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Presidential Elections – ARI  2008
– Leonard Peikoff vs. Ron Paul –

2008  ·  John McCain  vs.  Barack Obama

In his podcast of 20 October 2008  Leonard Peikoff says he won’t vote for either candidate. First consider his reason for rejecting Senator McCain. Is it because McCain blocked investigation into the looting of the  S&L s  in the 1980s, at the time the biggest financial fraud ever perpetrated? Or is it because McCain sings Israel’s praises at American-Israeli PAC events? Or because he made Neocon aggression in the Middle East and the lies justifying it part of his campaign platform?  Surely neither of the last two, for like everyone at ARI  Mr. Peikoff worships Israel and calls for a war against Iran.

But Mr. Peikoff doesn’t go into detail. Instead, he says he won’t vote for any Republican, because  “that party has to be wiped out or severely punished for its affiliation with Evangelicals and with religion more broadly.”  An affiliation vague – we point out – and Evangelicals who threaten you not, while statism is eating you alive. Mr. Peikoff goes on to say that religion, that is, Christianity,  “is the greatest threat to the country, infinitely more so than socialism ... .”

He claims that McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for running-mate proves that Republicans are reaching out to Evangelicals. Perhaps, and/or they grabbed a handy lady politician expecting they would be running against Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama. [1]

Despite Mr. Peikoff’s 2006 pronouncement urging everyone to vote Democrat no matter what (see Part III of this series), he won’t vote for Obama either. [2]  He says that  setting aside everything else, Obama’s affiliation with the Reverend Wright, only reluctantly abandoned, was enough for him to reject Obama. And though Obama  “has ties to the Muslim religion ... let’s suppose he’s only a deeply religious Christian. That’s not much better, so I wouldn’t vote for him on religious grounds either.”  In addition Mr. Peikoff – who at times acts as if he is really anti-American – opposes Obama because, and we agree,  “he is really anti-American.”

Mr. Peikoff concludes regarding the two candidates that we  “have a choice [such] that it would be a disaster if either gets in.”

Neither Mr. Peikoff nor anyone else at ARI promoted a real choice in future elections by supporting the best man in the lot of politicians that year, a man who was honest. Far from supporting, they denounced him.

Let’s go back to the time of the 2008 primaries, before the Republican and Democratic nominations.  Though none of the candidates were perfect, or even a better sort of Objectivist,  Ron Paul was by far the best man ever to run for president since the beginning of our chronology in Part I.  To repeat: Perfect, no. Objectivist, no. Good, both as to practical and philosophical politics, yes.  If you insist on John Galt for president, read no further – and wait forever, while the Obamas and McCains take over America.

Elsewhere we address Ron Paul’s flaws as a political candidate and show them to be of little consequence. For now, what does the ARI crowd say about him during this period, the election of 2008? There is practically nothing. Though ARI’s non-profit status didn’t prevent it from expressing an opinion of Bush in 2000 (see Part II), this election they ignore Ron Paul, officially. Unofficially however, in personal statements, some ARI writers could not bring themselves to ignore him entirely.

Harry Binswanger titles his 4 November 2007 post to readers of his discussion list (HBL)  “Saint (Ron) Paul.”  The post is not public and I haven’t read it, but Mr. Binswanger’s snide and witless joke alone  considering Objectivists’ antipathy to Christianity  misrepresents Ron Paul.  We discuss Ron Paul’s Christianity elsewhere and merely note here that he was the only candidate who warned against the misuse of religion in politics, at one point in his campaign saying (attributing it to Sinclair Lewis):  “When fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.” [3]

Mr. Peikoff, in his podcast of 23 December 2007, discussed Ron Paul obliquely, and then directly using Yaron Brook as his mouthpiece. He begins by saying that a politician’s party takes precedence over the politician’s personal beliefs and voting record. To keep his political base satisfied in a mixed economy an individual politician must, Mr. Peikoff says, use his power to advance the causes of various pressure groups  “no matter what individuals, with what ideas, hold what offices, in the [party].”  Mr. Peikoff thinks the Republican Party is more dangerous than the Democratic:

“[The Republicans] at one time ... were a pro-capitalist bastion, but their base now is ... Medieval Christian fundamentalism. To assist a party which has turned from Capitalism to Medievalism, to help give them control of any branch of government, is to cast your vote for the leaders of the equivalent of the Jesus Freaks as our next ruler.”

Was the Republican Party ever a pro-capitalist bastion? They once to some extent paid lip-service to capitalism, with the result that after FDR they got away with stealing – redistributing – even more money than the Democrats. Ronald Reagan was a prime example. As for the influence of Christian fundamentalism, see Part III.

