Posted on February 20, 2011
Time to stop humoring Rep. Paul
During the 2008 Republican presidential primary campaign, Texas congressman Ron Paul repeatedly blamed the 9-11 attacks on America's foreign policy. So why do conservatives continue to tolerate him?
The more outrageous Paul's pronouncements have become, the more conservative pundits have felt the need to praise him for the stands he's taken on economic issues. It's as if they think they can select his policies a la carte, leaving the noxious ones behind like the turkey bacon at a breakfast buffet. It doesn't really work that way, of course. When you accept somebody, you also accept his bad points, which in Paul's case are horrid.
Some left-wing bloggers have fantasized about a third-party ticket that would pair Paul with Dennis Kucinich, the UFO-spotting, vegan Democrat from Ohio, who had proposed to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney over the war in Iraq. Not only did Paul not discourage this speculation, but he boasted that he and Kucinich had often cooperated on defense-related issues.
Paul tried to upstage the Republican convention by holding his own event during the same week. One of the speakers was former Minnesota governor and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura, who declared Osama bin Laden to be innocent until proven guilty, and suggested that Bush was hiding the "truth" about 9-11. According to a report in National Review, the audience gave him a standing ovation, and began chanting, "inside job." Paul says that he does not believe in "9-11 truther" conspiracies, but he makes no effort to dissuade his supporters from them, nor did he disavow their promotion at his convention.
Maybe that's because his own opinion is only marginally less disgraceful. During a December 28, 2009 appearance on Larry King Live, Paul weirdly referred to the underwear bomber as a "gentleman," who was not without his reasons. "Why do they hate us?" he asked rhetorically. His answer: "They are terrorists because we are occupiers."
He made this same argument in one of the '08 debates, prompting Fred Thompson to ask him which country the U.S. had occupied leading up to 9-11. Paul responded that we had an air base in Saudi Arabia. Nobody who knows the difference between occupiers and octopi would deem that an occupation, but if you're bent on blaming America for the actions of Islamic terrorists, you can't be a stickler for accuracy.
Another alleged provocation that Paul considers a valid rationale for terrorism is that we've constructed an embassy in Baghdad that's "as big as the Vatican." Someone should explain to him that the Vatican is famously not very big. He could just as accurately have said the embassy was as big as John Edwards' estate, but so what? For security reasons, it was made to be sufficient for its own electricity and water treatment. That's why it's about 10 times as large as our other embassies. There's nothing controversial about it, but thanks to the congressman all the same for providing the terrorists with another pretext.
In his more charitable moments, Paul allows that we may only be partially to blame, by declaring that "there's hatred on both sides." In a manner of speaking, this is true. The jihadists hate anyone who doesn't believe as they do, and we hate the idea that we should be murdered for it. Does he figure that makes us even?
At this year's convention of the Conservative Political Action Committee, to which Paul should never have been invited, his acolytes jeered Donald Rumsfeld and called Dick Cheney a "war criminal." That accusation is based largely on Paul's contention that the war in Iraq was not declared by Congress. He knows better, having himself voted against the declaration when it was passed. To deny that, he must accept Hillary Clinton's prevarication that an authorization for the president to use military force against another country somehow differs from a declaration of war.
The only difference between the behavior of Paul's supporters and that of left-wing groups like MoveOn.org is that one is excused by conservatives and the other is not. This shouldn't be. Nobody who thinks al-Qaeda has legitimate grievances against the U.S. should be welcomed among conservatives, regardless of where he stands on other issues.
If MoveOn Ron is comfortable in the ideological company of Dennis Kucinich, then conservatives should be content to leave him there. With a little luck, those two can thumb a ride on the next spaceship that comes along. Perhaps then, they'll find themselves a homeland they find less deserving of terrorist attacks.
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