Ron Paul is not a Goldwater Republican

On November 29, 2007, in General, by Neil Stevens

Look, there’s a fair amount of Senator Barry Goldwater’s track record that I don’t agree with, even if his run for the Presidency in 1964 was standard for conservatism for a quarter century. But in the debate tonight, when Representative Ron Paul repudiated our fight in Vietnam, Ron Paul repudiated Barry Goldwater.

Senator Goldwater is beloved by today’s left and fringes for his distaste for southern conservatives, finding them too religious for his preferences. But if one looks at their chief issue, war, it’s hard to see why they love him. Because if there’s one thing Goldwater was clear about in his best-known address, his acceptance speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention, he favored victory against tyranny over gifts and appeasement:

And I needn’t remind you – but I will – that it’s been during Democratic years that our strength to deter war has stood still, and even gone into a planned decline. It has been during Democratic years that we have weakly stumbled into conflict, timidly refusing to draw our own lines against aggression, deceitfully refusing to tell even our people of our full participation, and tragically, letting our finest men die on battlefields (unmarked by purpose, unmarked by pride or the prospect of victory).

Yesterday it was Korea. Tonight it is Vietnam. Make no bones of this. Don’t try to sweep this under the rug. We are at war in Vietnam. And yet the President, who is Commander-in-Chief of our forces, refuses to say – refuses to say, mind you, whether or not the objective over there is victory. And his Secretary of Defense continues to mislead and misinform the American people, and enough of it has gone by.

And I needn’t remind you, but I will; it has been during Democratic years that a billion persons were cast into Communist captivity and their fate cynically sealed.

Yes, look at that: during a wartime election, Barry Goldwater did not criticize President Lyndon Johnson for escalating the war. No, he criticized Johnson for not fighting hard enough, and for not being a tough enough actor on the international stage to deter combat! He also predicted the claims of today’s Democrats, that there is no war on terror, by mocking their unwillingness to call a war a war.

And what was his concern? Certainly not a worry over whether there was a Declaration of War with the right magic words suitable to his tastes, and definitely not a desire to issue letters of marque and reprisal over the Gulf of Tonkin affair or the aggressions of the North. No, he just wanted to fight as well as we could, and win. But wait, he goes on:

Today in our beloved country we have an administration which seems eager to deal with communism in every coin known – from gold to wheat, from consulates to confidence, and even human freedom itself.

The Republican cause demands that we brand communism as a principal disturber of peace in the world today. Indeed, we should brand it as the only significant disturber of the peace, and we must make clear that until its goals of conquest are absolutely renounced and its rejections with all nations tempered, communism and the governments it now controls are enemies of every man on earth who is or wants to be free.

We here in America can keep the peace only if we remain vigilant and only if we remain strong. Only if we keep our eyes open and keep our guard up can we prevent war. And I want to make this abundantly clear – I don’t intend to let peace or freedom be torn from our grasp because of lack of strength or lack of will – and that I promise you Americans.

Yes, indeed, look: Senator Goldwater rejected the kind of diplomacy opponents of the war like Ron Paul would have us attempt. We aren’t to try to win them over with trade, with foreign aid, or a withholding thereof, or any kind of meekness at all, if we’re to be Goldwater Republican. Only through unsurpassed military might, and the willingness to project that force anywhere in the world it is needed, do we live up to his vision for America.

He also doesn’t shy from making it clear that a hawk is no more “pro-war” than a dove. Barry Goldwater understood how “peace through strength” works, and certainly would never call the Bush Administration a group of “warmongers,” merely because they see the necessity of fighting for freedom.

He even rejected the idea that Ron Paul would have us believe, that we were the aggressor in Vietnam. No, he brands the Communists, the tyrants, as the enemies of peace, just as Jihadis in Iraq and elsewhere are today seeking to bring horror anywhere there is tranquility.

Oh yes, and don’t say that fighting for liberty is a Wilsonian, “neo-conservative” idea either, unless you want to call Barry Goldwater a neocon as well, because he’s not done yet:

I know this freedom is not the fruit of every soil. I know that our own freedom was achieved through centuries, by unremitting efforts by brave and wise men. I know that the road to freedom is a long and a challenging road. I know also that some men may walk away from it, that some men resist challenge, accepting the false security of governmental paternalism.

And I pledge that the America I envision in the years ahead will extend its hand in health, in teaching and in cultivation, so that all new nations will be at least encouraged to go our way, so that they will not wander down the dark alleys of tyranny or to the dead-end streets of collectivism. My fellow Republicans, we do no man a service by hiding freedom’s light under a bushel of mistaken humility.

What is it that Ron Paul and the left tell us? That some countries just aren’t “ready” for freedom? That we must be humble and not try to do too much? Barry Goldwater rejected all of that.

By contrast with this sweeping rhetoric, pledging America to fight for freedom everywhere, never backing down and appeasing, what does Ron Paul, the supposed Goldwater Republican, say about our struggle in Vietnam?

So, let the people have their country back again. Just think of the cleaning up of the mess after we left Vietnam. Vietnam now is a friend of ours — we trade with them, the president comes here.

What we achieved in peace was unachievable in 20 years of the French and the Americans being in Vietnam.

So it’s time for us to take care of America first.

Never mind how scarily like the Nazi sympathizers of 1940 Ron Paul sounds with that last line. The entire spirit of his words directly contradicts the godfather of modern Republican conservatism. Goldwater wanted to engage the world, Paul would withdraw. Goldwater saw inspiring nobility in our willingness to spread liberty to other peoples, Paul wants us to leave them to twist in the wind. Goldwater would have us oppose and call out Communists like those in Vietnam, Paul praises them and desires good will for them.

Barry Goldwater, like Ronald Reagan and like George W. Bush, saw America as having the unique ability and opportunity to be the champion of freedom worldwide. Ron Paul, when he whitewashes the horrors of Communism or Jihad, is nothing like them, and has no legitimate claim to being the heir of conservatism in our party or our country.


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