And where does Mr. Peikoff get off criticizing any group for Medievalism when ARI is the Western world’s foremost advocate of government institutionalized torture? [4]

According to Mr. Peikoff, though the Democratic Party may seem just as religious as the Republican only the Republicans are  sincere:

“... many Democrats also profess to be religious, and that’s another sign of the desperate state that we’re in. But most of these men I believe, thankfully, are insincere, they’re just me-tooing the religious movement. It’s the Republicans ... who really believe and push the church line.”

Mr. Peikoff goes on to say that the basic political issue today is not what it was fifty years ago, when it was “the individual versus the collective”:

“... since the collapse of socialism this dichotomy – I don’t deny that it’s still operative, it’s still important – but it’s no longer the fundamental or most urgent political issue. Today the issue is reason versus religion with special emphasis on the danger of Christianity in all its forms.” [5]

It’s possible a man might be independent enough to be worth supporting, but today, insists Mr. Peikoff, no such man exists:

“Now if you have grounds to think that a man of reason uncontaminated by affiliation with any party major or minor could get elected, maintain his integrity in office and actually get something decent accomplished then you should definitely vote for him.”

Notable for it’s absence, as doubtless intended, is any mention of Rep. Ron Paul. Yet in the records of congressional votes when you see 434 to 1, you know the 1 was Ron Paul. He is not your typical Republican.

Whether or not a decent man can get elected president or even nominated, supporting him encourages such men to run in the future and will help them win. It also makes politicians of all stripes competing with him address important issues instead of spouting vague bromides about change.  And even a losing campaign, as long as truth be told, helps educate the public. Supporting a good candidate, as Ayn Rand said of Barry Goldwater in 1964, helps  “preserve two-party government.”

Mr. Peikoff continues:

“But you cannot expect any politician including the president to educate the country philosophically. How a man or a president votes is not going to convert people to a different, even political let alone philosophical, viewpoint.  So all you could hope in such a case – and if you find such a great person please let me know so I can vote for him – all you could hope is that he would accomplish something. In the absence of a real educational base though, he can’t accomplish very much.”

Presumably Mr. Peikoff means the man could not accomplish much in the way of winning. Naturally as president he could accomplish a tremendous amount in the way of changing the country for the better, including educating the public. Regarding that last, Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. president 1901-1909 (unfortunately he belongs in any Objectivist’s rogues gallery), once quipped during an interview:  “I suppose my critics will call that preaching, but I have got such a bully pulpit ! 

The problem is getting there. But a campaign, too, provides a  “bully pulpit” – in the form of broadcast speeches, interviews and debates. (It would be a lot bullier if the mainstream media were not so biased.)

Mr. Peikoff next begins with a general truth regarding the importance of philosophy and segues into more false insinuations about Ron Paul:

“You could have a candidate that agrees with you on a dozen different political issues but does so on the basis of a philosophy which if triumphant would destroy capitalism. If so you’re hurting the cause that you want to triumph by the fact of voting for him. And that is my opinion of conservative religionists and by the way of libertarian candidates also – actually any candidate for quite a while ... because it’s just too early and I don’t see anybody worth commenting on at this point.”

With that out of the way Mr. Peikoff finally comes to his main point:

“But I do get repeatedly this question about Ron Paul:  ‘Do you know anything about this man that would plausibly justify a vote for him?’  And, uh, I don’t know anything about Ron Paul, ...”

We interrupt. Mr. Peikoff has conveniently forgotten that on his radio show in 1998 he favorably mentioned a congressional vote of Ron Paul’s, identifying him by name. But even without that, it’s hard to believe he knew nothing about the famous renegade rep. And assuming that he knew nothing, he could easily have found out all he wanted from primary sources, before – as we shall see in a moment – asking someone equally prejudiced and willfully benighted. Perhaps that “uh” masked wayward thoughts.  Mr. Peikoff continues:

“... so I wrote Yaron Brook:  ‘Could you tell me something that would be relevant to answer this question?’  I’ll read his answer, and that’s all I’m going to say about him:

“ ‘Unfortunately but not unpredictably I have only bad news regarding Ron Paul. He ran for president once or twice as a Libertarian before he switched to the Republican party. His foreign policy is typically libertarian. He blames 9-11 on America; if only we disengaged from the Middle East Bin Laden will leave us alone. On abortion he, like many libertarians, believes it should be left up to the states to decide, i.e. he advocates democracy, not individual rights.’

“And then he [Yaron] ends the letter:  ‘I could go on,  three dots.’  I find that very persuasive.  I’m not ever going to say another thing about Ron Paul.”

Such trenchant analysis!  Such diligent research!  Such persistent concern for the truth!

