During the Republican Debate on CNN earlier this week, Ron Paul was asked a question about whether he would cut defense spending in order to balance the budget. His answer included the following statements:
I’m tired of all the militarism that we are involved in. And we’re wasting this money in getting us involved. And I agree, we are still in danger, but most of the danger comes by our lack of wisdom on how we run our foreign policy…
The purpose of al Qaeda was to attack us, invite us over there, where they can target us. And they have been doing it. They have more attacks against us and the American interests per month than occurred in all the years before 9/11, but we’re there occupying their land. And if we think that we can do that and not have retaliation, we’re kidding ourselves. We have to be honest with ourselves. What would we do if another country, say, China, did to us what we do to all those countries over there?
After he gave his answer, the moderator, Wolf Blitzer, asked Rick Santorum to “respond,” which Santorum did. By “respond”, I assume they both meant “deliver a pre-packaged, tangentially-related (they were originally supposed to be talking about balancing the budget, right?) set of talking points to make the other guy look bad,” because that’s what happened. Santorum mentioned that Ron Paul’s website had a blog post on 9/11 that “that basically blamed the United States for 9/11.” Then the following exchange took place:
Santorum’s “response” was brilliant because he immediately shifted the focus of the discussion away from “What The United States Government Does” to “Who We Are.” We all stand for freedom, right? We’re civilized. Hell, we’re not just civilized, we’re a civilization. And we stand Freedom And Opportunity Around The World.
Paul countered this by claiming that the narrative presented by Santorum is false, but blundered by citing the terrorists’ narrative as evidence of its falsehood. He blundered even worse by trying to get the audience to imagine what they would feel like if their roles were reversed with the terrorists.
Paul’s strategy failed because he failed to recognize that Santorum just gave the audience a blue pill: a narcissistic narrative scaled up for a whole nation. They were just reassured that the entire issue was really about who they were and how they stand for American Exceptionalism (wait, does that contradict the other thing “we” stand for?), and not about any sort of vulgar details like foreign policy decisions or what the military did when. The natural antidote would be a red pill, but Dr. Paul can’t write that prescription because he’s a still a politician. Even though the odds of him becoming President are slim, he still has play by the rules of the game he’s playing, just like everyone else on stage.
Here is what Ron Paul could have said that could have dispelled the effects of the blue pill:
Do you really believe that you are important enough for people you’ve never met from a far away land to end their own lives in an attempt to kill you?
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