The Controversial Ron Paul: The GOP and Assange, Israel and the NDAA


Presidential candidate Ron Paul is a man embroiled in many controversies. Let's survey some of the more recent ones:

*Ron Paul wins the coveted Wikileaks endorsement, as Julian Assange tips his hat to Paul as a particularly important public supporter in an interview with Rolling Stone.

*Paul continues to court controversy with his own party in the New York Times:

Asked whether he believed he would have the leverage to make Republicans more willing to accommodate his supporters and positions, he said: "I don't know how they're going to handle it. Because we're very precise on what we would like, and I can't imagine all of a sudden one of the other candidates changing their position on their desire to go to war constantly."

He added: "How much leverage do I have? How many more votes am I going to get? You know, the more pressure they feel, the more they might be willing to look at some of those issues. We want to change things."

*Which is why William Kristol, conservative thought leader and editor of The Weekly Standard, says Ron Paul should leave the Republican Party, and that the Republican Party should feel no worries about letting him go. Kristol thinks losing Paul's forces would hurt them no more than did driving Pat Buchanan to the Reform Party in 2000 hurt them. Those who confuse Buchanan's backward-looking culture war brigades with the current forward-looking small-government, sensible spending and foreign policy forces coalescing around Paul are, I think, misreading the future of their Party and American politics. Ignoring the candidate of your Party most favored by those under 40 (as Paul was in New Hampshire) can't be good for its long-term future.

*Reid Smith in the American Spectator argues that Paul could avoid some controversies with the Republican base by re-casting his foreign policy arguments:

 if I'm Ron Paul, I'd re-emphasize the waste associated with America's enduring responsibility to foreign states that are more than capable of handling regional security threats on their own -- but choose to free-ride on the American taxpayer's dime. While this tact won't suit staunch advocates of our current foreign policy who insist that the liberal institutional order is imperiled absent a ubiquitous projection of American power, I'd argue this is the only way to actually beat Obama on foreign policy….

For better or worse, Paul -- and Paul alone -- enjoys the opportunity to say something different. Unfortunately, he has a nasty habit of pushing things way past the line of conventional thinking, and into a realm of devil's advocacy previously unimaginable in mainstream conservative debate….I'll maintain that it's not "crazy" to link an unsustainable national debt with the fact that we continue to spend defense dollars at a rate comparable to, or exceeding, the first half of the 1940s.

*Techdirt is upset with Paul's campaign for suing to try to find the identity of the creator of the fake anti-Huntsman, allegedly pro-Paul YouTube video:

 the Paul campaign has now filed a lawsuit in the federal courts, in the Northern California district, seeking to identify whoever created and uploaded the video -- alleging trademark infringement and defamation. Even more ridiculous is that he's filed for expedited discovery to try to unmask those uploaders quickly. This is all sorts of bizarre and not particularly smart. It also seems to go against a bunch of Paul's main points -- including his belief in state's rights over federal (he's suing in federal court, not state court, using some questionable theories) and his support of the First Amendment -- which, many courts have pointed out, includes the right to speak anonymously.

Even more specifically, on the actual details of the lawsuit it's difficult to see how this is a trademark claim in any way, since it's questionable how this is a "use in commerce" (necessary for trademark law). Second, the defamation claim is just bizarre. As a public figure, the bar for defamation is crazy high -- and he'd likely have to prove that the video was made maliciously to make him look bad. That seems like a massively high hurdle….

Finally, what good does filing this lawsuit do? I can't figure out any conceivable argument under which filing the lawsuit makes sense. Not only is it on questionable legal theories and contrary to his core statements on Constitutional support, but it also simply calls more attention to the offensive video and brings the story back into the news cycle, after he's been trying to distance himself from it. No doubt, the video is stupid, but this lawsuit may be even dumber. 

*How progressives should feel about Paul is a matter of continuing controversy, and will be. Natural News offers 10 reasons progs, liberals, and Dems should dig him.

*Paul's position on Israel--that foreign aid to it (and everyone else) should be cut, and that this might actually make them better off, is also quite controversial. The Jewish Daily Forward is arguing that even a Paul that doesn't win the nomination might influence presumptive nominee Romney in a way they won't like.

To the contrary, Judd Weiss argues at his Hustle Bear site that a Ron Paul vision for U.S. attitudes toward Israel is also good for Israel:

We don't have a homeland yet. Not unless we're independent to make our own decisions. This aid comes at a heavy price. Our sovereignty and our ability to pursue our best interests should be for sale to no one. Certainly not for $3 Billion.

The Republican Jewish Coalition has strongly disapproved of Ron Paul, refusing to allow him to join their presidential debate they hosted on December 7. This is a mistake. If Republican Jews are going to remain consistent with their small government principles, they must oppose welfare for their causes just as they oppose welfare towards causes of other groups. As all limited government advocates know: welfare makes one dependent and weak.

Israel believes that it is dependent on America. This is not true. The people of Israel are capable and competent. They've been tested, and they've proved themselves many times. If Jews around the world are capable of raising hundreds of millions of dollars each year just to send students on a free trip to Israel, they are certainly capable of managing the lack of $3 Billion in annual US Aid….

In 1981, when the UN and most of the world, including the entire US congress and Ronald Reagan, condemned Israel for attacking a Nuclear Reactor under construction in IRAQ, at a time when Iraq was our ally against Iran, Ron Paul was the only single congressman to support Israel. Ron Paul DOES NOT want to destroy Israel, he is the only one who will free Israel from the shifting whims of the American public.

*And on one of the more shocking non-controversies (that is, you hear very few people arguing against it in prominent places) of our time, the hideously tyrannical elements of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Ron Paul tried to remind his colleagues how they've just let the very basics of civilized rule of law out the window.

In doing so he reminds all of us that we're going to miss him next year when he isn't in Congress any more to say these sorts of things from the hall of Congress. As he introduces legislation to repeal Sec. 1021 of the NDAA, saying "sadly too many of our colleagues are willing to undermine our Constitution…it is critical we identify and apprehend those…targeting attacks against Americans, but why do we have so little faith in our judicial system?….Let us not abandon what is so unique and special about our system of government" in the process of fighting terror:

For all you wanted to know about Ron Paul and more, see my forthcoming book Ron Paul's Revolution.