Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has established himself as one of the Republican Party’s most influential members, and a legitimate early contender for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016. But the biggest hurdle to Paul’s ascension as a national leader may be the man whose vast political network enabled his improbable rise in the first place: his father, former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul.
The elder Paul attracted legions of diehard supporters with his longshot 2012 bid, cementing his role as the public face of the GOP’s libertarian wing — a mantle that was neatly transferred to his son after the latter’s highly publicized filibuster over the Obama administration’s drone strike policy.
But his campaign also shed light on the darker aspects of Paul’s past, such as his series of racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic newsletters, and his close association with white supremacists and neo-Confederates, among other unsavory characters.
Now Paul’s disturbing connections, which he vehemently denied during the 2012 campaign, are on display for all to see at his new think tank, The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
As James Kirchick reports in The Daily Beast, the institute’s board is stocked with all manner of 9/11 truthers, supporters of authoritarian regimes, anti-Semites, neo-Confederates, and more. Among others, Paul’s associates now include:
—Lew Rockwell, a member of the right-wing fringe whom Paul explicitely disavowed during his presidential campaign, and who recently compared law enforcement after the Boston Marathon bombing to Nazi stormtroopers.
—John Laughland, who denies that the Bosnian genocide ever took place, and maintains that former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was convicted by a “kangaroo court.”
—Eric Margolis, who denies any conclusive proof linking Osama bin Laden to the September 11th attacks, and instead suggests that they may have been “a plot by America’s far right or by Israel or a giant cover-up.”
—Michael Scheuer, a former CIA intelligence officer who has described American Jews as a “fifth column” intent on sabatoging American foreign policy to benefit Israel.
—Walter Block, who believes that the Confederacy should have won the Civil War, and believes that America’s current foreign policy can be blamed on “the monster Lincoln.”
Those five names barely scratch the surface of the unsettling information that Kirchick has uncovered in his must-read article.
Although Ron Paul never had a realistic chance of winning the presidency, he still recognized that he had no choice but to disavow his connection with this rogues’ gallery of lunatics to legitimize his candidacy. But now, while his son has a very serious chance to compete for the Republican nomination in his own right, the senior Paul is drawing these disturbing figures closer than ever.
This presents a very serious problem for Rand Paul, who has presented himself as the man who can reverse the Republican Party’s dismal performance with minority voters, particularly African-Americans. Given his own troubling statements about the Civil Rights Act, the Kentucky senator would have already had trouble convincing voters that “the Republican Party has always been the party of civil rights.” With his father openly partnering with neo-Confederates, that mission — along with Paul’s equally critical task of hanging on to the moderate and independent voters who have inflated his poll numbers — may be totally impossible.
Starting with his surprising decision to endorse Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign before his father had ended his own, Rand Paul has taken great pains to present himself as more mainstream than his father, and consequently as a more realistic presidential candidate. But as long as his father persists with his fringe right-wing activity — or unless Rand Paul does the unthinkable, and publicly disavows his father — Rand may never come any closer to the presidency than Ron.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 26, 2013
Reince Priebus was re-elected chairman of the Republican National Committee on Friday, overcoming divisions and tensions in the party as he pledged to remake and restore the Republican brand before the Congressional elections next year and the 2016 presidential race.
He was elected with near unanimity to serve a second term at the helm of the Republican Party. He allayed concerns from some party officials and activists about the outcome of last year’s elections and sought re-election without serious opposition.
“We can stand by our timeless principles and articulate them in ways that are modern and relevant to our time and relatable to the majority of voters,” Mr. Priebus said in his speech. “And that, I believe, is how we’ll achieve a Republican renewal. That’s how we’ll grow. That’s how we’ll win.”
The election here on Friday during the annual winter meeting of the committee unfolded without the drama and dissent of two years ago when Mr. Priebus was elected after surviving seven contentious rounds of balloting to overtake Michael Steele, the embattled party chairman.
Mr. Priebus, 40, a former chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, delivered a blunt message to the party during his acceptance speech. He said that the Republican Party needed to rebuild across the country and not simply focus on the same battleground states that are at the center of every presidential election.
“There is one clear, overriding lesson from November: We didn’t have enough voters,” Mr. Priebus said. “We have to find more supporters. We have to go places we haven’t been and we have to invite new people to join us.”
In his remarks, Mr. Priebus reported to members of the committee that he had led the party out of the debt that he inherited when he took over two years ago. He said the party still needed to make strides to compete with the Democratic Party.
Mr. Priebus secured the support of the party’s major donors and state officials, even as he appealed to the Libertarian strains of the party that are represented by supporters of Ron Paul. He fought back the possibility of a challenge from Mark Willis, a committee member from Maine, who supported Mr. Paul in last year’s presidential campaign.
Mr. Willis did not receive enough support on Friday to have his name placed into nomination. Party officials who gathered here said Republicans needed to be unified if they were going to successfully rebuild after losing the race for the White House and seats in the House and Senate last year.
