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February 29, 2008

Christine Smith for President

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I recently had the opportunity to pose several questions to Christine Smith, a Libertarian Party candidate for President of the United States. Long time Flea-readers will recognize where our points of view diverge. You will also know I am not an American citizen so can only have an indirect stake in your Presidential politics. Nonetheless, those stakes are very high and it is consequently my great honour and pleasure to have had the opportunity to correspond with Christine Smith. In contrast to political talk all too often focused on process rather than policy, I found Smith's views to be direct, substantive and philosophically consistent. I believe her responses are interesting in themselves and are critically important to any Republican disenchanted with their party candidate and considering a Libertarian vote in November. While it remains to be seen who will get their presidential nod, I believe Smith's answers suggest there is at least some remaining support in the Libertarian party for Ron Paul's world view.

The following is addressed to Christine Smith.

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Thank you for taking the time to consider these questions. I can only imagine the pressures of undertaking a presidential campaign. While it is my impression my views are more hawkish than yours on foreign policy, I am very curious to learn how you would resolve problems I believe are attendant to the Libertarian party platform particularly with regard to Iraq. Many of my readers – from the United States, Canada and overseas – have a libertarian perspective on many policy issues. I am certain they will be as grateful as I am for this opportunity.

Reading interviews with Libertarian candidates, I notice a common question concerns the viability of third parties and the role of third party candidates as advocates for specific issues or, more generally, for more meaningful electoral choices. I believe this ground has been covered and am therefore directing my questions to a future Libertarian presidency. I am primarily interested in the philosophical basis for a Libertarian presidency as distinct from either or both the Democratic and Republican parties, their past Presidents and current nominees. My questions are meant to address issues which are important in themselves but which hopefully will help shed light your political philosophy.

I hope you will respond to these questions in light of the powers and limitations of the office of President should you be elected to that office. I will publish your responses unedited.

The questions:

1. On April 29, 1975, America withdrew completely from Saigon; it had been two years since the bulk of American forces had been removed from the country as part of the American obligation under the 1973 Paris peace accords. On April 30, 1975, the Republic of Vietnam surrendered to the communists. An estimated 1.5 million Vietnamese and others became refugees in the aftermath, as many as 400 thousand sent to prison camps and tens of thousands of citizens killed in the rout of South Vietnamese forces (1).Vietnam remains a dictatorship to this day.

President Bush and others have warned of a similar consequence for Iraq should American forces withdraw before the elected government is fully capable of defending itself. Do you agree with this assessment? If not, I would be grateful if you could outline what you believe to be the consequences for Iraq given your promise to immediately withdraw United States forces. Given that we cannot know for certain the outcome of an American withdrawal, I am yet more concerned to understand the philosophical basis for making your decision. What responsibility, if any, does the United States owe to the people of Iraq?

Christine Smith: The U.S. government owes the American people, the Iraqi people, and the world a foreign policy of non-interventionism. I will order the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops and all U.S. government personnel from Iraq. The consequences, unavoidably and unfortunately, will be more bloodshed. But is their civil war, not ours. Who they have as leaders and the type of government they have is their business - not ours. It was a mistake for us to have invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq, and I believe the quickest way to correct a mistake is to go 180 degrees in the opposite direction - thus I am for immediate withdrawal. We owe the people of Iraq the return of their nation to them. We should withdraw from Iraq, just as we should withdraw from many areas of the world.


2. Would the withdrawal of forces from Iraq be accompanied by withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan, Western Europe, Japan and South Korea? If so, would these withdrawals be conducted for the same reasons as the promised withdrawal from Iraq? I am particularly curious to understand your decision in light of the decades American forces have remained in, for example, Germany and South Korea following the end of major hostilities. Should American forces have been withdrawn from Germany immediately following the end of World War II?

