Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is the New York Times bestselling author of 12 books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and Meltdown (on the financial crisis). A senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Woods has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, FOX News, FOX Business, C-SPAN, Bloomberg Television, and hundreds of radio programs... (Read More)

The Tom Woods App

Tom Woods vs. Mark Levin

(I’ve linked to this page from two separate videos now, so you may encounter more here than the video you watched led you to expect. If you’re here for the controversy over nullification, click here.)

First, my exchange with Levin on presidential war powers. He refused to link to my replies. I’m happy to link to his. Here’s the whole exchange:

Levin’s original comments on radio, transcribed;
My blog post in response;
His reply;
My challenge;
His alleged reply to my challenge;
My summary and conclusion (“How I Sent Mark Levin Home Crying”).

See also my lengthy Q&A-style essay “The Phony Case for Presidential War Powers.”

For a great deal more on presidential war powers and the Constitution, see the website of Louis Fisher, among the country’s foremost experts on the subject.

Second, foreign policy. Levin and his friend Jeffrey Lord of The American Spectator claim Ron Paul’s noninterventionist foreign policy makes him a left-liberal [!]. This is completely false.

Here’s my refutation of this claim:

Lord tried responding to this. That was a mistake. I came back with this article.

Here are some other relevant pieces of mine:

Do Conservatives Hate Their Own Founder? Russell Kirk on Militarism
Come Home, Conservatives — To the Antiwar Conservative Movement
The Conservative Case Against the War: A Review
No Patronizing, No Sloganeering

I also recommend Bill Kauffman’s Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle American Anti-Imperialism.

Daniel P. McCarthy, editor of The American Conservative magazine, gives a good overview of the correct conservative foreign policy in this extended interview (part one deals primarily with domestic issues):

Here’s my interview with Iowa conservative Steve Deace, who asked me about Ron Paul’s foreign policy:

On Israel, Dr. Paul writes in his #1 New York Times bestseller The Revolution: A Manifesto:

“How does Israel, with which the United States has long enjoyed a special relationship, fit into this picture? I see no reason that our friendship with Israel cannot continue. I favor extending to Israel the same honest friendship that Jefferson and the Founding Fathers urged us to offer to all nations. But that also means no special privileges like foreign aid — a position I maintain vis-a-vis all other countries as well. That means I also favor discontinuing foreign aid to governments that are actual or potential enemies of Israel, which taken together receive much more American aid than Israel does. Giving aid to both sides has understandably made many average Israelis and American Jews conclude that the American government is hypocritically hedging its bets.

“I oppose all foreign aid on principle, for reasons I detail in a later chapter. Foreign aid is not only immoral, since it involves the forced transfer of wealth, but it is also counterproductive, as a ceaseless stream of scholarship continues to show. Foreign aid has been a disaster in Africa, delaying sound economic reforms and encouraging wastefulness and statism. We should not wish it on our worst enemy, much less a friend. Moreover, since the aid has to be spent on products made by American corporations, it is really just a form of corporate welfare, which I can never support.

“Only those with a very superficial attachment to Israel can really be happy that she continues to rely on over $2 billion in American aid every year. In the absence of such grants, Israel would at last be under pressure to adopt a freer economy, thereby bringing about greater prosperity for her people and making it easier for her to be self-reliant. Foreign aid only inhibits salutary reforms like this, reforms that any true friend of Israel is eager to see. As a matter of fact, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in Jerusalem argues that ‘foreign aid is the greatest obstacle to economic freedom in Israel.’ It is an open secret that Israel’s military industry is inefficient and top-heavy with bureaucracy, shortcomings that consistent American aid obviously encourages. Why make difficult adjustments when billions in aid can be counted on regardless of what you do?

“Our government has also done Israel a disservice by effectively infringing on her sovereignty. Israel seeks American approval for military action she deems necessary, she consults with America on matters pertaining to her own borders, and she even seeks American approval for peace talks with her neighbors…. This needs to stop. And with an arsenal of hundreds of nuclear weapons, Israel is more than capable of deterring or repelling any enemy. She should once again be in charge of her own destiny.”

