Foreign Policy

Ron Paul: Loved By the Military, Not Loving Santorum


Ron Paul, as his campaign likes to let you know, gets more donations from active duty military than all his opponents combined. Adam Weinstein at Mother Jones explores why this might be so. Some of the important points:

The lion's share of political contributions by servicemembers and defense industry workers is going to anti-war, "soft on Israel," also-ran candidate Ron Paul. In fact, the battle for their dollars isn't even close: Paul has raised at least $282,868 from individual active-duty servicemembers and Pentagon employees—more than four times what the other three Republican presidential candidates have raised, combined. (President Obama has fared slightly better, drawing $123,644 from that group, but still less than half of Paul's total. For more, jump to the charts below with the numbers by candidate and branch of the armed services.)….

One easy explanation has been that Americans in the service have grown tired of a decade of war and identify with Paul's isolationist anti-interventionist rhetoric. But if the military men and women with whom I spoke this week are any indication, it's hardly that simple. 

While that lead-in primes the reader to expect something contrarian or counterintuitive, in my reading the rest of the voices and analysis Weinstein presents could pretty fairly be summed up as that they are indeed idenitfying with "Paul's anti-interventionist rhetoric," plus that they like that he's a vet himself, but you can decide that for yourself:

Paul's anti-war stance is certainly part of the draw. Last weekend, the group Veterans for Ron Paul 2012 organized an anti-war President's Day march on the White House. That organization's leadership includes notable Iraq Veterans Against the War memberAdam Kokesh, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress as a libertarian Republican candidate in 2010, and Jake Diliberto, a former Marine who's previously worked on Rethink Afghanistan, an anti-war project funded by the left-leaning Brave New Foundation. "I have always been a conservative, and I recognize that I am the kind of conservative that doesn't exist anymore," Diliberto told me. As for what unites servicemembers behind Paul, he said, "It is fair to say, we all do not like the current trajectory of US foreign policy, and we are cynical about US national security policy." He added that he's personally concerned about Obama's "targeted killing campaign" against alleged terrorists.  

One of the speakers at last weekend's rally was retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, a former Pentagon analyst and key figure in revealing how the Bush administration sold the Iraq war based on bogus intelligence."I'm 95% in harmony with Ron Paul's candidacy and his philosophy," Kwiatkowski—who's running for Congress in Virginia as a Republican—told me in an email. "I hold the DoD as a federal bureaucracy in a bit more contempt than he does because I spent way more time in it, and I saw close up the actual conscientious, direct political lying to promote war, invasions and occupations—none of which were sanctioned or even reviewed in accordance with the Constitution."

But Paul's supporters say the candidate's "anti-militarism" shouldn't be confused with being anti-defense. "He's not opposed to the defense of this country. He's not opposed to fighting wars that are declared," a 27-year-old active-duty enlisted soldier in the Army said. (He spoke on condition of anonymity; after a uniformed soldier spoke out at a Paul rally in Iowa, the military warned soldiers about politicking publicly.)

There's a certain irony in supporting a small-government candidate while working for thelargest federal bureaucracy. The politics of it are, well, complicated. "I do wrestle with this conflict of being a Paul supporter while also being a government employee," the active-duty soldier said. "Ultimately, in my support for Paul, I care more for the restoration of the ideals this country was founded upon than my current well-being."….

Soldiers tend to see Paul as understanding the pressures they face better than the other candidates because he's the only one in the group who served in uniform, as a flight surgeon in the Air Force and Air National Guard during the Vietnam era. The libertarian's service gives him "street cred," Kwiatkowski noted. "We often in the military have no idea what the foreign policy or the military policy is. All we know is we get told to do things, and often these things are costly, dangerous, and unproductive, and create more insecurity for us and for the country."

