Chuck Muth and the Libertarian Party

“Your days of punching the Republican Party in the nose without having someone swing back are over,” wrote Chuck Muth to Libertarians in 2001.

A couple of days ago, Muth scribed, “And if the GOP doesn’t get its limited-government act together soon, the party that replaced the Whigs could well end up going the way of the Whigs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Muth is the president of Citizen Outreach and the former executive director of the American Conservative Union, as well as a former National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He often been critical of Libertarians in the past, but he’s also been critical of the GOP, at times.

In February of 2004, Muth had already picked out his favorite for that year’s Libertarian Party presidential nomination. In a Free Liberal article (Disclosure: I periodically write for that publication, Muth has as well), Muth acted as though Gary Nolan was the heir-apparent to Harry Browne.

“Because of President Bush’s big-government ‘compassionate’ conservatism - which includes the Patriot Act, prescription drugs and illegal alien amnesty - it wouldn’t surprise me if Nolan does better in 2004 than Browne did in 2000 against Bush,” Muth said. “But don’t blame the LP for this one; blame the GOP.”

A little less than a month later, Muth again assumed Nolan the Libertarian Party nominee, although Aaron Russo was a significant player in the race by then. “Libertarians supporting Gary Nolan, their candidate for president in 2004, may launch a ‘vote swap’ effort this year. Nolan supporters in “toss up” states could use the Internet to “swap” their vote with a Bush supporter in a solid Bush state,” wrote Muth two and a half months prior to the Libertarian National Convention.

It’s probable that Muth ignored Badnarik because he thought that Badnarik had no chance of winning the nomination. His reason for ignoring fellow Nevadan Aaron Russo was probably altogether different: They already had a rocky history.

While I don’t know the entire history of their relationship, it dates back to at least 1998. Shortly after I assumed control of Russo’s presidential campaign (there was no control of Russo himself, to be sure), Aaron told me that Muth had been out to get him for some time. I assume this was primarily during Russo’s GOP gubernatorial bid, as it doesn’t seem likely that Muth wouldn’t have opposed many of Russo’s other political efforts in the state, namely on the medical marijuana front.

Or perhaps it was because of Russo’s personality. When Dick Morris can work with Hillary Clinton but Russo and Morris can’t make it click, that’s indeed telling.

In a post-convention newsletter, Muth perhaps appropriately wrote: “Russo already possesses a pretty high paranoid disposition as it is, but it’s not paranoia when they really ARE out to get you.”

In the same newsletter, Muth provided Michael Badnarik, the eventual nominee, some advice. In it, he suggested that Badnarik toe the Bush line on foreign policy.

“Explain that defending the country by killing terrorists before they kill us IS a legitimate role for the federal government,” wrote Muth. “Say so. Ignoring the threat…or worse, turning our security over to the United Nations…is no way to gain credibility or support. If people think being a Libertarian means sitting around waiting for the next plane to fall out of the sky…literally…you’re a dead duck. And so is your party.”

While Muth has certainly gone on the record disagreeing with Bush’s foreign policy, he clearly advocates foreign intervention in Iraq.

I have no clue where the United Nations angle came from; Badnarik adamantly and loudly opposed the U.N. He opposed it to the point that the campaign (I wasn’t working for it at the time of that article) was inoculating against some rather extreme anti-U.N. statements Badnarik had made at the same time Muth was writing his article.

By December of 2004, Muth was chastising the Republican Party for discounting libertarian voters and suggesting that it was costing them elections, especially in Washington state.

Back in 2000, incumbent Republican Sen. Slade Gordon faced a challenge from Democrat Maria Cantwell, not coincidentally in Rossi’s state of Washington. Gordon reveled in his well-established “moderate” Republican record and blew off the limited-government, libertarian-leaning voters, including many in his own party. And because his hubris, Cantwell snatched away his senate seat…by a scant 2,229 votes out of almost 2.5 million cast.

The LP candidate in that race pulled 64,734 votes…a whopping 62,000-plus more votes than Gordon needed to keep his seat (and the GOP majority in the U.S. Senate as it turned out, by the way).

