Friday, November 25, 2011
Republican presidential candidates shuffle again, 'fringe' candidate Ron Paul rises in polls
For entertainment’s sake it just doesn’t get any better than watching Republican candidates vying for the 2012 presidential nomination give it their all – or lack of it -- for a national TV audience.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who is now polling as a frontrunner in Iowa and New Hampshire, is the most recent to take center stage after months of sharing his political views on the sidelines while being dismissed as a “fringe” candidate by the political establishment and the national media. Judging from his appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” broadcast Sunday, Nov. 20, he intends to make the most of it.
TV news host Bob Schieffer often showed signs of exasperation as he struggled to get in the last word during the interview with the controversial candidate. After the broadcast it was clear Paul, who is known as the “intellectual godfather” of the Tea Party movement, had burst out of the “media blackout” his campaign flacks claim has thwarted him since he entered the race in May.
While his fellow Texas presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry might often be at a loss for words, that’s obviously not the case with Paul, who lobbed the ball back to Schieffer every time it came flying at him. In the process, Paul probably left most federal employees – especially career bureaucrats and military brass -- a bit shaken now that he is rising in the polls.
Paul’s most controversial theory focused on the reason he believes Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. He claimed it occurred because of the influence of “flawed” U.S. foreign policy on other nations, and he placed the blame on U.S. “policy makers.”
The nation’s 12,000 diplomats should be put to work in improving relations with countries like Iran rather than trying to scare other countries’ leaders into submission, said Paul, who is a medical doctor in addition to being a politician. Sanctions against other countries are a bad idea because they are a preamble to war, he said.
In connection with his peaceful approach to foreign affairs, Paul said if he was elected president he would close the 900 military bases the U.S. now operates in 130 countries and bring the troops home to protect the country. Because the U.S. is “bankrupt,” Paul said he also would shut down several federal agencies, including the departments of energy, education, interior, commerce, HUD and FEMA.
On top of that, Paul said he wants to reduce the federal workforce across the board by 10 percent.
Clearly Paul has thought his proposal through more carefully than Gov. Perry, who near fatally embarrassed himself in a recent debate, because the congressman can remember the names of all the agencies he wants to close. But what on earth is going to happen to all of those federal employees when they are put out of work, and what is to become of the programs they administer?
This can’t be a popular idea with federal employees, who make up the largest workforce in the U.S., and members of the U.S. Armed Services. When you add in all of the relatives and friends of people who are on the federal payroll, it’s possible that Paul’s numbers are going to fall as fast as they suddenly rose.
The latest financial reports for campaign contributions show large numbers of federal employees supporting him, but those reports reflect the period ending Sept. 30. He unveiled his plan to streamline the federal government Oct. 17. It’s possible federal employees will be giving the stability of their jobs a second thought, “progressive” layoff plan or not.
Paul’s stand on LGBT issues didn’t come up during the interview, but they wouldn’t appeal to anyone who considers advancement of them critical to voting for a presidential candidate, according to his past statements about marriage equality. Paul is opposed to legalization of same-sex marriage, and he supports the Defense of Marriage Act.
In contrast, Paul opposes a Constitutional amendment to protect the current definition of marriage, but that is likely based on a widespread belief that the document should be inviolate. He did support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” so he has gained some LGBT voter support.
On other progressive issues, Paul’s views are similarly divergent. With a medical background in gynecology, he is pro-life and opposed to abortions, yet he supports homeschooling and the legalization and regulation of marijuana and other drugs.
At this point the most recent national poll by USA Today/Gallup is showing that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, at 20 percent and 19 percent respectively, are tied for the top spot in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. They are trailed by businessman Herman Cain at 16 percent, Paul at 10 percent, Perry at 8 percent, Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann at 5 percent and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum at 1 percent each, who with the exception of Paul are all virulently anti-LGBT.
Of course, those figures could go absolutely anywhere during the next year. Perry and Bachmann were once frontrunners, and Gingrich has seen his fortunes rise, fall and rise again since he announced his candidacy. Allegations of past sexual harassment will likely bring down Cain, and Gingrich’s past association as a highly-paid “consultant” for federal housing agencies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae will likely prove to be his undoing.
Romney’s numbers have remained more stable than the other candidates, and he seems to carry less baggage than the others. That has led many to speculate that the former Massachusetts governor will eventually wind up with the nomination.
But for now it’s Paul’s turn in the spotlight, and that’s likely to make for some pretty intriguing debates when the seven candidates get on stage together in the coming days as the media pays more attention to the Texas congressman. It will be interesting to see if they remember their goal is to prevent President Obama’s re-election or if they succumb to another dogfight.