And it's not just the soldiers who dig Paul: strangely, it is military contractors as well:

Meanwhile, Paul's support from defense contractor employees—who donated more than $177,000 to him in 2011—has outpaced that of his competitors, according to Defense News. (Obama leads in that category overall, having pulled in about $348,000.) That may seem downright counterintuitive: Why would workers for companies that profit from war back an anti-pork candidate (self-proclaimed, anyway) who opposes, as Kwiatkowski puts it, "fraud, waste, abuse, warmongering, idiotic leadership, political correctness, and a host of other things"? It's a matter of ideology, military analyst Loren Thompson explained to Defense News. "There's a strong libertarian streak among many in the sector," he said. "Just because people work in the defense industry doesn't mean that they always vote their economic interests."

See Reason's coverage of the Veterans for Paul March on President's Day from Julie Ershadi.

In other Paul news, Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post has a pretty savvy take on the now Santorum-spread meme that Paul and Romney are in a secret alliance:

Rick Santorum and his team came out with a conspiracy theory that Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and Mitt Romney were in cahoots. A source close to the Paul campaign told me last night that the Paul camp sees this as an effort by senior Santorum adviser John Brabender to distract the media from the fact that his candidate was "not ready for primetime."….

Indeed, on one hand, you can say it was foolish for Santorum to cook up an excuse for his dismal outing. Santorum already has a reputation for being thin-skinned and peevish. This tactic certainly made him seem like a poor sport.

To some extent, however, the gambit worked. When you can get major media figures and longtime GOP operatives tweeting away about non-existent deals (A Cabinet position! A VP slot for Rand Paul!) based on nothing but the accusations of a wounded candidate's flack, that is no small feat. But, in fact, the explanations for Ron Paul's very obvious disdain for Santorum, and, to a lesser extent, Newt Gingrich are much simpler than a Roswell-esque theory.

Both campaigns confirm that Paul and Romney are personally friendly, as are their wives. They are both of the same generation, with married kids and grandkids on whom they dote. They've both been happily married for decades. (It is widely known that Ron Paul's wife was friendly with Gingrich's second wife.)

It is human nature to show greater deference and civility to those whom you like. What the press is missing, however, is the degree to which Gingrich, Santorum and their staffs have acted in ways that the Paul camp would justifiably perceive as dismissive and rude. When I asked Brabender for reaction to the accusation that he was practicing the art of distraction, he e-mailed, "It sounds like something the Romney campaign told the Paul campaign to say." It is precisely this sort of denigration — that Paul and his staff are unable to think on their own or advance their own interests — that has fueled Paul's desire to skewer Santorum. The source close to the Paul camp responded, "Once again demonstrates the total lack of respect for Ron Paul, his supporters, and his campaign team held by Santorum and his top advisor. When you build coalitions and treat your fellow Republicans the Santorum-Brabender way you end up losing in the general by double digits in the swing states like Pennsylvania." You get the picture now?

It has been going on for some time now. Santorum publicly called Paul "disgusting." Gingrich has been telling others to get out of the race for months. In the debate, an eye-rolling Santorum couldn't contain his disdain for Paul, who returned the favor with blow after blow to Santorum's self-image of a "courageous" conservative warrior (wasn't that self-definition by Santorum an unintentional moment of Newt-like ego?) .

At a staff level, the Romney team, perhaps due to an awareness of the personal relationship between the candidates, has been cordial and professional toward Paul's people. These things matter.

In summation: Paul has plenty of reasons, both ideological and tactical, to want to crush Santorum and Gingrich, and speculating beyond the evidence that it is the result of some deal or alliance with Romney is not necessary to explain it.

My blogging on the Paul-Romney alliance here and here. My forthcoming book, Ron Paul's Revolution.


NEXT: Steven Greenhut on the Totalitarian Ethics of California's Public Sector Unions

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  1. I think Rubin’s piece is dead on. Santorum has been openly hostile to any libertarian elements in the Republican Party (I suppose he sees libertarians as libertines) so it’s natural Ron Paul is going to send little respect back the Senator’s direction.

