Beto O'Rourke

The 4 Contradictions of Beto O'Rourke

He's a free trader against dumping, a deficit hawk for Medicare expansion, and an anti-drug warrior who wants to imprison pharma execs.


The ladies love his style. ||| Matt Welch
Matt Welch

In the first stop of a three-day, all-10-counties swing through the early primary state of New Hampshire, presidential fundraiser extraordinaire Beto O'Rourke demonstrated last night at Keene State College many of the qualities that make him simultaneously a formidable candidate and an object of ridicule.

O'Rourke theatrically rolled up his signature white sleeves immediately upon arrival to the Keene Student Center, hopped up on a bench to get his tall, lanky frame above the eyeline of the mosh pit (which held around 250), and did his finger-jabbing, toe-bouncing best to look like a college debater-turned waiter trying his hand at slam poetry.

Yet before there was even time enough for a proper giggling fit, the former congressman and El Paso city councilman was off on a genuinely moving 900-word rap about immigration, extolling the safety of multinational cities, praising the bravery of asylum seekers fleeing Central American violence, and decrying the cruelty of the Trump administration's family-separation policy. "Until every single one of those children is reunited with every single one of their families," he said, "it is on all of us. It becomes our responsibility to make this right."

Like every other bloc in American politics, libertarians are divided on immigration, so your mileage on Beto's policy prescriptions (including qualified legalization of existing illegal immigrants, and citizenship for "dreamers") may vary. But the rest of his speech was notable for a different kind of divide, one that illustrates the candidate's unusually heterodox views and frustrating policy/aspiration gap: For every statement libertarians had reasons to cheer, O'Rourke would—often within the same paragraph—give them ample reason to boo. The contradictions were almost too painful to bear.

I counted up four such love/hate moments last night, though there were surely more.

1) Get drugs out of the criminal justice system! Also, jail those pharma execs!

As you'd expect from a major-party politician who was against the drug war not one month but one decade ago, O'Rourke last night called for the end of federal marijuana prohibition and the removal of pot arrests from criminal records, as part of a broader criminal justice reform. More boldly, given the panic du jour, he called for getting cops out of the opioid crisis.

"I'm so proud of your response to the crisis that you have seen, endured more than any other state in the nation, of opiod abuse and overuse and death," he said. "The fact that in the face of losing 70,000 of our fellow Americans to drug overdose deaths, you as a state and as a people have decided this will not be a problem of criminal justice, this will be an opportunity for public health."

But literally two sentences later O'Rourke was slamming "folks like those at Purdue Pharma [who] can sell these addictive opioids to prescribers," and lamenting that "not a single one of them has done a single day in jail." It's hard to imagine a libertarian torture chamber more economic than this short paragraph:

We need to end the prohibition of marijuana. Expunge arrest records for everyone arrested for possession of something that's legal in so many other places. And make sure that we have full prosecution and accountability for those who are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.

2) Free trade, but not for Chinese dumpers!

||| Matt Welch
Matt Welch

Atypically for the 2020 presidential field, O'Rourke has a long rhetorical track record of backing free trade, which is one of many reasons why it was odd for the ostensibly pro-trade Club for Growth to be going after a Democratic challenger (on grounds of "white male privilege"!) who is considerably better on that core issue than President Donald Trump.

Last night, sure enough, the candidate came out swinging against the administration: "This trade war that the president has entered us into with China, these tariffs that he's levied, and reciprocal tariffs that have been levied in return, hurt our ability to export into foreign markets, hurt our farmers and ranchers and producers, hurt the people who make things in this country that are opened to other markets around the world. It's hurting our economy and hurting our families."

Clear as a bell, right? But literally three sentences later, O'Rourke was talking about the need "to take on China, the manipulation of their currency, the manipulation of trade practices that allows them to dump steel and compete unfairly on a global stage."

Now, it's true that even avowedly free-trade Republican presidents have dinged China for dumping steel, let alone that recent Democratic dreamboat O'Rourke so needily evokes. But it's also true that anti-Chinese-dumping provisions already exist, even though they arguably shouldn't.

3) Debt = bad, domestic spending = good.