Now, the LP tries to deny that they throw races to the Democrats. Their “spin” is that they pull equally from both parties. But ask yourself this question. The candidate of a party which espouses strictly limited government is more likely to pull voters from which of the major two parties: The party which actively and openly promotes bigger and more intrusive nanny-state government or the party which talks the limited government talk but all too often fails to live up to its rhetoric and walk the limited-government walk?

‘Nuff said.

You would think that a party which lost such an important and close U.S. senate race due to the “LP factor” just four years ago would have learned a lesson. Gee, do you think the GOP maybe ought to consider adding libertarian-leaning voters to their “outreach” programs?

Fat chance. Instead, GOP state chairman Chris Vance made the incredibly foolish political decision to taunt the LP bull by constantly waving red flags in its face. Frankly, for his bone-headedness Vance deserves that set of horns now firmly implanted in his backside.

Following the Republican loss of control of the Congress, Muth again chastised his own party.

“By November 2006, conservative voters had had enough of Republicans in Congress,” wrote Muth at a GOP-friendly website. “The GOP majority was spending money faster than Democrats had ever dreamed, they were expanding government further than even Lyndon Johnson would have dared, and their most visibly aggressive campaign against terrorism consisted of confiscating tubes of toothpaste at American airports.”

Currently, Muth is praising the Libertarian Party: “In addition, the LP recruited former Republican Congressman Bob Barr over to their side. Barr is now a member of the LP’s national committee - and to a lot of Republicans, if someone with the ‘street cred’ of Bob Barr can find a comfortable home in the LP, why not them? Convincing Barr to join their party was a major coup for the LP last year.

His tune seems to have changed on “stealing” elections from Republicans, too.

Yes, those million-plus votes could definitely result in swinging the race to Hillary (if nominated). But it’s not the obligation of limited-government voters to vote against Hillary; it’s the obligation of Hillary’s GOP opponent to earn the support of limited-government voters. If the GOP candidate does so, he can win. If not, he could very well go down in flames next November, ushering in The Horror. And if the Arkansas Hill-Bill’ies return to the White House, don’t blame the LP; blame the Republicans who blew off the “small l” libertarian vote and sent it to the Libertarian Party.

He’s also rooting (that choice of words will become important momentarily) for Ron Paul.

“Small ‘l’ libertarianism as a philosophy is suddenly ‘cool,’ thanks in large part to the Republican presidential campaign of Congressman Ron Paul of Texas,” wrote Muth. “And while Paul is currently a registered Republican running for the GOP presidential nomination, he is also a card-carrying member of the Libertarian Party - and was that party’s presidential nominee back in 1988.

While Muth still doesn’t seem to “get it” about the Iraq War, he still urges people to vote for Ron Paul, nonetheless.

The most controversial issue surrounding Paul’s campaign is his anti-war message, which many perceive as being dangerously naïve in this modern era of terrorism, jihad and dirty bombs. But even as you may disagree with him on Iraq, you can’t help but acknowledge that his position is rooted squarely in line with the nation’s first president, George Washington, who famously cautioned against involving ourselves in foreign entanglements.

Also, Paul’s biggest problem with the “war” is that it’s not really a war unless Congress fulfills its constitutional responsibility of declaring it a war. Congress has thus far ducked that responsibility. So let’s not shoot the messenger.

Muth took it a step further by encouraging Paul to seek the Libertarian nomination should he not fare so well in Republican primaries on Super Tuesday.

First, of course, Ron Paul would have to lose the Republican Party’s nomination. Not much of a stretch there. I know it drives the Ron Paul crowd nuts when I say he’s not going to win the nomination, but the problem isn’t Ron Paul. The problem is the Republican Party primary voters. Way too many of them are, in fact, big-government “compassionate” conservatives who believe government can “do good” for the people as long as they’re the ones running the government. That kind of thinking is what brought us things like No Child Left Behind.

