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To be a career politician takes a certain mindset

Sometimes it is worth pointing out the obvious…

Rand Paul, the Great White Hope of people who want things to be Less-Statist-Than-Now, is a career politician. As a result, he may be preferable to authoritarians like McCain or Obama or just about any of the mainstream politicos in the US right now… but it is still a career politician.

So… when it was suggested to me that if Edward Snowden were really one of the good guys, he should have taken his revelations to that tireless fighter for liberty, Rand Paul, rather than getting said revelations published in The Guardian, the assumption seems to have been that Paul was going to be a better custodian of these secrets than the dismal pinkos at the Guardian. Moreover Snowden would not have had to go on the run to avoid prison to whatever country dislikes the USA enough to not extradite him as Rand Paul would have made sure we would be safe.

Think again.

Senator Paul thinks Edward Snowden deserves a ‘light sentence‘ of a few years in jail, which rather suggests to me that he would rather not have had these revelations made at all, but as they are out there, he might as well make some political hay out of it. I mean one does not suggest prison for someone doing something vital to the cause of liberty, but rather one argues for that person’s vindication.

So on one hand Paul chastises the NSA for its vast programmes of indiscriminate spying based on the Snowden revelations… and on the other, he wants the person to actually told the world about it so that people like him can do something about it… to go to jail for having done so.

More than ever I am convinced Snowden did the only thing he could do rather than place his trust in some career politician. And that includes a career politician called Rand Paul.

30 comments to To be a career politician takes a certain mindset

  • Paul Marks

    Rand Paul actually suggested that Edward Snowden and the head of intelligence who lied to Congress share the same prison cell.

    By the way – I am still waiting for Mr Snowden to give some names of specific American citizens who have had their e.mails read (not counted – read) without a warrant.

    This may explain why Mr Snowden went off to the FSB (rather than the Congressional oversight committees – as a normal whistleblower would do), he may actually have no names.

    O’s razor comes in here.

    Mr Snowden produces no specific American citizens who have had their e.mails read without a warrant – having had month after month to do so. Because I does not actually have any names.

    That does not mean the NSA are innocent (they may be guilty), but Mr Snowden just did not have anything specific to take to either the House or the Senate. So off to Putin and the FSB he went.

    I still think having Clapper and Snowden share the same prison cell makes a lot of sense.

  • By the way – I am still waiting for Mr Snowden to give some names of specific American citizens who have had their e.mails read (not counted – read) without a warrant.

    Then I suggest you go re-read the thread in which is was pointed out (by several people, not just me) why your question just indicates how you do not understand the issue. It is a bit like saying “If Keynesian economics is flawed, then why can’t hyenas type e-mails?”

  • Mark Byron

    Paul’s in his first term as a senator and never held elective office prior to that. Other than not being perfectly libertarian and playing with a presidential run, how is he a “career politician”?

  • I didn't sign no stinking social contract

    Rand Paul actually suggested that Edward Snowden and the head of intelligence who lied to Congress share the same prison cell.

    The term “cognitive dissonance” comes to mind. He want the dud who revealed what’s going on jailed along with the guy who was doing what was revealed. Yeah, lets jail witnesses and criminals too while we’re at it.

  • RogerC

    For those who haven’t already read it, this piece gives a fantastic little introduction to how much information can be derived from metadata alone using very basic techniques.

  • Mark, he is the son of a congressman and the fact he is eying the White House makes him a ‘career politician’. I am not saying the world can do without career politicians (well…) and in many ways he is vastly preferable to the alternatives… but he is what he is… and that means anyone, such as Edward Snowden, who puts their life in his hands would be most unwise to do so.

    Rand Paul probably feels he can only alienate ‘The System’ so far.

  • Regional

    How many people did Snowden get killed?
    Remember the Brits had to be really careful they didn’t reveal Enigma.
    However you’re correct to be skeptical of politicians most of whom are shallow opportunists, that’s why politicians shouldn’t be told secrets, just limited to a select few.

