Libertarian Party

When Ron Paul Met Bill Buckley


Historical document of the day: a civil but combative interview with Ron Paul during his first presidential campaign, back in 1988. His interlocutor is William F. Buckley, the venue is Firing Line, and the topics discussed include whether the FBI should exist, whether the CIA should exist, whether the IRS should exist, whether a line-item veto should exist, whether foster children would starve without a welfare state, and whether Ronald Reagan was a sincere opponent of big government. (And also Gramm-Rudman. Remember Gramm-Rudman?)

[Via Daniel McCarthy.]

NEXT: Rick Perry Defends 10th Amendment, Makes SocialCons Uneasy

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  1. Is there a subtitled version? Buckley speaks like a of white homosexual Jesse Jackson. Very hard to understand.

    1. Listen up you queer, or I’ll sock you in your goddamned mouth.

      1. Vidal?

      2. And you’ll stay socked.

  2. The commerce clause was written in the horse and buggy days!

    1. The commerce clause means I can compel you to buy whatever the fuck I want.

      1. like mandating employeers to purchase health insurance?

        1. And if you are self-employed you must buy your own.

          1. PIRS, dude, that’s double-asshole. Don’t expect him to notice the obvious.

        2. Re: O2,

          like mandating employeers to purchase health insurance?

          I don’t think that’s too bad!

          Uh, what’s an “employeer”?

  3. Check out this website for Ron Paul supporters.
    Take 30 seconds to sign your name and show your support as we try to get all of his followers unified in one place. Tell America that we will NOT settle for any other candidate. Spread the word.

    1. But that trick never works!

  4. Buckley states that “the power to tax is the power to destroy” was from Marbury v. Madison…no, it was from McCulloch (sp?) v. Maryland.

    1. Does that mean the power to destroy is the power to tax?

      1. Nice place youse gots ‘ere, be a shame if sumpten happend to it.

        IOW yes or as Machiavelli said, good arms finds gold.

  5. Buckley’s argument is essentially this – big government isn’t the problem; putting the wrong people in charge of government is the problem.

    It comes down to policy vs principle.

    1. That seems strange from a guy whose more memorable quotations include “I’d rather be governed by the first 500 names in the Boston phonebook than Congress”.

      1. Not incompatible statements, really.

    2. Exactly. ‘Just because they have failed, over and over, is no reason to believe they’ll keep on failing.’

      Um… yes, it is.

  6. Dude really seems to totally know what he isnt talking about lol.

  7. What I took away from this interview is that Ron Paul was still a utopian fool with a few good points 30 years ago.

    1. Re: Jeffersonian (which I seriously doubt it)

      What I took away from this interview is that Ron Paul was still a utopian fool with a few good points 30 years ago.

      Yes, because the current distopia is going so well for us all…

    2. What I got is that Murray Rothbard was right. Buckley was a gatekeepin asshole. Fuck him.

  8. This interview does an excellent job of displaying the struggle of security vs liberty. The founding fathers tried to strike a delicate balance always biased toward the side of liberty. As we progressed, however, new technologies (and human nature) kept adding/perceiving new “threats” which slowly chipped away at that delicate balance to the point where it’s now heavily biased toward security. Liberty is an “old fashioned” notion.

  9. God, do I miss Firing Line.

    Never will there be anything like it again.

    1. Same here. Very little serious discussion on TV now.

      1. Well, there’s The Five, which is…

        … What are you guys laughing at???

  10. Say what you will about Buckley, this is actually a proper, thoughtful, and well-rounded interview for thinking adults. All we have today is belligerent loudmouths like Chris Matthews and the rest.

    1. Correct, especially because this was the pre hacking cough every other word Buckley. And who was the grubenfuhrer interrogator of Paul? This interview could be publicized nationally today by Paul’s campaign to illustrate how his motivation has not changed. I loved “I owe Gerald Ford an apology”.

  11. A much more concise and effective Ron Paul:

    He’s at his best when he gets a little angry.

    1. I really don’t know how anyone ever watched Morton Downey Jr’s show….

  12. This episode really makes you realize how moronic the discourse is these days. I don’t agree with Buckley on many of the issues, but he did a good job running that show…

  13. One thing that crops up, three times running now in my assaying of Buckley’s Firing Line (and, with Gore Vidal, ABC) exchanges with his antagonists on the left is the seeming inevitability of Buckley’s getting round to imagining himself raining violence upon them – whether in hostile mien, famously and actionably with Gore Vidal, or with his signature flashing lizard-grin in the case of Noam Chomsky (flinging at Chomsky in jest his taunt to Vidal re “sock[ing] you in your goddamn face”),* and, I can only infer from the transcript, in that of Dwight Macdonald as well; from May Day 1967, episode “How to Protest”:

    “He styles himself, at least this was about a week ago, which is a long time for Mr. Macdonald, a ‘conservative anarchist.'”