In his remarks on Friday, Mr. Priebus said the party needed to improve its technology to compete with Democrats, but also focus on returning to the basics of building a strong get-out-the-vote operation. He did not talk specifically about the divisions inside the party over fiscal and social issues, but he urged Republican officials to be driven by their overarching goal: winning elections.
“Growing the party to be more welcoming and more inclusive does not require abandoning our principles,” Mr. Priebus said. “It means renewing those principles because only they can offer the solutions to the liberal-induced problems of our time.”
By: Jef Zeleny, The New York Times, January 25, 2013
Texas Rep. Ron Paul is deeply wrong when he says that secession is a “deeply American principle.”
During the freak-show circus that was the 2012 Republican primary process, Paul attained a kooky uncle sort of charm—he was an oddball among an underwhelming collection of loons and shysters, but he did it all with a bemused grin. That distinguished him from the rest who were busy competing to see who could generate the most foam at the mouth over their apoplectic disdain for President Obama. So Paul’s comments yesterday about secession-chic are a useful reminder that he leaves politics the same way he practiced it—not as a charming gadfly but a crank.
Secession is a deeply American principle. This country was born through secession. Some felt it was treasonous to secede from England, but those “traitors” became our country’s greatest patriots.
There is nothing treasonous or unpatriotic about wanting a federal government that is more responsive to the people it represents. That is what our Revolutionary War was all about and today our own federal government is vastly overstepping its constitutional bounds with no signs of reform. In fact, the recent election only further entrenched the status quo. If the possibility of secession is completely off the table there is nothing to stop the federal government from continuing to encroach on our liberties and no recourse for those who are sick and tired of it.
He is right that there is nothing treasonous or patriotic about wanting a responsive federal government, but that is why we have elections. Just because an election doesn’t go the way you would like, you don’t get to take your state and go stomping home, even if you try to cloak your dislike for current policy in principled talk about “vast” impingements on “constitutional bounds.” But there’s a distinct difference between wanting to elect a new government and trying to dissolve the country—the latter is, in fact, both treasonous and unpatriotic (although there is admittedly some humor in this variation of the hoary “love it or leave it” uberpatriotism which often animates the right—now it’s “love it the way I say or I’ll leave it”).
Secession is a deeply un-American principle. It is a principle that posed the greatest existential threat to the United States of America and was vanquished by our greatest president. I refer of course to the Civil War (which was not, as some would have it, the “War Between the States” or, ha ha, the “War of Northern Aggression”). The bloodiest war in the nation’s history was fought over the question of secession and the side which tried to destroy the United States lost. That settles it.
In his post, Paul anticipates this line of argument: “Many think the question of secession was settled by our Civil War. On the contrary; the principles of self-governance and voluntary association are at the core of our founding.” This is a mind-numbing non sequitur—the second statement does not contradict the first. What he is doing is dishonoring the hundreds of thousands who died that the nation may live. Just because their fight took place a century-and-a-half ago it should not diminish their sacrifice. This is why we still revere, for example, the Gettysburg Address (delivered 149 years ago yesterday), which gave such eloquent voice to those who gave the “last full measure of devotion.” It’s why we still make movies about Lincoln.
Ron Paul is departing the political stage. The political world has widely noted his retirement, but happily he will not be long remembered.
By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, November 20, 2012
At the Lunch Buffet post, I mentioned an interesting new piece from Sarah Posner at Salon drawing attention to a faction of evangelical leaders who are closely aligned with the Ron Paul Revolution. They are hardly “libertarians,” as her description makes clear:
These religious Paul supporters are part of a subculture that fuses some of the most extreme elements of the American right: birthers, Birchers, neo-Confederates, contraception-eschewing home-schoolers, neo-Calvinists and gun rights supporters who think (like Paul does) that the National Rifle Association is too liberal. They include disaffected former supporters of Republicans like the Baptist preacher-turned-politician Mike Huckabee and Mormons who won’t vote for Mitt Romney.
They’re attracted to Paul because they think that in the place of the federal government, which they believe should not be “legislating morality,” their ultra-conservative brand of Christianity should play a central role in shaping the laws and morals of their states and communities.
Some of these folk, in fact, are frankly theocratic:
Patricia Wheat, an activist I met at an antiabortion rally in South Carolina, contended that the Constitution “comes out of the Book of Deuteronomy, which sets specific precepts for government.” (Wheat also serves on the South Carolina Sound Money Committee, which promotes an “alternative currency” for the state.) The Bible, she added, “is the only recognized religious book that sets forth jurisdiction and promotes liberty. The Bible says that the family is responsible for education of the children. The Bible says that the church is responsible for the spiritual nurturing in the community and to minister to the widows and the orphans. That’s a legitimate function of the church. Civil government is to defend the people’s liberties so they can live freely, because a free people are by nature of being a free people, a holy people.”
But while they strongly believe they have the right to impose their values on others through the law, they are horrified at the idea of becoming wards of the state via subsidies:
At the core of [South Carolina pastor Tony] Romo’s beliefs — like the other religious Paul supporters I spoke to — is that the federal government is largely unconstitutional. Romo’s church isn’t incorporated under South Carolina law, nor did he apply for tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. Those acts, he said, would make “the state your Lord” or the “federal government your Lord.” If the government “dictates to the church you can no longer preach against homosexuality, those churches better submit … you [give] them [the government] the right to tell you what to preach.”
