The GOP Three

Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum. In some order, they are the three front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination (it looks to me like Perry, Gingrich & Huntsman are just playing out the string or playing spoiler at this point). Here are a few “mixed bag” snippets about each as we set the stage for New Hampshire. Jim Pehokoukis on Romney’s tax plan:

the Romney tax plan would a) make permanent the Bush tax cuts; b) cut the top corporate tax to 25 percent from 35 percent and shift to a territorial system; c) end the estate tax; and d) eliminate capital gains and dividend taxes for those earning less than $200,000 a year. Meh. No 9-9-9, no 15 percent or 20 percent flat tax….Yet Romney has given strong hints that he favors comprehensive reform like that devised by the Bowles-Simpson commission: lowering marginal income tax rates and paying for it by eliminating tax breaks. Of course, many of those tax breaks, such as the mortgage interest deduction and child tax credit, have strong constituencies — that’s why they are in the tax code — and calling for their end is politically risky. So Romney’s tax stance is hardly a profile in courage. At least for right now.

Reason’s Brian Doherty on the enthusiasm for Ron Paul:

Everyone I talked to was impressed with what the Paul machine achieved in Iowa, working hard for what they got with likely over a million in ads over the campaign, dozens of paid staffers, many hundreds of out of state youthful troops working brutal 10 hour or more shifts everyday and stored away at a YMCA camp, doing advance work for Paul’s many appearances, working the phones…doing some door-to-door stuff…
And never forget that no matter how good a job the campaign did at message-spreading and getting out their base, Paul has a problem with lots of voters (one I find Paul mavens surprisingly unwilling to admit): they just don’t actually agree with most or all of his beliefs. In that regard, given that Paul’s most vivid and forceful departure from conservative and Republican orthodoxy is in foreign policy, the noises round the globe hyping up possible war with Iran probably worked against Paul’s interests here in Iowa. Ominous splashes from the Straits of Hormuz may have poured cold water on Paul’s chances…

George Will on the “suddenly…fun” candidate Rick Santorum:

Iowa Republicans ignored an axiom that is as familiar as it is false: Democrats fall in love, and Republicans fall in line. Republicans, supposedly hierarchical, actually are — let us say the worst — human. They crave fun. Supporting Mitt Romney still seems to many like a duty, the responsible thing to do. Suddenly, supporting Santorum seems like a lark, partly because a week or so ago he could quit complaining about media neglect and start having fun, which is infectious….Santorum exemplifies a conservative aspiration born about the time he was born in 1958. Frank Meyer, a founding editor of William F. Buckley’s National Review in 1955, postulated the possibility, and necessity, of “fusionism,” a union of social conservatives and those of a more libertarian, free-market bent.

Finally, Ramesh Ponnuru explains that there really isn’t a whole lot separating any of the Republican hopefuls:

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney have the same positions on most of the issues. Where Ron Paul disagrees with those positions, he represents a minority of the Republican Party. The truth is that on public-policy issues, the Republican Party is more unified than it has been in years, even though the demands of primary competition work to obscure that fact.
Both Santorum and Romney, for example, want to cut the corporate tax rate. Both believe that Medicare spending should be restrained and beneficiaries allowed to choose among competing plans. Both favor legal protections for fetuses. There was no consensus in the G.O.P. field on these issues just four years ago….Many social conservatives prefer Santorum over Romney because the former’s record on these issues has been more consistent, he emphasizes them more, and he takes more conservative positions — albeit only on issues that have no practical relevance to the presidency, since neither contraception nor abortion in the cases of rape or incest is going to be made illegal anywhere in this country. These differences are not enough to split a party.
In Paul’s case, some of the issues are large enough — but the movement isn’t. There are plenty of Republicans who want a less interventionist foreign policy than Romney or Santorum favors, but there are very few who want Paul’s doctrinaire anti-interventionism….A lot of Republicans who are voting for Paul are doubtless doing so because they want drastically lower levels of federal spending and regulation and a more tightly constrained Federal Reserve. Those too are issues where Republicans have a consensus; other candidates can appeal to part of Paul’s following on them.Partisans for each candidate, caught up in the daily battles, often have a hard time taking a step back and realizing that the proximate rivals to “their guy” aren’t the real opposition. Keep your eye on the ball, folks.

