In December 2011 or a little earlier, on the occasion of the Republican presidential primary debates, I began monitoring seriously Congressman Ron Paul’s statements. I did it because I am small-government Republican, someone who could be a libertarian, (but not easily.) For those who follow us from a foreign country: Mr Paul is a long-time Representative from Texas. He is running to be the Republican presidential candidate.He is favored by libertarian elements within the Republican Party and by many members of the Libertarian Party. The Libertarian Party does not seem to have a candidate of its own in this round of presidential election.
BY THE WAY, IF A DEMAND WERE EXPRESSED FOR EXPLANATIONS OF AMERICAN POLITICS, OR OF AMERICAN LIFE IN GENERAL BY NON-AMERICAN READERS LIVING ELSEWHERE THAN THE US, I WOULD BE GLAD TO RESPOND TO IT ONCE IN A WHILE. JUST SPEAK UP.
Following Paul’severy word, I soon discovered that there was almost (see below) no debate when Mr Paul didn’t make some strangely false declaration. I am not referring here to the usual politicians’ exaggerations or to spontaneous ridiculous answers to unexpected gotcha questions. I mean false information volunteered by Mr Paul that happened to support his quite consistent line of reasoning, his doctrine, in other words. I have reported periodically on some of Mr Paul’s misstatements. Paul followers have responded. My comments and the responses, all unedited, of course, are available on this blog, arranged by date. If you want to look for yourself you might also conduct a search of my postings using the key words “Ron Paul.” The comments are appended to each relevant essay. Below I review the Paul statements to which I took exceptions and I summarize what I think are the replies or explanations by Paul followers. Some responders/commentators will complain that I betray their thought. It’s all there for anyone to judge.
Here is a little political introduction: I generally agree with the congressman’s ideas regarding domestic policies. However, I think Dr Paul would be a foreign policy disaster on the scale of an President Obama or worse, if he ever became president. His isolationist ideas on foreign policy, I think, are based on false perceptions and tightly chained to adherence to a libertarian doctrine hardly troubled by simple facts. Incidentally, I know well that Dr Paul and mainstream libertarians object to being described as “isolationists.” I don’t mind that they mind. Let me admit, also incidentally, that I do not dispute the general libertarian analysis on the disastrous consequences that war has for the autonomy of civil society, for individual freedom from state oppression. However, this recognition does not require that I close my eyes and shut my ears to the nature of the world I which I live. Neither does this consciousness command suicide.
In brief, as I have said repeatedly, I believe Mr Paul listens to a different drummer. Or rather, he hears a whole bunch of drummers in his mind that no one else can hear. The mainstream press ignores his many failed grapplings with reality because it thinks (correctly) that Mr Paul will not be president, no matter what. Mr Paul’s followers don’t mind his missteps either. Some are too busy or too ill-informed to notice. Many, I suspect, don’t want to notice because the Paul group is largely (not completely) a cult. Some of his embarrassed rational followers cite his age (my age, as it happens) as an excuse for his missteps. That is, they argue implicitly that a man too old to avoid talking nonsense at debates is young enough to have his hand on the button. Congressman’s Paul’s followers are simply not inclined to look too closely into his pronouncements; I mean, the way I look into every single presidential candidates’ statements, for example, and no mercy given. After all, if I have my way, one of them will have his index finger on the same red button. Better I give each of them the middle finger first.
Dec 31st 2011
Below is a paraphrase, not an exact quote from Mr Paul. The number though is exact.
The Iraq war and the Afghanistan war are not only very wasteful, they are stupidly wasteful. So, for example, the US armed forces spend 20 billion dollars each year in those war theaters on air-conditioning alone.
The number if absurd on its face. One frequent critic of mine affirms that he proved right the figure or the statement in which it was embedded. I have no idea what he means. Someone else referenced a general that may well have been Paul’s source, if he had a source. Read the general and decide what he, the general, is up to. Ask yourself if you have ever heard of anyone doing cost accounting the way the general does.
January 8, 2012
Paul said that (American) minorities suffered more in war than whites. That’s not true. In current wars, since Vietnam, they die less, and they get wounded less often. Whatever else could “suffering” mean, lower pay raises?
