Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Voice of Reason - Ron Smith 1941-2011

Six days ago, Baltimore radio talk show host Ron Smith died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He had announced his retirement in November when he publicly disclosed he had the disease and subsequently announced he was foregoing chemotherapy after a bad reaction to his initial treatment and with the knowledge there was little to be gained.

Ron Smith was known on the air under the moniker, "The Voice of Reason," (or alternatively, "Talk Show Man"). I take the time to post some thoughts about him because he consistently gave voice to the principles of limited government. For 26 years, his show was a wonderful blend of commentary and interviews that was always entertaining and always informative. Ron's guests weren't always politicians parsing every word, but rather he spoke to authors and policy wonks and provided in-depth analysis of complicated issues that was far more educational than the talking points and platitudes spewed by nationally syndicated talk radio hosts. Even if you didn't agree with Ron Smith, you could learn a lot from his show. For a time he had a big government liberal political science professor from UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Tom Schaller, co-host with him on Friday afternoons to give an opposing view and liberal Democrat activist Frank DeFilippo was a regular guest on Monday afternoons. So respected was Ron Smith that even local Democrat politicians such as Baltimore mayor and later Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and Senator Ben Cardin have regularly appeared and taken questions from listeners (Senator Cardin deserves a gold star for venturing into the lion's den as often as he did) and the statist-leaning Baltimore Sun newspaper invited him to contribute an opposing view column every week. Blair Lee IV and Towson University Professor of Rhetoric, Rick Vats were also frequent guests. Blair Lee is an almanac of Maryland politics and Professor Vats often gave interesting insight on major speeches, such as State of the Union addresses. At 4 PM every day, financial planner Jonathan Murray would join Ron for the closing bell report. Murray and Ron shared a commitment to free markets and Murray often provided sunny optimism to contrast Ron's pessimism. But, the respect and friendship they felt for each other was obvious on the air. At the holidays, Ron would be joined on the air by his wife, June, and lighter topics would be covered. Mrs. Reason also has an engaging on-air friendliness and could've been a successful radio personality in her own right.

I have lived in Maryland most of my life, other than four years in Virginia. I listened to the Ron Smith show infrequently before I moved to Virginia, but I became an avid listener after I moved back (at least until the bone-headed WBAL moved him from my afternoon commute home to 9 AM in the morning while I was at work....). Ron Smith was a true libertarian and non-partisan. He regularly challenged the orthodoxy of both political parties. One of his favourite quips was that one party was stupid and the other evil (he was always deliberately vague about which was which) and therefore any bipartisan legislation was guaranteed to be both stupid and evil. He lost a lot of conservative listeners when he lambasted the Bush administration for the invasion of Iraq. I, however, was happy to find a voice in the wilderness echoing what I felt - that it didn't make one a "liberal" (i.e. leftist) to oppose an immoral and unnecessary war. We in Maryland were very lucky to have a local show of this quality and a local talent this great.

Ron Smith was an amazing radio talent and a tireless defender of liberty. His passing is a great loss to the Maryland community and he will be greatly missed.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ron Paul and Race

It saddens me to have to write this. Earlier this year, I endorsed Ron Paul for President. Now that he has risen in the polls and taken the lead in Iowa, his campaign has come under more scrutiny and has been buffeted by negative attacks from both main stream media and neo-con talk radio. A recent column in the Wall Street Journal grossly distorted Congressman Paul's views on foreign policy (a more accurate view can be gleaned here).

But, the most concerning attack is one resurrected from his campaign four years ago when the New Republic reported on newsletters (links to the actual newsletters are in the New Republic piece) published under his name in the late 1980's and early 1990's that included racist and anti-Semitic views. Four years ago, Congressman Paul addressed these newsletters stating that he did not write them, disavowed their content, and that he should have been more careful and provided more oversight to what was being published under his name. In a recent interview with Gloria Borger, he was clearly annoyed at having to address this again when he has answered these questions before.

The question is, are his answers satisfactory? Does Ron Paul harbor racism or was he ignorant of the garbage that was being published under his name while he was out of Congress and practicing obstetrics? I think it is safe to say that the answer is yes, his answers are satisfactory and he was ignorant of what was being published under his name. Nothing in Congressman Paul's public career suggests support for policies that are racist or anti-Semitic. In the 198o's he defended Israel when they bombed an Iraqi nuclear plant, even though members of his own party were critical of the action (at the time, Iraq was an ally of the U.S. against Iran). He has been consistently opposed to the drug war and cites as part of his opposition that African-Americans are disproportionately incarcerated. Similarly, he changed his view (the man who never changes his views) on capital punishment and now opposes it because it is disproportionately applied to African-Americans. I think it is pretty clear from his record that Ron Paul is not a racist and didn't write those newsletters. In fact, because of his positions on the drug war and capital punishment, Ron Paul actually polls better with minority voters than any of the other GOP candidates.

It is ridiculous to have to state the obvious about a man dedicated to equality, liberty and peace. But I will state it anyway - the newsletters are nonsense, he didn't write them and they don't reflect his views in any way. The truth is out there and expanded upon in more detail in the Daily Paul. I stand by my endorsement of Congressman Ron Paul for President of the United States as he represents our best hope for real change.