Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 417, May 13, 2007

"Hi Mom!"


Instead of a Speech
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

I was scheduled, last month, to speak at New Mexico's Libertarian Party convention in Farmington. Unfortunately, owing to a serious illness in the family, I was forced to cancel, almost at the last moment.

Over the weeks that have followed, much of what I've written in the virtual pages of The Libertarian Enterprise has consisted of things—strategy, tactics, above all, the importance of maintaining principle no matter what the temptation—I would have said in New Mexico.

This column will be no different. It is the conclusion—one of them, anyway—that I would have brought my audience in New Mexico to in the end. I am well aware that it is not going to make me popular in certain circles, but if that concerned me deeply, I'd never have begun writing for publication, or speaking to groups of people, in the first place.

Believe me when I tell you that I came to this moment reluctantly. Some of those it is likely to offend are good people, working hard for liberty. Nevertheless, I am absolutely certain (and some people hate me, just for that) that it's not just the best tactic for libertarians and their party—our party—in 2008, it's the only tactic that makes sense, that offers any chance of success, or any hope for the future.

Which brings us to the past.

Thirty-nine years ago this summer (no, this is not a digression), the United States were embroiled in yet another illegal, stupid, evil war, founded, exactly like the present brace of wars, on a colossal, bald-faced lie. It was a war that would last longer than any other war in our history, end up killing more than sixty thousand young American men and women, and something close on the order of two million of the mostly charming, innocent folk whom the Democratic Party's President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, had decided—for us—were our mortal enemies.

As might be expected, the weak-willed, morally feeble, impossibly retarded Republicans weren't about to do anything about a situation that was gobbling up uncounted billions of dollars overseas, and destroying the Bill of Rights, back home. It was left entirely to members of the party in power to do something if anything was to be done.

Sound familiar?

The colossal, bald-faced lie that this particular war was founded on was the so-called "Gulf of Tonkin Incident", in which villainous North Vietnamese gunboats supposedly fired on helpless American warships ten times their size, innocently floating around like the Loveboat (where they didn't, in fact, belong). I say "so-called", not because it happened somewhere else. I say it because it wasn't an incident. It was pure fiction, made up of whole cloth, as the saying goes.






It's one of the very few things that almost make me wish that I were religious, so I could be happy, imagining I could hear Johnson's plentiful adipose popping and sizzling on one of the hotter tiers of Hell.

As the war ground on, it got uglier and more expensive, both in terms of wealth and lives. It had begun costing a million dollars a day as early as 1961, back when that was, as they say, "real money". One of my online sources tells me it was also generating a thousand dead American soldiers, sailors, and Marines a week (I don't know—I do remember when it was 300, because I wrote a song about it), whose average age was 19. The war, in many ways, would come to define my generation.

At home, Congress approved Johnson's "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution" unanimously, granting him almost absolute power in the Far East. In the Senate, two courageous Democrats voted against it, Wayne Morse of Oregon, and Alaska's Ernest Gruening. The first to argue directly with the Johnson Administration (he voted for the Resolution and afterward publicly regretted it) was Mike Mansfield of Montana. A southerner, J. William Fullbright of Arkansas soon enlisted with the mostly western dissenters.

But the only politician who actually did something about it was a rather odd individual, Democratic Senator Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota. He ran for the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination against the incumbent, making the war his only issue. McCarthy was a strikingly handsome man, with a wry, self-effacing sense of humor. He'd been a minor league baseball player, and had published a book of poetry.

I was not then, nor had I ever been, a member of the Democratic Party, but I worked in McCarthy's campaign at the local level, and met and spoke with him twice, when he came to my home town, and again, years after the campaign and the war were over, at the Libertarian Party's national convention in San Francisco, where he was keynote speaker. I don't think he ever quite understood why libertarians loved him.

As a general Presidential candidate, McCarthy was not without weak spots (he was a Democrat, after all) especially in economics, where he didn't seem to have a clue. But he was, and remains to this very day, a dearly remembered hero of mine, because, when nobody else would step forward, he acted, at great risk (Johnson had a reputation for having those who offered him grief murdered), against terrible evil, and, in his own typical oddball way, managed to triumph over it in the end.