  • Jake Haye

    I am still waiting for Mr Snowden to give some names of specific American citizens who have had their e.mails read (not counted – read) without a warrant.
    Paul Marks January 7, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    I haven’t followed this issue all that closely, so apologies if this is a naive question. Is it possible to give a specific example of damage to national security / personal freedom / whatever caused by Snowden’s revelations?

  • steve

    I think it would have been a mistake for Snowden to go to Paul. Paul couldn’t have protected him. Non-extraditable soil was the only hope.

    On the other hand, I have my doubts that Paul even wants Snowden punished. I do agree that Paul, unlike his father, is playing his hand like a career politician. He is watering down his libertarian beliefs in order to be more palatable to the voters. Over time, this makes one wonder just what his beliefs really are.

    On the other hand, if in some distant future a libertarian dominated congress is to occur. This is undoubtedly the way to do it.

    It’s the same as the ratchet effect used by Progressives. Push for something only moderately left until it becomes the center. Push for something a little more left until it is the center. etc.

  • Regional

    Jake Haye,
    During the Second World War the Australian Cabinet leaked like sieve to the Russians, some of whom were so far to the Left they made Stalin look like a Libertarian.

  • Laird

    Perry, you know that I agree with you about Snowden, and that Paul Marks is misguided to think that Snowden should have turned to Rand Paul rather than the Guardian/NYTimes/Washington Post with the NSA documents, but you can’t legitimately classify Rand Paul as a “career politician”. His run for US Senate in 2010 was his first foray into politics, and Senator is the only political office he has ever held (and that for a mere three years so far). Prior to 2011 he was a practicing physician. He is a “career physician” who has made a foray into politics.

    Regional, Snowden is responsible for no deaths. He has been very careful to ensure that no one was put into danger by his disclosures. It’s the model of a principled expose of governmental wrongdoing.

  • dfwmtx

    I’m not sure why Snowden didn’t just go to Wikileaks. I heard he and some representatives of Wikileaks met, and for some reason they rejected Snowden. Not sure why.

    I can’t really fault Snowden for not going to the big-name US newspapers. I think their editorial boards would be more likely to release anything Snowden has on the back pages where it can be easily overlooked, so these same papers can stay in good graces with the White House and keep getting their government-approved leaked talking points.

  • Laird, I mean the term ‘Career Politician’ rather more factually than epithetically really… well, kinda.

    Clearly Rand Paul is in this for the long haul, with aspirations to have his finger on The Big Red Button, so I think it is clear that his future lies in politics rather than medicine.

    Indeed if you think Rand Paul is a Good Thing (and in as much as I think any politician is, then he probably is), I do not think Edward Snowden would have done Paul any favours dropping the revelations in his lap.

    That said, I think avoiding *any* politician was the smart move (the only sane move really) for Snowden, but I also suspect Rand Paul privately weeps tears of joy that Snowden did not just turn up on his doorstep one day and hand him a USB drive: something us rugby players back in the day called a “Hospital Pass”… this way Senator Paul can have his cake and eat it too… though I am rather inclined to agree with “I didn’t sign no stinking social contract” who commented above that there is an element of cognitive dissonance here, if Paul is willing to act on the information whilst calling for the information giver to be jailed. So lets not kid ourselves that this is Rand Paul at his principled best, it is Rand Paul acting like a politician… because he is a politician.

  • jim holden

    I heard he and some representatives of Wikileaks met, and for some reason they rejected Snowden. Not sure why.

    yeah i read that somewhere too. probably because he’s a straight teetotal registered republican ron paul supporter and so he didn’t fit their expected image of a che shirt wearing occupy wall street bum boy. bet they’re feeling pretty stupid right about now.

  • Regional

    How do you know that?
    You’re being a tad arrogant there mate, one phrase can expose a spy passing information to the West and when you’re a belligerent agency you don’t tell the world you’ve executed him or her or use him or her to feed false information back to the West. In Boganstan you’re only told as much as you need to know and it was amusing when at a conference to realise that some one hasn’t been told what you’ve been told.

