The two major video releases of this week were surely Fred Thomspon’s declaration of his presidential candidacy and Osama bin Laden’s declaration of his continued existence and his opposition to global warming and high taxes.
The very same night that we were doing our Debate at Lolita Bar about Islam, bin Laden was unveiling a new message to the West and Thompson was on Leno saying just enough conservative things to allow people to see him as the new Reagan if they so choose — and Republican primary voters are certainly eager to, so he may well end up being the Republican nominee and our next president.
The Republican candidate would have to be nightmarish indeed for me to prefer the likely Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton: the Clintons tried to socialize a seventh of the economy last time they were in the White House, and they seem likely to try again; meanwhile, Hillary’s arrogance seems undiminished, and at least one of my acquaintances, who shall remain nameless, can personally attest to the Clintons’ willingness to use their small army of thuggish private detectives in ways that bend the law to intimidate their opponents. (And I’ll just briefly note that Bush gets treated like the Anti-Christ for wanting roving wiretaps to more easily follow terrorists, but the Clintons sought the same powers even before 9/11, pretty openly hoping to use them for routine tax investigations and the like, which didn’t seem to freak out the press and activists in quite the same way.)
I am still worried, though, that Thompson may (not so unlike Reagan after all) be better at rhetorically hitting the right notes than at proposing specific, drastic changes that will reduce the size of government. In particular, though he has admirably called for extending the economy-boosting Bush tax cuts, he also refuses (last I knew) to vow that he would never raise taxes.
Bin Laden’s newly-released video, unlike Thompson’s, promises Americans that if we all just convert to Islam and abolish democracy, we will pay no taxes at all, merely a 2.5% Zakaat tithe — but he also praises leftist Noam Chomsky (the linguist who has sold so many books to so many tattooed college students thanks to his history of bashing America while, for instance, defending the Khmer Rouge, the brutal communists who massacred a third of Cambodia’s entire population in the 1970s, about the most devastating political movement that has ever existed — but very anti-capitalist, which is what matters to the perverse [and boring] Chomsky). So, ultimately, even if bin Laden picks up some Al Gore supporters due to his newfound opposition to global warming, I think the embrace of Chomsky will hurt him at the polls with moderate and right-leaning voters. And there’s the mass-murder thing.
One amusing thing about al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq, by the way, is their willingness to be so frank about their goals that even, say, Noam Chomsky would have a hard time spinning them as some sort of “indigenous freedom fighters.” Calling them freedom-hating, democracy-hating mass-murderers probably sounds like Bushian rhetoric to some — but if you read bin Laden’s own words, he says they’ll keep killing us until, for instance, we make homosexuality punishable by the death penalty and stop teaching women to read. His willingness to talk about other issues that spring to mind — like global warming — shows that he’ll seize upon any issue that he imagines might give him traction, but it would be naive to think that the West bending on one or two small issues — tweaking our policies toward the Palestinians, for example — is going to make our enemies tolerate us.
So we can resign ourselves to a long, tough fight — or perhaps take the radically non-interventionist path preferred by one of Thompson’s rivals for the GOP nomination, Ron Paul, and just stay out of the Middle East morass altogether. As I’ve alluded to before, I am in the odd position of being something of an agnostic on military matters at precisely the juncture in our history when they do the most to determine many people’s political allegiances (and thus, in a way that many would find paradoxical, I find myself drawn to Paul as a first choice in the primaries but to the tough-talking Thompson, or even Paul-lambasting Giuliani, as a second choice).
I don’t expect any project run by a government, including a war, to go well, but neither am I comfortable with Paul’s almost Chomskyan talk of Iraq being an “illegal” war, drastic rhetoric that risks encouraging our opportunistic (and hardly law-respecting) enemies. But Paul — like bin Laden — takes a much clearer position on wanting to end taxation than Thompson does, and I think econ is much more clear-cut than foreign policy, so I’m still rooting for Paul, who’d do so much so decisively in domestic policy that I can’t let the already-ambiguous foreign policy issues drive me away from him, even if those issues now define his candidacy in many people’s minds.
(Speaking of domestic policy issues, my old boss, ABC News’s John Stossel, who Ron Paul once said he’d like to have as a vice presidential running mate, is scheduled to host what will no doubt be an engaging retort to Michael Moore and other fans of socialized medicine, next Friday, Sept. 14, at 10pm Eastern and Pacific, 9 Central and Mountain [I think] — so watch that. My own reaction to Moore’s recent health documentary appeared on HealthFactsAndFears, the blog I edit at work — and the Stossel Unit and my current employers, the American Council on Science and Health, each recently lost a friend and advisor on science/medical issues, Stossel associate Rick Rue passing away far too young and ACSH Advisor Saul Green, critic of alternative medicine, leaving us at a ripe old age, both now missed.)
Perhaps I shouldn’t even joke about comparing bin Laden directly with American political candidates — so to atone, let me note that Paul is not only unsympathetic to bin Laden but voted for the Afghan war, though he now questions whether that was wise. Further, despite an erroneous report to the contrary by Michelle Malkin, Paul is not even sympathetic to the so-called 9/11 Truth movement, which claims the U.S. had advance knowledge of 9/11 (though many in the Truth movement like Paul — but then, as I noted in an earlier entry, so do a couple of living, breathing John Birch Society members I glimpsed at a Ron Paul Meet-Up, and that doesn’t mean Paul agrees with the JBS about everything — such as seeing Eisenhower as a communist agent).
If you want to hear really thorough criticism of the 9/11 Truth movement, though, the place to be on this Tuesday for the sixth anniversary of the attacks is at the World Trade Center site, where blogger Karol Sheinin — one of my co-hosts at the monthly Manhattan Project bar gatherings for non-leftists in New York media (a rare breed in need of succor) and, as it happens, a Thompson fan — will lead a protest against the 9/11 Truth people, a surefire formula for some interesting man-on-the-street conversations.
If Karol succeeds in destroying the 9/11 Truth crowd, I suppose it could cost my man Paul some support, but, in all seriousness, he has plenty of other, more mainstream supporters — though I was disappointed recently when I noticed he was being praised on a site called HouseOfFusion.com, which I at first thought must be a site dedicated to “fusionism,” the half-century-old effort to unite conservatives and libertarians, but turned out to be a site for believers in the scientifically unverified process of cheap “cold fusion,” so it’s a bit like being endorsed by the trade association for perpetual motion machine makers — but hey, Wesley Clark said during his presidential campaign that he anticipated faster-than-light travel being possible one day, and that didn’t seem to hurt him in the polls. Sigh.