by Frank James
The umbrella group Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, whose members include such progressive groups as the Service Employees Union International and MoveOn.org Political Action, issued a laudatory shout out today to Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the libertarian Republican presidential candidate:
While Crowded Field of Republicans Follow Bush Over Cliff on Iraq War, Ron Paul Stands Out as Being Right on Iraq
GOP Presidential Hopeful Decries Fellow Candidates’ Support of Endless War
Washington, DC – While the rest of the Republicans continue to follow President Bush’s unpopular Iraq war policy, Representative Ron Paul is the lone anti-war Republican presidential candidate in the crowded GOP primary field. During yesterday’s debate he took his fellow Republicans to task for their support of President Bush’s policy of endless war in Iraq. While most of the candidates continued to saber rattle about Iran, the congressman refused to allow them to gloss over the most important issue facing Americans today.
Thus continue the striking paens to Paul coming from, of all places, liberals who would find themselves differing on a host of other, mainly but but not exclusively, domestic issues.
Paul, for instance, opposes many of the policies that are a given to many progressives. Obviously, there's a bit of the enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my friend going on here.
Here's a useful, though admittedly lengthy excerpt from the Almanac of American Politics, 2004 edition that helps somewhat explain Paul:
... In his first stint in the House, Paul advanced some ideas that in the mid-1990s had almost become mainstream--term limits and abolition of the income tax. Other Paul ideas remain outside the political pale: endorsing a group that wants to end all government funding of education, cutting $150 billion from the defense budget and returning to the gold standard. Paul practices what he preaches. He will not accept payment by Medicare or Medicaid, he wouldn't let his children accept federal student loans and he refuses his congressional pension.
Paul reentered electoral politics after Congressman Greg Laughlin switched parties and became a Republican in June 1995. Laughlin had a moderate voting record, by no means the most conservative of Texas Democrats. Republicans offered him a seat on Ways and Means if he switched, and he did. Paul decided to run again in 1996, raising money from his nationwide network of Libertarians, gold bugs and subscribers to the Ron Paul Political Report. Laughlin led in the primary with 43% of the vote, but Paul won the runoff 54%-46%. Democrats ran Charles "Lefty" Morris, a former president of the state trial lawyers' association. Morris ("Lefty is right") hit Paul for favoring abolition of the minimum wage, repealing federal anti-drug laws and anti-prostitution laws. Paul ran 1% ahead of Bob Dole and won 51%-48%.
With his libertarian views, Paul's voting record is anything but rock solid Republican; National Journal ratings place him near the middle of the House. Frequently, his insistence on limited government made Paul the House's lonely dissenter--against bills to require states to report on their progress in improving student achievement, to award Congressional Gold Medals to Rosa Parks and Pope John Paul II, to pass the Patriot Act after September 11. He favors relaxation of restrictions on illegal drugs, and he filed a lawsuit challenging the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act as a violation of the First Amendment. Unsurprisingly, he voted against the Medicare/prescription drug bill in 2003.
His isolationist views on foreign policy have made his voting record on those issues indistinct from many liberal Democrats. He was the only Republican to vote "present" on the resolution expressing support for the military forces at the start of the war with Iraq. He supports virtually no role for the U.S. government overseas--from military defense to international trade; he calls himself a "non-interventionist," not an isolationist. In a July 2003 speech in the House, which he called "Neo-Conned!", he harshly attacked the Bush administration and its supporters.
"The so-called conservative revolution of the past two decades has given us massive growth in government size, spending and regulation." His iconoclasm has reached the point that he is probably the least dependable and persuadable Republican in the House--even though his district is next door to Tom DeLay's. Interestingly, many liberals have begun to praise him. And he does offer alternatives. In 2003 and 2004 he was among the most prolific legislators, sponsoring 68 bills and eight amendments. None passed.