Saturday, December 01, 2007

Candor, compromise and consistency

An open letter from Steve Kubby, published in full for your edification - TLK


Dear friends,

As "decision time" for the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential nomination draws closer, the gloves are beginning to come off. At the beginning of my candidacy, I committed myself to running a "high road" campaign and engaging my opponents on issues and experience, not on personality. I intend to stick to that commitment ... but I also want to ensure that my fellow Libertarians have the FACTS at their disposal when considering their options.

Over the last few months, several of my fellow Libertarians -- Libertarians who backed and supported my campaign early on -- have decided that another candidate, Christine Smith, better represents them. The main reason cited for this change of heart has been my endorsement of US Representative Ron Paul's campaign for the Republican Party's presidential nomination.

It is not my intention to attack Ms.Smith here. So far as I can tell, she's a fine individual who represents the Libertarian Party well in her public communications and whose decision to seek our party's presidential nomination has made the race more interesting and more issues-centered. We are, however, opponents in the sense that we're both seeking the same position and that only one of us can be "hired" to fill that position. As it becomes more and more clear that Ms.Smith and I both appeal to "the libertarian wing of the Libertarian Party," I think that it's time to talk about our differences -- and our similarities.

The place to start is, I think, with the issues. Ms. Smith's campaign platform is thoroughgoingly libertarian, as is mine. The main difference between us in that respect is that while her issues positions have evolved in a libertarian direction over several months, I have a record of taking libertarian policy positions and sticking to them over the course of more than a decade of Party activism.

By way of example, I offer the issue of immigration.

I am, and always have been, a pro-immigration libertarian who opposes the use of imaginary lines, drawn on the ground by politicians, to limit the freedom of peaceful individuals. Don't take my word for it -- do a little Googling. You'll find that my position has remained the same, and that I've argued publicly and forcefully on its behalf for many years. The position paper on my campaign web site was posted nearly a year ago and has remained unchanged since.

Ms. Smith's web site also offers a stirring, thoroughly libertarian take on immigration ... today. Only a few months ago, however, her position on the issue was very different. Under a hypothetical President Christine Smith of March 2007, "[t]he American citizens of states and cities will have jurisdiction over non-citizens inhabiting their communities" based on a "sovereign right to control the influences and development of their society and its culture." Once again, don't take my word for it. Ms. Smith's positions, now and then, are easily accessible to anyone who cares to look for them.

I'm more than happy to see that Ms. Smith has gone from "states' rights conservative" to "radical libertarian" on the immigration issue over the course of only a few months. I'm not inclined to question the sincerity of that conversion -- but contra her implicit claim to constancy of view in a recent manifesto on compromise ("... advocating freedom always on all issues. This is what I devote myself to in my writing, public speaking, and now in this campaign"), it's obvious that her ideas on what freedom is and how it should be defended have undergone drastic revisions even within the timeframe of her presidential campaign.

I'm glad that Ms. Smith is discovering the consistency and applicability of libertarian ideas. That discovery is a fascinating and enlightening journey, and one which never ends. However, I submit that the first steps on such a journey are best taken in smaller shoes than those we expect our presidential candidate to be wearing now, or 11 months from now.

I believe that my long-time advocacy of plumb line libertarian positions on the issues, compared to Ms. Smith's recent and ongoing conversion, differentiates us as candidates. If I may be so immodest as to say so, I believe that it casts me in better light as your prospective nominee. I'm advocating the same positions now that I advocated a year ago and ten years ago, and I will be advocating those positions a year from now and a decade from now. And I've established a track record for turning those positions into public policy that none of my opponents can match.

Now that I've covered a difference, I'd like to cover a similarity WITH a difference: My endorsement of Ron Paul's Republican presidential candidacy.

Yes, I have endorsed Ron Paul for the Republican Party's presidential nomination. I've stated that if he seems set to gain that nomination, I will withdraw from the LP contest and urge the LP to nominate NOTA and endorse Paul in the general election. I know that that makes some of my fellow Libertarians uncomfortable, or even angry, but I believe that the course I've taken on the issue is consistent with the best interests of the libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party. I'm not going to retract my endorsement, and I'm not going to apologize for it.

Ms. Smith has also endorsed Ron Paul, numerous times. She's just done so implicitly rather than explicitly. She's made public statements in support of Ron Paul's performances in the Republican presidential debates. She's lauded him for legislation he has introduced or sponsored in the US House of Representatives. She has appealed to his supporters to contribute to her campaign as a sort of "backup effort."

The two differences between us on this issue, as I see it, are these:

- I've put my money where my mouth is. I haven't just said nice things about Paul -- I've formally endorsed him and publicly pledged to set my own ambitions aside and do what I believe is best for our movement if he succeeds. Ms. Smith has been far more laudatory of Paul than I have, but has declined to give substance to her accolades. If Ms. Smith believes the things that she says about Paul, I urge her to act on that belief, make her multiple tacit endorsements of his candidacy formal and explicit, and declare her willingness to stand aside if her aspirations and his potential come into conflict.

- I cannot claim to have read or heard every word that Ms. Smith has uttered during the course of her presidential campaign. However, in my experience Ms. Smith's mentions of Paul have been singularly positive and have omitted any mention of issues on which she and Paul disagree. Specifically, Ms. Smith and I substantially agree -- and disagree with Ron Paul -- on issues like immigration and same-sex marriage. Because I believe these issues to be of great importance, I've made it a point to emphasize my disagreement with Congressman Paul on them whenever I discuss his candidacy and my endorsement. So far as I can tell, Ms. Smith has given Dr. Paul a "free pass" on issues where we both agree that he is wrong, and where I consider it the duty of a Libertarian candidate to SAY he's wrong so as to minimize the association of Paul's positions on those issues with libertarianism and with the Libertarian Party.

To summarize: My endorsement of Ron Paul has been explicit, but qualified. So far as I can tell, Ms. Smith's endorsement of Paul has been tacit, but unqualified. Because several of my former supporters have cited my endorsement of Paul as a reason for their decision to instead support Ms. Smith, I urge them to look more closely. I believe that Ms. Smith's position and mine on the matter are very similar, but I believe that I have been more forthright, more consistent, and more attentive to the important issues here.

After more than a year in the saddle of a presidential nomination campaign, I remain committed to the freedom movement and to the Libertarian Party -- and that commitment stretches back for years with a consistency that I'm proud of. As our nominating convention grows closer, it becomes more difficult to come to grips with one's opponents without seeming mean or spiteful -- but come to grips we must, and I'm going to do so even if some feelings get hurt. Part of being a presidential candidate is standing one's views and record up next to the views and records of one's opponents and saying "look -- I'm better." It's hard to do that sometimes. If I didn't BELIEVE that I am the best candidate among those from whom you are asked to choose, I wouldn't bother. I DO believe that, and I hope that upon examination of your options, you'll reach the same conclusion.

Over the next few months, I hope to have the opportunity to talk with many of you about my campaign and about why I believe that I am the right choice for the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential nomination. In the meantime, let's move forward as comrades in the cause of liberty, keeping our eyes, ears and minds open so that we can make the best choices for our party and our movement. Best wishes, and

Let Freedom Grow!
Steve Kubby
Libertarian for President

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