Monday, March 11, 2013

Conor Friedersdorf on How the Establishment Press Got Rand Paul Wrong

The Atlantic definitely leans establishment statist progressive but this excellent analysis of Rand Paul by Conor Friedersdorf is definitely worth digesting because it suggests profound ramifications for the powers that be on all sides of the political spectrum.

I commend Friedersdorf on his outstanding and insightful analysis that deeply and provocatively challenges progressives for falling down on the issue civil liberties because if anything, civil liberties have historically been the calling card of liberals, progressives and Democrats.

How the Establishment Press Got Rand Paul Wrong
CONOR FRIEDERSDORF is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.
Most journalists failed to anticipate his role in the Senate, focusing instead on a distracting controversy about the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
When Rand Paul emerged on the national scene in 2010, staffers at places like The Cato Institute and Reason backed him more enthusiastically than any other U.S. Senate candidate. Like all Tea Party-affiliated pols, Paul favored smaller government, tax cuts, and free-market reforms. Unlike Marco Rubio or Christine O'Donnell, the Kentucky Republican was expected by right-leaning libertarians to oppose the bipartisan excesses of the post-9/11 era. As Radley Balko argued that spring, Paul would be better on civil liberties than President Obama and most Senate Democrats. Few non-libertarians believed him, as evidenced by the skeptical replies of progressive writers Adam Serwer* and Jamelle Bouie, savvy civil libertarians in their own right.
Three years later, it is beyond dispute: Paul is a leading opponent of civil-liberties abrogations, executive-power excesses, and militarism. Safe to say, after last week's filibuster, that his stands on those issues are the most visible and consequential that he has taken in the Senate. Even prior to that 13-hour spectacle, Paul mounted high-profile, sometimes lonely efforts to reform the Patriot Act; formally end the president's authorization to wage war in Iraq; reform drug laws; prevent indefinite detention; extend Fourth Amendment protections to electronic communications; require warrants for drone surveillance; reform overzealous TSA screening procedures; and stop an anti-piracy bill that would have onerously infringed on free expression online.
He's also opposed calls to wage war in Libya, Syria, and Iran.
Friedersdorf then plunges into a discussion on how the progressive media focused its entire coverage of Rand Paul's 2010 campaign on the civil rights issue and nothing else.
In light of this record, the establishment press ought to reflect upon the fact that its 2010 coverage utterly failed to anticipate the most important consequences of electing Paul to the Senate. Go back, as I just did, and read every story The New York Times published about him. Its coverage was representative: The paper paid little attention to his anti-war, pro-civil liberties, pro-checks-and-balances proclivities, though those issues were certain to loom large between 2010 and 2016; it paid some attention to the political import of a possible victory by a Tea Party Republican; and it focused intensely on Paul's position on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, legislation that passed when he was two years old and certainly won't be revisited in the foreseeable future.
Basically, Friedersdorf goes into lamenting how the liberals and progressives consistently ignore the profound significance of civil liberties and why restrictions on government power is the only vehicle  to guarantee civil liberties.   He extensively focuses on Rachel Maddow who devoted an entire show in 2010 to smacking Rand Paul on civil rights.  While Maddow may be an iconic figure on the left, she has abandoned all the principles of classical liberalism and opted instead to collect her fat $4 million a year MNSBC salary to grow her $13 million net worth, here.  Maddow is very much a soul mate of the hardcore theocratic Nazi neocons that she falsely claims to despise.  While Maddow may be a shameless money obsessed tool of America's descent into a Nazified militarized police state, Friedersdorf is an honest liberal who really does ponder the morality of an issue.  Maddow is pure entertainment who fires up a largely uninformed and ignorant base, same as Fox News fires up the uninformed and ignorant on the right.  For Fox and Maddow, it's all about entertainment and firing up raw emotions in folks who cling to totalitarian thuggery, anger and hate.

Friedersdorf comes to the conclusion that Rand Paul is not only good for civil liberties but he also raises the critically important issues of the War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism.
I'd argue, after three years of Senator Paul, that his record on civil rights is much better than average, and far better than what his Republican opponent in that primary would've managed. The Bill of Rights has no more consistent defender in the Senate than Paul. And he has pointed critiques of the War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism, the two federal policies that do more harm to minorities than any others.
Friedersdorf was especially happy as well as relieved when Rand Paul reassuring said in the words of Friedersdorf that Paul "ultimately agreed, saying that, upon consideration, he would've voted for the Civil Rights Act, becoming the millionth politician to figure out that an ideological position he'd taken couldn't ultimately be defended and complicating his position for political and substantive reasons".