O'Rourke last night not only doubled down on his previous criticisms about the size of federal deficits and debt, he did so while denouncing overseas wars, occupations, and nation-building:

[W]e are $22 trillion in debt, and deficit spending to the tune of one trillion dollars annually added to that. That was approved in wars that we've been fighting going back to 1991, in the first invasion of Iraq. Six successive presidential administrations, we are still there. Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Yemen. Those wars cost money. Those countries we rebuild after we've invaded cost money. Actually trillions of dollars.

Does the once and future New Democrat blame anything else besides war for the size of deficits and debt? Yep: Tax cuts. That was it, last night at least. Meanwhile, he's out there touting a Medicare expansion program that in his own words would be "measured in the trillions of dollars."

4) Alarmists for a new humility.

The most jarring of O'Rourke's contradictions is the dissonance between his relentlessly upbeat, respect-everyone, take-the-high-road humility, and the definitionally narcisstic (and very Obamaesque) notion that right now, this election, is our "defining moment of truth."

In one breath, Beto will beseech Americans to recognize the limits of their own knowledge and power. "There are probably a lot of people who are a lot smarter on this issue than I am," he said last night, in response to a pointed question about the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Also: "Now listen, we have to have the humility to understand we cannot impose a solution on any people, anywhere. See: 18 years and counting in Afghanistan, 27 years and counting in Iraq. Plenty of other examples. This is something that the Palestinian people and the Israeli people must decide for themselves. But given our role and our support for both sides, the aid that we provide, we have a seat at that table."

Hooray, America and her politicians are neither omniscient nor omnipotent! Or, uh, not:

The civil war in Syria, the wildfires in California—we literally are making it happen. And unless we act in the next 12 years, which the scientists also agree within which we still have time, there will be a hell visited upon our kids and grandkids and the generations that follow….If you were worried about 400,000 apprehensions at our southern border with Mexico last year, wait until some of the countries in the Western Hemisphere are no longer inhabitable by human beings. The refugee crisis then, here and all over the world, is beyond our imagination right now. But we still have time to act.

Good God!

O'Rourke, who visited every single county in Texas and appears determined to repeat the trick in as many early primary states as possible, is a big fan of saying stuff like, "I think we can bridge these differences, define ourselves not by what divides us, by what we want to accomplish together." The hope is that such universalism will allow him to paper over policy and ideological differences, while emphasizing his competitive advantage of energy and charm.

But the apocalyptic drum-beating that's so prevalent in all American politics these days is never far from the surface smile. "This," he said last night, "is our moment of truth right now." His truth, anyway.

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  1. If only Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and John Hickenlooper could get this kind of rub-down from Reason, maybe Americas could get past snickering about their last names.

    1. You don’t snicker about Beta O’Dork?

      Lol cuck.

      1. i am told there are tarabites of free porn dedicated to that kind of thing all over the internet. Maybe you hadn’t heard that.

        1. In order to keep a free spirit and empathize with others I make a point to never j my d to p.

          1. You have stopped even writing in sentences now. What happened? Did you fall off a ladder?

            1. I believe it’s shorthand for a porn specialty. Like ATM

              1. Clearly, John doesn’t watch enough porn.

                1. there’s enough?

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          2. Presidents have j’d to p. Well, at least one.

      2. The Psychedelic Warlord will not take kindly to your insolence!

    2. Yang on my wang

  2. “27 years and counting in Iraq” Did he just acknowledge that Clinton bombed the shit out of Iraq throughout his presidency and fed us the same wrong intel about WMDs as Bush did?

    1. It’s prog math. The same kind that tells us the world will end in 12 years and that 100% of the clergy — oh wait, “scientists” agree.

  3. libertarians are divided on immigration

    No, they’re not. They’re divided on open borders.

    1. thank you.

    2. So, you’re open to accepting many more immigrants than are currently allowed?

      Because that’s what you call “open borders” actually means.

      1. The number currently allowed might be insufficient to meet our labor needs. The number actually coming in might be excessive.

        1. Why not let the market determine if the number is “excessive?”

          I have no problem with screening for known criminals or terrorists and those with communicable diseases but I see no reason to stop willing workers form entering the country.

          Especially when as historical evidence has shown most do not want to enter permanently and become citizens. most of them only want to come for a few years to make the big American money to save to build a home and possibly start a business back home. How can it hurt to encourage entrepreneurship in other countries?

          1. “Why not let the market determine if the number is “excessive?”

            I have no problem with screening for known criminals or terrorists and those with communicable diseases but I see no reason to stop willing workers form entering the country.”