    Buckley went on to question the factual basis from which Macdonald and Martin Luther King had both, in the wake of the c. 1966-1967 ramping up of U.S. bombing in Vietnam, asserted that the US had become the world’s leading purveyor of violence:

    WFB: …if I commit violence by protecting my child from a kidnapper I don’t expect that my act of violence ought to end up in the ledger on the basis of which you end up by saying, let us say, that the U.S. is the greatest purveyor of violence; that under the circumstances a statement like Dr. King’s to which you have subscribed seems to me to be intellectually irresponsible and it ought not to be a form of protest that intellectuals go in for. That is what I wanted to finish.

    DM: What’s the logical connection — have you shot anybody who tried to kidnap your child?

    WFB. Well, I would, including you.

    DM: William, I have no intention. But I don’t see any logical connection here.

    Other highlights from Chairman Bill v “Old Dwight” (after Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s tagging him thus in a NYRob letter contesting Dwight’s review in the paper’s inaugural 1963 issue of his The Politics of Hope, to which the latter replied in calling the bowtied Camelot historian “Young Arthur”: “I wish my friend Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who is, as they say, ‘once you get to know him,’ a witty, clever, sensible, and decent fellow, had never gotten involved with high politics.”): Buckley’s conferring legitimacy upon war resisters choosing to trade U.S. citizenship for the expat life; Macdonald noting his disagreement with MLK’s amalgamating the civil-rights and antiwar causes, disagreeing with King over any necessary connection between the two; Buckley seeing the 1965 U.S. Dominican intervention as a form of mutual-defense-treaty assistance v. Macdonald seeing imperial interference; Macdonald disdaining the New Left over its double standards re U.S. v. Communist repression; Macdonald defending his circulating to the cultural grandees attending a by-invitation Johnson White House all-day arts confab his anti-Vietnam petition; both men up-thumbing the legitimate domestic protest inherent in assassinating Adolf Hitler.

    Hoover has the PDF transcript, in its Firing Line archive, and devoted to it one of its 178 c. 5-minute Firing Line clips at YouTube:

    “Mr. Macdonald had recently been an organizer of the ‘Step Out Movement’ – i.e., to step out of a hall where Vice President Humphrey would be speaking, in protest against the Vietnam War. This show offers a fast-paced duel between two longtime adversaries. WFB: ‘Well, Mr. Macdonald, why don’t we try to isolate those forms of protest that you disagree with? You would disagree with, let’s say, shooting the President?’ DM: ‘Yes.’ WFB: ‘Would you disagree with forming the equivalent of an Abraham Lincoln Brigade to go to North Vietnam to fight on the side of the Vietcong?’ DM: ‘Yes, I would.’ WFB: ‘Would you disapprove of discounting from your income tax that sum of money we have roughly spent on defense?’ DM: ‘I approve of that. I haven’t done it, however, because it occurred to me that the net result would be that they would get the money anyway plus a certain amount of penalties, which in effect would amount to more.’

    There’s a Firing Line YouTube from 1968 with Melvin J. Lasky, the Lenin-bearded, Kristol-succeeding, hard-Menshevik, American co-editor (1958-1990) of Encounter, from the episode “The Anti-Communist Left”; Lasky pre- and post-Encounter made his adopted home in Berlin, earlier as G.I.-turned-editor of the monthly Der Monat:

    “The gaff had been blown on Encounter magazine: this splendid journal, which, as WFB puts it, ‘served for a vital period as the principal link between English and American intellectuals,’ had been funded by the CIA. ‘There was a near universal dismay, and editors and writers fled from Encounter as from an earthquake or a flood. Mr. Lasky stayed on.’ In this illuminating discussion, Mr. Lasky defends his journal (‘anybody who has looked through any one single issue and thinks that anybody pulled any strings … has three more guesses coming’) and argues that ‘what was terribly important,’ in the ashes of World War II, and with the Soviet Union just over there on the other side of that Iron Curtain, ‘was that liberals, democrats, and socialists … were to come to grips with the experience of what had happened to socialism in their time.’