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Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
10 years ago

The country won’t be fixed unless we do 3 things:
1. Cut the military by 2/3 or close to it and STOP butting our nose in other cultures business.
2. Put a leash on ALL entitlements from Medicaid and SS to student aid and veterans benefits. Preserve a Bismarckian level of a welfare state not the Marxist level we are rapidly headed for.
3. Stop the insanity of giving welfare, education and citizenship rights to illegal aliens and their Anchor Babies.
4. Abolish the unionized, pedophile infested Marxist propaganda machines known as the “public schools”. Institute a voucher system which will rise each year by the cost of inflation ONLY.
Ron Paul comes closest to the above principles but he “can’t win”.
So we are f*****. The American Empire is in permanent decline to near Third World status. Count on it.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Tommy – You make a lot of sense when you stay away from racial and homosexual issues.

msteven
msteven
10 years ago

Nice theories – which will never happen, even if Ron Paul gets elected. The US. President is not a dictator and cannot make any changes he or she wants.
Cutting the military by 2/3 is akin to cutting all local police forces by 2/3. Yes, if we just stayed out of everyone’s business, then no one would bother us and we would have no need for military (because who would want to harm people who stay of other’s business). The logic is extremely naïve and over-simplistic.
I agree that it is insanity providing welfare to illegal non-citizens and our public schools are deteriorating. In my opinion, the problem with public schools is a) unions and b) how they are funded. If the government is responsible for providing education, then it needs to allow its elected officials to make tough financial decisions without the union mandates. Treat it like the federal military.
Finally, the American Empire isn’t even close to becoming near Third World status. It is declining due to entitlements and also, in my opinion, the fear of getting involved in international affairs. The United States does not and cannot thrive by existing in a vacuum.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

“Cutting the military by 2/3 is akin to cutting all local police forces by 2/3.” The two aren’t even remotely similar. Police have substantive law enforcement work to do each and every day. When we aren’t at war, most military members involve themselves in various forms of maintenance – equipment, physical fitness, training, etc. that could be eliminated if the size of the overall military were reduced. This amounts to millions of man-hours wasted every single day that could be directed into productive labor. All we really need is enough of a military that could be mobilized on relatively short notice that would deter enemies from commiting major acts of war against us. 1/3 of our current force isn’t ludicrous to accomplish that end – it only sounds ludicrous is you assume maintaining our current foreign policy which is extremely interventionist and ground-force intensive. An effective but defensive military could be far cheaper and leaner than our current force. We would also draw significantly less negative attention across the world, which could very well reduce the need for a large military in itself. “Finally, the American Empire isn’t even close to becoming near Third World status. It is declining due to entitlements and also, in my opinion, the fear of getting involved in international affairs. The United States does not and cannot thrive by existing in a vacuum.” The United States “fear[s]” getting involved in international affairs? Am I reading this statement correctly? We are more involved in international affairs than any country in history. We give billions in foreign aid, we have embassies all around the world, we are involved in police actions around the world, two wars going on, dozens of Federal agencies concerned solely with assisting and working with other countries. How could we possibly be more… Read more »

EMT
EMT
10 years ago

There’s a saying in law that “You can’t un-ring a bell.” In their terms, it means even something “stricken from the record” in court was still heard by the jury’s ears.
I believe it applies, in this case, to foreign affairs. You can’t undo 235ish years of involvement beyond our borders. What’s done is done, and some people hate us for it, and always will. Retreating doesn’t solve that problem. Ask Chamberlain.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

EMT – It’s not a “bell ringing” situation. Our image can always improve or deteriorate. Unfortunately, it’s easier to lose respect than it is to gain it, and we have very successfully lost respect over the past couple of decades precisely due to our overly interventionist foreign policy. The citizens of most countries have no problem with American culture – if they do then why are they rapidly adopting so much of it? They hate us for our actions in their areas of the globe, just like we’d hate it if China or Russia were all up in our business.
I disagree that countries cannot change their image and quickly – do you really think people see Germany or Japan the same today as they did 70 years ago? That’s less than one lifetime. It would hardly takes 235 years – maybe a few decades. Let’s start now and hold onto our money as a bonus.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

It is also untrue that the United States has had “235ish years of involvement beyond our borders.” Interventionist military policy is a recent development for the United States and most of its history has been markedly non-interventionist. Before the 20th century, all of the United States’ wars were fought on North American soil. World Wars I + II were the first forays into foreign warfare, and the United States joined onto both reluctantly and after the fact when attacked in the latter case or perceived as being attacked in the former (and we should have stayed out of WWI entirely). During most of American history, it was seen positively as the Great Experiment of the world and it was the European powers that struggled desperately to maintain their empires across the globe through military force. How many of those empires are left standing now?

