endorsers, such as John Bolton, Mitt Romney, and Eric Cantor caused considerable concern.  After all, if she was promoted by the nonconservative establishment, chances are she wouldn’t be a particularly conservative legislator when she arrived in Washington D.C.  Unfortunately, her time in Congress thus far have proven these fears to be correct.

And then there is the curious issue of Senator Mark Obenshain.  Although I endorsed and strongly supported his run for attorney general in 2013 and he bills himself as a pro-liberty conservative, I was shocked and profoundly disappointed when he urged his supporters to rally behind “local conservatives” by endorsing the establishment Republican candidates for Harrisonburg City Council in the 2014 elections as opposed to actual conservatives who didn’t bear the Republican label.  Unfortunately, in a reverse situation of Paul, principles took a back seat to party loyalty.

Anyway, the reason I wrote this piece in the first place concerns the presidential candidacy of Rand Paul in 2016.  Unlike his father, the younger Dr. Paul did endorse Mitt Romney in 2012.  Two years later, he endorsed Mitch McConnell over his conservative challenger.  Now, that’s not to say that Rand Paul hasn’t endorsed good, principled candidates as well, but, along with other matters, such as his support of Senator Cotton’s letter to Iran, it certainly should give liberty-minded activists cause for considerable concern.

Endorsements are not like Halloween candy to be given out freely to every person who shows up at your doorstep, but rather a carefully crafted decision to be rationed out only to those who you believe closely mirror your own values.  That is why I have publicly endorsed only one candidate, Nick Freitas, in the 2015 election cycle so far.

Although endorsements certainly aren’t the end all be all, and, given enough time everyone is prone to make an error from time to time, they are important as a helpful guide for both the endorser and endorsee to show who might be worth a closer look, who will be a constant advocate for liberty, or who might be selling out his or her principles for political gain.

The bottom line is that endorsements matter.