  • Mr Ed

    he is the son of a congressman and the fact he is eying the White House makes him a ‘career politician’

    Is that enough? He is also a qualified physician (like his father), and at his age, he has had a life outside of politics and one that he could fall back on or return to.

    What has his father’s job got to do with it?

    By the same reckoning, Nigella Lawson is part-way into career politician status, as her father was an MP and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

  • Ed, Rand Paul is not on trial here for being a Career Politician. It is OK for a person to be a politician. (Well, kinda sorta). In any case, the point of the post as I see it, is the question: was it a good idea for Snowden to go to Rand Paul. The answer is clearly ‘no’, the reason being that there’s enough evidence to at least suspect Rand Paul of being a career politician (that being a legitimate occupation in and of itself).

  • What has his father’s job got to do with it?

    Rather a lot really.

    The Kennedy ‘dynasty’, the Bush ‘dynasty’… family matters… when politics becomes a family affair, it is a safe bet that when a member of that family runs for office, they are not exactly starting like some guy who decides “something has to be done”, they are using their contacts and name to move more rapidly into a position of power. They are insiders. And if they are planning a run at the highest office in the land, then they have clearly made politics their career. So Rand Paul is a politician who happens to be a doctor rather than a doctor who happens to be a politician 😀

    And I was not aware Nigella was running for office.

  • Mr Ed


    He is far better having been a physician than some Oxford PPE graduate whose entire orientation is towards a life in politics and who gets a series of jobs as say, a think tank ‘wonk’ or as a Ministerial ‘Special Adviser’.

    If the prospects for taking office in January 2017 might include Mrs Clinton, Mrs Obama, Mr Kerry or some re-animated John McCain, is it not at least a sign of hope that Dr Paul Jnr. might be a contender?

    Given the record of all the Presidents of the past 50 years, Paul is an outsider. We know he knows what is required, he cannot not know given his father’s record.

    And I was not aware Nigella was running for office

    Precisely, her father’s past, like Rand Paul’s father’s past, is irrelevant to career politician status, and to be fair to the chef, the recent publicity surrounding cost control in her household still makes her a potentially better candidate for office than the current lot.

  • Ed. His career is a politician (ergo he is a career politician) so having a dad who is a former congressman is more than passingly important. Nigella is a cook so having a chancellor dad is less indicative of a political dynasty in the making :-p

  • Mr Ed

    Perry, but it was your case, in part, that Rand Paul was a career poltician because his father was a long-serving Representative. It strikes me as an irrelevant factor, as Nigella demonstrates.

    I feel that with Dr Paul Snr. he was the example that shows it is possible to be a politician and have good principles, he always voted for what the Constitution permitted. He waded into the sewer of politics and thereby deprived some would-be hack of a seat, standing out like Venus on a clear night, visible, yet not bright enough to overshadow the Moonshine, one could still see, but not follow, the path to Constitutional righteousness in his speeches and votes, so none could say that they did not have the opportunity to find an alternative to the lamentable incumbents. 218 Ron Pauls, and 51 Rand Pauls could transform the United States.

    I would not expect the same of Rand Paul as President that I would of his father, but it would certainly give some hope. However, when things have gone this far, bankruptcy and a Czech style ‘Velvet Divorce’ with 50 ‘spouses’ might be more realistic. If all the States left (I believe Nevada actually may not be permitted to do so by its Constitution), the fate of the District of Columbia pending re-integration into Maryland would be interesting.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Interestingly, Charles Lindbergh’s father was a US Congressman in the 1900s, and Charles himself was involved in the America First movement. By PdH’s standard, apparently he was a career politician.

  • No, if he makes politics his career, rather than a passing fancy, then he is a career political by definition. You don’t have to like the inference of the word ‘career’ but it is an categorical fact.

    Did Charles Lindbergh make a career out of politics?

    And if a politician’s father is a politician, then then odds are that was probably not an insignificant factor in them also going into politics.

