Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ron Paul-and-Johnny Rotten Was Not a Nixon-and-Elvis Moment


I think Ron Paul did a fine job on Tuesday night’s Leno broadcast — calmly, jovially explaining his intention to end income taxes altogether and end military involvement not just in Iraq but around the world, with the audience cheering.  He humbly added that regardless of whether he has flaws, the philosophical message of liberty is sound, and he even plugged free-market “Austrian economics,” a term probably never before heard on the Tonight show.

But what made the broadcast magic — and Leno himself noted it was fitting — was the Sex Pistols singing “Anarchy in the UK” right after the Paul interview, with Johnny Rotten, after singing “I want to be in anarchy,” adding a characteristically menacing but implicitly supportive “Hello, Mr. Paul.”

And, as I’d hoped, the two of them shook hands just as the show ended.  Since they’d implicitly bonded during the song, the moment avoided being awkward in the fashion of that famous Elvis-meets-Nixon handshake photo, which The Weekly Standard rightly put on its cover a decade ago to accompany an article on the idea that rock and conservatism, all wishful thinking aside, do not naturally mix.

(I can’t help thinking that if fellow libertarian punk fan Michael Malice — who also happens to love The Golden Girls — was watching the show, he got the added thrill of hearing a cameo-making Betty White answer the question “Why are you here?” with “To hear the Sex Pistols, of course.”  And Betty didn’t flinch when they threw eggs at her in the subsequent sketch, either, which is pretty punk-rock.)

If only Tom Cruise had renounced belief in Thetans and the intergalactic overlord Xenu during his segment, resolving to exit public life permanently in order to study skepticism, it would have been a perfect night.


I’ll consider it all perfect in retrospect, though, if Paul shoots up in the polls.  As he cautiously said of the spontaneous grassroots/Netroots movement swirling around him, if it keeps growing exponentially the way it has in recent months, “there’s a risk I could win.”

Paul’s old Austrian-economics-popularizing pals, Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell, surprised some of their free-market cohorts by supporting Ross Perot in 1992, on the grounds that he was at least a spanner in the works of the two-party system.  How much more exciting, then, to have a candidate who is simultaneously spanner, libertarian, major-party-member, and well-timed beneficiary of a wave of popular conviction that government is incompetent and in need of humbling.

If Paul strikes some as low-key and low-energy in a field of bombasts and demagogues, I can only hope that America is about ready for an unassuming, mild-mannered president — sort of like the one I hoped we’d gotten with Bush, back in the pre-9/11 days, when he avoided speeches and press conferences and seemed content to host tee-ball on the White House lawn.  Calvin Coolidge, I thought!  Just the sort of do-nothing president we need.  But now it’s far too late in the day to do nothing, I fear, so we need a president who will instead strive mightily and with principled consistency to get government to do less, which is much harder than nothing.


Brain said...

Here’s a link to the Youtube video of Ron Paul’s Tonight Show appearance.

While I am most emphatically not a Ron Paul supporter, I do agree with him on a few issues, most notably the great danger to our domestic civil liberties thanks to this phony “War on Terror”. I have to admit he did a good job on the Tonight Show. It would be a disaster for our country if he were elected, but he seems less loathsome than any of the other Republican candidates.

Lee Stranahan said...

No no no.

Did they show the part where Johnny shook his ass at Ron Paul after saying ‘Hello, Mr. Paul’? Because that’s what happened….

I heard Johnny expressing total disdain for Paul to (I think) his manager right after the show, who was trying to figure out what Paul’s politics were about. See my blog for a picture of me and Johnny, taken about 30 seconds after this discussion happened…

Todd Seavey said...

The meaning of Rotten’s briefly-glimpsed buttocks-presentation was not readily apparent, but I’m willing to take your word for it he had contempt for Paul, as for pretty much everything else — and I suppose that will leave us all trying to figure out what _Rotten’s_ politics are about. (Which part of Paul’s politics does Rotten think he ought to be strongly opposed to exactly? The antiwar stance? The desire to abolish that profoundly punk-rock institution, the Federal Reserve Board??)

If, when Rotten said onstage that he wanted to know when we’ll be leaving Iraq, he thought Ron Paul was somehow the person to _blame_ for the Iraq war rather than someone (rightly or wrongly) keen to _end_ it, Rotten may just be very, very confused — as musicians routinely are — though I’d hoped the chaotic-synapse-firings would produce at least accidental and brief alignment with Paul’s libertarian bent in this case.

