Tuesday night’s Republic debate highlighted Texas’ Ron Paul, a Libertarian disguised as a Republican, taking on a while handful of Republican party loyalists. As he did earlier in the month, Paul gave a lot better than he got.Traditional conservatives and Guiliani and McCain supporters are all over him for his anti-war position regarding Iraq. Why? Here’s the relevant portion of the transcript:
MR. GOLER: Congressman Paul, I believe you are the only man on the stage who opposes the war in Iraq, who would bring the troops home as quickly as — almost immediately, sir. Are you out of step with your party? Is your party out of step with the rest of the world? If either of those is the case, why are you seeking its nomination?
REP. PAUL: Well, I think the party has lost its way, because the conservative wing of the Republican Party always advocated a noninterventionist foreign policy.
Senator Robert Taft didn’t even want to be in NATO. George Bush won the election in the year 2000 campaigning on a humble foreign policy — no nation-building, no policing of the world. Republicans were elected to end the Korean War. The Republicans were elected to end the Vietnam War. There’s a strong tradition of being anti-war in the Republican party. It is the constitutional position. It is the advice of the Founders to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy, stay out of entangling alliances, be friends with countries, negotiate and talk with them and trade with them.
Just think of the tremendous improvement — relationships with Vietnam. We lost 60,000 men. We came home in defeat. Now we go over there and invest in Vietnam. So there’s a lot of merit to the advice of the Founders and following the Constitution.
And my argument is that we shouldn’t go to war so carelessly. (Bell rings.) When we do, the wars don’t end.
MR. GOLER: Congressman, you don’t think that changed with the 9/11 attacks, sir?
REP. PAUL: What changed?
MR. GOLER: The non-interventionist policies.
REP. PAUL: No. Non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We’ve been in the Middle East — I think Reagan was right.
We don’t understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we’re building an embassy in Iraq that’s bigger than the Vatican. We’re building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us. (Applause.)
MR. GOLER: Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?
REP. PAUL: I’m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we’re over there because Osama bin Laden has said, “I am glad you’re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.” They have already now since that time — (bell rings) — have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don’t think it was necessary.
MR. GIULIANI: Wendell, may I comment on that? That’s really an extraordinary statement. That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (Applause, cheers.)
And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that. (Applause.)
MR. GOLER: Congressman?
REP. PAUL: I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem.
They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think if we were — if other foreign countries were doing that to us?
My friend David Broussard says that Paul has no place in the Republican party because of his remarks. I disagree. Conservatives, as I understand the ideology are supposed to be for strict interpretation of the Constitution, limited government, and balanced budgets.
Ron Paul represents these values more than any other Republican in the 2008 field, to say nothing of President Bush’s utterly abysmal financial record. If we’re going to talk about Republicans who have no business claiming to be conservative, why not start there?
This is an important point: the definition of conservative has changed and not for the better if the term is now said to no longer apply to someone like Ron Paul.
Regarding the size and purpose of the federal government, Paul was asked what 3 governmental agencies he would eliminate. His response:
REP. PAUL: I’d start with the departments — the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security. We’ve started with — we’ve just — the Republicans put in the Department of Homeland — it’s a monstrous type of bureaucracy. It was supposed to be streamlining our security and it’s unmanageable. I mean, just think of the efficiency of FEMA in its efforts to take care of the floods and the hurricanes.
So yes, there’s a lot of things that we can cut, but we can’t cut anything until we change our philosophy about what government should do. If you think that we can continue to police the world and spend hundreds of billions of dollars overseas, and spend hundreds of billions of dollars running a welfare state, an entitlement system that has accumulated $60 trillion worth of obligations, and think that we can run the economy this way; we spend so much money now that we have to borrow nearly $3 billion a day from foreigners to take care of our consumption, and we can’t afford that.
We can’t afford it in the government, we can’t afford it as a nation.
So tax reform should come, but spending cuts have to come by changing our attitude what government ought to be doing for us.
MR. GOLER: You would eliminate the Department of Homeland Security in the midst of a war, sir?
REP. PAUL: Well, I think we should not go to more bureaucracy. It didn’t work. We were spending $40 billion on security prior to 9/11, and they had all the information they needed there to deal with the threat, and it was inefficiency. So what do we do? We add a gigantic bureaucracy, which they’re still working on trying to put it together, and a tremendous amount of increase in funds.
So I don’t think that the Republican position ought to be more bureaucracy. I mean, why did we double the size of the Department of Education?
That sounds pretty reasonable to me.
Looking back, and granted we’re doing so with the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear to me that the $500 billion that we’ve poured into Iraq – all funded by debt that will be an albatross around out children’s necks for decades – would have been better spent on virtually anything else. Prominent on the list of better uses would have been scientific research aimed at reducing our dependency on foreign oil, implementation of the infrastructure for a hydrogen economy, or – gasp! – simply not borrowing and spending it at all.
Consider what has been accomplished in Iraq: absolutely nothing.
Paul told the truth and he’s catching hell for it. James Bovard says:
For almost six years, politicians have acted as if it is federal crime to speak bluntly about 9/11. On the day of the attacks, George Bush proclaimed that the hijackers attacked because they hate America for its freedom. This has been treated as a revealed truth ever since. (When I saw Bush on TV that day, I was perplexed how the US government could know the motive before it knew the identity of the hijackers).
Ron Paul has never kowtowed to this dogma, and last night he deftly debunked the 9/11 catechism: “They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.”
That’s telling things like they are. That may cost him. Michigan party chairman Saul Anuzis says he will circulate a petition among Republican National Committee members to ban Paul from more debates.
Very classy. That’s not exactly what the Republican party is supposed to stand for. But that’s what it’s become since the end of the Reagan area.
Consider what Dr. Paul said about the root causes of 9/11 and related terrorist attacks. Are there any inaccuracies in his statement? No. Attacks made from that perspective are irrelevant. Much has been made of Paul’s break from the party line. But when the party is wrong, breaking with it is the right thing to do.
However, Paul’s argument is moot, in my opinion, because we’re in the quagmire up to our necks and we owe Iraq the chance to right itself, if such a thing is possible. But that’s a different question than whether Paul was right about the causes of 9/11, isn’t it?