Stanley Takes on Rosen (and Loses)
by Ari Armstrong, June 14, 2002
Rick Stanley took on Mike Rosen, and Rosen whipped him soundly. Stanley is the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, and Rosen is the most popular Colorado radio host on 850 KOA.
I was excited when I heard Stanley had landed a spot on Rosen's show. Perhaps, I thought, all of Stanley's inflammatory comments had actually paid off, and now he'll have the chance to tell the voters directly why they should support him. Rosen's show is heard throughout Colorado and the region.
But Stanley's performance was embarrassing. His comments were poorly informed and often ridiculous. In an article at www.freecolorado.com/2002/05/stanley.html I wrote, "My sense is that the media attention Stanley is getting will attract some votes for him and at the same time set a fairly low ceiling for his total." After hearing the Rosen show, I'm even more convinced that's true.
Stanley appeared in studio on Thursday, June 13, from 10-10:45 am. Rosen began by noting, "You're attracting a lot of attention." He reminded the audience that Stanley said Senator Wayne Allard should be tried for treason and "hung" when found guilty. "I did say that, yes," Stanley replied.
Rosen was actually very gracious and generous toward Stanley. Rosen gave Stanley a few minutes at the outset to describe his platform to the voters. And, for a brief moment, I thought Stanley would do okay. The Libertarian Party stands for limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, and constitutional government, Stanley said. So far so good, but every Libertarian knows this tag line.
As his first example of out-of-control federal governance, Stanley cited the national role in agriculture. Well, it's true there's no constitutional power to meddle in agriculture, but this is hardly a populist issue.
The pair spent a few minutes discussing Stanley's potential for winning the race. Stanley said his chances are "very good," with early poll results similar to those of Ventura. Rosen cited the vote totals for Libertarian presidential candidates, while also noting Libertarians have had some success on the local level.
It was all downhill for the rest of the hour. Stanley said the income tax is a fraud to support the federal reserve. "Not one dime of the income tax has ever gone to pay for government services," Stanley said. Instead, the money goes to pay interest on the federal reserve debt.
It's true that Libertarians want to repeal the income tax and return to the gold standard. Unfortunately, the only reason Stanley mentioned for wanting to get rid of the income tax is its alleged ties to the federal reserve system. Again, this just doesn't resonate with voters. I doubt even one voter in a thousand actually considers the federal reserve a voting issue.
Also, Rosen was ready for Stanley's claims. It's unclear to me what exactly Stanley (or Stanley's source) meant by "federal reserve debt," but Rosen interpreted it in a straight-forward way to mean just the U.S. national debt. Rosen pointed out that the income tax raised $994 billion in 2001, whereas the payment on debt was "only" $206 billion. Clearly, most of the money from the income tax goes somewhere other than to pay off the debt.
Perhaps Stanley's source meant that the money is not spent for legitimate government services. But Stanley didn't explain that. Stanley obviously didn't know what he was talking about. All he could do was invoke the "smoke and mirrors" of government and promise to e-mail Rosen a statement from a former government official. Rosen said he'd count the days until he got the e-mail that supported Stanley's claim.
Stanley allowed the discussion about the federal reserve to continue till 10:45. What a waste! Stanley could have talked about why Social Security is going bankrupt and how we can move to a market system. He could have talked about all the wasted resources and social violence that comes with drug prohibition. He could have talked about the risk to civil liberties in the "war on terror." He could have talked about the flaws of the Brady law and other disarmament laws and why we should repeal them. But no. Stanley discussed the federal reserve for about half an hour, and he did a poor job explaining that issue.
Rosen noted that every modern bank works on a fractional reserve system. He said Milton Friedman supports the federal reserve system, and Friedman is after all a libertarian. Stanley claimed centralized banking caused the Great Depression -- a case that various libertarian economists have argued forcefully -- but he was not able to counter Rosen's claim that the problem was monetary policy, but not the federal reserve system itself.
And then we got to the conspiracies. Stanley claimed the fed is controlled by "international bankers." Rosen replied that the fed is controlled by U.S. citizens and the chair of the fed -- now Alan Greenspan -- is appointed by the President. These officials are "supposedly appointed by the President," Stanley retorted. "Who told him to appoint him?" Stanley wondered. Never once did Stanley actually attempt to explain why the fed is a bad idea. Instead, he tried to argue the fed is run by bad and secretive people. But I don't think the average voter has much of a beef with Alan Greenspan.
Stanley quoted Thomas Jefferson as an authority who opposed a federal reserve system. Rosen cited other authorities who think it's a good idea, and he said maybe Jefferson was occasionally wrong. Rosen got Rick to agree Jefferson was wrong about the Navy to make his point.
Stanley claimed the Constitution allows only for a treasury department, not a federal reserve system. He was on to something there, but he didn't flesh out the argument. And he quickly returned to nonsense. He claimed the "fed brought the economy into a tizzy by setting the interest rate too high." Rosen responded that the general interest rate was determined by the market, not by the fed. But the fed sets the rate on the money it lends out, Stanley said. That's true, but he never explained why the real problem is the expansion of the money supply, which is actually exacerbated when the fed lowers its interest rate.