            These two statements are contradictions, as the “market deciding” would not involve the government “screening.” Screening would result in government interference of the market.

            1. These two statements would be contradictions, only if the market were seeking criminals and terrorist.

  4. I believe the term Welch is looking for but not finding is “vapid moron”. O’rourke is just a front man for the various billionaires connected to his wife’s family. He reminds me of the Phillip Green character in Casino.

    Now, here was the perfect front man.
    What the fuck else could he be?

    He didn’t know too much.
    He didn’t want to know too much…
    especially that the bosses made the Teamsters lend him the money.
    He wanted to believe the Teamsters…
    gave him all that fuckin’ money ’cause he was smart.

    That is Beto to a T

    1. That is a terrible analogy. Phillip Green wasn’t charismatic, a trait which Beta O’Dork clearly possesses.

      1. What difference does that make? Green was hired because he had a clean record and could get past the gambling commission. Beto was hired because he has charisma and can get past the voters where his backers could not.

        It is a perfect analogy.

        1. Beta doesn’t have a clean record. Your analogy is trash.

          1. That is because he is being hired to get passed the voters where charisma matters not your record.

            Did you have an accident or somethin? Hit your head. You seem to be even dumber than usual, which is saying a lot.

            1. Don’t get mad at me for pointing out the fact that your analogy was pathetic garbage.

              Be better.

              1. John gets angry a lot and then calls you Hihn. His childhood was troubling.

                1. You are still boring, and an asshole.

                  1. you’re still a nincompoop blunderbuss of a ninnyhammer.

                    1. Fuck off and die, hihn

                    2. no, please tone down the range, you mollycoddle. That can’t be good for your heart.

      2. >>> a trait which Beta O’Dork clearly possesses

        to freshmen chicks maybe

          1. can’t imagine he’s any good at it he moves like an action figure and can’t skate anymore

            1. Bros with that lean skater boi look fuck, bro.

    2. Just as AOC passed the audition & is now just a front dope for the Commie/Fascist/Marxist Justice Democrats & Young Turks!

  5. As a Canadian I noticed that I’ve seen the Beto movement before. Up here he’s called Trudeau.

    Yes, Trudeau’s an idiot who can only recite platitudes if there isn’t a teleprompter in front of him. Yes, he had no substance and sounded like an ignorant, but overly earnest 14-year-old when campaigning. But he still won.

    Beto will win to for the exact same reason Trudeau won. Horny low-IQ women.

    1. America is a more diverse country than Canada. Horny low IQ women don’t hold near the sway here that they do in Canada. Beto will never get the nomination much less win the election.

      1. Horny low IQ women don’t hold near the sway here that they do in Canada

        Then explain why so many white women voted for Trump.

        1. Because a lot of white women don’t have low IQs. That is why so many of them voted for Trump.

          1. Then how come so many of them voted for Obama?

            1. Because they wanted to keep cucks like you guessing.

              1. Apparently white women don’t think Trump fucks.

                Trump fucks, bro, and that is why white women voted for him.

                Game respect game, which is why I recognize Trump fucks and you don’t.

              2. you know, being angry all the time hurts yourself more than anyone else. There is help outside of the bottle. I’m worried about you, little J.

                1. You use the insults of a nine year old. Are you a nine year old? You are boring, and an asshole.

                  1. nu uh, you foppling dunderhead gollumpus!

          2. Let’s compare the education levels of white women who voted for Trump vs. Clinton, why don’t we?

            I haven’t even looked it up. I’m simply confident I know what you’ll find.

          3. Oops I looked it up:

            White college-grad women:
            Clinton: 51%
            Trump: 44%

            White non-college women:
            Clinton: 34%
            Trump: 61%

            1. College educated yo:

              A recent article published in The Journal of Medical Ethics by a Finnish bioethicist made a moral case for the legal change of a person’s age to correspond with that person’s “experienced age.”

              The piece, by Joona R?s?nen of the University of Oslo in Norway, titled “A Moral Case for Legal Age Change,” concludes that there are three scenarios when a change to one’s legal age should be allowed: When “the person genuinely feels his age differs significantly from his chronological age,” when “the person’s biological age is recognized to be significantly different from his chronological age,” and when “age change would likely prevent, stop or reduce ageism, discrimination due to age, he would otherwise face.”

