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Lawrence Wilkerson: A shameful pandering to the far right is an embarrassment; Ron Paul’s foreign policy cannot coexist in the GOP, he will likely create a third party; Wall St. elite happy with Obama

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. The battle for the leadership of the Republican Party continues. Gingrich is up, Gingrich is down. Romney’s making a comeback. The person who the Republican establishment and the media don’t want to take with too much seriousness as Ron Paul. Now joining us to talk about the battle for the presidential candidacy of the Republican Party is a lifelong Republican–at least, he was–Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell. Thanks for joining us, Larry.


JAY: So what do you make of this Republican–I’m going to try to hold back any sarcastic remarks I might make–the Republican field, and particularly the attitude towards Ron Paul?

WILKERSON: Paul, I get emails from all across the country, as a result partly of appearing on The Real News and Rachel Maddow and other shows, and I got two this morning that were fascinating. They were from lifelong Republicans too, in fact: one mother of a young man whose had two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, if I remember exactly, and another gentleman from New England. And they were commenting on the current slate of candidates minus Ron Paul. And their comments were like an embarrassment–can’t believe that we can’t run these primaries without international audiences being able to see them; so ashamed of their party and, ultimately, that their country would let these kind of people expose their views to the international community. I mean, these emails were scorching, far worse than anything I’ve said in the past. But I’m inclined to agree with them. This is a cast of characters that’s been drug from apparently the extreme right wing of the Republican Party that was created when Kevin Phillips and others helped Richard Nixon to go after the Solid South Democrats, who were unhappy with their party because their party supported things like the Civil Rights Act, busing, the end of segregation, and so forth. And these Democrats were furious, most of them in the Solid South, as I said, but also in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and increasingly out west. And they made a bargain with the devil, that they would bring these people into the Republican Party. And now what you see is these people pandering to that bargain. And it is a shame. It is shameful and it is a shame.

JAY: Now, the person that they don’t know how to deal with in all of that is Ron Paul and his supporters, ’cause while, I guess, when it comes to domestic policies, Paul’s not so far off the right-wing page, when it comes to his foreign policy, he’s completely on another page, and they don’t seem to know what to do with him.

WILKERSON: I think Ron Paul brings a certain element of traditional political and cultural values back to life in America, and one of those is as expressed by John Quincy Adams, that if America goes abroad to fight monsters, she’ll become one, and we’re the custodians of only our own freedom. We’re the friends of freedom everywhere, but the custodians only of our own. Ron Paul echoes that sentiment. It’s very old, it’s very traditional, it’s very much a part of the warp and woof and the very fabric of the founding of this republic. And there are still a lot of Americans with whom that message resonates.

JAY: The–in terms of the possibilities of what will come out of all this, it’s hard to believe the Republican establishment won’t find some way to prevent Paul from getting any stronger. Whatever they have to do to torpedo him they will do, and they will likely be successful in that, won’t they?

WILKERSON: And if they do, that he’ll break off–my expectation is he’ll break off as a third-party candidate, and like Ross Perot or Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 he will heavily influence who wins the election in 2012.

JAY: In the late 19th century, there was an interesting alliance, an organization called the Anti-Imperialist League, I think it was called. And it was an alliance of left-wing progressives, whose most prominent member was Mark Twain, and isolationist types like–I would think, like Ron Paul types. They didn’t agree much on domestic issues, other than maybe civil liberties, as is the case now, but they were against the formation of an American imperialism. You think we might see anything like that?

WILKERSON: Very–it’s very possible. I will point out that Mark Twain was one of the most scorching critics of Teddy Roosevelt. When Teddy Roosevelt, for example, complemented his commander in the Philippines for literally massacring thousands of Filipinos, Mark Twain essentially said that it’s funny that when the white man sees a brown man, he thinks he’s a savage; when he sees himself in the mirror, he thinks he’s civilized; implying, of course, that we were just as savage as anybody else. This was a fairly solid movement. It was reacting to manifest destiny suddenly stopping at the Pacific shore and then finding itself again with Cuba, with the Philippines, with Hawaii, and elsewhere. And it’s very much a part of the very–as I said, the very fabric of this country.

JAY: If we set aside Ron Paul and you look at, as you were saying, the candidates, I mean, it’s hard to understand how the media even takes them seriously, other than that they’re supposed to and this idea of balance–you have to give them equal weight, even though it’s essentially a clown show.

WILKERSON: It is. It’s an extension of their otherwise fundamental practice these days–infotainment or entertainment. That’s what it’s doing. I mean, you watch it, and if you’re like me, you’re a solid Republican, you remember people like Dwight Eisenhower, you remember people like Nelson Rockefeller, you remember people like Chuck Hagel from Nebraska. If you remember those kind of people, you were so embarrassed by this cast of characters. You’re so chilled by what they say about war, for example, so easily said when they’re not going to fight anybody and nor are their sons or daughters going to fight anybody, nor are any of the sons and daughters of their friends going to fight anybody. Less than 1 percent of America–and not their 1 percent–is going to fight in any of America’s wars. This is really pitiful, Paul.