Note also this article in Arutz Sheva, the media voice of the “settler” movement, in favor of Ron Paul.

And note this article about all the Israeli voices who favor an end to foreign aid.

I myself supported the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and other military interventions in the Middle East at one time. Here’s a little bit about what changed my mind, from a speech I gave in Los Angeles in May 2011. (The whole speech, which has had over 40,000 views, is here; below is the last — and most relevant — part of the speech that someone made into a separate video.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.f.kendall David F. Kendall

    I’m a pretty good fan of Mark Levin, but this is ridiculous.  I don’t know who Dr. Tom Woods is from Adam (I just started looking at his page today), but it’s obvious that he’s the one with the evidence here.  It is, likewise, obvious that Mark Levin is dodging the questions and failing to produce any evidence.  I find this to be a shame from such a great scholar as Mr. Levin.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Levon-Avakian/1216304475 Levon Avakian

    tsk tsk tsk, Mark Levin has to be careful when messing with Tom Woods, for that matter so does every other “scholar” who try to teach treasonous views why doesn’t this guy go teach Isreali history in Isreal, oh yea thats right they have to get rid of all of the arabs and take their rescources befre they can actually have a history of their own.So instead he wants to tell Americans lies so that they support the Isreali takeover through convincing Americans that treason is legal without sufficient evidence. GET HIM TOM! 

  • SemiSpook

    So, from what I see here, two people that have differing opinions on what a particular section of the Constitution means. Both are scholars in their own right in different areas. It’s a disagreement that would only work if BOTH parties were actually ALIVE and PRESENT for the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention and interacted with the particulars involved. We can go on all day with our interpretations as to who wanted what and who was right, but at the end of the day, we won’t truly know and that’s up to personal interpretation.

    And as for direct exchanges between said scholars, it’s very disheartening to see gloating on either end. Sure, Mr. Levin (or one of his handlers, more likely) may have removed a comment from his FB page for some reason (it would have been nice to review said comment, but I would have to go out on a limb and say that it may have been removed for purely civil reasons), but to post a piece that openly gloats about said exchange and then ending it with the words “I win.” is no way to bring people over to your side.

    Was that taken from Saul Alinsky or did you come up with that on your own, Professor? Truly disgraceful.

  • http://tomwoods.com Tom Woods

    “We can go on all day with our interpretations as to who wanted what and who was right, but at the end of the day, we won’t truly know and that’s up to personal interpretation.”

    For what it’s worth, that isn’t what the Framers themselves thought.  They urged us to refer to the ratifiers.  I asked Levin to name me one Federalist during the entire ratifying process who took his position.  You’re saying it is of no relevance to the strength of my case that he could not find even one?

    As for Levin’s behavior, I find it amusing that I am taken to task for saying “I win,” when I obviously did win.  Levin changed the subject instead of answering my challenge.  That’s about as close to a win as one gets in a debate.

    My “I win” is about a million times more civil than Levin’s name-calling on the radio, his string of red herrings (look at the website Woods is challenging me on!  They think Reagan wasn’t free market enough!), and the fact that countless obviously civil comments were removed from FB.  Not just one or two.  Hundreds.  The head of a major California Tea Party, who offered to host a debate at the Reagan Library, was purged.  Had I done that, I’d never hear the end of it. Levin does it and it’s a minor issue to be ignored.

    And incidentally, I have brought countless Levin listeners over to my side.  I have the emails to prove it.  He is calling names, and I am offering evidence.  That’s how you win.

  • SpiMonk

    Wow…what a superb lesson in the way propaganda works.  Levin’s arguments have no substance.  They are his opinions with nothing to back them up.  Because his position is stated with such confidence, you overlook his lack of evidence and just take his word for granted.  Levin is the master of propaganda…Kudos.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6WBHS7J6SQOT5U3ATKJFYBDJII BobboG

    i had heard Levin was a decent supporter of liberty, but after reading all the relevant info here I can comfortably put him on the same intellectual level as Krugman – someone who would rather deflect and use logical fallacies to argue than address the clear points brought up.  thanks for opening my eyes (not just on this issue).