Christine Smith: Yes. I will end U.S. government in the meddling and affairs of other nations. Such unnecessary military presence is for one purpose only - the maintenance and justification of enormous Pentagon procurement with our government's goal of establishing governments that are U.S. government friendly in regards to perceived geopolitical advantage (which often means support of governments including tyrants and dictators who cruelly treat their own people). All U.S. military presence in the Arabian peninsula should be withdrawn, and all military bases in any area of the world which does not directly threaten the soil and waters of the United States should be closed. Our military men and women, and our resources, must be used only for the defense of our nation not claimed "democracy spreading," nor imperialistic empire building.

In answer to your question about our troops in Germany, it implies we've withdrawn our presence, and we haven't. To this day, we have approximately 70,000 U.S. troops yet on German soil.

A few favorite quotes regarding the proper place of America in the world: George Washington: "The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible." Thomas Jefferson: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations – entangling alliances with none." and perhaps the one most specific about what has become the terrible foreign policy the .S. government has maintained for decades: John Quincy Adams: "America...Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individ-ual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensi-bly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffa-ble splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit..."


3. In my opinion, Senator Fred Thompson has been the most articulate and consistent nominee for either the Republican or Democratic party on the subject of States rights as are made explicit under the Tenth Amendment, even when his consistency places him in apparent opposition to those Republicans who advocate a constitutional ban on abortion. I would be grateful to learn your opinion on the relationship between States rights and those rights reserved to the people under the Tenth Amendment. I am particular curious to learn your intention as President with regard to the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) of the Constitution. Has this Clause been used to run roughshod over the Tenth Amendment? (I admit this is a leading question!)

Christine Smith: In my opinion, Ron Paul has been as you say,"the most articulate and consistent nominee for either the Republican or Democratic party on the subject of States rights as are made explicit under the Tenth Amendment." I am a firm advocate of states' rights, but with any area of fundamental rights protected by the 14th amendment.

In regards to the Commerce Clause, I believe it is being misused and again the federal government is wielding its power, its force unjustly, for example when Congress claims it can regulate private growing of marijuana. Permitting this, means we're letting Congress regulate virtually anything. The Constitution serves to limited and enumerate the powers of the federal government. Such areas as private marijuana growth and usage doesn't threaten interstate commerce at all. The federal government has no authority to regulate drugs, but is using the Commerce Clause and claiming it as justification so they can continue their insane "drug war," while overstepping, again, the sovereignty of states. States should not be interfered with by the federal government in such matters.

Further, the power authorized to Congress under the Commerce Clause cannot violate other parts of our Constitution such as the General Welfare Clause. The rationale behind the Commerce Clause was simply to stop states from interfering with trade between people in different states. Its power is being misinterpreted and misused.


4. Regarding jury members, President John Adams wrote, "It is not only his right but also his duty… to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court." While court rulings have consistently upheld jury nullification, defense counsel has consistently been denied the right to inform juries of this power. Given the mixed history of jury nullification in United States law during, for example, the Prohibition era versus the Civil Rights era, what is your view on jury nullification? Should a federal law be enacted mandating that juries be informed of this power?

Christine Smith: Such conscientious citizens were indeed a major reason Prohibition was ended. Jury nullification gives the power to the people in protecting individual rights - when a law may itself be debated to itself be unjust or unconstitutional. It opens up many possibilities - easily argued positive and potentially negative in regards to "justice.". But as to whether juries should be informed of this power - yes. If it exists as it does now, they should be informed fully. The oaths jurors must take often declare they will uphold the law, thus forcing a juror to potentially perjure himself later should he choose to practice jury nullification. As a juror you have power over someone's else's life, and I believe one must be true to their conscious before being true to a law. As long as jury nullification exists, jurors should be informed of it and/or they must not be forced to take oaths in which they swear to uphold the law - something they may or may not be able to do in good conscience once a case is heard. Jury trials themselves are a means to prevent oppression from the government, thus, a citizen's power to interpret and rule must not be effectively removed simply by neglecting to inform them. It is and must remain the right of citizens to also judge the law and refuse to apply a law. If a jury is not allowed to judge the law it essentially becomes a trial by the government rather than by the jury.


