Saturday, January 14, 2012

Papa Doc Paul and Charles Krauthammer

We live in a very weird political (and historical?) moment right now. Newt Gingrich is running vivid ads showing some of the ugliest side of American capitalism; he himself is actually saying that rich people shouldn't just take everything.

Not that he means a word of it. Because the fact that he's saying it is bizarre enough in itself.

Then this week, Charles Krauthammer wrote a column that you don't have to be a blithering warmonger or a psychopath to at least partially agree with. He's writing about Ron Paul’s achievement Washington Post 01/12/2012. He's here anointing Papa Doc's Bircherite extremism with a new level of Establishment respectability:

Paul was genuinely delighted with his [showing in the New Hampshire primary], because, after a quarter-century in the wilderness, he's within reach of putting his cherished cause on the map. Libertarianism will have gone from the fringes — those hopeless, pathetic third-party runs — to a position of prominence in a major party.

Look at him now. He's getting prime-time air, interviews everywhere and, most important, respect for defeating every Republican candidate but one. His goal is to make himself leader of the opposition — within the Republican Party.

He is Jesse Jackson of the 1980s, who represented a solid, African American, liberal-activist constituency to which, he insisted, attention had to be paid by the Democratic Party. Or Pat Buchanan (briefly) in 1992, who demanded — and gained — on behalf of social conservatives a significant role at a convention that was supposed to be a simple coronation of the moderate George H.W. Bush.

No one remembers Bush's 1992 acceptance speech. Everyone remembers Buchanan’s fiery and disastrous culture-war address.

At the Democratic conventions, Jackson’s platform demands and speeches drew massive attention, often overshadowing his party’s blander nominees. [my emphasis]
Given Papa Doc's cuddly relationship with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and groups that indulge in them, Krauthammer's praise is all the more remarkable. Krauthammer is a Jewish neocon to whom the only wrong Israel can do is to not be brutal enough to Palestinians and Arabs. And he's offering Papa Doc a new measure of mainstream respectability?

There don't know where Krauthammer is going with this. But it's obvious that he's ready to welcome Bircher "libertarianism" into the Grand Old Party:

Put aside your own view of libertarianism or of Paul himself. I see libertarianism as an important critique of the Leviathan state, not a governing philosophy. As for Paul himself, I find him a principled, somewhat wacky, highly engaging eccentric. But regardless of my feelings or yours, the plain fact is that Paul is nurturing his movement toward visibility and legitimacy.

Paul is 76. He knows he’ll never enter the promised land. But he's clearing the path for son Rand, his better placed (Senate vs. House), more moderate, more articulate successor. [my emphasis]
In a couple of ways, Krauthammer is provided two of the standard services of Republican partisan columnists. He is recognizing reality, that Papa Doc and his blunt version of segregationist/Bircher politics is a significant force in Republican Party politics. And he's moving the center to the right; if Papa Doc and his constituents are "the opposition — within the Republican Party", then the Newt Gingrichs and Willard Romneys are the moderate wing of the Party. And so the standard for sacred Bipartisanship moves further and further toward the most hardline positions of the Republican Party.

I also suspect that Krauthammer's good words for Papa Doc represents a recognition that Bircher Old Right isolationism really is based on hyper-nationalism and xenophobia. Papa Doc and his followers may see Israel as part of an ongoing plot for world domination by the Elders of Zion. But Papa Doc is against the entire concept of international law, which means he's down with more powerful countries launching preventive wars against less powerful ones. Papa Doc has explicitly said he had no objection to Israel's bombing an alleged nuclear site in Syria, for instance.

Old Right isolationism of the Papa Doc variety may be an annoyance to neocon advocates of a permanent state of war. But they now it's not a serious threat. The nationalism, white racism and xenophobia is more important to its adherents than non-intervention. Pat Buchanan's career illustrates that wonderfully.

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