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6WBHS7J6SQOT5U3ATKJFYBDJII BobboG

    semispook, if you think Tom behaved childishly or without merit, you obviously haven’t read what Levin wrote.

  • http://www.juspam.com juslen

    Awesome, this debate needs to be circulated over and over again. Levin is a disgrace, I actually got into a debate with someone who was claiming that Levil is far above the caliber of talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’ Reily. and I pointed them in the direction of Levin’s lack of understanding of the constitutions, Ron Paul bashing and his tendency to call people idiots, cut off collars and then tear them apart without them even being able to defend themselves. They point to his books, as if he is some great scholar. I guess putting “Liberty & Tyranny” in the title of your boom makes you a great American patriot. Sadly Levin doesn’t understand liberty and he is by all indications a supporter of tyrants.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t get how Levin can take himself seriously in a debate on revolutionary history against a Columbia U History PhD. I don’t get how his supporters can take him seriously given who he’s up against. You’d have to be quite invested in Levin’s cough syrup to not be able to realize just how badly matched the guy really is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1427231609 Jerry Davis


        First we have a mutual friend, whom I am sure would agree, with the views that we both hold self evident and are written within the Constitution. I have been studying this stuff for about 30 years now, and it was very interesting to read this “debate”.

    One of the points I noticed right away, is that you cited “Hard” information, and Levin sited “source” information. For those reading this that may not know the difference. Source information is taken from another persons research, or affiliated information, Hard information is what can be considered direct, and strait from the original source, not a by product of that source.

    I cannot relay the amount of aggravation this very topic has caused myself through the years. The writing in the Constitution is not in code, it is not hard to understand. It was written so that all could understand it. The Constitution, although it has been interpreted, does not leave room for taking power away from the people, unless it is “interpreted” by those wishing to do just that.

    One thing that I believe has been let go through the years is not so much the interpretation of the Constitution, but the manipulation of its passages. Many people , especially through WWI and WWII became complacent with letting politics rule, and became scared to speak out against the practices that knew were wrong, but felt helpless to change.

    When one looks at the propaganda war that the powerful and rich, as well as the political and corporate world has waged on a less than knowing public, and a cold war that they could use for such inciting of fear and paranoia in the United States, it is easy to see how so many have forgotten what we truly have, (had?).

    The Constitution was written with the will to prevent people from being ruled by kings, dukes and lords. The words in the Constitution were chosen carefully, and thoughtfully to ensure, the people could hold the government liable for their actions should they become tyrannical, overbearing or unfair to the people of the United States.

    I applaud you Thomas Woods. You are truly one of the great historical thinkers of our time. I too, will soon be educating, teaching and yes, even preaching the words of our Constitution on a much broader level. I have pages, blogs, and articles, none of which I have officially published yet, however, that is soon to change.

    In closing, I admire your work, I cherish your enthusiasm, and I salute your patriotism. You sir, are a true American, and I will Stand beside you any day.


                                              Jerry E. Davis

  • Anonymous

    Count me as one less Levin listener, too, after hearing his disgraceful verbal assault on Dr. Paul yesterday on his show.

  • Anonymous

    Count me as one less Levin listener, too, after hearing his disgraceful verbal assault on Dr. Paul yesterday on his show.

  • Anonymous

    Count me as one less Levin listener, too, after hearing his disgraceful verbal assault on Dr. Paul yesterday on his show.

  • Gankstar Poker

    Until the government shutdown online poker, I was playing professionally.

    What you did here is refered to as “calling his bluff”…lol.

    You completely destroyed his arguments, and showed his pseudo-intellectual points were nothing more than a facade.

    Congratulations Tom, that was great fun to read. The video on Lord’s article was also hillariously disarming to your opponent’s arguments.

    Anytime you want free poker lessons, let me know, I’d be honored to teach how to translate your obvious natural ability to sniff out BS to the poker table, for fun and profit of course.

    Keep up the great and important work.