    I am not arguing Rand Paul is a *bad* career politician, but he *is* clearly a career politician with all that implies, so expecting nothing but pure driven principle from him is unrealistic. Hence the likes of Edward Snowdon would have been unwise expecting Rand Paul to risk that career. That is all I am saying.

  • Laird

    Not buying it, Perry. There is no evidence that Rand has chosen politics as a “career” yet. Running for office (and winning) once does not a career make, and making vague noises about a possible run at the Presidency in three years doesn’t either. Lots of people have made a run at that office, and most have failed. Harry Browne ran twice (as the formal nominee of the Libertarian Party); does that make him a “career politician”? Wait until Rand has actually shown that he views politics as his career path before tagging him with that epithet.

    But you are correct about political dynasties. I saw an interesting statistic recently (in The Dictator’s Handbook, a fascinating book well worth reading) that something like 31% of women and 9% of men holding political office had a close relative in politics, too. If one is truly going to seek a career in politics it’s best to have had a father or uncle in that line of work, too.

    Regional, if Snowden’s revelations has resulted in even one US intelligence operative being outed, let alone killed, do you think that it wouldn’t have been trumpeted far and wide by the administration and all the statists who support the NSA’s activities? Snowden and his allies in the media have been very careful to limit the disclosures so that no individuals are compromised. They have publicly stated this intention, and to date the records bears it out. Of course, the steady drip of revelations continues, and it’s entirely possible that something could eventually come out which endangers some individual. But unless and until it does I think they’re entitled to the benefit of the doubt. Judging by their actions to date they’ve earned that much. But if you think that’s “arrogance” on my part, I plead guilty.

  • Richard Thomas

    I think Rand Paul is attempting to play a very subtle game that relies on his father’s reputation. He is being “soft” on some issues (a little more hawkish on foreign intervention for example) but the implication is clearly that he comes from the same place his father is.

    Whether it will succeed or fail remains to be seen. I also think his stance on amnesty for illegal immigrants was a misstep.

    I think there’s little doubt that he is a “career politician” but unfortunately, there’s no hope to get anyone who isn’t into those positions these days.

  • So the ultimate non-career reformist politician is one who gets elected to the legislature and shows up to his first day at work wearing a suicide vest?

    Very short career, high possibility of meaningful reform, no?

  • Heh… trouble is there are plenty more where they came from so not sure that approach really helps in the long run Billl.

  • Plamus

    Paul Marks: here you go, coming from the NSA itself. And there you go as well. Mind: “The letter, from Dr George Ellard, only lists cases that were investigated and later “substantiated” by his office. But it raises the possibility that there are many more cases that go undetected. In a quarter of the cases, the NSA only found out about the misconduct after the employee confessed.”

  • Moebius

    I think part of Paul’s statement come from attempting to juggle a punishment for revealing information that limits the NSA’s ability to perform the duties valid within Constitutional bounds and Snowden’s act as a whistleblower in revealing unconstitutional programs perpetrated on citizens of the US.

    Unfortunately, my google-fu is severly lacking while using my phone, but there was an article listing other information that Snowden has revealed, the two that stuck out at me were details on spying on countries foreign to the US and certain decryption capabilities that the NSA has at their disposal. On the first point, it should come as no suprise to anyone that an intelligence agency is collecting information from countries outside their point of origin. That’s what intelligence agencies do, from Britian to Russia to the USA. This includes spying on your allies. It may not be considered ethical, but it certainly is within the bounds of the Constitution of the US.

    The second, details on the decryption ability, is simply a tool. If there’s evidence of that tool being misused (this is a completely separate issue from the PRISM program), by all means, bring that forward. But revealing the workings of that tool does damage American national security interests. Remember, this isn’t an all or nothing list. Snowden can be hailed as a hero for his revelations of domestic spying, and still have charges brought for revealing classified information about items which are otherwise Constitutional. Think someone who steals several cars, one of which was to prevent a drunk from driving. Even if we agree that he did the right thing in one case, he still must be held responsible for the remainder of the thefts.