Then Friedersdor did the unthinkable.  He expanded the civil rights issue to the civil liberties issues in War on Terror and finally figured out that they are indeed related and that Rand Paul is in fact a ferocious defender of all civil rights, including the civil rights of Muslims.
What almost no one in the establishment press seems to realize, even today, is that the qualities that led Paul to defend his wrongheaded discomfort with the Civil Rights Act is the same stubbornness, political courage, and deeply felt commitment to libertarian principles that makes him willing to express the opinion that just because someone propagandizes for Islamists doesn't give us the right to kill them; or that even accused terrorists deserve due process; or that if you have a cousin in the Middle East who you talk to on the phone that shouldn't put you at risk of warrantless surveillance or a drone strike.....

What's particularly galling about the people who continue to portray Paul as a quasi-racist with unenlightened views on civil rights is the fact that he is doing far more than most senators to protect the minority group presently subject to more institutional racism than any other: Muslims. He has been criticized by some for focusing in his filibuster on American citizens being targeted by drones, spied upon, other otherwise violated by the federal government. What about foreigners? This ignores the fact that he has expressed skepticism of drone strikes abroad on many occasions, once going so far as to say that "I don't believe Jesus would've killed anyone, or condoned killing, perhaps not even in self-defense;" and that when Paul defends Americans against warrantless spying, indefinite detention, harassment at the airport, and drone strikes on U.S. soil, he is opposing policies that disproportionately hurt powerless minorities and stigmatized others....
I suspect that the above words were indeed a defining connect for Friedersdorf who was able to finally grasp the concept of natural rights as they relate to civil rights and civil liberties everywhere.  It's like a Libertarian light bulb lit up in his brain.  But more importantly, Friedersdor was able to sort through the fraudulent media talking points on both sides and get to the real issue, namely, that the issue of drone strikes on foreign or US soil are wrong because they murder folks and they murder without due process.  If that's not a profoundly significant civil liberties issue, I don't know what is.

Then Friedersdorf quoted an e-mail from an American Muslim, Falguni Sheth .
Is Paul any more racist in his economic and drug policy endorsements than the White House in its policies of kill lists, targeted killings, drone strikes, TSA no-fly and watch lists, Department of Homeland Security's Secure Communities program or "See Something, Say Something" policy?" "Is Rand Paul more of a threat to black and brown populations (American or foreign) than the current administration, which deported more than 1.5 million migrants during its first term and separated tens of thousands of migrant parents from their children? Is Rand Paul more of a threat to our safety than the current administration?

Despite the White House's defiant disregard of procedure, transparency or accountability, the Democrats disassociated themselves from an important strategic ally -- a libertarian who is the only one asking the questions that progressives, Occupy protesters, political dissenters, Muslims, Arab Americans, African-Americans, Latinos, South Asians and undocumented migrants want an answer to: Will the president claim and exercise the power to kill one of us at his and his advisers' discretion?
Not only are the words of Sheth and Friedersdorf an outright indictment of Obama and his administration on foreign policy and civil liberties, they also constitute a justifiable critique of the left, progressives and Democrats for their utter failure to defend human rights anywhere as he talks about Bloomberg's stop and frisk policies and spying on Muslim college students.
Compare the reaction to Paul's comments on the Civil Rights Act to Michael Bloomberg's ongoing stop-and-frisk policy and the NYPD task force he sent to New Jersey to spy on innocent Muslim college students. I understand why the Civil Rights Act is regarded as sacrosanct, but treating non-racist, abstract discomfort with one of its provisions as a more important than actual, ongoing state harassment of innocent blacks and Muslims is bonkers.
I don't know of anybody in the progressive camp that has managed to raise so many important issues and strike at so many raw nerves. While Libertarians and liberty activists have indeed struggled mightily to get these exact same points across to the American people without playing the left vs. right game, I do believe that this critically important issue is finally advancing and to the shame of both Republicans and Democrats who have hidden for decades behind the facade and legitimacy of government power, a power that is finally being exposed for the civil liberty crushing nightmare than it is.

Friedersdord winds down his epic piece with:
But the establishment press should recognize that much of its early coverage of Paul did more to obscure than illuminate the sort of senator that he'd be; that this is partly due to a bias against non-establishment politicians, including libertarians; and that if Paul were to leave the Senate tomorrow, the U.S. would lose one of a very few national politicians challenging executive-power excesses, unnecessary foreign wars, and racist, xenophobic policies that have resulted in thousands of innocent people being killed, imprisoned without charges, surveilled without warrants, or otherwise harassed by authorities in the name of fighting terrorism....
While it has been the dream of Libertarians, liberty activists and civil libertarians everywhere to pierce the armor of the diehard Republican right and Democratic left to dislodge them from blind party loyalty and obedience, I believe that Rand Paul has definitely succeeded in piercing that armor.

Liberty should never be a right vs. left issue and Rand Paul is changing that paradigm, especially since neither the Republicans nor the Democrats hold the high moral ground on civil liberties and both have been a big fail.

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