    Chairman Bill also devoted a 1976 episode, “Deep Throat and the First Amendment”, to Harry Reems and Alan Dershowitz, which saw Reems’s mustache and Dershowitz’s Larry-Fine-meets-Larry-Harmon’s-Bozo ‘fro locked in a struggle to the death in life and liberty in both the independently-declared, shot-heard-round-the-court-woodwork brief of Dershowitz – and the hirsute of hap-penis in the case of Reems’s wood-working, hickory-dickery-docketed, money-shot briefs. From an imagined YouTube of a long-lost episode of The People’s Court:

    Judge Whoppin’ Her: Mr. Reems, may I see you in Chambers?

    Reems: Why, yes, Your Honor, and so may anyone with either 25c or an Internet connection and a disabled family-friendly filter.

    Doug Llewellyn: And as it turns out, the judge could also see Mr. Reems *in camera*, or on camera, as it were and he was. So remember, the next time you want to see if there’s a bit of male-in-hands-meant going on under the black robes,(“Penis pump judge gets 4-year jail term” – You Say Today, 8/18/06) don’t let him pound his white-powdery-wigged Alpiney-wood gavelanche into your own extrajudicial hands, even if you remember to pack a change of venue – you let him take you in court.

    Other c. 5-minute Firing Line teasers at YouTube, with full-episode transcripts back at Hoover and DVDs for sale via Amazon and elsewhere, include:

    The Playboy Philosophy: Hugh Hefner (1966)

    Defense and the Democrats: Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1980)

    The Case against Freedom: B.F. Skinner and Donald MacKay (1971)

    The Prevailing Bias: David Susskind (1966)

    Capital Punishment: Steve Allen (1966)

    Philby and Treason: Rebecca West (1968)

    Is the World Funny? Groucho Marx (1967)

    The Hippies: Jack Kerouac; Ed Sanders; Lewis Yablonsky (1968)

    The Young: Anthony Burgess (1972)

    Reflections on the Current Scene: Clare Boothe Luce (1969)

    Are Liberal Vulnerabilities Now Apparent? Rush Limbaugh (1992)

    Do We Have Anything Left to Fear from Socialism? Sidney Hook (1967)

    What Are Our Young Novelists Up To? Fernanda Eberstadt, Bret Easton Ellis (1985)

    Borges: South America’s Titan (1977)

    Was the Civil-Rights Crusade a Mistake? Godfrey Cambridge (1968)

    The Campus Destroyers: Al Capp (1969)

    The British Mess, with the First Lady of British Politics: Margaret Thatcher (1975)

    Mobilizing the Poor: Saul Alinsky (1967)

    The Mechanism of Moral Developmen: B.F. Skinner, Leon Festinger (1973)

    Africa and Colonialism: Elspeth Huxley (1970)

    *In response to the Chomsky episode, my still-favorite hothead-lefty YouTube comment:


    @0spiker Believe whatever you want. He’s bullying here, threatening violence–whaddaya want for pity sake? Chomsky laughed it off, which would not have been my response. I would have instantly knocked? Billyboy’s horseteeth down his cum-coated throat, then kicked all his ribs to jelly. But that’s me…a fanatic. Satisfied? I sure wouldn’t want to alter your preconceived notions.

    Coming soon: I dissect the transcripts of current NR editor Rich Lowry’s appearances on FNC guest-hosting for Sean “Captain America” Hannity: let “freedom” ring, from MSNBC to shining C-SPAN!

  14. Buckley was a closet statist. He spends the whole time basically defending big government solutions. He was meant to play a strategy of containment so that the State could continue down its merry way.

  15. Another episode of Chairman Bill swotting those pesky libertarian mosquitos, in the NYT in 1971:

    “The Conservative Reply; Is There Really No Difference Between Beria and J. Edgar?”

    Or, come and listen to my story ’bout a man named J.Ed. – and a free-marketeer barely kept his family fed, as Chairman Bill spoofs Murray Rothbard’s “extreme apriorism”, calls Henry Hazlitt as a witness for the prostitution, all the while pinning medals upon the Buckley chest, with no thought whatever for his own safety, for his selfless bravery in having saved Rothbard from purges more Stalinist than Rothbardian. Happily, Murray refrained from period words of a sort that might have been, actionably and inverted-Buckleyistically, my own: “Now listen, Governor Faubus – you stop calling me a pro-crypto-Commie or I’ll slice that god-damned lizard-darting tongue of yours out of your medieval mouth with Ockham’s Razor.”

    Q. Why do you still read about these guys over a quarter-century after the death of your free-market faith?

    A. Why do men of both sexes read science fiction? Why do I still love the Marx Brothers – not to mention the beyond-sublime slapstick of the above *anti*-Marx Brothers – ‘cos in their *anti* aspect, were they not, back then, my *uncles* as well?

    1. I prefer Herc.

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