5. Candidates for both the Democratic and Republican parties have stressed the importance of faith in their lives as a way of explaining and asserting aspects of their character and their fitness for office. A recent Gallup poll (2) suggested Americans might be more likely to support or woman or an African-American as President than a Mormon or an atheist.

What importance should Americans grant, if any, to considering the religious and spiritual views of people elected to public office, particularly the office of the President? It is up to each individual American to determine the importance he places upon a candidate's beliefs. Your question to me is phrased with "What importance should..." and I am in no position, nor is any other American - presidential candidate or not - to declare what Americans should do in such a personal matter. Americans need only follow their conscience and its values to determine the importance (or lack thereof) they place upon a candidate's beliefs.

What role, if any, does religion and spirituality play in your life?

Christine Smith: My spirituality is based on one belief "Love is the answer." For me, love is strong, bold, courageous...it is recognizing and being devoted to liberty. Liberty is the natural result of my definition of love. Loving others recognizes their fundamental right to live as they choose as long as it harms no other. I base all my personal beliefs and life upon the one principle of love - endeavoring to maintain an introspection of the choices I make - in light of what is truly loving and correcting, as best I am able, mistakes. It is my spiritual belief in love as being the only true guide for my life which has led me to be politically active my entire life.


And, assuming it does, how does religion and spirituality inform your views on public policy or your judgment and character as a potential President of the United States?

Christine Smith: Personal beliefs of "right" or "wrong" determine the way I choose to live my life - the choices I make for myself personally. It would be arrogant for me to ever allow my personal beliefs on any issue to govern my positions on government policy which would be forced upon others. As a libertarian, I oppose the use of government to impose the will of any group (or individual) upon other citizens. Government is force. It must not be used to promote any agenda of one group/belief versus another. Truth is my highest priority. As a presidential candidate and in the case of becoming President of the U.S., the U.S. Constitution and literal interpretation of the Bill of my Rights would be my guide. I would swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution, but unlike past presidents, I would actually do it.

Extra comment for your readers:

I am a libertarian. I am a firm believer in individual liberty, personal responsibility, free markets, and always a small government limited only to its constitutionally authorized functions - the principles America was founded upon and which once made us both great and greatly admired worldwide. Our nation achieved that greatness and respect, and we reaped the fruits of our labor because we lived in a society that welcomed innovation, creativity, and self-reliance. We didn't look to a government to care for us or protect us, we looked to ourselves - and it worked! And you know what? It will still work - if we return to the values we as a people once cherished.

Granted, the socialist mentality is inbred in generation after generation thanks to government schools which raise our youth to be good little slaves - obedient to social conformity - and to all its masters with the government being their primary source of provision and security. Children are taught not to question, but to accept. Thus, we have millions of Americans who actually believe government serves them by protecting them both as a nation and even as an individual should they require help in their personal lives. They're not about to challenge the status quo - it's always been this way so why challenge it? - or so goes such a line of thought.

But it has not always been this way. Americans were once a strong people who valued independence. We were a nation of people who had a strong self identity as individuals, a greater understanding that we own ourselves, are responsible for ourselves, and are entitled to the fruits of our labor. We for years had an ingrained abhorrence for taking what was not ours, much less allowing others to steal from us and give it to others, and yet somehow we as a society have devolved into a weak people who look to government to take care of them from birth to grave. But for 126 years Americans were free from being taxed on their income. We worked, we invested, we bought homes. Our income and savings had value. We were far freer than today personally and economically.

Many think they are free in midst of a society where the invasive government is becoming more arrogant each day in its alarmingly self-granted authority over the American people. The safeguards of due process have been eroded - but this fact and its repercussions remain unknown/not understood by many. After all, consider how many still get their news and commentary from their TVs and newspapers. Thus, many Americans aren't comprehending that basic Constitutional rights are being discarded though it is they, and those they care for, who will ultimately suffer.