I think Leno, by contrast, saw that the Pistols and Paul really were in some sense on the same page, as he joked when introducing “Anarchy in the UK.” Luckily, it’s Paul, not Rotten, running for office — and Rotten, not Paul, singing, of course.

If Rotten has turned hawkish, of course, or no longer thinks socialistic government programs lead to the sort of mid-70s urban squalor that inspired punk in London, I take back the comment about him being “confused” but am disappointed he’s come to love government.

Todd Seavey said...

By the way, Lee’s comment constitutes a sort of trifecta — or syzygy, if you will — for me, since he is commenting on (1) _conservatism_ and (2) _punk_ while having been (3) a _sci-fi_ special effects artist (on _Space: Above and Beyond_, which for extra credit had a Brown alum in its cast).

Kudos to you, sir. But when are you getting us out of I-_raq_?!

Bore Dumb said...

Ron’s the greatest ever.It’s just common sense people.Why would any true red blooded American not love him?As for Johnny Rotten,his name pretty much speaks for his performance.He should be singing for Billary or Ghouliani.

J707 said...

lol, If youre that confused by Johnny Rotten’s shout out to Ron Paul then rubbing his ass at him, you obviously havent hung around many actual punks before.

Johnny Rotten likes Ron Paul…called him “President Paul” backstage, shook hands with him onstage, said the next day of Paul that “there may be hope for america yet,” and is known to lean libertarian.

As far as the “when are you gonna leave Iraq” shout out…come now folks- you really think Rotten has no idea who Paul is, why he’s so popular as far as his anti-war stance, and didnt hear Paul saying during the interview that we need to “bring our weapons home” and “we should leave as soon as possible?” Somehow I dont think a politically-charged classic punk figure has missed every bit of that.

In fact, all my punk friends that have any political opinion at all actually like Ron Paul quite a bit- he’s the only candidate (and one of the only political figures still living) they wont belch loudly over someone mentioning or just walk away from the conversation at, and some of them are voting for him (yeah I know “thats not real punk to vote blahblahblah”).

Todd Seavey said...

Well, Mr. Stranahan, if you’re still reading this, can you reconcile your impressions with J707’s? Sounds like there’s hope for a Rotten-Paul alliance yet — but then, Rotten is a multifaceted man (indeed, I keep feeling like he’s a cover band imitating himself whenever he hits a decidedly Public Image Limited-like note while singing a Sex Pistols song).

Lee Stranahan said...

Call me Lee…

I can tell you what I remember of what I heard firsthand.

I work at NBC. I came downstairs and there was Johnny and a guy who I believe was a manager. I asked John if I could get a photo with him. He said yeah, if I gave him two cigarettes. I sent my son up to ask a guy I work with for the smokes. The manager guy – a Brit – asked John about Ron Paul…what is he? John rolled his eyes and said something like ‘Oh god, it’s end of the road’. It was nothing at all positive in tone. I said, he’s a republican but really he’s a libertarian. John said something like “Completely a libertarian” and again – it didn’t seem positive.

I can only speak to what I saw and I’m not claiming to speak for John Lydon, obviously – but I didn’t get any positive vibe at all.

I worked for Ed Clark’s 1980 campaign when I was a teenager and I know libertarianism. I’d have no problem saying someone seemed to support it if I thought they did. Doug Stanhope, Penn Jillette – clearly do. Johnny Rotten – didn’t seem to.

Not telling you anything you don’t already know, but I see two wings of anarchism – there’s anti-state anarchism and anti-corporate anarchism. The US style libertarian anti-statism doesn’t really have much of a European counterpart.

Todd Seavey said...

Interesting. Perhaps it’s a sort of sympathetic but pitying condescension, then, like “You poor loon.” And when a _punk rocker_ thinks you’re a marginal, Quixotic figure, I guess you really have reached the end of the road. But it ain’t over until the fat primary voters sing…

Bryan Hoffman said...

its kinda funny seeing people discuss what or what not Johnny fuckin Rotten believes lol…i don’t see him as an actual political anarchist…but just someone that knows how to cash in on ‘pure disdain for society” and really just about anything real that could be hit with spit….libertarianism especially the right wing version of Paul’s wouldn’t have any draw for someone that doesn’t give a fuck about anything or anyone…the type of person who publically called his deceased friend and former bandmate Sic Vicious a “a pathetic person who’s better off dead”….