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The neocon moment is over

New Jersey Star Ledger | May 23, 2007 
Paul Mulshine

So-called "neo" conservatism has its roots in a Marxist view of the world. So it is not surprising that the neocons are trying to silence their most prominent conservative critic.

That would be Texas Rep. Ron Paul. He outraged the neocons dur ing the Republican presidential debate last week by advocating that the GOP return to the traditional conservative stance of noninterventionism. Paul invoked the ghost of Robert Taft, the GOP Senate leader who fought entry into NATO. And he also pointed out that messing around in the Mideast creates risks here at home.

That prompted Rudy Giuliani to interrupt Paul and demand that he retract his remarks. Paul not only refused to bow to Il Duce, but after the debate, Paul told the TV audience that the self-appointed saint of 9/11 might consider reading the report of the 9/11 commission, which makes the same point in some detail.

The following day, I wrote a column taking Paul's side in the debate. I expected the usual response from brainwashed Bush loyalists who believe the Iraq war is going so well that attacks on Iran and Syria are long overdue.

That didn't happen. Instead I was deluged with e-mails agreeing with Paul's position.

Something was up. I put in a call to Andy Napolitano, the Fox News legal analyst and my brother's old buddy at Notre Dame Law School. In addition to appearing on TV, Andy co-hosts a talk show called "Brian and the Judge" on Fox radio.

"Our calls have been going 10 to one in favor of Ron Paul," said Na politano, a former Superior Court judge in New Jersey who supports Paul's libertarian views.

I got a similar response from Lew Rockwell, who hosts a Web site (www.lewrockwell.com) fre quented by free-market fanatics. He attributed the outpouring of pro-Paul sentiment to the fact that "the people who are against the war were waiting for someone who wasn't Michael Moore."

That seems to be the case. Even on the Town Hall Web site, a sort of ongoing acid test for drinkers of neocon Kool-Aid, a blog showed overwhelming agreement with Paul, who is a physician in real life.

Clearly, the doctor had hit a nerve. The neocons are fond of ar guing that we can't simply retreat into "fortress America," as they call it. But the impulse to do so is deeply ingrained in the American psyche. If you doubt that, look at the polls on immigration. The neocon in chief is an open-borders guy, but that view has no support in the base of the GOP.

Giuliani is well to the left of Bush on immigration. As New York City mayor, he ordered his police not to turn illegal aliens over to the feds. If the plotters in the 9/11 at tack had been caught on immigra tion violations by the New York Police Department on 9/10, Giuliani would have had them released in time to make their planes. No wonder he believes we have to fight the terrorists over there.

As it now stands, all of the leading GOP contenders endorse some version of the neocon view of the world. They agree that it is the proper duty of the president to administer not just the United States but the Persian Gulf states. But the current Republican president has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that this idea is unworkable. No wonder the party politburo doesn't want Paul in the debates.

Out in the heartland, however, isolationism is the default setting. The American people supported the Iraq war only because the neocons convinced them that Saddam Hussein was a threat to America. When that fib fell apart, Americans were supposed to be ecstatic that Iraqis were finally going to the polls -- while ignoring the fact that the parties they were voting for had longer histories of anti-American terrorism than Saddam.

In other words, these foreigners are nuts. Paul made that point more politely last week in endorsing Ronald Reagan's decision to pull out of Lebanon in 1983 after the bombing of the Marine barracks. "I think Reagan was right," he said. "We don't understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics."

As for Giuliani, he doesn't even understand American politics. He mistakenly believes his views on Mideast interventionism are conservative, but he ignores the fact that his views are indistinguishable from those of Hillary Clinton.

That will change, though not on Giuliani's side. He's too busy looking for his personal Abyssinia to in vade. But Hillary comes from the heartland, not New York. She is smart enough to recognize the seismic shift in American politics that occurred last week. Any day now I expect her to begin wistfully recalling how she organized her kindergarten class to support Robert Taft in the 1952 presidential race.

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