      1. Still with the Ron Paul personality cult? When does it officially end? The Republican Convention? His last day (Jan. 2013) in Congress? His funeral?

        1. I’m thinking never.
          Ron Paul is the Jefferson of our age.
          And I don’t mean George.

          1. +1 Ron Paul will be the Reagan of of the next generation. I bet that in 20 years time the poli-turds up on stage at debates will be pretending to have his mantle.

    1. yup. Even if Romney agrees with one of Paul’s views, he does not insult him about it. He treats RP with respect and gets it in return. Amazing how that works. I also get the sense that MR is more interested in results than party; if Paul has a good idea, I think Mitt will listen to it. Noot and Ricky from PA make a sport out of dismissing anything RP says.

      1. “Amazing how that works.”

        It seems obvious to us, sure, but in Washington or Hollywood or any other social circle that A) draws narcissists, if not outright sociopaths and B) features a lot of zero-sum competition, it’s sort of an alien concept.

  2. If Paul wasn’t in these debates to give a few legitimate answers, make fun of Santorum/Newt, and mock some of the questions he’s been asked, they would be completely unwatchable.

  3. to crush Santorum

    Santorum must first be frozen or dried.

    1. Preferably flash frozen with liquid Nitrogen then smashed with a sledge hammer.

    2. Freeze dried.

  4. There’s a certain irony in supporting a small-government candidate while working for the largest federal bureaucracy. The politics of it are, well, complicated. “I do wrestle with this conflict of being a Paul supporter while also being a government employee,” the active-duty soldier said. “Ultimately, in my support for Paul, I care more for the restoration of the ideals this country was founded upon than my current well-being.”


  5. People working for defense contractors ARE voting in their economic intrest by supporting Paul, just not their immediate economic interest.

    1. So much this.

      Its like when people say Im not being pragmatic. In my mind, extreme support of liberty is the only pragmatic position. Its just longer term pragmatic. Possibly not even in my lifetime.

      1. Kind of begging the question, aren’t you? You assume that your tactics are in fact supportive of liberty. Standing on a soapbox yelling about ferret regulations and colloidal silver doesn’t advance the cause of liberty short-term, long-term, medium-term, or sidereal-term or whatever.

        1. You’re the only one who brought up a soapbox or ferret regs. But do you think voting Romney in the fall will help the cause of liberty?

    2. not their immediate economic interest.

      ** snorts derisively **

      And they call themselves “Americans”!

  6. The soldiers just don’t understand how important it is to keep sending them everywhere to teach others how to live in peace and democracy at the point of a gun.

  7. I’m really getting into reading about the libertarian perspective.Thanks for being there guys as I gradually become one of you.

    1. Overweight and friendless??

      1. Don’t trust the BMI “overweight” ranges. They obviously don’t work if you have a high muscle/low body fat composition.

      2. I’ll just skip right over the part where someone points out the irony of a person with the chick-magnet net handle of “Mongo” accusing other people he’s never met of being overweight and friendless…

  8. “Just because people work in the defense industry doesn’t mean that they always vote their economic interests.


  9. Some ask, what will we do after Syria, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, and Sudan are bombed and there are no more dictators to justify the military pork. Silly, naive fools. We’ll simply overthrow some democracies, set the pins back up to be knocked over again.

    1. After getting rid of the “unfriendly” dictators, just reclassify some of the “friendly” ones.

      Also, Venezuela is not a dictartorship. joe said so. TRUST DEMOCRACY! (That was for old time’s sake. Wonder if joe will be back if Romney wins and we start ragging on the Team Red President?)

      1. Liberty is a greater value than democracy. It’s mo’ better.

  10. So…Paul’s fanbase has become a parody of ’80s Bruce Springsteen’s.


    Great sandwich.

    1. I’m probably not old enough to know just what the fuck you’re talking about.

      1. Me either. And I was alive in the 80’s.

  11. I’ve been wearing my country’s uniform for quite some time now, out of a sense of duty instilled by my father and his family.

