Is 2012 Ron Paul Time?
Around the State
When he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was a persona non grata with prominent national conservatives who attacked the maverick congressman’s positions on international issues and monetary policy.
Four years later -- while Paul still generates jeers from some conservatives -- there are signs that he is not quite the odd man out he was in the 2008 election cycle, when he hammered Republicans who backed George W. Bush’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While there are opponents of President Barack Obama’s policies in regard to Libya from a handful of liberal Democrats (U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio comes to mind), most of the leading critics of Obama’s campaign against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime have been Republican. The likes of Paul and fellow-minded Republicans Walter Jones of North Carolina and John Duncan of Tennessee criticizing the attacks on Libya are no surprise. But the fact that the likes of Tom Rooney are also sharply critical of the president should be a sign that some Republicans are growing increasingly wary of American military involvement overseas -- a return to the traditionally conservative positions held by Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Robert Taft and Pat Buchanan.
Paul will be heading to Jacksonville later this week to speak at the National Right-to-Life Convention and there are signs that leading social conservatives are starting to give the Texas congressman a second look.
After watching the Republican presidential candidates debate on Monday night, a prominent conservative offered some words of praise for Paul.
Ken Connor, currently with the Center for a Just Society and formerly with the Family Research Council (FRC), and well-known to Floridians for leading the state chapter of the Christian Coalition and running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1994, on Friday offered his thoughts on the Republican field and had some kind words for Paul.
“Of all the candidates, Congressman Ron Paul deserves credit for having the most fully developed view of the role that government should play vis-a-vis the economy,” noted Connor. “In a word, according to Paul, it should be very little. An avowed libertarian, Paul stressed the importance and wisdom of letting the market determine economic winners and losers instead of leaving it up to politicians and their special-interest constituencies.
“Reason and experience prevent me from embracing the unadulterated laissez-faire idealism that animates Mr. Paul and his most ardent followers (recall Madison's observation that ‘if men were angels, government wouldn't be necessary’ – they aren't and it is); nevertheless, it is refreshing to hear a Republican espouse a coherent and unapologetic stance on issues of economic liberty,” added Connor. “The economic meltdown and subsequent recession were caused by greed, corruption, and recklessness on Wall Street and on Main Street. Bankers and lenders and traders who attempted to game the system for inordinate gain should have been allowed to crash and burn; and immature, indulgent citizens who dug themselves into a financial quagmire trying to ‘have it all’ should have been left to reap the consequences of their unwise actions.”
This is not to say that all social conservatives walked away from Monday’s debate thinking Paul was on target. Gary Bauer, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination back in 2000 and, like Connor, led the FRC, was not as impressed after watching the same debate.
“Ron Paul cracked a couple of jokes, but one of his key platforms is no laughing matter,” note Bauer. “Of all the things he chooses to target in order to rein in out-of-control spending, it is America's foreign policy and the effort to defeat the jihadists around the world. As Paul continued to make the case for an isolationist foreign policy, he seemed to suggest that American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are responsible for the Islamists' war on the U.S. He has it backward. It is because they are trying to kill us that we are fighting back.
“Paul naively suggests that if only we would leave them alone, they would leave us alone,” insisted Bauer. “How exactly did we cause 9/11? What U.S. action prompted the attacks on our African embassies in 1998? Paul seems ignorant of the nature of our enemy as well as the actions of our Founding Fathers. When radical Islamists attacked American ships in the early 1800s, Thomas Jefferson did not hide behind our borders. Instead, he ordered the Marines to Tripoli to take out the Barbary pirates.”
While Paul garners some opposition in Republican ranks, his supporters at Lew Rockwell’s website and the Randolph Bourne Institute which runs Antiwar.com keep insisting that the GOP is drifting their way -- and even some neo-conservatives are starting to say as much.
“When the Texas congressman ran for president in 2008, he was dismissed as an eccentricity, a strange but lovable libertarian grandpa who wanted the troops to come home. This time around, though, Paul seems comfortable alongside the other Republicans. His views haven't changed. But the GOP is hurtling toward him,” noted Matthew Continetti, an editor of the Weekly Standard. “President Obama shocked Republicans into abandoning so-called ‘compassionate conservatism.’ The 2012 Republican candidates sound like Barry Goldwater, talking not of making laws but repealing them. Which is where Paul has been all along.
“The same is true for foreign policy. Not one of the Republican candidates defended President Obama's intervention in Libya, or made the case for a long-term American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, or criticized the president for not doing enough to promote democracy in Egypt, Syria, Iran, and China,” added Continetti. “They want the troops to return, sooner rather than later -- just like Ron Paul.
“The CNN moderator was too busy asking about American Idol to mention monetary policy. But if he had, I bet you would've heard the candidates attack the Federal Reserve and call for a sound dollar. Who does that remind you of?” asked Continetti. “Ron Paul is still more radical than most Republicans, not to mention most Americans. But he shows how, if you stand firm in your principles, the rest of the world (for better or worse!) eventually catches up.”
Paul remains an underdog to win the Republican nomination, but his influence on the Republican race should not be underestimated. With a reeling economy and unrest over federal spending, Paul seems likely to have a much larger impact in the race than he did in 2008.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.