The unincorporated church, he maintained, “was the original church in the New Testament and was the original church in America.” When churches began incorporating and seeking tax-exempt status, “all they did was enslave themselves to the federal government.”
These folk provide an interesting contrast to the standard-brand conservative evangelicals who are lining up at the trough for school vouchers and “faith-based organization” dollars, and who accuse the Obama administration of waging a “war on religion” for not giving their affiliated charities and health care institutions federal money along with a blanket exemption from laws and regulations they find offensive.
Perhaps the Holy Paulites will begin firing a few open shots at their brethren who have no trouble with Big Government so long as they are in charge, and who might be accused of polishing Satan’s jeweled crown in pursuit of the almighty (fiat money!) dollar.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 5, 2012
When Ron Paul released a statement earlier this week informing supporters that “moving forward … we will no longer spend resources campaigning in primary states that have not yet voted,” it was easy to imagine Mitt Romney’s campaign staff quietly rejoicing. The Congressman’s staff was quick to clarify that he was not officially suspending his efforts for the nomination, but it was hard to see this as anything other than the end of the Paul campaign—and, in turn, the beginning of Romney’s cooptation of it.
As Barack Obama’s campaign proved in 2008 after its bruising primary fight against Hillary Clinton, a party that’s been unified in time for the national convention is its own reward. But bringing Paul’s supporters into the fold would also seem to have a special attraction for the Romney campaign: The Massachusetts governor earned plenty of votes in the primary, but he never quite inspired the enthusiasm of the Paul movement, which has regularly attracted thousands of committed supporters to rallies. It’s only reasonable for Romney to hope he can transfer some of that fervor—especially from young people, a demographic President Obama himself seems to be targeting—to his own campaign.
Having spoken with a wide swathe of young Paul voters, however, I’ve learned that’s an exceedingly unlikely proposition. Paul may have been running for the Republican nomination, but what he produced was a movement whose identity revolves around his own personality and his professed libertarian ideology. It’s a movement with hardly any affinity for the GOP—and for a man like Romney least of all.
It’s telling that Paul supporters almost uniformly refer to Paul’s bid for the presidency as a “movement” or “revolution,” rather than a “campaign.” To ask about their allegiance to the party is, for many of them, to make a category mistake. “It’s not a matter of partisan politics,” says Casey Given, an organizer for the University of California Berkeley chapter of the Youth for Ron Paul group. “It’s more about the ideas than the party.” Indeed, a common refrain among Ron Paul supporters is that the Republican Party needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.
Generally, Paul’s supporters speak of his campaign as something more akin to a political science or philosophy seminar, than a campaign for public office. Paul’s message has always encouraged his supporters to believe there’s much more at stake than temporary occupancy of the Oval Office. “It’s not designed to win votes, it’s designed to illuminate the right path forward for both the U.S. and its role in the world and how we manage the economy,” says Jacob Arluck, an organizer for Cornell University’s Youth for Ron Paul chapter.
In the words of Cliff Maloney, the former Pennsylvania Campus Coordinator for the Paul campaign, who has since been hired by Paul’s congressional office, “They don’t want anybody that’s going to give them rhetoric, they want someone that will give them the truth.” And, having been given access to the “truth,” Paul’s supporters are refusing to abandon their candidate. “They will stick with him until he says he drops out of the race or when he wins the race,” Maloney says. “[Ron Paul supporters] would do anything for Dr. Paul’s message.”
But even if they’re reconciled to the fact that Paul won’t win this year, many young voters don’t think of their support for Paul as a lost cause. The college-aged students who comprise the Paul campaign’s base was attracted to him in part because they hoped even if he didn’t win him the election, his organization could at least shape the political discourse for years down the line. “Being the party of old white rich men will not be a winning strategy in the future,” says Given. But that’s a strategy that depends on their staying firm to their principles and not transferring their allegiance to another candidate this year. “After 2012 is over, the Republican Party is going to have no choice but to realize that the future of the party is in more of a classically conservative libertarian direction,” says Pinter. “That’s where the youth is voting.”
Unsurprisingly, then, when I asked Paul supporters whether they would be voting for Romney this year, every single one of them said definitely not, and they insisted other Paul supporters they know wouldn’t either. “I think it would be very difficult for Ron Paul supporters to sleep at night and support someone that represents a lot of the principles that they disagree with,” said Tyler Koteskey, who called Romney a “liberal in conservative sheepskin.” Indeed, for some, the very suggestion that they might vote for Romney was an insult. “Personally, I would not vote for Romney,” said Mike Pinter of UC Davis. “I have conservative principles that can, under no circumstances, rationalize a vote for Romney.”
Needless to say, Barack Obama faced nothing like these challenges when he wooed disaffected Hillary supporters in 2008. Paul’s fans, it seems, will insist on continuing to divide the GOP, unless, and until, they can take it over entirely.
By: Eric Wen, The New Republic, May 19, 2012