    I serve my fellow citizens, by following the orders of those who they have elected.

    If I don’t like those orders because I’m libertarian, well I guess I asked for it.

    If you don’t like the benefits I have earned in the all-volunteer military, then vote for someone else to reduce those benefits, and then find someone else to do my job. (BTW, about 75% of 18-25 year-olds can’t even qualify to join)

    So, no, I don’t feel conflicted, or think it’s ironic.

    1. I’ve been wearing my country’s uniform for quite some time now, out of a sense of duty instilled by my father and his family.

      1. Wow. how did THAT get deleted. Anyhoo . . .
        My motivation for not joining was quite similar. My ex Army Ranger dad so loathed the military he told me he would hunt me down and kill me if I followed in his footsteps.

        1. lol! My dad was Navy, and he said if I joined the Marines he would hunt me down and kill me, but I did anyway.

          1. My Air Force officer dad merely mentioned that a pacifist like me wasn’t a terribly good fit with the military, and then vented time after time at the dinner table about the idiocy of what the military was up to.

            That was sufficient to keep me away from joining the military. That, and the unsolicited recruiting pamphlets that showed unsmiling soldiers working their asses off for low pay.

          2. If you joined the Marines, you would have nothing to fear from an old Squid.

  12. In summation: Paul has plenty of reasons, both ideological and tactical, to want to crush Santorum and Gingrich,

    No decent human being is lacking in reasons to want Santorum and Gingrich crushed.

    1. Crushed? Never!

      Put through the Juicemaster?? Certainly, but only if Obama has to drink it.

      1. Infomercial host: Ew, this tastes like somebody’s dirty undershorts!

        Juicy Jay: Not just somebody’s, Gordy. They’re mine.

      2. Trust me, Santorum and Titties don’t mix well.

  13. In summation: Paul has plenty of reasons, both ideological and tactical, to want to crush Santorum and Gingrich[…]

    He probably holds both of them beyond contempt.

  14. The anti-Paul coalition have shown themselves to be the tinfoil hat wearers they accuse Paul’s supporters of being.

  15. Santorum and Gangrene are pitiable assholes. They should have been inner-city public hospital administrators.

    1. You must really hate inner-city people.

      1. I hate everybody non-white and non-heterosexual, I love monocles, I drink the blood of Democrat children, and I detest The Unions (PBUH). I’m just a regular libertard, makin’ my way in the world.

  16. Dr. Paul turned in one of his best performances tonight. Maybe Romney could be Paul’s VP if Napolitano declines. This allows Romney to have the shelter of VP status to cast blame on Paul for any hard economic news that has to be communicated to the American public, but still push his China trade policies from the Executive branch. Romney would be a good VP.

    Newt lied again about balancing the budget in the 90s. All he did was steal from social security. debt still went up a trillion dollars under his time. Newt also smacked of price controls on 2.50 a gallon gasoline. that is socialism and it has no place in free market capitalism. Newt was also ignorant and arrogant of the Martin Dempsey information that Iran is not a big threat. The debt is the threat and only Ron Paul admits it and faces it like a man.

    1. Napolitano…I was hoping for Penn Jilette. 🙂

      1. Hey, the perfect Veep candidate! He’d be sure to acknowledge the do-nothing nature of the position and take full advantage of the fact. Plus, there would likely be naked tits at his press conference. That’s something I could get behind!

  17. Ron Paul shut down that debate audience pretty quick with the economic facts on Iran. Soviets left other countries when they were bankrupt.
    Why did you say Santorum is a fake?
    “Because he is a fake.”
    Santorum said “I was wrong. I took one for the team” when voting for no child left behind/prescription drug plan, raising the debt ceiling, etc. I ask: What team? The unfunded big government spending team? Get that clown off the stage.

