Andrew Sullivan recants Ron Paul endorsement

Good to see that Sullivan isn’t argument-proof.

Good for him! Sullivan concentrates on the bigotry in the letters rather than their broader paranoid vision and their con-man approach to fleecing the marks, but he concedes that Paul’s failure to deal with the fact of the letters alone is disqualifying.

Sullivan endorses the relatively sane conservative in the race, Jon Huntsman. I can’t think of a contested issue where I agree with Huntsman, but he’s recognizably a conservative rather than candidate of the Raving Monster Loony Party. That doesn’t make Huntsman a “moderate”; his positions are in some ways more extreme than those of his rivals. But he’s not a post-modernist who feels free just making sh*t up, nor someone whose politics are defined by the people he hates rather than the ideas he holds. That’s not saying much, but it’s more than you can accurately say for his rivals.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

21 thoughts on “Andrew Sullivan recants Ron Paul endorsement”

  1. Both Huntsman and Romney are presenting as ‘safe pair of hands’ candidates. This will be very difficult to overcome if Obama, as you suggest, ‘unleashes his Inner Truman’. Obama will do a lot better with an ‘Inner Truman’ candidacy if he is running against Perry or Gingrich.

  2. Dave, I disagree. Defensive tactics are fine in their place, but a defensive strategy is always bound to lose, unless you are way ahead and are playing out the clock. Obama’s a bit ahead, IMO, but not way ahead. And the game is still early.
    Karl Rove is right: attack your opponent’s strength. This would be easy to do with Romney: a bit harder with Huntsman. (Fortunately, Huntsman is not going to win the nomination.) Just constantly paint Romney as the candidate of the 1%, and keep attacking the agenda of the 1%. Agree with Romney that he is the safe and skilled pair of hands–for the 1%. It’s pretty Trumanesque, although Obama’s style isn’t sweaty and shrill. And Romney can’t do demotic at all, so he can’t counter this.

  3. “Good for him.” I guess this means that it’s supposed to be some kind of an affirmation of Sullivan’s values and capacity for judgment that, after taking a week+ to think about it, the racism of Paul’s “newsletters” finally pushes him to renounce an endorsement that no one with those things would have made in the first place. The Bircher paranoia and kookiness don’t faze him however. That these facts were reported 3+ years ago in a magazine he used to edit: well maybe he just stopped reading it after he moved on (which calls to mind the hatchet job he published on the Clinton health care plan; he “recanted” that later too).

    Well, SOMETHING must have drawn him to Paul. I can’t imagine what it might be.

    1. “Well, SOMETHING must have drawn him to Paul. I can’t imagine what it might be.”

      Ron Paul appeals to the same kind of person that Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein appealed to (and in earlier times, Stalin and Hitler) — people who are frustrated at the messiness of the world and the obvious stupidity of most of its inhabitants; and who fantasize about burning it all down and replacing it with something cleaner and more organized (and with those stupid people, who obviously don’t include the fantasizer, somehow “neutralized”).

      It’s foolish to think that the appeal is in the specific political program — it doesn’t matter whether that program is as rightwing as Ayn Rand or as leftwing as Pol Pot. The appeal is in the promise that with a few simple principles (whatever they may be) and a firm hand leading, all the chaos can be swept away and Year Zero can begin a better world.

      1. This is more on the money but still I think puts the pathologies at work in Paul and his ilk (and Sullivan too) in too positive a light. Normal “frustration” with the world’s “messiness” and “stupidity” wouldn’t be enough to kindle such dark fantasies. And I do think the fantasies are pretty dark.

        1. Upon re-reading I guess you aren’t putting too nice a gloss on this… you make the point that these kinds of fantasies, when actually acted out, end up giving us Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot. I might not go quite that far, although I recognize the family resemblance you point to. My only point is to make it explicit that we’re talking about something deeply neurotic here, not just some kind of social reaction. It’s more deeply rooted in individual psychology than that.

          1. Ain’t Ron Paul who pushed SOPA and the NDAA. Democrats like to fantasize about their foes aspiring to being future Stalins, but you really have to pay more attention to who’s laying the foundations for tyranny, and who isn’t. Ideally before the dudes actually doing it decide their idiots aren’t useful anymore, and dispense with you.

          2. 1. Well, again, I didn’t say this, your argument is with someone else.

            2. “[L]aying the foundations for tyranny”! Ron Paul is your kind of guy, I guess. These issues are so far removed from our actual problems that I can only conclude there’s something else motivating their elevation.

