There are often times I feel like the loneliest Ron Paul supporter on earth. We’re already a forsaken lot, castigated as we are, called kooks, conspiracy mongers, racists, bigots, and (worst of all), delusional dreamers living in a fantasy world. Plus, we’re mean-spirited and greedy!
Yet, here I am, an Orthodox Jew, living in Israel, in the dread “occupied territories” no less, and I feel even lonelier than most. Just what am I doing casting my lot with this motley group?!
I have a problem. I tend to call things as I see them. I fondly remember mocking in disgust, along with my then fellow conservatives, at the way then-President Clinton’s supporters blindly and fawningly followed and supported him. We aren’t like that, we thought smugly. We think for ourselves.
I proudly voted for George W. Bush in 2000. I will never forget as I watched the election returns live, and it became clear that victory hinged on Florida. No problem, I thought to myself. Bush’s lead in Florida was increasing throughout the night, with a 50,000-vote spread. Suddenly, within a span of less than an hour, that lead shriveled to…well, you all know the rest.
I can’t say I wasn’t warned about Bush prior to the election. I started reading LRC and WND many months before. Both web sites called him on his bipartisan liberalism. Bush himself did indeed promote a very liberal agenda. At the time, I thought he was just making empty promises to appear “moderate.” In fact, Bush probably has the greatest record of keeping his promises of any president in American history. There are only two promises I can actually think of that he broke: campaign finance reform, which he promised to veto; and a “humble foreign policy,” which supposedly 9/11 changed.
Although the events of 9/11 were outrageous and inhuman, I knew exactly what the consequences would be vis–vis the government response, and I was concerned, if not a little frightened. When the USA PATRIOT act surfaced scant weeks after the event, my break came with my fellow conservatives, who would have gone ballistic had Clinton pushed for passage of such a heinous piece of legislation during his administration, a 9/11-style event or not. Those same people, who joined me in mocking Clinton’s followers, now became those followers and blindly and fawningly supported Bush’s efforts to get the act passed. There was no turning back after that.
Fast-forward to the build-up to the war in Iraq. We who lived in Israel were not clamoring for war, despite what many people in America think. It is very sobering to receive instructions to unpack and prepare your (and your children’s) government-issued gas masks just in case the unthinkable might happen. Those who support American intervention in Iran (to “protect” Israel or otherwise) should consider that.
Even though I would consider myself a political junkie I largely sat out the 2004 election. I honestly couldn’t care less whether Bush or Kerry won, and people were quite surprised by my attitude. I was shocked when Joseph Farah of WND, after pointedly not endorsing anyone in the 2000 campaign, actually endorsed Bush. Nonetheless, I succeeded in basically ignoring the campaign.
Being a long-time reader of LRC, I was somewhat familiar with Ron Paul. I occasionally read his regular articles on the site, and my own beliefs were often in sync with his. I knew he was “Dr. No,” the “most honest man in Congress” (as John McCain once said). When he declared his candidacy early last year, I didn’t think much of it. I actually thought it was a waste of time. His ideas, which were largely my ideas too, were just too extreme to get any traction. Other than reading about the occasional straw poll victory I ignored him. I’m not sure what changed my mind. I think it might have been the third-quarter fundraising results, but I suddenly got very interested in Paul’s campaign last October. With the November 5th money bomb, everything changed.
Since then, I have engaged several close friends and family members in discussion about Dr. Paul and his candidacy. All are conservative or libertarian, and all continue to oppose him and believe he’s a racist crank who would be bad for Israel. It is those two charges I would like to address.
The issue of the published newsletters bearing Dr. Paul’s name are neither here nor there. I’ve been accused by one of my friends of what I detest exceedingly, that is, blindly following someone and ignoring fatal flaws in that person. I think the newsletter issue gives people who already dislike Paul a reason to continue their hostility.
I’ve seen a number of broadcasts and read a number of quotes. Let’s look at this in perspective. Not one person has accused Dr. Paul of actually writing the inflammatory material. At worst, he exercised poor judgment in allowing his name to be attached to these newsletters without any oversight. He has apologized for this. What more can we ask? It is unfortunate that it happened, and it is an albatross, but after a lot consideration, I don’t think it is a fatal flaw. To have someone so strenuously reject the PC blame game is actually refreshing. If Dr. Paul loses, at least he’ll lose with dignity and keep the movement alive. The writing itself is very inflammatory, but only sometimes descends to the level of outright offensiveness. Even then, the intent seems to be provocative, that is, to arouse controversy and attract attention. That is besides the point because with thirty years of material to back him up, it is so obviously not written in Dr. Paul’s hand.