  18. Romney is acting like the POTUS plays this international game of Risk world domination like Newman and Kramer. Notice the Seinfeld reference just like Romney did for Costanza.

    Ron Paul 2012 Peace, balanced budgets and a strong dollar.

  19. Romney is in dreamland if he thinks he is going to balance the budget WHILE expanding military 100k troops and more aircraft carriers/submarines.

    “Pills can’t be blamed for the morality of our society.” cuts to the truth of the issue.

    “There’s always an excuse for these big bills.” responding to Santorum making excuses for his votes.
    Ron Paul solidly won the battle of ideas on all fronts in the debate. Well done sir.

    1. “…more aircraft carriers…”

      I note the USS Enterprise* is being decommissioned. I am just hoping that the next carrier is not called the “USS Barack Obama”.

      *Don’t go there, ProL.

      1. If an aircraft carrier is ever named after Obama, I’ll hang myself with a rusty cable. I wouldn’t even nickname a death row barracks after Barak Obama — the inmates don’t deserve that sort of dishonor.

        1. Well, if an aircraft carrier is ever named after Obama, it’ll probably be the one they convert into the Raft.

      2. USS Deep Space Nine?

    2. Romney is in dreamland if he thinks he is going to balance the budget WHILE expanding military 100k troops and more aircraft carriers/submarines.

      Romney’s evil, not stupid. He has no expectation at all of reducing the spending. He wants to be just like GWB, and every other lying presidential candidate before him who made the same empty promises.


  20. Yet one more tool to help educate the unconverted and further prove support for Dr. Paul among Independents:

    Please use it. Thanks!

  21. Yet one more tool to help educate the unconverted and further prove support for Dr. Paul among Independents:

    election4uspresident2012 dot weebly dot c o m

    Please use it. Thanks!

  22. FAKE soldiers! all of e’m.

  23. Who controls the US media?
    Why are there so many Israel-first dual-nationals in the US government?

    1. 1.7% of the US population

      1. Yeah, its getting kinda obvious
        1.7% of US population, over 30% of republican house members.
        ??% of Major Media journalists: But I notice names like Rueben, wienstein, whateverberger etc. as the authors of about 90% of the anti-ron paul pieces.

        (Before anyone pops up and calls me an anti-semite I speak hebrew, am circumcised and have read the Torah cover to cover. Also the “semitic peoples” include all arabs, the maltese and north coast africans so get your terminology right)

    2. Who controls the British crown?
      Who keep the metric system down?

    3. Who controls the US media?

      Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, of course.

      You’re not referring to someone else, surely?

    4. Who controls the US media?

      Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Al-Saud, of course.

    5. Who controls the US media?

      The House of Saud.

      Next question.

    6. Test.

  24. …Santorum-spread…

    Please, don’t ever use those words together.

    1. Santorum spread, more commonly known by its commercial name:

      “I can’t believe its not facism”

  25. Despite claims by the Jewish Republican Coalition, Ron Paul is probably the most pro-Israel candidate for President in any party. He respects Israel’s sovereignty and their right to defend themselves without having to ask America’s permission.

  26. I knew plenty of Soldiers and Marines who leaned Libertarian – because:

    – Unlike politicians, we tend to take our oaths to the Constitution seriously.
    – We learn to detect and despise bullshit. Libertarians and a few Conservatives such as Allen West are the only politicians who don’t spew BS every time they open their mouths.
    – We have had a glimpse of the scope of the federal government. The stupidity, wastefulness, and inefficiency of a big bureaucracy is a shocking thing to behold. While most military types believe a strong defense is important – the waste can be reduced, and there is no justification for similar bureaucracies at Commerce. Energy, Interior, etc…

  27. Sieg fucking heil to that racist sack of shit. Stick you silly little book up your fat fascist ass, Doherty.

    1. Insightful and informative as always, Maxy

  28. Anyone catch Bolton acting like an asshole on Stossel while not answering the Iraq war veteran’s question about blowback? What a pompous piece of shit.

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