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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Candidates for Republican National Committee Chair bash Bush and embrace the Ron Paul wing

Updated below the fold

In the discussion over the future of the Republican Party, there may yet be some hope for small-government conservatives and other advocates of free markets and limited government. Yesterday Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform group hosted a debate between the six candidates for chairman of the Republican National Party: incumbent chairman Mike Duncan, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Michigan state party chair Saul Anuzis, former Tennessee chair and Huckabeeite Chip Saltsman, South Carolina chair Katon Dawson and former Maryland Lieutenant Governor and Fox News contributor Michael Steele

It just makes plain strategic sense to repudiate aspects of the legacy George W. Bush, one of the most unpopular presidents in memory, and to embrace the leader of the most vibrant, activist and youthful wing (which just happens to contain the best fundraisers) of a party whose members are both shrinking in number and quickly aging. Nonetheless, for a party whose leadership has consistently defended and praised Bush's disastrous big-government agenda while deriding and excluding libertarian Congressman Ron Paul, the fact that every single candidate for RNC Chair seemed to sense these truths is an encouraging sign.

Here's how the candidates answered questions about the failings of the Bush administration and Ron Paul's presidential nomination campaign and Campaign for Liberty organization:

The Wall Street Journal's politics blog says that Ron Paul is finally getting his due; If that were really true we would hear a recognition of the ability of Ron Paul's constitutional platform to unite disparate conservatives and invite support from libertarians, the left and minority constituencies traditionally weak for the GOP as well as an acknowledgment that Paul, along amongst Republican figures, predicted and warned of the coming financial collapse, but Ron Paul and his supporters are being embraced for those things a party chairman should be most concerned with: their organizational power, enthusiasm, and willingness to part with their hard-earned moolah:

For much of the 2008 campaign, Texas lawmaker and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and his supporters served as a thorn in the side—or a punching bag—for the mainstream GOP establishment.

Yet today, the six men vying to run the Republican National Committee praised the grassroots enthusiasm Paul tapped into during his campaign—and discussed how they would like to capture that enthusiasm to expand the party’s appeal.

“Ron Paul certainly brought a whole new generation of voters and I think it’s important going forward that we recognize the strengths and the attributes of these individuals who are out there actively building the party and building a movement, a consensus if you will, on certain issues. We can’t look that in the eye and say ‘No, we don’t want that,’” said former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, adding that the RNC needs to find “creative ways” to work with candidates supported by Paul and his followers, and to work with Paul directly to that end.

“I think, at this stage at this party, everyone who can help us should be brought into the room to help us,” Steele said.

South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson recalled memories of Paul’s supporters campaigning during his state’s early primary.

“I witnessed early on the Ron Paul army in South Carolina,” Dawson said, stressing the importance of building new coalitions. “I want people involved in my party that will hang off bridges and paint on their cars and make up t-shirts. There was a passion that I saw of those people for him and his ideas. Do we agree with all of them? No, but we are a party that has to embrace differences.”

Saul Anuzis, Michigan Republican Party Chairman, touted his outreach to Paul supporters, attending campaign functions and talking to supporters. “I think you treat [Paul supporters] like everybody else—if they want to be part of the Republican Party, if they want to participate, we have to welcome them in.”

Former Mike Huckabee campaign manager Chip Saltsman recalled seeing the passion behind Paul’s operation on the ground while the two former rival campaigns shared office space in Iowa. (Saltsman also identified Paul, an obstetrician, as “Dr. Paul”—a key distinction among his supporters.) “Dr. Paul…he is a wonderful man with wonderful ideas,” Saltsman said, “Do we agree with him all the time? Absolutely not.”

Incumbent RNC Chairman Mike Duncan agreed the GOP has to broaden their appeal, and noted that he has met with Paul on two occasions. The key, Duncan said, was respect. “I personally have treated leaders of his campaign with respect, I’ve met with them. I personally treated his foot soldiers with respect whether it was at our convention in Kentucky or whether it was the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, St. Paul,” he said.

Only Ken Blackwell did not praise Paul by name, although he agreed with the overall sentiment of broadening the party’s base. “We are a federation that invites differences,” he said, “The RNC can no longer be a social club, it must be the flagship Republican organization in this nation.”

As for Paul, he spent Monday doing what he does best—railing against federal intervention and regulation of the free market during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on the alleged $50 billion Ponzi schemes of Bernard Madoff.

