As promised and in response to the recent attacks on every Republican candidate for President, it is time to point out some of the glaring flaws of Barack Obama. Granted, not everyone will agree on these issues. However, I believe the GOP will do best if they field a candidate who is socially tolerant and fiscally conservative. With that said, the obvious choices would be Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, and to a lesser extent Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachmann. In the following paragraphs, the Rational Interest will lay out some key areas where I believe GOP candidates can successfully contrast themselves with Obama.
1. Foreign Policy-Obama is viewed as no different from Bush. In reality, he is worse, and makes Bush look better by comparison. Bush, never sought or received an explicit Declaration of War for either Afghanistan or Iraq. However, under the War Powers Act, he did get “permission” from Congress to wage those wars. Senator Obama was all for the Constitutional and legislative boundaries to the Executive waging war, but President Obama has shown nothing but contempt for those same processes, even to the point of ignoring his own legal council.
So what alternatives do we have? Quite a few actually! We know Ron Paul has been consistently against our foreign interventions especially without a Declaration of War from the Congress. He has even gone so far as to join with nine of his colleagues and sue the Obama Administration for breaking the law in continuing the US military role in Libya. Similarly, former New Mexico Gary Johnson would bring our troops home from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Perhaps, the most tepid change in foreign policy could come from Mitt Romney. In the recent CNN debate, he shifted positions ever so slightly and announced he would bring our troops home from Afghanistan as soon as conditions on the ground allowed it. However, even this minor shift for Romney shows an overall trend towards less intervention by the GOP field.
2. The Economy-Bill Clinton famously declared, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Will that still be the case in 2012? Probably so, unless things continue to fall apart on the foreign policy front. Every excuse in the book has been offered up to explain why the economy was in such dire straits to begin with, and why we haven’t fully recovered. Perhaps, the most amusing excuse was blaming automated ticket kiosks and the ATM. So who offers the starkest contrast to Obama on economic matters? Again, the potential GOP voter has several choices.
Ron Paul is hands down the candidate with the best economic credentials, perhaps even to a fault. Some of Ron Paul’s answers are laden with Austrian economic principles that few people understand and even fewer people have ever heard of. However, modern Austrian school thinkers like Thomas Woods and Peter Schiff have gained notoriety for correctly predicting and explaining the Great Recession. Newly announced candidate, Michelle Bachmann also claims to read Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises on the beach. Lastly, Gary Johnson also a starkly contrasts Obama. He has promised to deliver a balanced budget in the year 2013 and veto a deficit budget. His years as governor of New Mexico suggest he has the experience and willingness to make that happen with copious use of his veto pen.
3. Civil Liberties-” It’s your liberties, stupid.” The argument for Civil Liberties and a return of our freedoms should take center stage in 2012, and I think this is the one area where Obama is weakest. I say this because his campaign will inevitably try to scare people on the foreign policy front, and he will attack the GOP field for promoting those “failed policies” of the Bush administration regarding the economy. But, how does he defend the torture Bradley Manning? How does he defend the continued use of SWAT teams to lock up non-violent drug offenders and no knock raids? How does he justify the TSA groping little girls? Obama has unquestionably been a worse abuser of civil liberties than George W. Bush.
Also, Obama has not moved forward on marriage equality. Surprisingly, there are good GOP alternatives as well. Gary Johnson leads the field on the issue. He supports religious institutions defining marriage as they wish. Ron Paul has also called for the government to get out of marriage, and has defended the rights of states not to recognize the marriages of other states. Even Michelle Bachmann, in the recent CNN debate, claimed she would not use the Federal Government to overturn a possible New Hampshire law recognizing same sex marriages.
The GOP needs to seize the opportunity given to them. I believe the libertarian leaning candidates like Ron Paul and Gary Johnson do understand that issues like marriage equality are a part of individual liberty in the broader sense. Other candidates would do well to pick up on this. A new poll out today shows the country becoming more libertarian. At the same time, another recent poll claims 50% of the public favors gay marriage. Younger conservatives like Meghan McCain have been out in front of this issue for years.
In sum, it’s time for the GOP to embrace liberty in all it’s manifestations in order to show the country the atrocities of the Obama Administration. The GOP has two choices. They can gaze deep in their soul and see if the party of small government has the chops to stay out of the bedrooms, homes, and wallets of the American people. Or they can nominate an establishment culture warrior with no attraction to the independents and libertarians, thus guaranteeing another four years of failed stimulus, war, torture, and gropings for the American public. Choose wisely GOP.