  • Andrewsellis

    After going on a reading stint that started with “The Economics of Liberty,” and included Woods’ erudite and educational book, “Meltdown,” I became enamored with the Austrian school. I began devouring various books on current affairs, including Ron Paul’s “Revolution.” At some point, not being too familiar with him, I picked up Levin’s recent book – The Conservative Manifesto, if I’ve got the misleading title correct – and I found myself feeling like I had gone from immersing myself in the wisdom of great minds to grading an inordinately long essay written by an unruly and petulant adolescent. That’s God’s honest truth – that’s what it felt like. To be sure, it disappointed. Furthermore, his views on military interventionism and torture – on “national security” – offended my sense of American pride. Levin’s haughty superiority complex is unbearable. I cannot say how much I admire Woods’ patience in dealing with that man.

  • http://www.republicofdunces.tumblr.com CzechCzar

    Levin has posted a “sort-of” rebuttal to Messrs. Woods and Hunter.  It may be found at http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150265198520946.  I hope you respond, Professor!

  • Anonymous

    I used to listen to Levin often as I agreed with many of the conservative views he had (even the war prior to my neocon deprogramming). His point to ridicule opponents (which I assumed at the time to be mainly liberals) amounted to entertainment for me. However, since I have seen through the neocon mindset (endless wars are a good thing and labeling virtually anyone who disagrees while holding up virtually all other “conservative” principles as a “liberal” or a “kook”). I am a supporter of Ron Paul, despite the fact I also ridiculed and was even angered by him back during the 2008 campaign.

    It has been quite a journey to becoming “awake” and it is sad to see the likes of Levin, Rush, and Hannity to completely dismiss Ron Paul because he sees fiscal responsibility to be applied across the board and that we can accomplish peace with endless escalation of wars. Ron Paul 2012!!!

  • Anonymous

    Levin relentlessly and illogically attacks Ron Paul in my opinion. Too bad he seems to lack the maturity to disagree on points without calling names and completely dismissing him as a legitimate candidate. Then, Levin will have on Rand Paul…

    I’d have a hard time talking to someone who I know has been bashing my dad, who is a decent man. Makes me upset just thinking about it on a personal perspective…

  • Anonymous

    Levin relentlessly and illogically attacks Ron Paul in my opinion. Too bad he seems to lack the maturity to disagree on points without calling names and completely dismissing him as a legitimate candidate. Then, Levin will have on Rand Paul…

    I’d have a hard time talking to someone who I know has been bashing my dad, who is a decent man. Makes me upset just thinking about it on a personal perspective…

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/6YNRUHQHLTD6OYQB6GRXVB3MOY ThomasC

    Petulant adolescent is a perfect description. He is immature and engages in name calling instead of rationally and calmly addressing an opposing view. 

  • neocontrotsky

    Levin shows his true colors.  He is as scared to debate Tom Woods as Obama is to speak without a teleprompter.

    That says all I need to know about how right he actually believes he is.  

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/NMLA3IP3VOTEFE56MLBFBKO2GY The Kingfish

    Levin is entertaining at best (like when he says “Huckaphoney!”) but is essentially a clownish crank. Ron Paul is definitely my man and has been for years – I would ALSO crawl over broken glass for the guy. However, the paleos were known for a lot of crankiness themselves in the early ’90s, and due to their association with RP, he gets painted with that brush too….

  • Reese

    I disagree with Tom plenty, but to dismiss his intellect was a stupid tactic by Levin. On this issue, Levin is overtly wrong.  The only way he can make a point about the appropriateness of presidential war powers is to concede that he disagrees with the founders and supports the executive’s slow and steady absorption of war powers. Levin’s explanations of “declare war” vs. “make war” are semantic sophistry. All the founders were against the chief magistrate starting a war of his own accord–many of them explicitly state their opinions on this.