“It’s not the fault of the individuals at the [Securites and Exchange Commission]. They have an impossible job and they have to pretend they’re doing something to feel relevant, the same way we do here, in the Congress. We have to feel relevant in this,” Paul said, “Instead of saying what we need is the market to work, we need to get rid of the bad policies, the monetary system, and this mountains of debt. We say, well, we’re relevant because we’re going to hire more bureaucrats and we’re going to appropriate more money that we don’t have and we’re going to solve all our problems.”

Watch the whole debate here at C-SPAN.

UPDATE: I'm not well known for giving politicians too much credit in the 'smarts' department, but that's Brian Doherty of Reason Magazine's take:

While Kassam frames it as if they are all smartly recognizing the potential importance of Ron's libertarian, anti-interventionist, anti-fiat money crew to the GOP, the quotes he presents sound a lot more hesitant and grudging than that to me--less "these Ron Paul people are a valuable part of our coalition and should be heeded" and more "we ought not utterly and firmly bar these strange and disturbing people from crossing our threshold, if they really, really wanna help us out."

Talk is cheap and this debate was part of a political campaign -- you know, those things where politicians pretend they're going to do stuff they never even intended to do. That, plus the fact that they haven't actually promised to do anything nor has there been any acceptance of the value of Paul's libertarian ideas, should blunt any blind optimism. Even so, almost anything is better for Ron Paul than being snickered at during the debates by Giuliani, Romney and McCain, being excluded from a Fox News presidential forum without protest from the RNC and not being properly seated and credentialed for the party convention.

I should also mention that the Ron Paul question was asked as the result of a well organized effort, or "internet coup" in the words of AOL News, on the part of activists organized through the Campaign for Liberty and other websites.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on January 6, 2009 in U.S. politics | Permalink


icky? How icky is the federal reserve? That is pretty funny.

Posted by: hughmacintyre | 2009-01-06 8:59:37 AM

They all sound pretty begrudging and condesceding to me... none of them mentioned anything of Dr. Paul's ideas that they would support but they all were certain to mention that "don't agree on everything."

They seem desperate to reassure the "real" republicans that they don't agree with crazy Ron Paul while at the same time conceeding that they can't kick him out of the party. The heck with all of them.

Posted by: PFJO | 2009-01-06 11:37:08 AM

Maybe a better question is when will Ron Paul supporters get over themselves and stop hurling epitaphs like "neo-con" at every fiscal conservative who also happens to believe that the United States should actively defend itself from radical Islam? Other than that, other than a little education to get the young ones over the hump of the threat of radical Islam, the ones I have met are decent people who believe in small libertarian minded government.

Posted by: Faramir | 2009-01-06 4:45:24 PM

Ron Paul is right on a lot of economic issues(probably the departments of education, agriculture, and half the other cabinet level departments could be eliminated) but wrong on the war on terrorism(and abortion). If you want a party that's refuses to take on radical islamic terrorists then join the pansies in the Democrat Party. The Democrat motto "Millions for tribute, not one cent for defense". The Ron Paul motto "Only confront islamic terrorists when they are actually setting off dirty bombs in America. Once this occurs, only strike their overseas bases after a careful cost analysis on the expense of such a mission." I want a party that will hunt down and kill anyone that threatens me and my family. If you don't have the nerve to protect this country then it will be a cold day in hell before you get my vote! Spit on Bush all you want but the threat is real. 9-11 happened. It wasn't an inside job done by the men in black. It wasn't a just punishment for U.S. policies( Are you the same people that blame the victims of rape for wearing tight outfits that might "provoke" the rapists?). It was an unprovoked attack just like Pearl Harbor and the scumbags deserve the same punishment. If you don't understand that then you don't get my vote. If the Republicans give in to Ron Paul on this then I and others will leave the party and form a true conservative terrorist-fighting party.

Posted by: Theo | 2009-01-06 8:39:48 PM

then I and others will leave the party and form a true conservative terrorist-fighting party.
Posted by: Theo | 2009-01-06 8:39:48 PM

The same way a bunch of conservative's did in 39?
You might want to find out what a conservative is before you calling yourself one.

