LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Speaking to delegates at the FreedomFest conference it’s clear that foreign policy is higher on the agenda than at any previous Presidential election in my memory, which perhaps isn’t saying much of a 28-year-old, but symbolic to me at least.
We have ISIS, a Euro crisis, multi-national level government spying, an insurgent China, and a ballsy Russia. It’s a perfect storm out there. Which is why I was so intrigued to hear from those who are traditionally considered “isolationist-minded” conservatives and libertarians in the U.S.
What’s clear from the outset is that they’re certainly not isolationist. They know America has a leading role in the world, and they know the details of what is going on across all four corners of the globe.
I was joined by my friend and colleague Dan Whitfield to discuss the implications of Britain falling short in the way of military spending, which has left created “resentment” from the U.S. foreign policy establishment. The Americans, concerned that their taxpayers are now doing the heavy lifting in the way of Western interventionism, will perhaps be looking for someone who understands, in Whitfield’s words, the “weight of history” behind the Anglo-American relationship.
But Whitfield cited Marco Rubio and Chris Christie as the candidates who “get it” so far – a disappointment to anti-establishment Republicans and conservative activists. Rubio refused Breitbart London and the U.S. Breitbart News journalists present, interviews at FreedomFest.
Obama, said Whitfield, was supposed to herald “a new era of world peace”, but instead has given ISIS the oxygen to thrive in the Middle East and indeed at home in the United States and across Europe, and given formerly strong allies in Germany and France for example, reason to resent the U.S. because of NSA spying.
And so much for the “reset button” with Russia, Whitfield added. Putin, despite Russia’s financial woes, has shown up the Americans, and indeed NATO and the EU, over Ukraine.
On comparisons between the European Union and the United States federal government, Whitfield warned that while it was individual rights, democracy, and the idea of state sovereignty which founded the U.S., they shouldn’t be fooled into believing that the EU fosters the same ideals for its member nations. Quite the opposite, in fact. While it was “sown into America’s DNA”, these ideals are anathema to an “anti-democratic EU” – and Britain should remove itself as soon as possible.
Which brings us to Barack Obama’s numerous interventions on the matter. In 2008, Whitfield recalled, the Democratic Party of the United States excoriated Australian Prime Minster John Howard for intervening in the U.S. presidential campaign. Meanwhile, Obama’s party, and the president himself, are quite happy to intervene in the EU debate. Hypocrisy? Yes, said Whitfield.
On campaign funding, it’s interesting to hear that a Briton – Whitfield was born in Redditch, outside Birmingham – thinks the liberalisation of money in politics is actually a good thing. Britain and Europe have pretty strict campaign expenditure laws in comparison to the United States.
Barack Obama spent over $1bn getting elected in 2008. Mitt Romney raised over $1bn in 2012, and Jeb Bush is already raising hundreds of millions of dollars for his election run, with many months to go. Money leads to more television adverts in particular – but doesn’t necessarily lead to victory, said Whitfield.
The idea that you can just spend and win is not true. He cited Meg Whitmore’s run in California, Linda MacMahon in Massachusetts, and John Corzine’s run against Gov Chris Christie.
What’s clear here at FreedomFest, is that while the bells and whistles of Vegas ring out in the background, the people attending this libertarian conference are firmly focused on their goals of spreading the message of low taxation, limited government, and indeed, perhaps even a little bit counterintuitively, the belief that freedom-loving nation states need to work together. Even if their current presidents and prime ministers have abdicated their founding principles.