Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who Is Ron Paul?

When I first started surfing YouTube a couple of months ago, I noticed that the site was inundated with videos uploaded by supporters of a Republican presidential candidate named Ron Paul. I quickly determined that he was an outsider option, and decided not to spend too much time investigating him. However a visit from a friend who has been living abroad for a couple of years has changed my outlook. This individual left the nation with a fairly conventional liberal orientation, but has since invested a lot of time in 9-11 conspiracy research. I was surprised (and honestly a bit dismayed) when he said he had chosen Ron Paul as his preferred presidential candidate. I tried to explain why I couldn't support a libertarian conservative for executive of the federal branch, and resolved to learn more about this divisive figure.


The 72-year-old Republican Ronald Ernest Paul has represented the 14th congressional district of Texas since 1997. He was also a federal congressman for seven years in the 70's and 80's. Despite his political carrer in the Lone Star State, he is actually a local. He grew up in Greentree (outside of Pittsburgh) , and worked on his family's dairy farm. At Dormont High School he excelled in athletics and student government. He later attended Gettysburg College and the Duke School of Medicine (obstetrics/gynecology). During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he was drafted into the Air Force and served as a flight surgeon. The trajectory of Paul's life changed when Richard Nixon completed the process of taking the US dollar off of the gold standard. He was motivated by his intense opposition to this decision to enter politics.


In the House of Representatives Paul became known as a strict constitutionalist. He was even a bit of an iconoclast. He refused to accept a Congressional pension, and tirelessly advocated for term limits (making him look like a bit of a hypocrite in his current run of five terms in office). He blamed the federal reserve for rampant inflation in the 1980's, and spoke against bankng deregulations that led to the S & L scandals that rocked the nation. After being defeated in a bid for the Senate, he left his seat in the Congress (he was succeeded by Tom Delay) and made a presidential bid in 1988 on the Libertarian ticket. On some issues like unquestioned confidence in the "free market", gun rights, and home schooling- he seemed a perfect fit for the party. Yet on other matters he was oddly out of step. Paul has consistently opposed the women's right to choose abortion, and has introduced the Sanctity of Life Act (2005)- which defines human life as beginning at conception. That legislation would define abortion as murder, and make stem cell research illegal. He has also been vocal about trying to amend the Constitution to allow school prayer. Needless to say he was unsucessful in attaining the highest office.


In the 1990's he published The Ron Paul Survival Report, a newsletter that accused Bill Clinton of abusing cocaine and fathering illegitimate children, and suggested that "only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions" and "95% of the black males in Washington DC are semi-criminal or entirely criminal." In 1997, a redistricting effort (masterminded by Tom Delay) allowed Paul to return to Congress as a Republican. Although he continued to loudly rail against government spending, he had no qualms about working hard to divert money authorized by legislation to his own district.


Apart from any other action Paul had taken in Congress, his call to pull troops from Iraq is what has made him a popular option for the GOP 2008 presidential nomination. However his supporters are very quiet about the fact that Paul actually voted for the 2001 resolution to empower the president to initiate war without getting Congressional approval. To his favor, he did vote against the Iraq War Resolution (although he authored a bill proposing to give the Congress an opportunity to declare war on that nation). Paul has been able to parlay opposition to the war into a huge online presence and a boisterous show of support at GOP debates. This has drawn the ire of many rightwing pundits, particularly Sean Hannity of FOX News.


While Paul has been able to effectively market himself as the only anti-war candidate on the right, I have to conclude that there are lots of folks that are sadly unclear about his stances on other issues. It's true that he opposes most forms of federal intervention. Typically he is against govermental torture, domestic surveillance, membership in NAFTA and the WTO, the Income Tax, and the War on Drugs. To me, agreement on most of these positions is a no-brainer. But he also has some particularly misguided notions. In a recently televised debate, he admitted he would like to eliminate the CIA and FBI altogether. His desire to rid the nation of the Department of Education, FEMA, and the Department of Homeland Security has also been well documented.


