Open Letter to Byron York

I’m frustrated with the media fawning over Rudy Giuliani. His performance in the debate last night was weak, by and large, but he benefited from a bit of 9/11 grandstanding at the expense of Congressman Ron Paul. Paul’s performance was far better, though they asked him far fewer questions. Thanks to our soundbite media, no one will understand that Paul was blaming not America but 50 years of failed foreign policy in the Middle East for 9/11.

The National Review’s Byron York is on the bandwagon, apparently. His analysis of the debate has Giuliani the undeclared winner, even though Fox’s survey put Paul ahead of him by 6 points. (Paul also won the MSNBC debate poll, but MSNBC says it wasn’t legit.)

Read on for my open letter to Byron York about Ron Paul and the soul of conservatism.

Dear Mr. York,

While I appreciate your analysis of the South Carolina debate , and your usually astute remarks on everything else, I’m frustrated by your conclusions. Giuliani may be able to win, but he is no conservative. What might win him the nomination, to my chagrin, is his appeal to the widest possible base. In other words, to neocons and the right-wing media elites who have forgotten their values and their sires.

The rest of the field is little better than Giuliani. They seem to be cut from the same cloth, and while the colors differ a bit, it’s not so noticeable that you can’t wear the shirt out in public. With one exception.

Ron Paul appears to be made from different material altogether–sturdier, more reliable, and lasting. He demonstrated tremendous courage in reasserting several classical conservative doctrines: noninterventionism and fiscal responsibility to name two. He also seems to be the only candidate who understands logic, though Giuliani’s 9/11 grandstanding deflected the truth of his assertion: not that America is to blame for 9/11, but that failed foreign policy is to blame.

Paul was the only candidate with a ready answer for the spending question. He again asserted a classical conservative position and suggested we start with departments: the gigantic bureaucracies that would have been alien to either the founding fathers or real conservatives. Homeland Security, Energy, and Education do little more than provide busywork for career bureaucrats, while their areas of interest languish. Are we more secure today? Maybe, but it has little to do with Homeland Security, which has eroded my personal privacy and rights in astonishing ways. In addition, more than 6 years after 9/11, the Government Accounting Office reported (PDF) that DHS “lacks a comprehensive integration strategy with overall goals, a timeline, appropriate responsibility and accountability determinations, and a dedicated team to support its efforts.” Moreover, GAO says, DHS still doesn’t have a plan to “deal with its many management challenges . . . [which] could have serious consequences for our homeland security.”

What about Energy? We are still ridiculously dependent on foreign oil, and we will continue to be as long as the government’s spending runs unchecked. And despite the President’s recent offer of the “20 in 10” program to reduce our foreign oil dependency, he does not offer the leadership and example to call the American people to extraordinary action and change. Without real policy and lifestyle changes in America, we face the real possibility of economic dissolution.

And Education? Forget about it. No Child Left Behind may have managed to nudge test scores up in some districts, but the United States remains at the bottom of nearly every world category. Our refusal to do anything substantial to reverse this trend, and to eliminate the influence of the despotic NEA and the other teachers’ unions, has led to a crisis of education in our country. The next generation will be horribly prepared to lead–indeed, to live–in the world we’re leaving them. We will be lucky if the generation that follows can even read with comprehension the documents that founded our nation.

All of these departments, like virtually every other government program, have enjoyed budget hikes under President Bush. The spending of the president and the Republican-led Congress is shameful, not least because it’s money that gets shoved into worthless bureaucratic morasses, never to be seen again. The scale has shifted. It’s clearer than ever to me that the choice is not, as I heard someone say recently, between liberal and conservative. No longer. Now we choose between liberal and more liberal.

Nine of 10 candidates last night demonstrated the Republican party’s recent approach to policy-making, one that bears a striking resemblance to the Democratic approach. I call it “governance by exception” (and it’s spawned by “governance by poll”): “This is always true,” they say, “except when it’s not.” One sees Republicans willing to fight for the Constitution–until it’s inexpedient to do so. The idea of such an objective standard flies right out the window. And if, in fact, a change in the standard is necessary, no one is willing to follow the formerly agreed-upon procedure. Why amend the Constitution if the President can issue an executive order or the Supreme Court can establish precedent on international law? And why declare war if the President can simply usurp war powers and declare a police action?

In more practical, everyday terms, we hear Mr. Giuliani say he abhors abortion, and that adoption rose in his city during his administration. The right to choose, however, remains sacrosanct in his eyes because of the American cult of individual rights. I say cult because while our founders asserted basic human rights for the individual, I doubt they would have excluded the weakest humans from the equation.

Thankfully, Ron Paul is doing all he can to change the conversation by asking tough questions and challenging the new status quo. I expect him to do poorly, though Fox’s “tamper-proof” viewer poll gave him second place, ahead of every first-tier candidate except for Romney. I expect he will be forced out of the running early on. I regret, however, that National Review and other “conservative” media outlets will be part of the campaign death squad by giving him short shrift or joining or supporting his competitors’ grandstanding without considering his points. Your willingness to do so insures that I will be looking somewhere other than the Republican party for conservative leadership in the next election, and to some other media outlet for reliable conservative reporting.

Jamie Cain
Atlanta, GA

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