              1. Contrasted to all the major contributions to human thought made by women who didn’t go to college?

                1. Contrasted to all the major contributions to human thought made by women who didn’t go to college?

                  But enough about Lori Loughlin’s daughter.

                2. Many recent college graduates contribution to human thought doesn’t go much beyond “Would you like fries with that?”.

                  Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and the Wright brothers gave us the light bulb, the automobile and the air plane. None of them even had a high school diploma.

                  University intellectuals give us things like the 72 genders.

            2. Tony|3.20.19 @ 4:17PM|#

              Oops I looked it up:

              White college-grad women:
              Clinton: 51%
              Trump: 44%

              White non-college women:
              Clinton: 34%
              Trump: 61%

              Democracy in action.

              Interesting how the liberals love the “common folk” except when they don’t act the way the “common folk” “should act.”

              1. See also the 10% difference in the number of black men who did not vote for Hillary vs the number of black women.

              2. I’m a liberal and I do not love the common folk.

        2. White women voted for Drumpf because, like most people who vote Republican, they were tricked into voting against their own self-interest.

          Or maybe they voted for Drumpf because they’re alt-right white supremacists like him. Which despite being evil, is actually rational.


          1. According to Hilldog they voted for Trump because their deplorable husbands made them.

    2. I am offended by your implication that Canada has many horny low-IQ women.

      Who are these women? Where are they? Um, what are their phone numbers…

      1. try a Caribbean cruise there are usually gaggles of Canadian chicks … fun ones

          1. Canadian snow bunnies are very hot.

    3. Beto will win to for the exact same reason Trudeau won. Horny low-IQ women.

      Beto will get nowhere near the presidency. And he looks like a dork. I don’t think women find him attractive.

      1. They find him soulful. The young chicks like brooding.

      2. I don’t find him attractive at all and I’m confused when people day he is. He has a gimpy mouth, a weak chin, a huge forehead and a long neck. He kind of turns my stomach.

    4. Interesting you bring up Trudeau fils.

      Back in ’08 I compared Obama to Trudeau pere. An empty suit who became everything to everyone, a cult of personality (without a personality).

  6. Beto O’Rourke is what happens when you don’t lavish enough attention on your Jack Russell terrier.

    1. Take that back! My JRT is offended!

  7. “There are probably a lot of people who are a lot smarter on this issue than I am,” he said last night, in response to a pointed question about the Israeli-Palestinian situation

    LOL. Robert better figure out his narrative on this one quick, because the party is already working overtime to tard-wrangle Omar before she burns down most of their Jewish support.

  8. The only really interesting question is whether he can deliver Texas to the Democrats on the Democrat ticket as VP.

    Can he even beat other Democrats in then Texas primaries?

    1. >>>whether he can deliver Texas to the Democrats

      not this time. maybe if he runs as an adult in 2040

  9. taking a stand free trade w/ China and other non-white countries was a dog whistle strategy for Bernie to pick up . Looks like Beto is picking up on it.

  10. Isn’t “full of contradictions” just a euphemism for “totally incoherent”?

    1. It’s “full of contradictions” for Democrats; “totally incoherent” for Republicans.

  11. He’s an empty suit. Fill that suit with what you like. If it’ll win him votes, he’ll be for it.

    But once in office, all that free market stuff will be forgotten.

  12. I like Iowahawks take:

    “Donald Trump is a poor person’s ideal of a rich person. Beto O’Rourke is a rich person’s ideal of a poor person.”

  13. Shorter Matt: Not the Jackalope I’m looking for.

  14. “And make sure that we have full prosecution and full accountability for those who are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands Americans.”

    Well, I say giddyup on that motherfucking idea! Except I wouldn’t touch the opioid manufacturers. They’re not the guilty party. It’s Congress. When the country was awash in prescription opioids (hydrocodone and oxycodone; both synthetic morphine), overdoses were significantly fewer than now – and we didn’t give two shits. But we really don’t have that many more addicts today, yet they’re dropping like flies – and everybody is shitting bricks. Why is that?

    It’s because the sea of infinitely safer prescription opioids dried up, thanks to Congress, forcing users to switch to street heroin and all its deadly surprises. So if Beto the beta-boy wants to kick ass and take names, he should get off the road and go camp in DC, where all the asses and names reside.

    1. Amen.

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