Most of Dr. Paul’s supporters who accept the above now ask him to name names. He says he doesn’t know who wrote the actual content. Okay, they’ll say, but he does know who edited the newsletter. The easy thing for him to do would be to name the names he could and move on. Except that those who expect him to name names will ever actually be satisfied with just that.
This is an opportune time to inject a little of my background into the conversation. Jewish law considers gossip-mongering to be a grievous sin. Gossip-mongering is spreading true statements with malicious intent or even without intent but that might cause even slight embarrassment. The Talmud says that causing a person public embarrassment is akin to shedding blood. Remaining silent in spite of the immense pressure to give in is thus the courageous and correct thing to do.
Related to the above is the insinuation that because Dr. Paul has attracted a following that includes strange and even loathsome characters, he must himself share those traits with these people. Because of his strong beliefs in freedom of expression he limits his criticism to the beliefs of these people, and not the people themselves. He does acknowledge that they don’t help his campaign, but obviously that is never good enough for those who purport to have the authority to declare what is acceptable for the delicate ears of the American people to hear.
This condemnation by association (of these people with Ron Paul, not vice versa) is reprehensible. Especially by Orthodox Jews who know a thing or two about our history. At the very start of our nationhood, the Exodus from Egypt, the Torah records (Exodus 12:38) that a “mixed multitude” (“erev rav” in Hebrew) left with the Jews. This was no small group. It probably numbered over one million people (most commentaries place the total number of Jews at about three million). The Talmud is replete with references to this group of hangers-on and opportunists, who knew a good thing when they saw it. They were a disparate lot of quacks and undesirable elements who have been the bane of Jewish history to this very day.
The book of Esther (8:17) records that after the Jewish people’s victory over Haman and his followers, many gentiles saw the ascendancy of the Jews and once again, cleaved to them, falsely claiming to be Jews.
Finally, when King David was on the run from King Saul, a persecuted fugitive, he attracted, but did not seek out a following. “They gathered to him every man in distress, every man with a creditor, and every man embittered of spirit and he became their leader.” (I Samuel 22:2) Does this not sound like the riff-raff of society? Imagine what respectable people said when they saw the famous David, slayer of Goliath, son-in-law of the King, with these kooks! He didn’t distance himself from them, he became their leader!
Are we really going to condemn a man because of people he has no control or influence over, a few of whose very values are antithetical to his own? For shame.
The second complaint is that a Paul administration would be bad for Israel. The number of statements Dr. Paul has made in support of Israel, way before he even considered his current candidacy really strains the credibility of the claim. There are a number of issues here.
First, aid to Israel. It has been obvious for a long time that Israel does not need this aid. Israel’s GDP per capita is at European levels and rising. The aid itself is a form of corporate welfare in that it must be spent in America. It comes with many strings attached.
It allows the government to avoid sorely needed economic reforms.
Along with the aid Israel receives, potential or actual enemies receive several times more. That aid doesn’t just allow the recipient nations to avoid reforms, it actually props them up and allows them to continue to maintain a bellicose stance against Israel (this certainly includes Egypt, with whom Israel has a peace treaty in place).
When the entire world condemned Israel, including President Reagan on down in America, Dr. Paul supported Israel’s right to act in its own self-interest (and preemptively, I might add) in its bombing of the Osirak reactor in Iraq. He had absolutely nothing to gain by taking this position, and nothing to lose by following the herd in its condemnation of Israel.
America has imposed its will on Israel for decades. President Eisenhower forced Israel to withdraw from the Sinai after the 1956 war turning a military victory into a political defeat. According to Wikipedia, in 1973, the American Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger directly ordered Golda Meir, the Prime Minister of Israel to not strike Egypt and Syria preemptively, despite growing evidence that they planned an attack. Had Israel struck first, it would not have received “so much as a nail” in arms, a serious threat. The first President Bush famously, and insultingly, through his proxy, Secretary of State James Baker, told Premier Shamir to call the public White House phone line when he was serious about peace. In the aftermath of the first Gulf War, America most decidedly imposed its will on Israel by forcing it to participate in the Madrid conference. It influenced the outcome of the Israeli elections by turning down the request for loan guarantees (in principle the loan guarantees are unconstitutional, but Bush declined to reject the request on such lofty terms; it was rank interference in Israel’s internal affairs that drove the decision). In the run-up to the 1996 election between Shimon Peres and Binyamin Netanyahu, President Clinton overtly favored Peres. Clinton also imposed heavily on Netanyahu during the Wye Plantation negotiations. When the government fell as a result, he overtly favored Ehud Barak and even sent in his campaign team, including James Carville, to help. After the second Intifada started in 2000, first Bush, and then Clinton, imposed heavily on Israel to restrain its response until the casualties became so overwhelming that the Israeli government finally had no choice but to respond. Even then, America prevented Israel from achieving an overwhelming victory.