      2. “…people who are frustrated at the messiness of the world…”

        Anyone drawn to libertarianism thinking it would reduce the messiness of the world are distend to be disappointed. Libertarianism is, in part, all about messiness. More the better.

        1. Oh come on. This is silly — precisely the sort of “a few simple principles will solve all the problems of the world” nonsense that I am talking about.
          OK, in libertarian paradise do we allow people to die on streets of hunger, or of cancer? What if they’re dying on the streets of ebola fever or some other communicable disease?
          Do we allow prostitution? Child prostitution? Prostitution by the mentally ill?
          Do we allow any and all drugs? What do we then do about people driving while high? Pilots flying while high? Accountants and lawyers giving advice while high?
          Do we allow the selling of kidneys and lungs? Of half-livers? Of hearts?
          Do we get rid of the FDA and rely on “reputation” to tell us which drugs work — the same way that worked out for, say Vioxx?
          Do we get rid of the EPA and rely on massive and never-ending torts to resolve pollution problems? Of course we could just rely on that old favorite of the Republican party — if you cannot COMPLETELY PROVE damage from a particular pollutant; or heck, even if you CAN prove damage from, say, mercury, but cannot prove that the EXACT mercury atoms that harmed you were emitted by defendant’s power plant, the case is dismissed…
          How about getting rid of the FCC and relying on whoever can build the strongest transmitter to have control of the radio spectrum?

          This is precisely the sort of real world messiness — problems that require laws and government intervention — that libertarians (and people who are in general attracted to radicalism) want to pretend doesn’t exist. Much easier to claim that their set of axioms will solve ALL problems, and then, when the problems persist, to blame them on saboteurs and malingerers (see Stalin, Joseph for details on exactly how this works).

          1. …“a few simple principles will solve all the problems of the world”…

            No set of principles; few, many, simple or complex; will solve all the problems of the world.

            “…do we allow people to die on streets of hunger, or of cancer?”

            No. There’s a role for government to help people who fall through the cracks. But government shouldn’t be spending billions of dollars trying splack all the cracks, real or imaginary.

            “What if they’re dying on the streets of ebola fever or some other communicable disease?”

            There’s a role for government to deal with public health issues.

            “Do we allow prostitution? Child prostitution? Prostitution by the mentally ill?”

            Yes. No. Maybe. If someone’s mental illness is judged to prevent them from giving informed consent, then No.

            “Do we allow any and all drugs?”

            Yes.

            “What do we then do about people driving while high? Pilots flying while high?”

            No. That’s already is and should be illegal.

            “Accountants and lawyers giving advice while high?”

            No. That should be between them, their clients and professional associations.

            “Do we allow the selling of kidneys and lungs? Of half-livers? Of hearts?”

            Yes.

            “Do we get rid of the FDA…”

            …or, at least, greatly reduce its role.

            “Do we get rid of the EPA…”

            Since pollution, like communicable diseases, can harm people and property far removed from the sources, there’s a role for government to deal with them. However, mission creep has gone so far at EPA that people fear to fill in a pothole on their property least they be fined for destroying a wet land.

            “How about getting rid of the FCC…”

            Yes. Radio spectrum bands can be owned, bought, sold and traded like other property. Anyone who infringes on that property could be taken to civil or criminal court for trespass, vandalism, etc.

            “Much easier to claim that their set of axioms will solve ALL problems,…”

            Libertarians don’t claim that their approach would even solve most, never mind, all problems. Libertarians want people to be allowed to solve their problems to the greatest degree possible without having a one solution fits all forced on everyone from above.

  4. Sullivan is English, of course, and just doesn’t seem to get American racism as the mainspring of our politics. He seems to think it’s all about some philosophical debate about the role of government. So he get seduced by the high-minded honkery of the libertarians.

  5. Tom, I don’t think there’s anything high-minded about it (either the honkery itself or Sullivan’s reasons for embracing Paul). Larry

    1. What does “honkery” mean? The Urban Dictionary on the web says, “Acting in such a manner as to perpetuate white (honkey) stereotypes in society such as shopping at the Gap, wearing socks with sandals, fathers using baby bjorns etc.
      Her: Let’s go to Ikea and find some throw pillows for the new chaise! Me: Our Sundays are so full of honkery.” But that doesn’t seem to be the meaning in the present context.

