The title of this article is not just directed at Rep. Paul—although regarding his political beliefs he remains something of an enigma. It’s also directed at the almost eerie absence of media coverage of his surprisingly successful (thus far) campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Not all media are ignoring Paul, however. World magazine has an insightful article on the long-time Texas congressman that is entitled “Father of the Tea Party.” I’m not sure that he should be accorded that honor any more than Rush Limbaugh should be called the titular head of the Republican Party. However, he does stand for many of the same positions and values that most Tea Partiers (that is, most non-liberal, average Americans) do. He’s solidly pro-life; conservative enough to want the Federal Reserve abolished and return to the gold standard; for lower taxes and smaller government; but, most importantly in this war-weary and broke nation, against our intervention in military adventures across the globe. Whether or not he takes his view from George Washington’s farewell address admonition to avoid “foreign entanglements,” Paul has stood foursquare against the War on Terror from its inception in 2001 with unflinching moral as well as economic reasoning.
Of course, during much of that time including Paul’s ill-fated run in 2008, except for a small dedicated core of mostly youthful supporters, it was easy for most of the general public to dismiss Paul as sort of a crackpot. Given his rather advanced age, he was viewed like the slightly crazy uncle who is tolerated but not taken seriously by the family. In 2011 though, with the economy coming apart at the seems and a president who promised to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan but has done neither—instead, entangling us in Libya and who knows where else—Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy is suddenly looking attractive to a larger following. As the World article notes, American isolationist sentiment is at a 40-year high. To put that in historical perspective, in 1971 we were still heavily involved in that lost cause called Vietnam.
Where Paul’s isolationist tendencies cause the most nervousness on the right is on the touchy subject of Iran and its budding nuclear warhead capabilities. If Paul wants to claim that whatever tough talk and sanctions we threaten Iran with will not stop her, that may or may not be plausible. But his argument seems to be more along the line of “live and let live,” and this extends to our allies as well as our enemies. Leaving our sole real ally in the Middle East, Israel, without our monetary and military contributions certainly poses some risks also. Although it can be argued that Israel might in some ways be better off if we left her to fend for herself, unfettered by our lecturing and badgering for her to continue caving to the Palestinians and other Arab states in the interest of a largely illusory “peace.”
Then there is Paul’s laissez-faire attitude regarding illegal drugs—which he believes should be legalized. We are seeing in states like Michigan where medical marijuana has been legalized, the deleterious effects of an all-too-easily attainable “high” drug that people should not be using for minor ailments or to simply escape from their daily troubles. I know from first-hand conversations with both ongoing and reformed “potheads” that while marijuana may not be physically addictive, it is not an easy bond from which to break, and it plays havoc with one’s ability to care for his or her emotional well-being and those around them. And that’s not even considering heroin, a hugely addictive and life-destroying drug that Paul also has no problem legalizing.
Is Ron Paul good for the Republican primary races? Only time will tell. It’s really surprising that the lamestream media have not picked up on him as a figure that could divide Republicans even more than they are already, and maybe at some point they will cover him if they believe it will work in damaging the other candidates. As the World article eloquently states, Paul always seems to push further than typical voters will accept. However, media coverage or no, he will not go away quietly. And it would be a mistake to underestimate his staying power, especially among those who want our foreign entanglements to end quickly.