Monday, December 24, 2007
Presidential candidate and Republican Congressman Ron Paul appeared on yesterday's "Meet The Press" for an interview held by Tim Russert. Congressman Paul has been running a somewhat dark horse campaign for president, but has recently been the recipient of millions of dollars from Internet contributions from his fans. Paul is running on "freedom," and back-to-basics tenets which appeal to some among the populace.
However, Congressman Paul uttered some shocking, if not downright bizarre, comments yesterday during his interview. He claimed that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had everything to do with government taking over property rights and nothing to do with race relations. He claimed that Ronald Reagan was a "failure" because he didn't bring down the federal government to "constitutional levels," whatever that means.
Even more surprising and dismaying to me is Congressman Paul's complete lack of understanding about Abraham Lincoln and the reasons for the Civil War. Paul stated in the interview "Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war…. [President Abraham Lincoln] did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic," Paul said. "Every other major country in the world got rid of slavery without a civil war. I mean, that doesn't sound too radical to me. That sounds like a pretty reasonable approach."
Let's dissect this. Paul claims that Lincoln started the Civil War. In a matter of weeks after Lincoln was elected president, southern states began seceding from the Union. In his first inaugural address, Lincoln told the south that in their hands, not his, lay the "momentous decision of Civil War." The South responded by attacking federal government property, culminating with the bombardment of Fort Sumter. Dr. Paul either buys into neo-Confederate beliefs about the war or shows a complete lack of knowledge about it.
Additionally, anyone with even a basic knowledge of Lincoln and the Civil War understands that Lincoln's goal was to preserve the Union, not to end slavery, at least in the beginning of the war. Lincoln himself stated that if he could preserve the union by freeing all the slaves he would do so. Or if he could leave slavery intact and preserve the union, he would do that as well. And if he could save the union by freeing some slaves while leaving others alone, he would do that.
Paul also apparently buys into the commonly misheld belief that all the U.S. government had to do at the time was to buy all the slaves held in the south and that would've solved the problem. Again, he doesn't comprehend the issue. First of all, the southern states were such fervent believers in "states' rights" that they wanted NO interference from the federal government of any kind with their "peculiar institution." The southern states wanted the right to maintain, and even expand, slavery wherever they wished. Secondly, slavery was a critical part of the southern economy, which was after all mostly agricultural. Plantation owners and smaller-scale farmers strongly believed they could not afford to pay free labor for their operations.
Abraham Lincoln did not start the Civil War. Buying slaves and then freeing them wasn't possible in the charged political atmosphere of the times.
Congressman Paul displays a shocking lack of knowledge about the history of his own country and espouses extreme and inaccurate views about other events in our history as well. It's disturbing to me that such a candidate would be considered for the highest office in our land.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 1:45 PM