However, the American relationship with Israel is more dangerous than most people even understand. It wasn’t Clinton, however, who initiated or imposed the Oslo process or Camp David negotiations on Israel. And the current Bush president, despite his many faults, has maintained a relatively hands-off stance regarding Israeli action. What should be a concern is not what a President Paul might do, but what an Israeli government does do now. Since Oslo, governments of Israel, left and right, have adopted dangerous and even suicidal policies detrimental to the security and survival of the state. The government then drafts America, often reluctantly, into supporting these policies, and imposes them on an unwilling public, claiming that if something goes wrong, America will protect Israel.
America basically gave Israel a free hand to wage the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. Only when it became clear that victory, which should have been Israel’s, was not going to be quick or decisive, did it step in with an imposed cease-fire. I want to add parenthetically here that when all of Israel rallied around Olmert in support of the war in Lebanon, one lone dissenter had the courage to say that he was against the war, that the entire goal of the war was not victory, but to give legitimacy to Olmert’s “convergence” plan (as Olmert referred to withdrawal from the rest of the disputed territories). His name is Moshe Feiglin. That lone voice was the subject of universal condemnation. Several days later, Olmert confirmed everything Mr. Feiglin said. I mention him here because he is the Israeli equivalent of Ron Paul.
When the war ended in a stalemate (that is, a loss for Israel) a month later, people were astounded that the mighty Israeli army couldn’t defeat a bunch of pipsqueak terrorists.
Everyone saw that America “imposed” a settlement, but few saw the big picture: that the government of Israel did as it did, knowing that America would step in and save the day. In economic terms, this is called “moral hazard.” It means making bad decisions assuming someone will protect you from the consequences of those decisions. The people of Israel need to understand that they can’t assume America will be there always when needed, and with that due consideration, need to elect leaders they think will properly lead the country in its best interests. This is a point made over and over again by Congressman Ron Paul.
Ron Paul would treat the state of Israel with the respect and honor it deserves. It is up to the people of Israel to choose leaders who act honorably and respectfully. If the people of Israel instead elect craven and corrupt leaders who sell out the country’s interests, do they then have the right to expect America to save Israel from its own mistakes? As a practising Jew, I know better than to rely on flesh and blood. As it says in the Book of Psalms (121:4), “The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.”
To Ron Paul supporters in general:
Mishna Avot 2:6 says, “In a place where there are no men, rise up and be a man.” If there is someone better qualified to accept the mantle of leadership, stand aside and let him do so. But if not, if you are qualified, it is not just permissible, but obligatory for you to do so. Dr. Paul didn’t seek this race. He was reluctant. He was skeptical. He knew it would get ugly. He knew about his skeletons. Yet when his supporters drafted him, he assessed the situation and saw there was no one else, and rose up and accepted the challenge. Is he the ideal candidate for the job? Maybe not. Is he too old? Possibly. Is there anyone better prepared to run? No.
After the stinging fifth (but not last) place finish in New Hampshire, and the wide dissemination of the embarrassing old newsletters, I thought it was time to call it quits. Dr. Paul has decided to continue the fight. He has learned from his mistakes and grown from them. His performance in the South Carolina debate shows that. No longer will he let the media steer him off to irrelevant and mocking lines of questioning. I’m sure next time he’ll be prepared when they pull a stunt like turning off his earpiece to make him look foolish. As he said, not at all amused, “make fun buddy.”
What should we do now? Stop the infighting and the blame for transgressions decades in the past. Don’t let the mainstream media dictate the terms of debate and discussion. Don’t get sidetracked by irrelevant issues.
Now is not the time to get wobbly in the knees. Pray for success. Be grateful for the candidate we have, a decent and honest, and yes, flawed man. Rally behind him. Support him in this endeavor.
Dr. Paul, “Champion of the Constitution,” I support you.
January 15, 2008