On the other hand, Paul has raised a tidy amount of money for his presidential run - and will likely pocket a few million more today with his “Boston Tea Party” online fundraiser. And he isn’t spending it like, well, a drunken Republican or a Democrat. If his campaign continues to spend conservatively, if you’ll pardon the pun, he could still have a sizable war chest at his disposal after Super-Duper Tuesday in February, when the GOP nomination could well be wrapped up.

“Obtaining the Libertarian Party nomination for president this year would be good for Ron Paul, but it would also be extremely beneficial to the Libertarian Party and its future viability,” Muth wrote. “Never has the LP enjoyed having a nominee with such high public name recognition. Never has it had a candidate with such national real-life campaign experience. Never has it had a candidate with such credibility, rooted in Paul’s long experience as an elected member of Congress. Never has it had a candidate capable of mobilizing such a huge army of grassroots supporters. And never has it had a candidate capable of raising as much money from small-dollar donors. A Ron Paul candidacy as the Libertarian Party nominee would be manna from heaven for the Libertarian Party.”

Muth also praised the Libertarian Party for a news item we broke at Third Party Watch:

The problem for the LP is that Paul, at least at this time, is a registered Republican seeking the GOP nomination for president. And, well, it’s just not generally allowed for one party to nominate as its candidate for president the candidate of another party. Especially when there are other candidates of their own party running for the nomination. It’s just not done. However, exhibiting a high level of political maturity and street sense, the Libertarian National Committee last weekend unanimously adopted the following resolution:

“In the event that Republican primary voters select a candidate other than Congressman Paul in February of 2008, the Libertarian National Committee urges Congressman Ron Paul to seek the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party to be decided in Denver, Colorado during the Memorial Day weekend of 2008.”

Smart. Very smart.

Back to the presidential candidates Muth roots for. He rooted for Gary Nolan. He’s currently rooting for Ron Paul. He also seems to be rooting for Wayne Allyn Root.

The Libertarian Party already has an unusually charismatic and energetic leading candidate running for the party’s presidential nomination this year. His name is Wayne Allyn Root, a very successful businessman, author (“Millionaire Republican”), sports handicapper and television personality. He’s also a dynamic speaker who “wowed ‘em” at this year’s Conservative Leadership Conference in Nevada.

Root - one of those disenchanted former Republicans - is much younger than Ron Paul and represents the next generation of Libertarians and libertarians. Would the LP’s invitation for Ron Paul to seek their party’s nomination alienate their leading candidate already in the race? Nope.

In fact, in an exceptionally classy move, Root sent out a press release this week in which he stated that he “wholeheartedly supports” the LP’s invitation for Ron Paul to join the Libertarian presidential race. “Libertarians believe in competition,” Root wrote. “Just as in business, life and education, competition in politics brings out the best in all of us. Competition breeds success.”

Muth eventually suggested that a Paul/Root ticket under the Libertarian banner “would be a dynamic pro-liberty ticket, combining youth with experience, which would certainly capture the nation’s attention, even if not the White House.”

I’ve long appreciated some of Muth’s skills (and actions) as a political operative, even when I’ve disagreed with him on some issues. However, his gradual transition from threatening to “punch” libertarians to trying to work with them has certainly been interesting to observe.

20 Responses to “Chuck Muth and the Libertarian Party”

  1. Eric Dondero Says:

    Muth’s views are entirely consistent. It’s not so much Muth who has changed, it’s the Libertarian Party.

    Little as 5 years ago, under the extremist and entirely unpragmatic Harry Browne LP the LP would have never considered endorsing a Republican for President. Unthinkable. In fact, the LP at the time was very uncomfortable with Ron Paul being in Congress as a Republican. They would explain him only as a “fluke,” and completely ignore other elected libertarian Republicans like Cong. Jeff Flake of AZ or MI State Rep. Leon Drolet.

    And now look where we’ve come.

    The Libertarian National Committee itself has publicly and enthusiastically endorsed a REPUBLICAN Ron Paul for President.

    Somewheres former Repubican Liberty Caucus Chairman Roger MacBride is smiling down.

  2. Tom Bryant Says:

    5 years ago the LP was ignoring Leon Drolet while at the same time working with him to get ballot reform passed through the MI legislature? How does that happen Eric?