Sammy in Arizona
Sammy in Arizona
10 years ago

Here is an actual Rick Santorum quote:
“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.” And also, “Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” These comments were not dug up from some bygone moment of ideological purity, He said them in October.
And that’s got to be a winning political position to take jk
The fact that this loon is even being taken remotely seriously as a candidate for President should be a source of embarrassment to the GOP.
If you are against abortion then you should be pro contraception.
If you are against contraception or are for making it more difficult for people to access then you are actively contributing to a higher unwanted pregnancy rate and thus a higher abortion rate.
Being anti-contraception and anti-abortion, as Santorum apparently is, is illogical.

msteven
msteven
10 years ago

I don’t agree that the military only has work to do during war time. That’s like saying firemen aren’t doing anything when they are not putting out fires. Or police aren’t doing anything when not directly involved in a crime. The idea that one can have a ‘part-time’ military that can deter and be mobilized quickly is naïve. Do you know of a country on earth that does this? Bottom line – they are more similar than you think.
Yes, I fear that the US government policy is unfortunately heading towards the non-interventionist policy you would like to see. And I feel this is due to political pressure and the fact that interventions are ‘unpopular’ with the general public. And just because something is unpopular, does not make it wrong.
Where we mainly disagree is that I believe that (for those most part, with some exceptions) our policies are indeed about being the type of leader that most want to follow rather than have to. I know the argument of “then why do some countries hate us?” but the reality is that any leader has its enemies and the existence of enemies does not indicate a bad policy.
Finally, I don’t think we’ll find any common ground for debate because you seem to believe that what happens in other countries has no effect on what occurs here. To me, that is like asking why a state should have any interest in preventing or prosecuting a crime that occurred in another state. Like I said before, the US does not exist in vacuum. And that is why I believe that Ron Paul’s foreign policy is far more dangerous to the people of this country than anyone else running.

ANTHONY
ANTHONY
10 years ago

“The fact that this loon is even being taken remotely seriously as a candidate for President should be a source of embarrassment to the GOP.”
Sammy a loon is preferable to the traitor currently “Occupying” the White House.
But I understand your leftist love for dictators. You guys are lemmings that hold out for a “leader ” to take you by the hand from your miserable existence into the sea of slavery for mama govt. Waaaaaaa….Sammy wants his FDA approved bottle.

Andrew
Editor
10 years ago

The World War I example above illustrates the problem of trying to reconcile Ron Paul’s philosophy that the U.S. does bad things whenever it touches other countries in a non-economic manner outside of the framework of “World Law”, with his belief that free-trade is sufficient for dealing with most if not all of the problems in the international system.
The U.S. finally entered WWI, after having tried to maintain neutrality, after the Germans announced unrestricted submarine warfare and began sinking U.S. merchant vessels. You can’t have robust free trade, in a system where neutral merchant vessels are being torpedoed, and if there’s any part of “World Law” that is commonly agreed upon, it is preserving the freedom to travel international waters.
If the U.S. isn’t going to take a role in working to preserve and yes, expand, in the international system some amount of the freedom that its citizens believe in, how is freedom expected to be maintained? Freedom doesn’t passively spread itself human communities. Someone has to advocate for it, or else it will vanish. And the “World Law” that Ron Paul is ready to trust American security to will have very different aims, if the United States isn’t an active participant in the international system.
Imagine a President who would have said in 1987, “Mr. Gorbachev, it’s none of anyone’s business what you do with this wall”. With a leader like Ron Paul, a supposed libertarian who is inexplicably ashamed to talk about any other aspect of freedom outside of the U.S. other than “free trade”, freedom including the cherished “free trade” can’t do anything but contract.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Andrew – Most of those merchant vessels were carrying military supplies to England to support the war effort against Germany. The Lusitania, which became a major impetus for American entry into the war, was carrying over 4 million rounds of military ammunition to England at the time of its sinking – a fact that England subsequently tried to hide by depth charging the wreck with the Royal Navy. England had a full blockade of German supply routes in place at this time, in violation of international agreements, to which America all but consented. It became quite clear to Germany whose ally America was. I, and I suspect Ron Paul, won’t be shedding any tears for captured or killed “merchants” found supplying Al Qaeda with ammunition, nor do I shed any tears for the “merchants” that happened to be carrying millions of rounds for the English army.
The result of our entry was 117,465 additional Americans dead and 205,690 wounded. I hope you can at least acknowledge that it is debatble whether the benefits of entering the war were worth the ultimate cost. Taking a different approach would not have meant “doing nothing.” It’s also not a stretch to say that American policies toward Germany during and after WWI contributed to the attrocious political and economic environment in Germany that facilitated the rise of fascism and WWII.

Andrew
Editor
10 years ago

So the sinking of U.S. merchant ships prior to World War I was justified, because it’s perfectly reasonable for Germany to sink the merchant ships of countries it perceives to be it’s enemies, and it’s wrong for American ships to travel to countries they’ve made commercial deals with — they’re basically getting what they deserve, for trading with England. (BTW, the first U.S. merchant ship sunk by the Germans was sunk for carrying a cargo of wheat, which the Germans considered contraband).
This is isolationism, not non-interventionism. Is this what Ron Paul supporters really believe, that it’s wrong for your own government to even defend you from the organized, violent acts of other governments, once you step out of the United States?
And I suppose that giving the Germans exclusive control of international waterways would have lessened American casualties in World War I, but it probably wouldn’t have worked out ideally for the US — or for “free trade” — in the long run.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

