Maybe it was Senator Rand Paul's perceived influence on the Republican National Committee’s recent denouncement of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance that prompted the New York Times to publish a major hit piece on him and the intellectual company he keeps.
Late last month, by a voice vote, the RNC approved adoption of a “Resolution To Renounce The National Security Agency’s Surveillance Program.”
The resolution calls the NSA’s dragnet, warrantless collection of metadata of millions of Americans “an invasion into the personal lives of American citizens that violates the right of free speech and association afforded by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.” Declaring also that “the mass collection and retention of personal data is in itself contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
Many regard the resolution as a rejection of Bush-era expansion of the federal domestic surveillance apparatus, and consider Senator Paul the primary motivation for the shift in philosophy.
During an appearance on Fox News Sunday in June of last year, Paul announced plans to file a class action lawsuit against the Obama administration, demanding it provide legal justification for the recently revealed wholesale watching of millions of citizens not suspected of any crime.
“I’m going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level,” Paul said, according to the show transcript. He continued, “I’m going to be asking all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies, ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit. If we get 10 million Americans saying, "We don’t want our phone records looked at," then somebody will wake up and say things will change in Washington."
When asked by host Chris Wallace why he considered the NSA’s surveillance unconstitutional, Paul responded:
Well, you know, they're looking at a billion phone calls a day is what I read in the press and that doesn't sound to me like a modest invasion of privacy. It sounds like an extraordinary invasion of privacy. The Fourth Amendment says you can look at and ask for a warrant specific to a person, place and the items.
This is a general warrant. This is what we objected to and what our Founding Fathers partly fought the revolution over is they did not want generalized warrants where you could go from house to house with soldiers looking for things or now from computer to computer, to phone to phone, without specifying who you're targeting.
Specifically, the Fourth Amendment states that the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
In a recent article entitled "Rand Paul's Mixed Inheritance," the New York Times, the oldest of the establishment’s mouthpieces, slammed Paul for such “libertarian” policy positions, and took shots at The John Birch Society, the Tea Party, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and Lew Rockwell for good measure. (The article was posted online January 25, and a version of the article appeared the following day on page A1 of the Sunday print edition.)
Accusing Paul of being “steeped in a narrow, rightward strain” of libertarianism, the New York Times begins the race-baiting in the seventh paragraph.
Paul and those like him, the article claims, “have formulated provocative theories on race, class and American history, and routinely voice beliefs that go far beyond the antiwar, anti-big-government, pro-civil-liberties message” of the larger libertarian movement.
Then, speaking of the Mises Institute, the Times makes sure readers realize that not only are libertarians such as Paul possessed of questionable racial biases, but they’re religious nuts, too.
“Some scholars affiliated with the Mises Institute have combined dark biblical prophecy with apocalyptic warnings that the nation is plunging toward economic collapse and cultural ruin,” write Sam Tanenhaus and Jim Rutenberg, authors of the hit piece.
When, one wonders, was the last time the New York Times considered it a necessary part of its journalistic due diligence to delve into the religious beliefs of other nationally prominent scholars it regularly quotes and promotes in its pages?
Now that the racism and religious fanaticism of Rand Paul’s influences have been made clear, the authors (or, as Thomas diLorenzo called them, “lying propagandists for the state”) move on to tying the albatross of slavery and the Confederacy to the distinguished group, as well.
"Others have championed the Confederacy. One economist, while faulting slavery because it was involuntary, suggested in an interview that the daily life of the enslaved was “not so bad — you pick cotton and sing songs,'" they write.
Walter Block, the “one economist” misquoted above, did not, to his credit, just sit back and let them take him out of context and paint him as a neo-confederate who longs for the good old days of slavery. Block writes:
Here is what I actually published about slavery not being “so bad,” and precisely what I was trying to convey to Mr. Tanenhaus in the several hours of interviews I did with him in an effort to explain libertarianism to him:
“Free association is a very important aspect of liberty. It is crucial. Indeed, its lack was the major problem with slavery. The slaves could not quit. They were forced to ‘associate’ with their masters when they would have vastly preferred not to do so.
Otherwise, slavery wasn’t so bad. You could pick cotton, sing songs, be fed nice gruel, etc. The only real problem was that this relationship was compulsory. It violated the law of free association, and that of the slaves’ private property rights in their own persons. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, then, to a much smaller degree of course, made partial slaves of the owners of establishments like Woolworths.”
The point is that free association, one of the bedrocks of the entire libertarian edifice, is a bulwark against slavery. On the other hand, the so-called Civil Rights Act of 1964 undermines free association. It forces Woolworths to associate with people against their will. Thus, very paradoxically, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 supports slavery. It does so by undermining free association, the violation of which allows slavery.
Thomas DiLorenzo says he was interviewed by the authors of the Paul piece, as well. He, it seems, is one of the senator’s questionable “defenders of the Confederacy.” And DiLorenzo didn’t take kindly to this brand of bashing, either. He writes:
I told him [Tanenhaus] that criticizing Lincoln does not make one a defender of the Confederacy any more than criticizing FDR makes one a defender of Hitler. (I mention the Confederacy in one half of one page in The Real Lincoln.) He ended up ignoring everything I said, did not quote anything I’ve ever written, and simply accused all of us as being “defenders of the Confederacy,” i.e., of slavery. As Lew [Rockwell] has said, he was not interested in informing anyone about our scholarship, only libeling us.
Of course, Tanenhaus and Rutenberg try meekly to cover themselves, writing, “Mr. Paul says he abhors racism, has never visited the institute and should not have to answer for the more extreme views of all of those in the libertarian orbit.”
Did you catch that? Senator Paul says he abhors racism. That’s not quite the same as saying, “Mr. Paul is not a racist.” If the authors were riding to the defense of any of their patrons on the Left, however, they undoubtedly would have been a lot more assertive in their disclaimer.
Most of the rest of the article takes similar shots at Senator Paul’s iconic father and his influences.
Anyone interested in reading between the lines of the New York Times article need only count the number of references (direct or indirect) to racism, religious fanaticism, the Confederacy, isolationism, and Paul's purported two-faced treatment of his libertarian-leaning followers and the GOP powers that be. That will tell you all you need to know about the journalistic value of the article.
Photo of Sen. Rand Paul: AP Images