It's almost an article of liberal faith that the ability to misconstrue the essence of a message is a inalienable birthright. John Dickerson, writing in Slate, argues that Libertarian Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul's counter-message at the recent Republican debate was criticized because he expressed "unpopular opinions." The confusion between popularity and the credible explication of events is, indeed, a hallmark of modern liberalism.
Mr. Dickerson further expands his theme by arguing that Paul's assertion that 9/11 was the result of our presence in the Middle East is, in fact, a GOP talking point. However, as always, he misses the larger point: bin Laden himself has issued fatwas that stipulate that America's power projection worldwide, but in particular in the Middle East, were the predicates for 9/11, so that is not at issue. Rather, the more profound question is whether the U.S.'s efforts to correct the balance of dictatorships and totalitarian regimes is a legitimate global role?
That is, does Mr. Paul's appraisal of American values include its renowned exceptionalism, and does he agree that the degree to which the U.S. can seed those democratic values in otherwise hostile civic nations not only improves the lives of their citizens but provides a measure of security for ourselves? Or, is he effectively arguing that the U.S. should mimic the isolationist instinct of the late 30s and wall ourselves in from the world, hoping the Islamic barbarians will decide to no longer pursue our demise?
Dickerson's other points merely confirm the left's apparently limitless capacity for drawing the wrong conclusions as he argues that the GOP should allow opinions such as Paul's because theirs is allegedly a big tent party. Whether pro-abortion candidates such as Mr. Guiliani should be allowed into the party will play itself out as the primaries heat up, but the more fundamental question is whether the party wants to brook theories that are antithetical to the core values of our Republic--specifically, that America is an unambiguous force for good in the world, that the radical Islamists are, in truth, the agents of evil.
The problem with Mr. Paul's argument is that it challenges those historically hallowed precepts and implicitly suggests that the Islamists' civic philosophy is on equal moral footing with ours and, as such, that they have the right to attack America. It's a despicable inversion of the truth but one that the liberal arm of the Democratic Party shares with Mr. Paul. As such, he would be welcome in that party rather than running as a Libertarian Republican.