Stanley was also rude. At one point, in the midst of a verbal tiff, Stanley said, "You don't like content, do you Mike." Rosen said that was a "silly assertion." Later on, Stanley claimed Rosen was taking the "fascist route" in his politics. Rosen denied the charge. Stanley replied, "You fooled me with that." Rosen, unable to resist the setup, finished up, "That's because you're a fool."
Finally Rosen cut off the discussion about the fed and returned to the matter of treason. Stanley said Allard committed treason by supporting the war on drugs. Rosen asked him, then, if merely voting for legislation can constitute treason. Stanley said, "If it's against the American people, sure it is."
The problems with Stanley's assertion are legion. As he admitted, by his standard practically every politician should be killed for treason. Also, as Chuck Wright has pointed out, Allard won by a vote. Should we also kill all the people who voted for Allard? That's obviously absurd. I'll add another reason: once we start down the road of killing off (rather than voting out) leaders we don't like, there's not a very good way to stop. I'm sure somebody could come up with some rationale to hang Stanley. It's not a very pretty or stable way to run a political system.
Stanley first made his comment about Allard in the context of the USA PATRIOT Act. Only later did David Bryant attempt to justify Stanley's comments based on the war on drugs. Bryant referred to the LP's platform to make the case that supporting the war on drugs is treason. The platform states, "The so-called 'War on Drugs' is in reality a war on the American people, our Constitution, and the Bill of Rights."
However, that's not the type of "war" that's relevant to the Constitutional provision pertaining to treason. Article III, Section 3 states, "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them..." To what does that pronoun "them" refer? It refers to the United States, as state governments joined by the Constitution.
Rosen and Stanley got into a long argument about Constitutional interpretation. Stanley said, "The Constitution says what it says," but Rosen made the obvious point that even legal scholars disagree on some points.
Stanley quoted the Second Amendment. So Rosen asked him if that means people can own tanks. At first, Stanley said he didn't want to own a tank, but when pushed he said the Second Amendment applies to tanks as well. (Rosen didn't ask him about nuclear weapons.)
There is certainly no agreement even among libertarians as to what "arms" the Second Amendment protects. A few libertarians argue that nuclear weapons should be included. But John Ross argues the Second Amendment applies to small arms, such as an infantryman would carry. Dave Kopel seems to agree. In the April 2001 edition of Liberty Magazine, Kopel wrote an article titled, "What the Second Amendment Means." He cited an early definition from Webster's on arms: "Weapons of offense, or armor for defense and protection of the body..." Also, the word "bear" means "to carry; to convey... to wear." This would seem to include all rifles, shotguns, and handguns, but preclude tanks.
Rosen argued that, to Stanley, the Constitution means what Stanley says it means. By flubbing his arguments about treason and arms, Stanley fell headlong into that trap.
I called in during the last minutes of the show and reminded Rosen that courts can and do make mistakes, and that it is our responsibility as citizens to loudly protest unjust decisions. Rosen agreed, but said the way to do that is through the available political process.
With respect to Stanley's court case in Denver, Rosen argued that city courts shouldn't have responsibility for deciding matters of constitutionality. That should be handled higher up. I disagree: the precedent of city courts ignoring the Colorado and U.S. Constitutions is wholly arbitrary. But Stanley never made that point.
The first caller said he sympathized with libertarian ideas but was "disappointed to hear the conspiratorial tone" of Stanley's remarks. He said there are "plenty of good issues out there" without getting into conspiracies. He suggested libertarians should talk about issues like drug prohibition, which is becoming more main-stream.
"I love libertarian thought," Rosen said. He said he respected the great libertarians such as Friedman, Rothbard, Hayek, and Mises. (It was abundantly obvious that Rosen was much more familiar with libertarian ideas than Stanley was.) But, Rosen said, "I think you give libertarians a bad name, Rick." Stanley invokes conspiracies, he exaggertes, and he does not tolerate intelligent disagreement, Rosen (correctly) noted.
When discussion returned to the matter of legal interpretation, Stanley said the court system is corrupt, so "screw the courts." Rosen replied, "You said screw the courts, and you want to run for U.S. Senate?" I suspect that most of Rosen's radio audience shared his indignation. "We're a nation of laws, not men," Rosen said. Of course, really that's the libertarian message, but Stanley came across as someone who disdained the rule of law.
Another caller asked about greenhouse gasses. Stanley said the hole in the ozone proves there is a "problem in this regard." Rosen replied that ozone coverage at the poll varies naturally, and that it's unclear whether human activity impacts global warming. (Besides, greenhouse gasses and ozone depletion are distinct issues.) Stanley said he hopes the free market will "figure out a way" to create other types of transportation. Rosen said he agrees that's what will eventually happen.
It is perhaps telling that this caller was the only one on the show who said, "I agree with everything this man [Stanley] is saying." Stanley doesn't have a very good handle on libertarian issues, nor does he know how to focus on issues that might appeal to voters. That said, I still intend to vote for him, and hopefully his performances will improve in the future.