Sunday’s New York Times Magazine features a profile of Ron Paul, his campaign for President, and the motley crew of supporters that he’s attracted.
For The Times, it is, I suppose, a mostly positive piece. Being The Times, of course, there is much discussion of his position on the Iraq War:
Alone among Republican candidates for the presidency, Paul has always opposed the Iraq war. He blames â€œa dozen or two neocons who got control of our foreign policy,â€ chief among them Vice President Dick Cheney and the former Bush advisers Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, for the debacle. On the assumption that a bad situation could get worse if the war spreads into Iran, he has a simple plan. It is: â€œJust leave.â€ During a May debate in South Carolina, he suggested the 9/11 attacks could be attributed to United States policy. â€œHave you ever read about the reasons they attacked us?â€ he asked, referring to one of Osama bin Ladenâ€™s communiquÃ©s. â€œThey attack us because weâ€™ve been over there. Weâ€™ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.â€ Rudolph Giuliani reacted by demanding a retraction, drawing gales of applause from the audience. But the incident helped Paul too. Overnight, he became the countryâ€™s most conspicuous antiwar Republican.
Paulâ€™s opposition to the war in Iraq did not come out of nowhere. He was against the first gulf war, the war in Kosovo and the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which he called a â€œdeclaration of virtual war.â€ Although he voted after Sept. 11 to approve the use of force in Afghanistan and spend $40 billion in emergency appropriations, he has sounded less thrilled with those votes as time has passed. â€œI voted for the authority and the money,â€ he now says. â€œI thought it was misused.â€
Though I think he was wrong to oppose the first Gulf War on the simple ground that naked aggression such as that displayed by Saddam Hussein in August 1991 cannot be tolerated, he was right about Kosovo, and, as time has shown, he’s right about Iraq. Of all of America’s recent military ventures, the war in Afghanistan is clearly the most justified, but it’s undeniable that it’s execution has been less than satisfactory. And, of course, the Times loves him for his anti-war stance.
And, then, there’s mention of an old friend of The Liberty Papers, Eric Dondero:
Anyone who is elected to Congress three times as a nonincumbent, as Paul has been, is a politician of prodigious gifts. Especially since Paul has real vulnerabilities in his district. For Eric Dondero, who plans to challenge him in the Republican Congressional primary next fall, foreign policy is Paulâ€™s central failing. Dondero, who is 44, was Paulâ€™s aide and sometime spokesman for more than a decade. According to Dondero, â€œWhen 9/11 happened, he just completely changed. One of the first things he said was not how awful the tragedy was . . . it was, â€˜Now weâ€™re gonna get big government.â€™ â€
Dondero claims that Paulâ€™s vote to authorize force in Afghanistan was made only after warnings from a longtime staffer that voting otherwise would cost him Victoria, a pivotal city in his district. (â€œCompletely false,â€ Paul says.) One day just after the Iraq invasion, when Dondero was driving Paul around the district, the two had words. â€œHe said he did not want to have someone on staff who did not support him 100 percent on foreign policy,â€ Dondero recalls. Paul says Donderoâ€™s outspoken enthusiasm for the militaryâ€™s â€œshock and aweâ€ strategy made him an awkward spokesman for an antiwar congressman. The two parted on bad terms.
Given Dondero’s rhetoric, both here and elsewhere on the Internet, I’m inclined to take the Congressman’s side in this dispute. Like him or not, Congressman Paul is a man of principle and his stand on the Iraq War , which I happen to agree with, is entirely consistent with those principles. Dondero has always struck me as, to put it nicely, a political opportunist.
There’s alot more to the article, including reference to the fact that many Ron Paul meetups have brought in John Birchers and other kooks, but, on the whole, its a rather positive piece, and the closing paragraph may be the best part:
[W]hat is â€œRonâ€™s messageâ€? Whatever the campaign purports to be about, the main thing it has done thus far is to serve as a clearinghouse for voters who feel unrepresented by mainstream Republicans and Democrats. The antigovernment activists of the right and the antiwar activists of the left have many differences, maybe irreconcilable ones. But they have a lot of common beliefs too, and their numbers â€” and anger â€” are of a considerable magnitude. Ron Paul will not be the next president of the United States. But his candidacy gives us a good hint about the country the next president is going to have to knit back together.
In other words, it’s the same thing I’ve said many times before. Ron Paul may not win the Republican nomination, but his candidacy is important because it gives voice to ideas that haven’t been spoken loudly by a Presidential candidate for at least the past three decades.