I’m being sarcastic.

There are two more items ARI or its affiliates published about the coming 2008 election that we must add to our list:  “McBama vs. America”  by Craig Biddle in the journal The Objective Standard (Fall 2008) and a speech of the same title Mr. Biddle gave a few days before the election (29 October 2008) under the auspices of ARI (specifically its now defunct division called the “Ayn Rand Center”).

Mr. Biddle begins his talk by observing that this election is an Objectivist’s nightmare, and asks  “How did we get here?”  One wonders who Mr. Biddle thinks he is to ask the question, since in many ways he and other ARI associates helped in the getting.  Mr. Biddle’s talk is standard fare denouncing altruism leavened with examples from current events (among which he fails to mention U.S. support of Israel, but then ARI has always maintained that support for Israel is somehow in your interest). He makes no mention of religion in his article but discusses it at length in his talk, saying that Obama and in recent years Leftists generally, use religion to justify their socialist causes. McCain, he says, justifies the same sort of causes using ideas traceable to Kant.

Mr. Biddle insinuates that Obama and McCain might be sincere, instead of – we would say – grasping at anything to justify their lord of the manor mentality and greed for the unearned. [6]

That concludes our account of ARI’s output on the 2008 election.  In  Yaron Brook vs. Ron Paul  four years later we offer a few words about the candidate these moralizing hypocrites did their best to smear when they were not evading his existence.

1  Assuming most Evangelicals liked Palin, which may not be true, McCain’s defeat demonstrated their political weakness.

2  Mr. Peikoff speaks of this period in his podcast of 2 July 2012. He says that he opposed Obama in 2008, despite (as he reminds his listeners) “that it might seem to be inconsistent with other things” he is saying. Mr. Peikoff continues, referring to the Democratic nomination that was held before the presidential election:  “I publicly came out for Hillary in the campaign against Obama.”  In the podcast he is very self-righteous about his having supported her relative to the other candidates, yet – we point out – as President she would have been not much different from Obama.

3  The quote about fascism is usually said to be from Sinclair Lewis’s novel  It Can’t Happen Here. The novel does express the sentiment but you won’t find that exact quote there. It’s either a paraphrase or it’s from the novel’s theatrical version which Lewis also wrote (I haven’t read the latter).  For a synopsis of the story see  Is It Happening Here?  on this website.

4  See  A Question for Leonard Peikoff  and  Harry Binswanger on Torture  and the other torture articles on this website.

5  To fight the ethics of socialism (which leads to fascism) is to fight the worst part of the ethics of Christianity. Mr. Peikoff fails to make this important connection in his podcast. (Perhaps he felt it unnecessary because it’s part of the Objectivist background.)

“The worst part” of the ethics of Christianity because Christianity is an agglomeration of contradictions. Its ethics has its good points, at least it had historically in comparison with other religions. As Ayn Rand once quipped (paraphrasing): Christ said love your neighbor as yourself. So, you must love yourself; after that you can argue about your neighbors. {Smile, undoubtedly.} (The Bible saying could be defended as follows: it means recognizing your neighbor as a human being to be judged as yourself. That’s the trouble with these Bible sayings, they can be turned this way and that.) Somewhere Ayn Rand also pointed out, what other philosophers have also noted, that Christianity’s idea of salvation is personal, and supercedes whatever the State might say or do. However much that aspect of Christianity might contradict the rest of the religion, historically it did foster the idea of individualism. Thus, by accident, the history of Western civilization is wedded to Christianity, like it or not. But then in practice a fully developed idea needn’t drag its history about with it.

Mr. Peikoff refers to the collapse of socialism, apparently meaning among mainstream intellectuals because it’s alive and kicking in politics. Given his demonization of Christianity it’s worth pointing out that historically most Jewish voters have voted socialist (for example, in the 2008 election 78% of Jewish voters opted for Obama) and most Protestant voters have not (in the same election 45% of Protestant voters opted for Obama). One fact in Mr. Peikoff’s favor is that Catholics favor socialism but not as much as Jews (54%).

6  Though Mr. Biddle spent about equal time denouncing Obama and McCain, he denounced Obama with greater emotional force. This was consistent with the conversations in pro-ARI discussion groups, which tended to favor McCain.  (We suspect Mr. Biddle overstated the religiosity of the Left in order to make McCain-Palin look better.)

Notable in both talk and article is Mr. Biddle’s leading you to believe that ARI had opposed the Iraq War.  (In his talk he calls it “this so-called war.”)  He uses the same technique as the Op-Ed  “What We Owe Our Soldiers”  (reviewed on this website)  which ARI once republished each Veterans Day and Memorial Day.