  3. George Phillies Says:

    To give credit where it is due, Mr. Dondero describes the recent LNC action as an “endorsement”, an interpretation that almost everyone I hear from, other than LNC members, agrees with.

    In contrast, Muth’s claim “In addition, the LP recruited former Republican Congressman Bob Barr over to their side.” now turns out to be demonstrably false.

    Congressman Barr’s recent fundraising letter, or at least the important part of it, can be seen at Susan Hogarth’s web site http://www.colliething.com .
    The envelope refers to “conservative Republicans like you and me”. Barr has also been supporting a Republican Presidential campaign through his PAC, a fact he failed to disclose in his conflict of interest statement at the most recent LNC meeting for which minutes are available.

    Barr, according to eyewitness accounts I have seen, made the motion that the Libertarian National Committee should support financially via a gift in kind the campaign of a Republican.

    We have no money in the LNC budget for ballot access, and we are spending money to support a Republican.

  4. [email protected] Says:

    I can’t see a Libertarian convention delegate body nominating Paul for President and then turning around and nominating Root for VP.

    All of the positives that Root brings to a candidacy—basically money and a degree of media savvy—Paul has more and better of already. That would mean the only thing Root would be bringing to the show would be his negatives (bad foreign policy platform, the “glitz” [1] that Dondero likes to brag about, etc.). Why would we nominate him for those?

    We already have at least one declared candidate for the VP position, Chris Bennett, and I believe Chris would do a fine job.

    If the party is looking for more stump experience, name recognition, etc., than Chris brings then it has other “draft” choices as well. Want a “two recent Republicans” ticket? Why would anyone care about Root when Bob Barr is available (I don’t think he’d say no to running as VP for Paul)? Prefer a ticket with a “radical libertarian” to balance out Paul’s more conservative image? I don’t think Kubby would let the party down, either.

    Root’s a package deal. He has to sell himself whole hog to sell himself at all … and a Paul candidacy would automatically make half the package disappear, thus making the other half unsaleable.

    Regards,
    Tom Knapp

    [1] I always chuckle when Eric tells us how important “glitz” is. Apparently, he doesn’t have a dictionary to let him know that “glitz” is “TASTELESS showmanship” (emphasis mine).

  5. Eric Dondero Says:

    Unity is important too. You don’t nominate a Pro-Defense Libertarian on the ticket, no problem. Pro-Defense Libertarians will go over to the GOP en masse.

    Remember Bill Winter’s survey in 2003, “fully 40% of all LP members are Pro-War in Iraq.”

  6. Francine Says:

    “Remember Bill Winter’s survey in 2003, “fully 40% of all LP members are Pro-War in Iraq.” ”

    So that means that 60% are not….
    and it’s now 4 years into that war…

    wonder where that 40% is now?

  7. Rob Hodgkinson Says:

    George,

    “Mr. Dondero describes the recent LNC action as an “endorsement”, an interpretation that almost everyone I hear from, other than LNC members, agrees with.”

    I disagree with Eric (and you) that the LNC statement was an endorsement. I believe that it was simply making it clear that the LNC would welcome Ron if he wants to run as a Libertarian.

    As State Chair, I am recruiting candidates for 2008 and asking both currently registered republicans and democrats to change their registration and run as a LP candidate in Kansas. The LNC statement is the same in intent and action to what I am doing. It is not an endorsement of another political party; it is simply looking for viable candidates to help us grow.

    Wayne Root’s comment that “competition is good” is what I want to hear from a candidate - not whining about an LNC action. If you are really that peeved at the LNC - drum up enough support to make a radical personnel change in the LNC at Denver.

  8. Robert Capozzi Says:

    once again, the Knappster and I agree.

    Paul/Barr would be as compelling as it gets.

  9. Jake Porter Says:

    Rob,

    If this was the first action I would probably agree; however, Shane Cory has sent out a memo attacking our own candidates, acknowledged that they used a silhouette of Ron Paul, a Republican Presidential candidate, as a potential “Future Candidate” for the LP’s Liberty Decides fundraising mailing, promoted Ron Paul in many e-mails, and then the LNC had the audacity to give a Republican campaign access to party resources.