  • Reese

    I disagree with Tom plenty, but to dismiss his intellect was a stupid tactic by Levin. On this issue, Levin is overtly wrong.  The only way he can make a point about the appropriateness of presidential war powers is to concede that he disagrees with the founders and supports the executive’s slow and steady absorption of war powers. Levin’s explanations of “declare war” vs. “make war” are semantic sophistry. All the founders were against the chief magistrate starting a war of his own accord–many of them explicitly state their opinions on this.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rockwaterman Rock Waterman

    Semispook, you seem of the opinion that we can’t know the minds of the founders unless we were there.  Not true.  Those men left a massive body of writings clearly explaining their mind and intent.  We are expected to refer to those explications when controversies arise.  Thomas Wood cited only a few examples, while Levin produced nothing.  

    Read the writings of the founders.  That’s what they’re there for.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rockwaterman Rock Waterman

    Levin is a fool to think his attacks will persuade listeners to move away from Ron Paul.  They are having the opposite effect.  Keep it up, Mark!  The publicity is helping our side.

  • Dug Bagley

    Does Levin make a thrill run up your leg? 

  • Pingback: Mark Levin’s Ron Paul Rant « Mere Liberty

  • Angelo S

    That’s it!
    That’s the word I was looking for to describe Marx Levin…

  • Angelo S


    I think if you just hang a few bunches of garlic cloves over the door, Marx Levin will go elsewhere looking for host organisms to inhabitate.

    He so agitated by demons he can barely conduct a conversation. Sad to watch.
    His life has devolved to nothing more than fitfull rants.
    He’s essentially finished.
    I don’t know what happened to the poor, pathetic chap.

    As always Tom, good job.

  • Daniel Beaulieu

    Just read the whole thing… I cant believe that ANY person who considers themselves intelligent would continue listening to levin unless strictly for comedic relief.

    Good work Tom…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mayur-Thaker/22003735 Mayur Thaker

    We should all just start referring to him as Karl Levin.

  • Anonymous

    I completely understand as I had the same exact thing happen to me.  I was in the USMC and during the 08 cycle my wife mentioned Dr Paul and I actually think I said he should be arrested for treason for not voting a certain way etc without ever even looking at what he actually said or what the issue even was.  Neo-Con programming indeed. 

  • http://somercet.livejournal.com/ Anonymous

    America’s defense of her foreign policy is pretty dreadful, far more so than the policy. (Though for xenophobia I find it hard to surpass the Democrats who think tiny brown people are hiding under our beds waiting to steal our jobs.)

    Something in your critique of American foreign policy is a little off. It matches what the Kennedy assassination conspiracy kooks have in common: a complete disinterest in Lee Harvey Oswald: would-be assassin of Gen Edwin Walker, and killer of J.D. Tippit and Pres. Kennedy.

    Amazing how all other countries on Earth are peaceful and kind… except America. How all their leaders are simple, gentle folk who would never kill for money… except America’s. Shouldn’t you pay attention to what they are doing?

    And honestly, where are these Two Minute Hates you conjure up? The only “party line” I’ve ever heard was that Iraqis, Afghans &c were victims or bystanders compared to the few war mongers among them. In fact, I think they pump that line too hard.

  • Joeuser

    I say we give “blood-n-guts” Levin a rifle and free transport to Iran to lead us to another glorious victory. 

    Who wants to chip in?  Maybe Dr. Woods has connections to broker something or at least make the offer.  A patriot like Levin should jump at the opportunity.

  • Joeuser

    Levin is a boisterous idiot not qualified to wash Tom’s toilet brush but I will say, don’t cite Columbia U. because they have cranked out some real jokes like Obama and a bunch of other socialists.

  • Principal Skinner

    Thank you for responding, Mrs. Levin.  

    We do appreciate your position as Mark’s mother but he really needs to turn in his own homework as assigned.

    If he has special needs we can arrange for placement testing to determine which class might more appropriate to his level.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mcbowler78 Matthew Bowler

    Did Mark Levin just go to bat for Obama?  It’s ok for Obama to start war with Libya without Congress?  And congresses only responsibility is defunding or impeachment?  That’s jacked.

