When Ron Paul announced the first formal steps toward a 2012 presidential campaign last week, pundits observed that, though he still faces an uphill battle, he might be a stronger candidate this time than he was in 2008.
For example, in February he won the CPAC straw poll; Paul’s longtime opposition to taxation, debt, and the Federal Reserve have made him popular with Tea Party conservatives. One blogger even called him prophetic.
But Ron Paul has made a career promoting positions that, while internally consistent, sooner or later infuriate those on both the left and the right.
Focusing on how he infuriates the right: Paul’s views on foreign policy are consistently non-interventionist. He holds that the Constitution prohibits US involvement anywhere in the world unless America is directly threatened. That goes for Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Rwanda, Darfur, even Israel. He wants to bring home American troops from Europe and drastically cut the defense budget. Forget the hyper-aggressive patriotism that is all too prevalent; he says our current policies amount to bullying.
Generally speaking, Paul is opposed to almost all use of authority by the federal government. He voted against the Patriot Act and is opposed to all regulation of the internet including bans on internet gambling, pornography (and child pornography). He opposed the Bush administration’s defense of the use of torture in the war of terror and argues that almost everything we have done in the interest of security post 9/11 has come at the cost of civil liberties, and has mostly been ineffective.
He is opposed to the war on drugs, argues that drug addiction in general should be treated medically not criminally, and favors legalization of medical marijuana.
On the all-important social issues, Republican Party primary voters are not going to be happy with Paul. He opposes “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” arguing that gay or straight behavior in the military that is disruptive is grounds for dismissal, but that being gay shouldn’t preclude one from service. He opposes efforts to define marriage, in any form, at the federal level. He supports legal recognition of contracts with the “sanctity” of marriage left to religious groups—who can sanctify whatever unions they deem appropriate.
Finally, even on the abortion issue he is likely to disappoint many conservatives because he opposes efforts to limit or regulate abortion at the federal level (though he would allow states to outlaw abortion, and calls himself pro-life).
When asked this morning on the Diane Rhem Show about the news of the death of bin Laden, Paul expressed concern over those trying to use the development to argue that “torture works” — a view he described as “dangerous.” He then said bin Laden’s death should change our foreign policy because we are doing what Bin Laden wanted: “He wanted us to stay there, drain our resources and bankrupt our country… the connection between our foreign policy and our financial problems is significant.”
These days many Americans are war weary—and that includes Obama supporters who think he has not done enough to get us out. It might look like the time is ripe for deficit-hawkish Republicans to object to the financial costs of our multiples wars, but the polling so far doesn’t show Paul breaking out of the GOP field with that or any of his other positions.