Paul is striking a responsive chord among many unlikely voters. His integrity is unquestioned and seems to over shadow some of his more extreme views.
New York Times, 22 December 2011
So this is Christmas, season of peace, time to reflect on the people coming home from a war that most Americans say was not worth it, and those still fighting in another war that raises new doubts by the day.
Many of the service members returning from Iraq — where nearly 4,500 American lives were lost, 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed and about 600,000 Christians were forced to flee the country with other refugees — are paying close attention to the campaign to decide who will be commander in chief.
What would they think of a candidate who says:
“Far from defeating the enemy, our current polices provide incentive for more people to take up arms against us.”
And, “We have an empire. We can’t afford it.”
And, “Acting as the world’s policeman and nation-building weakens our country, puts our troops in harm’s way, and sends precious resources to other nations in the midst of an historic economic crisis.”
The men and women in uniform probably wouldn’t support this proponent of limited engagement. So goes the conventional wisdom, which holds that those in the military support a leader itching for a fight.
But in fact, Representative Ron Paul, the congressman who favors the most minimalist American combat role of any major presidential candidate and who said all of the above quotes, has more financial support from active duty members of the service than any other politician.
As of the last reporting date, at the end of September, Paul leads all candidates by far in donations from service members. This trend has been in place since 2008, when Paul ran for president with a similar stance: calling nonsense at hawk squawk from both parties.
This year, Paul has 10 times the individual donations — totaling $113,739 — from the military as does Mitt Romney. And he has a hundred times more than Newt Gingrich, who sat out the Vietnam War with college deferments and now promises he would strike foes at the slightest provocation.
What seems, at first blush, counterintuitive makes more sense upon further review. There’s a long tradition of military people being attracted to politicians with Paul’s strict interpretation of the Constitution.
Not even a full 1 percent of Americans are active-duty military. The troops have become props for politicians who shower them with fulsome praise, while dreaming up schemes to send them into harm’s way.
Yet, these soldiers, sailors, air men and women, and assorted boots on the ground know the cost — in trauma, in lives ruined, in friends lost, in good intentions gone bad — of going to war far more than the 99 percent not currently serving. Where they put their money in a campaign, paltry though it may be in comparison to the corporate lords who control a majority of our politicians, says a great deal.
And if the overwhelming service support for Ron Paul is any indication, the grunts of American foreign policy are gun-shy about further engagement in “useless wars,” to use Dr. Paul’s term.
“It’s not a good sign when the people doing the fighting are saying, ‘Why are we here?’” said Glen Massie, a Marine Corps veteran who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, and is supporting Paul for president. “They realize they’re being utilized for other purposes — nation building and being world’s policeman — and it’s not what they signed up for.”
With his mumbled, avuncular asides and aversion to snappy sound bites, the 76-year-old congressman from Texas is now the unlikely frontrunner in some polls in Iowa. He will not be the nominee; powerful Republicans have pledged to destroy him should he gain strength beyond the cornfields of Sioux City. His libertarian positions — on marriage, drug laws and monetary policy — are poison for too many GOP stalwarts.
He has other problems, as well. His position on health care for the elderly and working poor — basically, to let people fend for themselves, at the mercy of charity and the free enterprise system — is chilling and unrealistic. And in recent days, he’s had trouble explaining some deplorable racist statements that went out under the name of his newsletter 20 years ago. (He has disavowed them.)
But, strictly considered, as the iconoclast among the toy warriors seeking to be the next president, Paul has performed an admirable service. His jabbing at Gingrich, now trying to get traction with an unconstitutional plan to arrest judges whose rulings he disagrees with, has been particularly productive. In Gingrich, we have the perfect combination of a blowhard who wants to play with real weapons, a chicken hawk and a politician who wears a rental sign to cover the empty space where principles should be.
Gingrich and other Republicans sound eager to rush into combat with Iran, should that theocratic nightmare of a country develop a nuclear weapon. Paul shrugs at the thought. And he’s consistently called the Iraq war an unnecessary disaster.
Romney claimed, in November, that President Obama’s decision to bring home all American troops from Iraq was premature and represented “an astonishing failure.” True to his trademark elasticity, Romney has now changed his mind and is fine with bringing the troops home. Perhaps he’s been reading the polls that show that nearly two-thirds of all Americans think the Iraq war was not worth the loss of lives and treasury.
The young people who actually fought in Iraq know better. They can tell a phony warrior from a real one. And in Ron Paul, the veteran who served as a flight surgeon for the Air Force, the man some call crazy, they hear a voice of sanity — at least in the realm of war and peace.
Phi Beta Iota: Emphasis added. There are only three people running for President that actually have a grip on reality. Ron Paul is one of them.