In connection with Pres. Obama’s then-recent speech on cutting the US military budget, Paul also said clearly that those are cuts in increases to military expenditures, not absolute cuts. As one who has been reading the Wall Street Journal for the past thirty years and also for the past thirty days, I tell you that this is not true. I think it sounded good at the time so, the Congressman just said it, irresponsibly.
In rare form that day, Paul also said in New Hampshire that if the Straight of Hormuz were closed (by the Iranians or, presumably, by anyone), Eastern Europe would be “de-stabilized.” Makes no sense at all. Why Eastern Europe? He gives the impression that he knows something we don’t. Not in this case, for sure.
January 17th 2012
In the Republican presidential debate that took place January 17th or 16th in South Carolina, Ron Paul said, “We are still in Iraq.” Don’t bother to check, he said it, with exactly those words. Only one problem: “We” are not there unless you decide that contractors are “us.” Most people would think he meant “our military is still in Iraq.” It, the military, was already not in Iraq at the time the statement was made. This is at least a grossly misleading statement. misleading in a direction that happens to promote his isolationism.
January 2thd 2012
Ron Paul did it again at the Tampa debate on Monday night 1/23/12 or 1/22/12. I mean he spread some information that only he, Congressman Paul, is privy to. Mr Paul declared clearly, under his own power, with no prompting whatsoever, that this country, the United States of America, is presently conducting a blockade against Iran. He used the word four times at least, both as a noun and as a verb. And, no, he was not speaking prospectively ( “If we conduct a blockade, in the future ….”) but declaratively and in the present tense. There was no blockade, there is no blockade, except in Mr Paul’s mind.
On February 07 2012, I challenged the Ron Paul website by email to give the source of declaration of Dr Paul’s about the Mossad, the Israeli CIA. Dr Paul had stated that the head of the Mossad had declared that an Iranian nuclear bomb would pose no “existential threat” to Israel. I received no answer from his campaign. Instead, a reader guided me to an interview by the same head of Mossad.
The head of the Mossad did say what Congressman Paul had reported he said. I was wrong to doubt it. I WAS WRONG. It was all my fault. I did not think long enough about the word: existential threat. See my mea culpa and explanation following on Feb 14th.
February 16th, 2012
A quaint statement issued by the candidate himself that he, Ron Paul, received more money contributions from the military than other Rep. candidates lead to a striking demonstration of the absurdity of the figures on which the claim is based. It highlighted the shocking lack of criticality of his shock troops. No one is watching; the candidate is allowed to run wild, quite wild if in his quiet way.
February 22nd 2012
Dr Paul pointed out that Iran was “surrounded” by “forty-five bases.” I assume he meant American military bases. This “surrounding,” I understood the Congressman to argue, would justify Iran’s nervousness and therefore its apparent bellicosity. I protested that the encirclement statement was pure invention.
In response, Paul supporters produced, first and second, a map showing patently false information. Of course, this fact in itself, re-enforces my impression that Paul supporters are not serious about facts. It’s not difficult to eye-check a map, after all. Following this false start, there was much back and forth. And then, I agreed that the Paul statement was not false and not an invention if you only stretched the meaning of the word “base,” of the word “military, “and, especially, of the word “surrounded.” (There was no need to stretch the meaning of the word “American,” fortunately.)
Looking back on the exchange, I am inclined to take back my admission. There is a kind of Bermuda triangle logical problem involved: How far does the alleged triangle extend? How far can you go and still declare that a base contributes to “surrounding” Iran? One Paul supporter included Djibouti. Why not the much more significant military bases in Germany, I ask? And how about military installations in New Jersey?
I will agree though that the Paul “surrounded” statement is probably more true than I thought it was at first. This discovery makes me more optimistic about the future, from a military standpoint, than I used to be.
On Feb 29th 2012 in the Michigan primary. Paul said two memorable things :
1 The wars we have had for ten years, he said (I assume he means Iraq and Afghanistan), have added four trillion dollars to the US national debt ($4,000,000,000,000). The statement surprised me only moderately. (It amounts to about $13,000 per American. )My problem is that again, I have no idea where the information comes from. I even doubt the contribution of the wars to the national debt can be calculated. Yet, I would be happy if this figure were merely a pretty good approximation. I would say it’s fine even if the order of magnitude were right. How demanding is this? At any rate, I sure hope this large amount included the 20 billion dollars per year just air-conditioning American forces in the two relevant countries Paul said it cost. (See above!)
