by Amanda Walgrove
Representative Ron Paul announced his bid for the presidency over a week ago, but not before taking a hit from the Republican Jewish Coalition. Foreseeing the problems that Paul’s candidacy would cause for Jewish Republicans, RJC executive director Matt Brooks took the precaution of expressing concern about Paul a day before the Texas congressman announced his campaign, saying that Paul’s “misguided and extreme views” are not representative of the Republican Party. While Brooks is correct, the Republicans have yet to produce many convincing contenders who could pull the spotlight away from Paul and highlight views toward Israel that can be representative of the GOP. Some say that his policies don’t reflect any anti-Jewish sentiments, but rather just a broad isolationist view, which happens to include cutting aid to Israel. But this isn’t the first time that Paul has made RJC nervous. During his campaign for the 2008 election, Paul was barred from the RJC’s Candidate’s Forum due to his stance against providing further foreign aid to Israel.
A former obstetrician, Paul transitioned into politics because of his interest in reinstating the gold standard that Nixon slashed. While Paul ran as the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 1988 and as a Republican in 2008, having his name on the Republican ticket for 2012 doesn’t sit well with all GOP members. Especially during a time of turmoil in the Middle East and with all eyes on Israel, the foreign policy of the winner of the 2012 election will be crucial in garnering support. Paul already has an infamously unpopular track record with his policy. He has suggested cutting $3 billion in annual defense assistance to Israel as well as denying funds to its Arab neighbors. Brooks asserted that Paul appeals to only a narrow constituency in the U.S. electorate, citing his “dangerous isolationist vision” for the U.S. and harsh criticism of Israel. As a prime example of this, Paul openly condemned the raid and murder of Osama Bin Laden.
It’s not only on the topic of Israel that Paul’s viewpoints place him squarely outside the mainstream. A recent Tablet Magazine article highlighted some of the more offensive musings of Paul’s political career. Most outrageously, in a New Republic article from 2008, James Kirchick revealed how Paul’s newsletters—then a conventional way for hardline conservatives to communicate with the populace—contained statements that were not only disrespectful to Jews but were also racist and offensive to homosexuals. While Paul’s adversaries have plenty of opportunities to easily inflame the severity of some of these statements, many believe that as a presidential candidate, Paul should account for some of these previous transgressions. Many laud Paul for his consistency, but considering his track record, consistency may not be an attractive quality. His inability to reform his idealistic objectives over time makes him a bit of an outcast, and an unsuitably inflexible candidate.
Given the oddities of Paul’s career, an NPR article considered the curious flocking of youths to Paul’s campaign, evident by the substantial number of twenty-somethings turning up at his rallies and book signings. Sixteen-year-old Rob Gray wasn’t surprised by the young audience, offering that it’s just “the old canard of the young being more open-minded than the old.” Some attendees at the most recent book signing for Liberty Defined mentioned that they may someday have to support a candidate with a better chance of winning, but not now.
Although the third time may not be a charm for Ron Paul, for now, his candidacy mostly seems to be stirring up controversy, especially among RJC and its supporters who are left biting their nails until a fresh face emerges. With Newt Gingrich losing his support, it’s time for a GOP candidate who condones America’s aid to Israel to step up to the plate if the Republicans want to retain their support of the Jewish homeland.