    As Tom Knapp pointed out before:

    It took months for alleged issues of BCRA compliance to be sorted out and the LP’s pre-nomination presidential candidates allowed to buy advertising in LP News.

    Yet, somehow, it seems to have taken mere minutes to deal with the BCRA implications of making a gigantic in-kind contribution from the party to a candidate of another party.

    Or maybe it’s that when it comes to Ron Paul, LNC members care about BCRA about as much as they care about honoring the trust reposed in their offices and fulfilling their fiduciary duty to protect, and not misuse, the party’s assets (i.e. not one damn bit).

    It is not really competition when the party officials are shotting you in the back while you try to campaign.

  10. Gene Berkman Says:

    I would certainly support Ron Paul if he decides to run as a Libertarian. But in reality, the Libertarian Party is not competitive at the lower levels, let alone in a Presidential race. If Ron Paul decides to keep his seat in Congress, in order to oppose President Hilary’s statist agenda, then NOTA would be the best move for the Libertarian National Convention.

    We need to build the Libertarian Party locally, and elect some real Libertarians to Congress, instead of just griping about the stands that Ron Paul or Bob Barr take that we disagree with.

  11. [email protected] Says:

    Quoth Eric Dondero:

    “Unity is important too. You don’t nominate a Pro-Defense Libertarian on the ticket, no problem. Pro-Defense Libertarians will go over to the GOP en masse.”

    In other words “unity should be important enough to YOU to give in to US —but not the other way around. If WE don’t get what WE want, fuck all that unity noise—we’re outta here.”

    Sorry, no sale.

    Besides, so far as I can tell, most of the candidates for the LP’s presidential nomination—including Ron Paul—are “Pro-Defense,” far more so than Wayne Root. There’s a difference between “Pro-Defense” and “Pro-Aggression,” and indeed the latter tends to cancel out the former. The war on Iraq was not defensive, and it has substantially degraded the ability of the United States to defend itself against any enemy, real or imagined. Supporting the continuation of that kind of policy is ANTI-defense.

  12. [email protected] Says:

    The LNC has invited one, and only one, candidate to seek the LP’s presidential nomination, a step they undertook AFTER the LP’s executive director sent them a letter complaining that none of the candidates who had invited themselves were satisfactory (a letter which, so far as I know, remains unrebuked by the LNC).

    When a party’s executive director complains about the existing candidates, and then the party’s national committee invites a candidate of another party to enter the nomination race, there’s no reasonable way to construe that as anything but an endorsement of the invited candidate versus the complained-about candidates.

    Rob: If you already had—to pick a number out of a hat— three LPKS members, none of whom were closet Kluxers, convicted axe-murderers or spitting Druids, who had filed to run in your state’s Libertarian primary for nomination as the party’s candidate for governor, would you consider it necessary for your legitimate “candidate recruitment” work to include finding a fourth?

    Last time I noticed, there were far more than three candidates for the LP’s presidential nomination who, whatever one may think of their viability or positions, are a) not Charles Manson or Sirhan Sirhan and b) have taken significant action in pursuit of that nomination.

    If the LNC wants to do “candidate recruitment,” there are ~478 other federal offices which the LP needs candidates to run for (435 US House seats and 33 or 34 US Senate seats), and I’m willing to bet that as of this date a majority of those offices have no declared LP candidate seeking them.

    “Candidate recruitment” my ass—the LNC wanted to endorse Ron Paul, and that’s exactly what the LNC did. I’ve concluded that that bell can’t be un-rung, and indeed I’m actually starting to warm up to the whole idea of Paul as an LP presidential candidate … but don’t piss on my back and then try to tell me I was mistaken, it was just raining.

  13. Rob Hodgkinson Says:

    Tom,

    Possibly YES - a lack of skeletons in their closet does not make them, by default, viable candidates. My job as state chair is to find a winning candidate, if possible.

    note: I hold no delusions that I will find a winning gov candidate in KS anytime soon, that does not however, preclude me from working to put the best candidate to the LP’ers of Kansas I can find and if that means finding a 4th or 5th candidate, so be it.

