Ron Paul Responds to Ryan Sager


Reason contributor and The Elephant in the Room author Ryan Sager has gone after Ron Paul for this mid-1990s quote, originally dug up by a rival campaign in 1996.

Stating that lobbying groups who seek special favors and handouts are evil, Paul wrote, "By far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government" and that the goal of the Zionist movement is to stifle criticism.

Sager wrote that "focusing on the 'negative,' 'powerful' Israel lobby—above and beyond any other lobby—counts as a form of anti-Semitism. It's not even a close call." At a media availability this morning (thanks to the American Spectator), I read that quote to Paul and asked him to explain what he meant and whether he stood by it.

I'd have to have you show to me that I wrote it because that doesn't sound like my language, and in campaigns, some things get into newspapers that aren't actually correct. But I wouldn't back away from saying that AIPAC is very influential in our political process. That's a little bit different than saying the Israeli government, but I think that the Israeli position is very influential, which is very interesting because some of you may have seen this—just recently, there was an article out that studied which groups of people were most opposed to the Iraq War. And the assumption is that AIPAC is in control of things, and they control the votes, and they get everybody to vote against anything that would diminish the war. Yet the group that is most opposed to the Iraq War are the American Jews. Seventy-seven percent are now opposed to the war, which is a powerful message.

It reminds me of the AMA. The AMA doesn't protect me as a doctor who believes in free market medicine. They don't represent the grassroots. I don't think AIPAC represents the Jewish community. If I say some things in this country, it could be exactly what the [Labor Party]* in Israel says, and they would agree with me. But over here you get these kind of challenges, insinuated with, you know, "he's anti-Semitic" and all these things. But I'm pro-Constitution, and that's the foreign policy I talk about.

There were some things in a newsletter that wasn't actually written by me, so sometimes that gets a bit of distortion. I think the most important thing is what my views are and as a matter of fact I think our whole foreign policy is not helpful to Israel. It's actually ultimately very damaging to Israel. We restrict Israel, we're more likely to come in and tell them they can't do this, they can't do that. Israel has made overtures to Syria, which is great, and yet we've told them "don't talk to Syria or we'll cut off your money." It's that kind of stuff. I think the image that the Arabs and Muslims are all controlled by Osama bin Laden is absolutely erroneous. Israel and Egypt came to terms. I think ultimately we stir the pot and it's very harmful to Israel.

Sean Higgins of Investor's Business Daily followed up to ask what Paul meant when he said AIPAC "controls the votes" and whether they're "influential to the bad or influential to the good."

I think it depends on the issue. I remember one time in the early '80s they were influential because the United States and the United Nations was condemning Israel for bombing Iraq's nuclear site. I believe that was the issue, or it was an issue like that, but I was one of the very few that said Israel has every right in the world to do what is necessary for their national sovereignty. On an issue like that they were right. On an issue like Iran, I don't think it's in their interests and I don't think it's in our interests. There's a lot of Jews in Israel who agree and I'd bet you there are a lot of Jews in this country that would agree that taking on Iran right now—I can't think of anything more absurd. And the idea that we wouldn't even take off the table a nuclear first strike on Iran who is incapable of attacking us. If they want me to vote to go to war against Iran, that would be be bad. If they want me to defend Israel's position of defending their borders and doing what's in their best interest, I'd say that's good.

*Paul said "Liberal Party" but he was clearly talking about Labor.