Can We Afford Not to Give Liberty Leaders the Benefit of the Doubt?

When the media tried to pretend Rand Paul “flip-flopped” on drones this week, after he used unclear language during an interview with Fox’s Neil Cavuto, I posted the following on Facebook:

Folks, the same guy who filibustered for 13 hours to say the government does not have the right to drone American citizens on American soil did not just say the opposite. He might have misspoke. I do all the time. Please give the one person who stood up for this the benefit of the doubt, and not a media eager to attack him any chance they get.

Some replied by saying that they don’t give politicians the benefit of the doubt.

What about the fact that Judge Andrew Napolitano said that Sen. Paul “unequivocally” did not change his position on drone strikes?

Nope. Judge is wrong, said some.

What about the fact that Rep. Justin Amash also defended Sen. Paul?

Nope. Not buying it.

Would you even give Ron Paul the benefit of the doubt, I asked?

Nope. No politician. Ever.

The general rule of never giving a politicians the benefit of the doubt is a wise one. 99.9% of them don’t deserve it. But are there .01% that do deserve it?

There are three current politicians and one retired, that I always give the benefit of the doubt. Rep. Justin Amash, Rep. Thomas Massie, Sen. Rand Paul and former Congressman Ron Paul. Between their voting record and simply knowing where they stand, their principles, their heart, where they’re coming from – I generally know that even when I might occasionally be confused by something they’ve done, I should hear their side of the story.

This is not to say I always agree, or have to agree with everything they do. It is to say that when there is something questionable, I wait to hear their reason for doing it.

I give them the benefit of the doubt.

Some libertarians might find this detestable. Fine. For those who see libertarianism as a personal philosophy that has nothing to do with politics at all, this commentary is not really for you. As always, I wish you well.

But for the millions who supported Ron Paul, whose apathy was cured, whose life was changed, and who now have a passion for changing our politics and the direction of this country, I ask this:

Can we even have a serious movement if we never give our leaders the benefit of the doubt?

George W. Bush was a horrible president. But most Republicans always gave him the benefit of the doubt. They shouldn’t have, but they did.

Barack Obama is a horrible president. But most Democrats always give him the benefit of the doubt. They shouldn’t, but they do.

In 2014, 2016 or beyond, there will be plenty of Bush-style establishment Republicans running for office. They will all be awful in their records and their platform, but many Republicans won’t care. They will support them.

If a libertarian Republican runs, with a 99% great record – will libertarians discard them over 1%? Will they constantly fight about that 1%? Or will they give them the benefit of the doubt?

If they don’t, the establishment Republican unquestionably wins.

More importantly, if libertarians cannot support liberty candidates who aren’t 100%, then no libertarian candidate ever wins.

If a libertarian Republican is lucky enough to make it into a general election, will libertarians support them against media attacks, similar to this week? Or will they give the media the benefit of the doubt, as many did this week? Obviously, there are limits, but in a general sense, if Hillary or Biden supporters go to the wall for their candidate – and they will – will libertarian Republicans do the same for their candidate?

And if libertarians won’t, does this not put liberty Republicans at a permanent disadvantage? Does this not permanently stunt our movement?

Establishment Republicans and Democrats always have a core base of support that they must expand beyond to win elections. Will libertarian candidates even have that core base of support? Will we be too busy bickering with each other to effectively confront the forces that conspire against us?

The media will always attack us. Our leaders. Our ideas. Libertarians in general. When they weren’t attacking Rand this week they were busy attacking Ron. This will continue.

Do we join their attack? Or do we give Ron and Rand Paul the benefit of the doubt?

Geraldo Rivera asked Ron Paul about his son this week. Dr. Paul replied:

We do have some differences and our approaches will be different, but that makes him his own person. I mean why should he [Rand] be a clone and do everything and think just exactly as I have. I think it’s an opportunity to be independent minded. We are about 99% [the same on issues].”

People want to drive wedges through that…

At this point, Dr. Paul often seems annoyed by the constant comparisons of him and his son, something he alludes to later in the Geraldo interview, probably because he believes the two of them are “99%” the same on the issues.

Dr. Paul doesn’t constantly quibble over any minor disagreements or misunderstandings – often used as a “wedge” by the MSM – because he generally gives his son the benefit of the doubt.

Will our movement be able to do this? Not that we should ever give liberty leaders free license to do or say bad things – but should we be anxious to pile on at every turn? To attack our leaders as harshly as the neocons and liberals? To take their bait? To become a part of their preferred narrative?

Can we give our leaders the benefit of the doubt? And if we can’t – can we continue to have a successful and formidable movement?

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