JAY: Now, is part of the strategy is they know it’s going to be Romney, they will make sure one way or the other it’s Romney, ’cause of the kind of money he can spend, I guess? If they keep all these other candidates in the process, they keep their constituencies in the fold, they hope–although I think you’re right, they’re going to lose Ron Paul’s at the very least, and that eventually they get Romney. But is there also some indication here that in general the elites are not so unhappy with President Obama, and they don’t mind if what the Republicans come up with is more pressure from the right, but they’re not really expecting anyone to beat Obama?

WILKERSON: No, I think you put your finger right on it. The people from whom Obama gets the majority of his money are the same people who in one way or another led us into the economic and financial crisis we’re in at present and which is by no means over. And they do not want–the six big banks, for example, they do not want someone in there who might perturb their possible need for another trillion dollar bailout down the road, and their ongoing need to sustain need of always running this country. So Obama’s done nothing to defeat that, not really, fundamentally. So I think, as you said, the powers that be, the people that really run this country, the oligarchy, the wealth, the people who are mounting the wealth defense now, as one professor has called it, are very happy with President Obama, and they would not be all that put out if he were reelected.

JAY: How much danger is there over the next five, ten years, if we do get into a very deep recession, even depression–. Many of the political economists or economists I’m talking to are saying, you know, when you look at Europe and you look at the fact that there’s policy paralysis at national and international levels when it comes to any real solutions to the economy–. So if we’re looking at a decade of maybe depression, how serious a danger is there of a mass, overtly far-right party? People can call it a fascist party; I don’t know what exactly the language of it will be. But how much danger is–of a mass far-right party is there in the United States?

WILKERSON: I would’ve said little a month ago. But since they passed the National Defense Authorization Act with the amendment allowing the military, our military, to participate in domestic law enforcement, not–something it hasn’t done since Reconstruction, I might change my views on that possibility. But here’s the real essence of the power shift going on in the world, in my view, Paul. While we’re doing these things, being polarized domestically, frittering away our power in wars on the fringes of our empire and so forth, the rest of the world is moving on. Brazil, India, China, even Russia, they’re moving on. They’re stealing not just one march but multiple marches on us. They are–they are the future. People forget that in 1820, China had about 40 to 50 percent of the world’s GDP. This is not a course that China has not felt the sinews of in the past. China is a very, very historically successful country. China is a very successful country once again. The wealth shift that’s taking place right now, the money that’s flowing into Asia in particular, and into the BRICs, the money is like the money that flowed from the New World in mostly silver and gold to Spain years earlier, when the Spanish empire was at its height and then was polluted by this flow of gold into its midst–polluted it’s crafts, polluted its monarchy, and so forth and so on. British and the French took their 10 percent tax as it went across the Atlantic through, mainly, piracy. And this kind of wealth shift is happening again. On top of that, an immigration shift is coming. We’ve had one. We’ve been experiencing one of huge proportions. But I think an even bigger one is coming as 3 billion people, Paul, 3 billion people enter the middle class between now and 2050, 2060. We’re going to need two more planets, three more planets in order to accommodate these people. They’re principally in India and China. Well, we’re not going to get two or three more planets. What we’re going to get is massive immigration to the places where there is food, there is clean water, and there is arable land and there is housing. So the world is going to change in ways–. I’m not going to see it. I’m going to be dead. But the world is going to change in ways that people can’t imagine right now, and it’s going to start very soon, if it hasn’t already, and it’s going to happen in the next half-century. And that’s not a very long time, historically speaking.

JAY: And I suppose that even creates more danger for a far-right mass populist reaction in the United States.


JAY: So if there isn’t some assertion of a more rational politics here soon, it’s very dangerous.

WILKERSON: It’s very dangerous. I can only surmise that the reason so many members of Congress went along with this amendment to the NDAA that allows the military to enter domestic law enforcement–and I hope the amendment that’s being offered right now on the floor–I think of both houses–passes, which will pull out U.S. citizens. That would be sanity reasserting itself. But I think part of the motivation for that and for so few of the Congress being against it is their fear not of terrorists but their fear of the Occupy Wall Street, etc., movement in their own country.

JAY: Thanks for joining us, Larry.

WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy

Lawrence Wilkerson's last positions in government were as Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff (2002-05), Associate Director of the State Department's Policy Planning staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass, and member of that staff responsible for East Asia and the Pacific, political-military and legislative affairs (2001-02). Before serving at the State Department, Wilkerson served 31 years in the U.S. Army. During that time, he was a member of the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College (1987 to 1989), Special Assistant to General Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93), and Director and Deputy Director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Virginia (1993-97). Wilkerson retired from active service in 1997 as a colonel, and began work as an advisor to General Powell. He has also taught national security affairs in the Honors Program at the George Washington University. He is currently working on a book about the first George W. Bush administration.