      1. I went with Tom’s word, which I like. It seems sort of a conflation of “honking wonkery” or something like that. Larry

  6. I think that you let Sullivan off too lightly. You don’t have to go any further than Ron Paul’s website to see that, at best, he’s crazy:

    See his call for “Sound Money” and abolition of the Federal Reserve Bank: http://www.ronpaul2012.com/the-issues/end-the-fed/

    See his call to address the problem of illegal immigration by “abolish[ing] the welfare state” and “end[ing] birthright citizenship” (otherwise known as the Fifteenth Amendment): http://www.ronpaul2012.com/the-issues/immigration/

    See his call for a “Liberty Amendment to the Constitution to abolish the income and death taxes” and “finally turn[ing] off the lights at the IRS for good.” http://www.ronpaul2012.com/the-issues/taxes/

    See his call to: “Prevent the TSA from forcing Americans to either be groped or ogled just to travel on an airplane and ultimately abolish the unconstitutional agency.” http://www.ronpaul2012.com/the-issues/national-defense/

    When it comes to health care, it is difficult to determine which of the following is more indicative of Paul’s conspiratorial view of the world. Is it: “Stop the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) from interfering with Americans’ knowledge of and access to dietary supplements and alternative treatments” or is it “Prevent federal bureaucrats from tracking every citizen’s medical history from cradle to grave by prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds for a national database of personal health information.” With both, there is a strong aroma of roasted nuts. See here: http://www.ronpaul2012.com/the-issues/health-care/

    And my favorite: Abolishing “capital gains taxes, which punish you for success (and interfere with your efforts to hedge against inflation by purchasing gold and silver coins)” http://www.ronpaul2012.com/the-issues/taxes/

    Why did Andrew Sullivan have to wait to see craziness that had aged 20 years to “re-think” his support for Paul? There was plenty of fresh craziness out there in plain view.

  7. Wouldn’t Sullivan’s disavowal of Ron Paul more likely have to do with the homophobia expressed in those 1993-era letters than with their racism?

  8. @CharlesWT

    Ahh yes. The standard libertarian retreat. When pushed on the outrageous consequences of your ideas you retreat to saying that, well of course, there is “some” role for government.
    I don’t have time to deal with the hypocrisy of everything in your list, so let’s take just one example:

    >>>>>>>>>>>
    “Do we get rid of the EPA…”

    Since pollution, like communicable diseases, can harm people and property far removed from the sources, there’s a role for government to deal with them. However, mission creep has gone so far at EPA that people fear to fill in a pothole on their property least they be fined for destroying a wet land.

    <<<<<<<<<<<

    Oh really. Is that the Libertarian stand? Let's go look at actually existing libertarianism:
    What does Rand Paul have to say on Mercury poisoning?
    "While mercury exposure is and should be taken seriously for existing regulations, the current impact of mercury emissions from U.S. sources is vastly overstated"
    http://www.randpaul2010.com/2011/12/senator-paul-statement-on-utility-mact/

    And so it goes. Claiming some vague principle like "there is a government role" is MEANINGLESS. Give us an example of a REAL government role you would accept.
    Apparently mercury regulations that are agreed, by impartial observers, to have benefits in excess of at least 10x their costs, are not good enough.
    We know for a fact that preventing global climate change is not good enough.

    Explain the principles behind when you would consider intervention to be acceptable.
    Apparently "the majority of people want it" is not good enough, because most of what the FDAs, most of what the EPA does, and such public health as exists in the US are all very popular. Apparently "cost benefit analysis" is not good enough, given my two previous examples.
    As far as I can tell, in the REAL WORLD, the principles behind acceptable government intervention are based on
    – does the intervention cause me personally a hassle?
    – does it cause other rich people a hassle?
    – can it be financed by people other than myself?
    – can it be financed by people other than the rich?

    So an intervention like "no child prostitution" passes. It contravenes the idea that "we can all make our own decisions", but it doesn't cost me or the rich any money, so what the hell. On the other hand "controlling mercury" will cost some rich people some money, so I'm going to pretend that the science is bogus, that I won't be affected (because air is apparently not something we share in common), and I'm going to ignore the obvious point that we're ALL better off if our society is collectively more intelligent.

  9. Mark: “Good for him! Sullivan concentrates on the bigotry in the letters rather than their broader paranoid vision and their con-man approach to fleecing the marks, but he concedes that Paul’s failure to deal with the fact of the letters alone is disqualifying.”

    No, not good for him. This is incident #577 of Sullivan, the alleged intellectual with the intellectual British accent, falling for whatever right-wing whacko comes along.

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