And that's a whole lot of hate you've got packed up there. The media would have to consider you a great success.
And comparing Ron Paul to the Democratic left is simply ridiculous. He's absolutely right about non interventionism.
Bush is still a moron. And there are way too many unanswered questions about 911 for me to just jump on a horse and ride off to kill people because our "trustworthy" government says so..
In fact I'd say maybe, just maybe Bush has been studying some Nazi methodology. And why not? Grandaddy Presott laundered money for them.

Here's a thought for you, mull this one over with the TV turned off...

“Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
~Hermann Goering~

Posted by: JC | 2009-01-07 8:45:42 PM

Maybe a better question is when will Ron Paul supporters get over themselves and stop hurling epitaphs like "neo-con" at every fiscal conservative
Posted by: Faramir | 2009-01-06 4:45:24 PM

Faramir...what twisted place did you pull that from? Calling "fiscal conservatives" neo-cons?
First of all there are very few fiscal conservatives to be found anywhere and the majority are RP supporters to begin with.
Who are these fiscal conservatives you're talking about any way? (McCain? Wrong!)
The only notable one I know of is Ron Paul himself. And Jeff Flake of Arizona....that's about it though.

Posted by: JC | 2009-01-07 8:51:13 PM

JC, I am talking of myself. I am as fiscally conservative as anyone you will ever meet, but because I also believe the US should actively go out and kill terrorists and attack their supporting regimes, Ron Paulers like to label people like me "neo-cons" - a slur against someone simply because I am not a self defense absolutist like Ron Paul.

I am not a neo-con. I believe in small limited government, but I also believe a war has been started against Western liberalism by a cult of war. We must defend ourselves.

Ron Paul has some whacky idea that if we sell coke to Saudi Arabia the Wahhabis will leave us alone. That is just too stupid to even explain away.

Posted by: Faramir | 2009-01-08 1:47:32 PM

Gee JC, you sound like another 9-11 doubting thomas? Which theory are you going with today? Theory 1 towers knocked down by U.S. government, Theory 2 it was done by the Jews, plus 500 other diluted theories. 9-11 was real and it was a terrorist attack. I have two relatives who died in those towers! They had five kids between them! They were good people who did an honest days work without troubling anyone. They didn't deserve it. I get sick of all you jerks who excuse Al-Qaeda's behavior by going with the U.S. government is the 4th Reich crap. The government is too big and it butts its nose into too many areas but your 4th Reich crap is bull. You do the same disservice to proponents of small government that Joe McCarthy did to anti-communists. You ruin a legitimate cause(small government) by making unsubstantiated accusations that make you sound like you should be put in a rubber room before you hurt yourself. I want a smaller government that replaces the income tax with a flat tax. I would like to see a nationwide voucher system replace the public school system. I would like to see concealed carry laws extended to all 50 states. However, I also know that there are nasty people out there and most are not in the U.S. government. I want those that killed my relatives dead. Whoa, I support the death penalty! Does that make me Eichmann? Al-Qaeda is a real terrorist organization that supports killing anyone who disagrees with them. You link Theo to the Nazis. I hear you and I get the images of Chamberlain(U.K. PM) and Clement Atlee. These were two political leaders who saw the rise of Hitler and did nothing to stop them. They let Hitler take Austria, the Rhineland, and eventually Czechoslovakia. After World War 2, other appeasers stood by as the Soviets seized control of the governments of eastern europe which led to 45 years of darkness for almost 100 million people. Also, while we are discussing dates look at 1940 instead of 1939. In that year, there was a strong non-interventionist sentiment in the Republican Party being pushed by Charles Lindbergh and others. They said Hitler wasn't a threat and that we should stay out of affairs in europe. In the end, the Republicans decided to align themselves with FDR's policies(are you going to call him a Nazi next?). The Republicans move helped to seal any chance the Republican presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie had to win. However, it turned out to be the right move for the country. This putting the country ahead of party(which I have never seen the Democrats do) is one more reason why I'm proud to be a Reagan Republican. Here is something to think about. A little skepticism of government is healthy, it keeps government in check. However, claiming that the government is behind every negative incident just makes people skeptical of you. You don't trust the government fine. But JC guess what there are a lot of us out here who don't trust you more! So, good luck and best wishes as you sit by your computer wearing aluminum foil on your head so that the government can't read your mind through your internet connection!

Posted by: Abe | 2009-01-09 9:30:52 PM

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