It's obvious that Paul discounts the possibility that the federal government can play a beneficent role in the lives of American citizens. He claims to believe that extending private property rights will effectively discourage pollution. He'd like to see the United States withdraw from NATO, the International Crminal Court and the United Nations. This is all fairly typical of the Libertarian platform. It's unsurprising that Paul would support the elimination of any kind of federal environmental regulation. It's also consistent that he sees the federal government as having no role in corporate oversight.

Yet on several controversial issues he seems to want to retain an iron hand. Ron Paul characterizes himself clearly as an "unshakable foe of abortion". Despite the claims of apologists, he wants to make it akin to murder. His active promotion of school prayer would also seem inconsistent with a worldview outlined by Ayn Rand. Even more unexpected is his vocal support for a federal government construction project- he wants the nation to build a 700-mile wall on the border with Mexico in order to keep immigrants from seeking America's "welfare benefits". Because of his strange amalgamation of political preferences*, I think it will be difficult for his campaign to withstand any amount of close scrutiny. Then again, in today's political climate one must be eternally vigilant not to overestimate the instincts of the American voter.




* Ron Paul also has some opinions that I had no idea how to work into this post. He would like to repeal the 17th Amendment, which allows the people to vote directly for national senators. He wants state legislators to choose the senators. Paul is also against efforts to abolish the electoral college, because he's afraid that the "liberty states" (those in the west and south) will become less powerful. He's also notably against campaign finance reform.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Devrek said...

This comment has been removed because it linked to malicious content. Learn more.

8:44 PM  
Blogger sdaffron said...

How much research did you do on Ron Paul? Your posting inaccurate information.

10:45 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Pauls voting record and positional stance on certain issues initally rubbed me the wrong way. After hearing countless interviews with him, which is hard to avoid when spending any time on 9/11 truth sites, i've found him to be imminently reasonable.

I suppose for some people that the abortion issues will be a major make or break for any candidate. From a personal standpoint i can see the merit in both sides of the argument and will not fault anyone for holding a particular stance on it.

other than that his positions seem to be pretty consistent with minimizing government and giving more power to the states themselves.

If you look at the USD index for today you will see that it is at an all time historical low and plunging rapidly. consider that the really bad news hasn't even been properly delivered yet.
next month we have another reset of subprime mortgage rates that will dwarf the last batch that is causing the present problems. then in march 2008 we have another reset that will dwarf octobers. the further that index falls, the less incentive there is for other countries to support our currency which is the only thing that is holding this charade up

USD Index

I'm convinced that the single biggest issue of our day is the collapse of the economy and Ron Paul is simply the only candidate that would stand a chance at making any significant changes in this arena. we pretty much have to take a quick uturn or i assure you that 'a womans right to choose' will be the least of everyones worries come the following election.

I figured out how to embed links just so i could make sure you get them all. more on the left vs. right paradigm from our last interchange

illusion of opposites

12:18 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

sdaffron,

I studied his record and stated positions for a number of hours, and had discussions with both his supporters and critics.

If you are going to accuse me of being inaccurate, then you must provide sources or examples from my post that you can accurately dispute.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

ryan,

Your case is well-stated... though I'm not sure what particular experience or ideas Paul presents for the recovery of a doomed economy.

I don't think that eliminating the federal government is the best way to confront the type of social upheaval that a collapsed economy is going to provoke.

There also has to remain some check on predatory companies that will inevitably try to capitalize on American insecurities and economic desperation. The federal government is at least accountable to voters, and can play an essential regulatory role on corporations. I, for one, am not anxious to return to the era of the robber barons.

I think we'd be better off looking toward the example of FDR. Big government was able to do a lot of good for a lot of people during the last major financial collapse of the US.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I wanted to call to your attention my weblog, Repeal the 17th Amendment. Many folks have questions about this amendment so I provide a number of scholarly articles along the right hand side of the page. They all contain very fine analysis of the historical aspects and the consequences of the amendment. I hope you will check it out.

BD

http://repealthe17thamendment.blogspot.com/

9:12 AM  

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