  • Duplexllc

    Vladimir Levin works pretty good too :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-A-Dudenhoefer/1342260445 David A. Dudenhoefer

    This is great work on your part Tom.  I will do what I can to spread this to the masses.  Thank you for all you do to further this movement.

  • Sidro Steel

    Mark Levin is a blowhard pussy. One that uses his microphone to blast someone.. without the balls to openly debate anyone. He is the textbook definition of a troll. Dr. Woods.. (Im assuming).. Id like to thank you for fighting the good fight. Our intellectual battle is winning which is why the pussies are attacking. They cant face the truth and will not face an intelligent opponent. 

    I only wish I was as bright as some.. but I have this knack for common sense. You deliver in such a positive and eloquent way that it is hard for anyone to rebut. 

    ‘Peace is a powerful message.’ RP

    Especially when its combined with a proven record of leadership regarding our rights. You are a true patriot buddy.. one of my favorite Americans. You stand with Ron Paul intellectually and clarify and support his positions better than most of us.

    We are lucky to have you.. and thank you so much for taking the time to make your voice heard. I know you dont have to do this.. I know that I dont have to do it either. The glue between us is the obligation we feel to our kids and fellow Americans. Its a burden that I welcome. 

    Id rather be hated for being right, than loved for being wrong.

  • Robledo

    By the way- of course the founders had their differing views in many aspects of life.  However in response to your alleging that some of the founders believing that one could be imprisoned for criticizing the president of the United States–frankly you are misleading.  They all signed the Constitution which guarantees us freedom of speech to criticize anyone including a president.  I do believe you received your education at Harvard — their standards have somewhat dropped since right after they opened their doors (seconds after).  I love how you post these dear writings — I would love to see you debate Mark Levin – – he would make mashed out of your Mr. Potato headed self.  Ciao! 

  • http://tomwoods.com Tom Woods

    So you’ve never read the Sedition Act of 1798? People WERE imprisoned for criticizing the president! You therefore owe me an apology, which will never come.

    I’d love to debate Levin, too, but he refuses. I wonder why!  I’m pretty sure you didn’t read our exchange. If you had, I guarantee you would not want to see me debate Levin.

    Are you also going to defend Levin’s refusal to link to my replies to him, when I (as common courtesy would seem to demand) linked to all his replies to me? That’s your model of scholarship?

  • http://www.recordpricebreakout.com thetradedetective

    Just read it, and Tom Woods looks like an empty suit to me. His entire argument is “give me evidence, give me evidence.”

    Tom, logic is a powerful thing. You should stop worrying about what footnotes you use to prove points. My money in a battle of whits between you and Levin on issues of the Constitution as a whole is going to Levin

  • http://tomwoods.com Tom Woods

    So I lose because I demand evidence before I accept something. Mark Levin, you have some interesting listeners.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YS24KY3HESM6BKWZY2PWIAKEBA Less Opinion More Fact

    “Of course, Levin could be referring to the power to defend the country in an emergency”,

    Yes, he’s made that pretty clear. If you ignore that fact, then everything Woods says is spot on.

  • http://tomwoods.com Tom Woods

    False, false, false, false, false, false.

    The whole thing started because Levin was defending Obama’s alleged power to intervene in Libya. If you’re going to claim THAT amounted to defending the country in an emergency, then any further exchange is rendered impossible.

  • Matt Malesky

    I hear Clear Channel has an opening for a radio talk show host. Do you know anybody interested? 

  • Anonymous

    I wish I knew you personally because you, sir, are one person I’d love to sit and listen to for hours.  I’d debate with you too.

    Keep up the good fight. Our country needs to be reminded we do indeed have a Constitution that is the supreme law of the land!

  • Crownos

    Grow the Brain! Read Ron Paul’s “Revolution A Manifesto” and also Levin’s Neo-Con book “Liberty and Tyranny”.  See who stands above the other. Why doesn’t Levin EVER question the Fed? Fig. it out. No US exploitation in the Mid East for “israel” without the free printing of money! Simple. I could go on, but if the Levin drones don’t read Paul’s “End The Fed” or “Revolution” they will just remain where they are, little neo-cons of the republican establishment!

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