What McCarthy did—with a great deal of heartfelt assistance from thousands of long-haired, tie-dyed, love-beaded young people (and the occasional Fort Collins gunshop owner who wore both beads and a gun)—was humiliate the President, running for his second full term, in a number of key primaries, forcing the man, in essence, to resign publicly in a TV address I still remember as clearly as if it were yesterday.

Some time later, McCarthy found himself shoved aside by that vile, ferret-faced, amoral opportunist, Bobby Kennedy, who had suddenly made the discovery that it was trendy and politically acceptable to oppose the war. Kennedy was obviously to have been the establishment's nice, safe, USDA-approved pet dissident against the war, a Cold War liberal who could be counted on to keep the welfare/warfare state running hot, straight, and true along the road to serfdom—until some other lobe of the establishment had the man put down for reasons we may never know.

But McCarthy's place as one of history's heroes is secure. He ran. He didn't win. But that—as I have often attempted to point out to those among my fellow libertarians who advocate electoral pacifism—doesn't matter. It's certainly not why libertarians should run for office. Against all odds, Eugene McCarthy took Lyndon Johnson out of play, and made ending the war a political possibility and a national priority.

Which brings us back to today, when we find ourselves with yet another stupid, evil, and illegal war on our hands, being run by an individual in the White House even more insane than Lyndon Johnson was.

Exactly as I predicted (believe me, it wasn't hard) before the last national election, the party in theoretical opposition is too pusillanimous and power-hungry to do anything about it, although I personally guarantee that any prominent Democrat who promised to end these wars in the Middle East, repeal the Patriot Act, abolish the Department of Homeland Security—and convincingly pledge to veto any new weapons legislation the Congress came up with—would be the next President of the United States by a landslide and enjoy two full terms in office. His or her Vice President, if these standards were maintained, would have another two terms to serve as President, as well.

Alas, there isn't a single Democrat at the national level with the degree of intelligence, sanity, and integrity that such a course would require.

And yet there is another Gene McCarthy out there, a Republican Congressman from Texas who has, in essence, been doing Gene's work for decades.

When Ron Paul first ran for the Presidency, on the Libertarian Party ticket, this publication and its publisher opposed him. Because of his position on the reproductive rights of women—which violates the Zero Aggression Principle—I said that he was a bad candidate as a libertarian, but that, given the field at the time, and dire straits such as those we find ourselves in today, he would make an excellent Republican nominee that I could even contemplate voting for.

Paul, who might be called a "fundamentalist" with regard to what the Constitution mandates, would pretty clearly do all of the things I suggested above that Democrats could do to get elected by a landslide. The man's record as a Congressman is so astonishingly consistent and admirable that his colleagues call him "Dr. No". Not only would we see a rapid end to the present wars—and to the fascist policies and legislation they have generated at home—Paul would withdraw the thousands of troops we have in something like 169 other countries all over the world, and institute a strictly non-interventionist foreign policy.

These days I have another bone to pick with Ron. I understand he's become one of the border fetishists who want to keep all those nasty furriners out of the Pristine States of America. I wouldn't tolerate this even for a minute if he were a libertarian candidate, ostensibly representing me. But I expect to disagree with a Republican on a certain number of issues, even the best among them, which he clearly is.

Ron Paul is—or could be—the Eugene McCarthy of the 21st century.

It is for those reasons that I suggest that delegates to the 2008 Libertarian Party national convention should at least contemplate doing something unprecedentedly decent, courageous, and intelligent, even for them. They should nominate "None of the Above" for President on our own ticket, and then immediately vote to cross-endorse Ron Paul. The endorsement could even state the reservations I mentioned above.

But the point is that it would help put the LP on the map in a very big way, it would help the campaign of the only man (apparently) in a position to salvage the dream of what America was supposed to be, and it would help America and the world by thoroughly repudiating the evil beat-up-and-kill policies of the two-headed Boot On Your Neck party.

You don't get that kind of chance very often.

Think about it.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas was recently completed and is presently looking for a literary home.

A decensored, e-published version of Neil's 1984 novel, TOM PAINE MARU is available at: Neil is presently working on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May.

The stunning 185-page full-color graphic-novelized version of The Probability Broach, which features the art of Scott Bieser and was published by BigHead Press has recently won a Special Prometheus Award. It may be had through the publisher, at, or at


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