2 The congressman announced that there was a “transfer of wealth from the middle class” to the rich. That’s not a surprising statement since it’s also the basis of the Obama class war. What is surprising is the way this transfer takes place, according to the congressman. It is through the erosion of the currency, the US dollar’s value, says Dr Paul. I don’t know how this could be. I have no quarrel with the idea that the US dollar has lost much value in say, 20 years, relative to something, to gold in particular. What I don’t know is how what is lost by the “middle-class” through loss of value of the currency (whatever that is) comes to accrue to the benefit of “the rich.” Here again, I am open-minded. Please, help.
There was no response to my second question, the question regarding the transfer of wealth. Another Paul dream, I guess, a nightmare, in this case.
Libertarian economist Fred Folvary of NotesOnLiberty suggested an interesting answer to my question regarding the origin of the Paul figure about the cost of the wars. He referred me to Paul Stiglitz, Nobel winner and idol to the American Left. I have not read the Stiglitz book of reference and Prof. Stiglitz’s status with leftists does not make his calculations wrong. (I did read another one of his books which convinced me never to read another one because it contained so much intellectual dishonesty. But that’s a subjective personal response, of course.) Why am not surprised that Mr Paul gets some of his information from left-wing sources? (Does not make the info false, again.)
I am fair: On January 27th 2012, I stated:
I am glad to report that during the second Florida Republican presidential debate, I did not hear Ron Paul make a single patently false, invented statement.
Maybe, by that time, I had got to him after all!
Now, of course, there remains the really important issue of whether Congressman Paul ever accused the Bush administration or parts thereof of being complicit in 9/11. I keep dismissing this allegation in my mind and forgetting it but it keeps coming up and don’t mean coming up through liberals or “progressives.” A couple of weeks ago, a local talk-show host in my area of Santa Cruz, California ,brought it up again. I have listened at least to 500 hours of this man’s show and I have never found him in significant error about anything important. He is a small-government conservative I know to be scrupulous with facts.
The apparent origin of this suspicion is that one of Congressman’s Paul’s former staffers accused him squarely of having been a “truther.” Dr Paul denied the whole things just as squarely:
“That’s complete nonsense … I never bought into that stuff and I never talked about it,” Paul said of the accusation made by former staffer Eric Dondero, who wrote in a blog post last week that Paul “engaged in conspiracy theories” surrounding the 9/11 attacks.
From Post Politics retrieved 03/29/12, here is part of the post:
“Ron Paul was opposed to the War in Afghanistan, and to any military reaction to the attacks of 9/11.
He did not want to vote for the resolution. He immediately stated to us staffers, me in particular, that Bush/Cheney were going to use the attacks as a precursor for “invading” Iraq. He engaged in conspiracy theories including perhaps the attacks were coordinated with the CIA, and that the Bush administration might have known about the attacks ahead of time. He expressed no sympathies whatsoever for those who died on 9/11, and pretty much forbade us staffers from engaging in any sort of memorial expressions, or openly asserting pro-military statements in support of the Bush administration.”
Paul also denied the same assertion unambiguously in Wikipedia.
Real Clear Politics of December 27th 2011 describes how incomplete and unsatisfactory the Paul denials are on this matter.
Me, I understand the idea of a “disgruntled employee” trying to do harm and it’s not absurd, not by a long shot. But an evil little voice keeps whispering in a corner of my suspicious mind: Why did the disgruntled employee attack Paul on this issue rather than on the many others probably available to him as a former aide?
Why is my mind “suspicious” about this almost certainly good man? Several reasons. Here is one, a concrete and tangible reason. It’s something undebatably authored by Congressman Paul, not a rumor, not an indirect report, not spur-of- the- moment fallible ejaculation.
Shortly after 9/11, Congressman Paul introduced a piece of legislation he called: the “Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001.” Look it up; read a few lines of it. Reflect on the concept of a “letter of marque” applied to 21st century conditions. You are not going to believe what you read. Then, wonder why Paul’s followers did not call him on it. As I said, no one is watching the Paul farm. And why would that be?
And, if you believe the “Act” is a serious defense proposal, please write me a note. I am willing to learn but it’s not going to be easy.