  14. Eric Dondero Says:

    “Pro-Defense” you gotta be shitting me Knapp. Gimmee a break. They’re all Pro-Surrender. Root is at least moderate on the issue, neither hardcore Pro-Defense, though certainly not Pro-Surrender like Phillies, Kubby, and most certainly Ron Paul.

    Paul’s solution to fighting Islamo-Fascism is to ignore it.

    Wait til it shows up on our doorstep in Matamoros. (Strange, cause Paul’s Congressional District - most southern point in Refugio & Aransas Countys - is literally only two hours away from Matamoros.)

    Oops, I plum forgot. Paul is also in favor of allowing Orange-Spandex wearing ex-WWF Wrestlers chase the “Al Qaeda bad boys” all around the mountains of the Middle East on Camel back, with the promise of a $1 million bounty.

    How quaint.

  15. Eric Dondero Says:

    Francine,

    Excellent question. Where’s that 40% now?

    I imagine the LPers view on the War in Iraq, mirrors that of Republicans.

    Gallup poll released last week - link up at www.mainstreamlibertarian.com - showed that Republican support for the War over last Spring was at 54%. Now it’s up to 77%.

    Everyone wants to be a winner. Nobody wants to be on the side of losers.

    We’re winning with the Surge; Spectacularly so. Better than anyone anticipated.

    I imaging the LP support for the War dropped real low, perhaps as low as 10% in early 2007.

    Now it’s probably back up to 35 or 40%.

    Opportunistic yes. Everyone wants to be with a winner.

  16. Brad Says:

    America is being undermined on many fronts. The one most eminent is our Bankruptcy. Fueled by War, Empire Maintenance, and Fallacious Spending of congress; The economic Overtaking of America will not be far off. The effects are just now becoming evident. We will be sold to our enemies rather than forced into submission.

    Ron Paul is the only candidate running for president that has the vision of the founding fathers of this country ingrained in his heart. Core Character Counts. He is the only one in the field that I would trust my money and my family’s safety with.

    The honesty and integrity displayed by Ron Paul coupled with the message he espouses is the glue that binds the support together. The word could not do it alone and this is precisely why the media and the others are baffled. The Ron Paul Supporters Value Substance Over Symbolism. We fully believe that Ron Paul will follow his words as his record shows. He is not as the others with Pandering Platitudes.

    The commonality with all Americans is the Constitution. This is why his support group can not be pigeon holed in to a specific category. We Are Diverse And Many. There is no singular stereotype that even comes close to the specification of the group.

    To help with your education here are some sites I recommend:

    www.ronpaul2008.com/about/

    www.ronpaul2008.com/issues/

    www.ronpaullibrary.org

    www.house.gov/paul/

    www.lewrockwell.com/paul/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Paul

    Think For Yourself; Do Not Be Easily Led.

    Views Untested Are Worthless.

  17. Jackcjackson Says:

    I have been a fan of Ron Paul for many years and was 100% a supporter for POTUS, but I am beginning to think I will vote LP or not at all.

  18. Kris Overstreet Says:

    The endorsement of Ron Paul by the LP Executive Committee certainly motivated me.

    It motivated me to wrap up my unfinished business and leave a party which apparently doesn’t understand that its purpose is to COMPETE with other parties… not to AID them.

  19. Tom Blanton Says:

    I would guess that libertarian support for the war at this point is exactly 0% precisely because rational people don’t want to be on the losing side.

    The support of the war among big-government cross-dressers, neolibertarians, crypto-fascists and zionist extremists is probably 100%.

    I’m not so impressed by Chuck Muth’s willingness to throw libertarians a bone. That bone is probably made of rubber and he would be the first one to yank the bone back with the string attached to it. Funny how conservatives just hate big government but always support it while still being “critical” of it.

    As an aside, isn’t chuck muth the term for upchuck that has dried up on the floor?

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