Thus, today, we're dealing with a people that are as Goethe so accurately described in which: "None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."

My message: Americans Awake!

I believe you - far better than a government bureaucrat - can best spend your money to benefit you and your family. I don't think you need government bureaucrats to make economic and social decisions for you. I trust you can do a much better job for yourself! That's why I want to get the government out of our lives. You should make the decisions for your life. I should make the decisions for mine. You should be free to control your life - as others must be free to control theirs. Tyranny or liberty - it's your choice.

Visit my campaign website to learn where I stand on issues in greater detail. And I invite READERS to sign up for my free campaign email newsletter.

http://www.LibertarianForPresident.com

Christine Smith
Libertarian Candidate for President


(1) These figures are taken New York Times Pentagon correspondent and Huffington Post blogger, Thom Shanker writing for the New York Times, August 23, 2007.

(2) Reference: February, 2007.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at February 29, 2008 06:47 AM

Comments

A couple of things:

1. In answer to your question about our troops in Germany, it implies we've withdrawn our presence, and we haven't. To this day, we have approximately 70,000 U.S. troops yet on German soil.

She needs to reread your question.

2. Regarding the inevitable libertarian return to our founding roots: the idea of noninterventionism is a fantasy in the 21st century. It's just a fantasy. She apparently thinks that withdrawing to our perfect kingdom and focusing on the United States will improve the country, rather than seriously degrade our wealth and stability when significant portions of the world go bananas as they "work out their problems."

We aren't on the gold standard, economies are not local or even regional, and the resource that makes the world go 'round is buried underneath some of the most politically unstable places on earth. These are the facts.

Address those with realism rather than the wonderful political sentiments crafted by 18th century politicians who were probably smart enough to predict how adaptable ideas are ... though they probably never imagined the existence of things like nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile.

Posted by: Bill from INDC [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 29, 2008 09:46 AM

That should read "economies are not only local or even regional"

Posted by: Bill from INDC [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 29, 2008 09:51 AM

1. I thought the same thing, however, what was important to me - extremely satisfying, in fact - was to get an unequivocal, straight answer on the subject. So, yes, withdraw all US troops from Germany. I think a clear, honest answer like this means it can be properly debated. A further thought is that it is not only a fringe on the left or ideological libertarians who hold this view but I suspect quite a few Jacksonian conservatives.

2. Bill: My views are quite different than Christine Smith's and I would say American non-interventionism in the late 18th-century was also unrealistic. The history of the United States Marine Corps begins with the underlying fact of American non-interventionism colliding with robust Barbary pirate intervention in United States shipping, including slave taking.

It is one thing for a Canadian political party to adopt a stance of non-interventionism, we can rely on the United States Navy to protect our shipping and our international trade without spending a dime. This was equally true for us when the Royal Navy carried the same burden. It was only when the protection of the Royal Navy was withheld from American shipping that some harsh facts about the world were impressed upon those early American Presidencies.

If the United States decided to withdraw its armed forces from around the world, some power would step into the breach - China, India and Japan are the only likely candidates - or there would be anarchy. I cannot see how these developments would be in the interest of the United States.

Finally, ICBMs: Better hope the missile shield works. Those oceans are not as big as they used to be.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 29, 2008 10:22 AM

I want to emphasize that while I come to very different conclusions, I was enormously impressed not only with Christine Smith's courtesy but the fact she took the time to address serious questions seriously.

Now thinking I should forward the same questions to FRED!

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 29, 2008 11:52 AM

I congratulate you for your original content creation and the candidate for taking the time with you.

I agree with Bill and am reminded here of the attractive siren-song of Libertarianism. I believe Presidents should have priests and Libertarians for council, but I would never want either of them running anything.

Posted by: Solomon [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 1, 2008 08:52 PM