WASHINGTON - Republican Congressman Ron Paul became a hero to many Americans last year when he ran for president against the political establishment. The 11-term Texas congressman is the most respected and admired American politician around the world after President Barack Obama.
Rep. Paul is a vocal critic of what he calls reckless deficit spending, `welfare’ for big finance, and America’s foreign wars. Paul’s voice has resonance: he sits on the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Dr Paul invited me to Washington to address his weekly luncheon held in his Capital Hill office about the intensifying wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A group of independent-minded Republican congressmen attended. Many of them were deeply concerned by what they see as the nation’s economic and strategic misdirection.
During last year’s presidential race, I describe Dr. Paul as `the only candidate who is telling Americans the truth about foreign affairs.’ Like the legendary Greek Cynic philosopher Diogenes looking for an honest man, I came to deeply respect and admire Paul’s courage, honesty, and his refusal to accept special interest money.
Speaking of today’s US Congress, Dr Paul correctly observes: `Special interests have replaced the concern the Founders had for the general welfare.’
In fact, Rep. Paul has been a model of the type of legislators envisaged by America’s founding fathers: men of high moral standards and intellect dedicated to the nation’s wellbeing. He reminds me in many ways of the fiercely upright senators of the early Roman Republic. The Roman Senate served as the model for the United States Senate.
Paul, a physician, also used to deliver babies on Mondays and Saturdays while serving in office. Interestingly, America’s Founding Fathers envisaged being a member of Congress as a part-time job fulfilled by patriotic gentlemen. Hardly what we see today where membership in Congress has become a caste system fueled by money and pandering to special interest groups.
The 74-year old doctor from Texas electrified young Americans with his grassroots campaign, providing voters a real alternative to the Republicans and Democratic establishment which often appears to be one party with two factions.
Paul’s clear, cool voice challenged all the government and media propaganda about Afghanistan and Iraq. Dr. Paul is also waging a determined battle against the runaway spending and soaring national debt being promoted by the Obama White House and Congressional Democrats. Deficit spending, warns Paul, is leading the US to ruin.
Paul and his fellow libertarian Republicans advocate individual rights, strict adherence to the US Constitution, limited government, and free enterprise. They oppose American global domination, `nation-building,’ and all foreign wars not waged in the direct defense of American territory. In short, just what the early presidents of the United States urged.
Paul opposes US involvement in other nation’s internal affairs. As anti-Iranian hysteria gripped the nation last month, Paul was the only House member who voted against a bill condemning Iran for its recent election. That’s real courage.
`There is no area in which Republicans have further strayed from our traditions than in foreign affairs,’ writes Paul. He dismisses claims by neoconservatives that `we have to either fight them over there or over here’ as a `false choice.’ America has no business policing the world. US foreign policy is undermining America’s national security, says Dr Paul.
Only Congress, he insists, has the right to declare war, not the president. Congress cravenly abandoned this right during the buildup to the Iraq War that was fuelled by the Bush administration’s shameless lies and war-mongering by the US media.
Dr Paul’s amiable manner and lack of the bloated self -importance that so typifies Washington bigwigs conceals a very keen intellect and depth of knowledge. He also has one of the capital’s sharpest foreign affairs staff chiefs, Daniel McAdams. It is a relief to find key decision-makers in Washington who actually understand the outside world.
As I talked with Dr Paul, it became evident to me that he and his fellow libertarians are the potent remedy that the dreadfully sick Republican Party so desperately needs. Paul’s Liberty Caucus will hopefully form the core around which a vigorous, new party grows that addresses America’s real needs.
President George Bush and the neocons almost destroyed the Republican Party, as this columnist predicted before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. What’s left of the Republicans has become a rump dominated by Christian religious fundamentalists, Southerners, and war-loving neoconservatives that too often flirts with neo-fascism and racism.
Today’s Republican Party is no longer a place for a moderate, life-long New York Republican like myself who considers President Dwight Eisenhower America’s finest modern president and believes in small government and avoidance of foreign entanglements, as the great George Washington urged in his farewell address. In his farewell address, President Eisenhower warned Americans of the growing power of the military-industrial complex (now updated to `military-industrial-financial complex) and called for total nuclear disarmament.
Republicans have also been suffering a series of lurid sex scandals by rural Romeos and hypocritical Christian moralists that have made its members look both extremely hypocritical and awfully stupid – not to mention the curious behavior of that would-be Alaska Joan of Arc, Sarah Palin. Meanwhile, extreme right-wingers like the odious Rush Limbaugh and former Speaker Newt Gingrich are vying to become the party’s voice.
Dr. Paul and his fellow libertarians offer Republicans and Americans a real alternative to the dumbed-down Republicans and to the wildly spending Democrats whose expanded Afghanistan war and reckless economic policies are leading the nation into growing danger.
But the problem remains that Dr. Paul and his fellow libertarian supporters are way, way in front of clouded and confused public opinion. Hopefully, this will change.