I wouldn’t say “justified” – more like “messy.” If you supply someone with a gun knowing that it will be used to murder another person, I don’t think you’re as culpable as the one who pulled the trigger, but you do share some part of the responsibility. The fact that America turned a blind eye to England for its also “illegal” naval actions added a significant amount of fuel to that fire.
I don’t have all the answers, but I can say with certainty that full involvment in the European ground war of WWI was the worst possible outcome of that terrible situation, especially from a “saving lives” perspective. A more enlightened policy might have been for our government to stay out of it entirely but allowing our merchants to trade with the warring countries at their own risk. In other words, “Hey, the bloodiest war in history is going on right now. You might want to stay away from there for a few years while it works itself out.”

Andrew
Editor
10 years ago

The ability to toggle between the stated pillars of Ron Paul’s foreign policy, to reach the conclusion that it’s none of America’s business when American merchant ships are sunk by a foreign government, shows how they don’t hold together at all.
The result is neither libertarian, in its refusal to promote system that allows free-trade, nor non-interventionist, when you fault the United States for not acting as the world’s policeman in enforcing the rules of naval warfare against England, nor considerate of “World Law” in its refusal to pursue some means of guaranteeing freedom of the seas against German hostilities.
All that’s consistent is the blame-America-first part of the Ron Paul portfolio, which is what many people suspect is mostly what’s there in any event.

Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
10 years ago

“The ability to toggle between the stated pillars of Ron Paul’s foreign policy, to reach the conclusion that it’s none of America’s business when American merchant ships are sunk by a foreign government, shows how they don’t hold together”
You’ve built up your own straw man. No one, not Paul, not me nor any isolationist I know has ever said that.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

If you’re going to reduce it to a slogan, a better one might be, “Stay out of unnecessary conflicts.” Ron Paul doesn’t blame America first, but interventionist critics aren’t willing to blame America at all, for anything, under any circumstances, and that’s far more irresponsible.
Of course it’s America’s business if its citizens are being attacked unprovoked in international waters. My point was the situation in WWI was a little more complicated than that simplification (simplifications are quite useful in making the case for war), and it’s not ludicrous to think that we might have been able to avoid a 112,000-casualty ground war on European soil over some Archduke getting shot if we had handled things a bit differently. If we’re being really honest, part of the consideration was signing onto an already “won” war and sharing in all the political and commercial advantages that come with that.
None of which has anything even remotely to do with the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and various other recent U.S. military engagements across the world. It certainly doesn’t make a case for “preemption doctrine.”

Andrew
Editor
10 years ago

Dan,
You may think that it’s over-simplifying to connect torpedoing citizens of a nation on the high seas to war with that nation, but the United States probably doesn’t enter World War I, without the Germans beginning the unrestricted submarine warfare against U.S. merchant ships (about 2 years after the sinking of the Lusitania, which was not the single event that brought about U.S. entry into WWI). Tommy says this is somehow a strawman, but I’m still not sure what you think should have done after the German declaration. Subpoena the Kaiser instead?
The wider point is that, given the many crazies who have come to lead past and present governments, ceding your freedom to any government that declares a conflict with another is a non-starter — and also the position that sums up Ron Paul’s policy towards the Middle East: Radical Islamists have declared that they have the right to rule a kingdom that stretches from East Timor to Spain and have the right to do whatever is necessary to bring that kingdom about, so the United States should “stay out of unnecessary conflicts” by deferring to them, until they come to their senses and realize that free trade is the only thing that unites all of mankind. Until then, if trouble results from American interaction with the Middle East, it’s America’s fault for not having done what the radicals demanded.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz
10 years ago

I’ve come to this discussion late and don’t really intend to get into it too deeply, but this, from Dan, is really quite an amazing statement… and in a way that I suspect leads directly to the concern that many of us have with Ron Paul and full-on libertarians:

I, and I suspect Ron Paul, won’t be shedding any tears for captured or killed “merchants” found supplying Al Qaeda with ammunition, nor do I shed any tears for the “merchants” that happened to be carrying millions of rounds for the English army.

Even by the terms of the libertarian argument being made above, this is bizarre. al Qaeda is unquestionably an enemy of the United States. The English army, if we’re considering the U.S. neutral, was merely a trading partner involved in military action with some other nation. If we’re considering the U.S. involved, then England was an ally. Conflating trade with a trading partner/ally and trade with an avowed enemy responsible for a sneak attack on private citizens of the nation is definitely a good indication that libertarians aren’t really advocating their positions based on principle, but based on something else altogether.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Justin – I apologize for the confusion. What I meant was if a 3rd party provided munitions to Al Qaeda and was captured or killed by the United States. I should have clarified.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz
10 years ago

That doesn’t help all that much, unless in the WWI example above, you’re presenting yourself and Ron Paul as Germans.

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