Washington — With polls predicting a comfortable second-place finish — or even a shot at first — for Ron Paul in the nation’s first GOP presidential test in Iowa, the Texas libertarian is laughing all through the cornfields, and Jewish activists are starting to worry.
Once disregarded as marginal and unimportant, Paul, a staunch opponent of American military involvements abroad, is beginning to draw attention. And while no one expects him to win the Republican nomination, his surge is seen as a problem in itself.
“Extremists embrace his anti-government views,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, “so at the end, he legitimizes extreme views on U.S. aid to Israel, and he legitimizes extreme views that are not only racist and homophobic but also anti-Israeli, and at times anti-Semitic.” Foxman stressed, however, that he does not view Paul as anti-Semitic, though some of his followers are.
Despite these concerns, most — though not all — experts see no broader “Ron Paul phenomenon” taking hold in the Republican Party. Nor do they believe that an extreme form of isolationism, which includes anti-Israel sentiment, is making its way into the GOP mainstream. Paul, political analysts argue, has the right combination of enthusiasm and organization to score big in Iowa’s quirky straw-poll system for selecting a primary presidential favorite, but it won’t take him much further.
A December 22 Rasmussen poll predicted Paul would receive 20% of the votes in Iowa’s January 3 caucuses, coming in second after Mitt Romney. An Iowa State University poll published a day earlier put Paul in the lead, with 27.5% of the votes.
Paul, a congressman from Texas, has been the strongest and, at times, the only libertarian voice within the Republican Party. A physician by profession, Paul won the nickname “Dr. No,” which pretty well sums up his voting record. He has been a consistent opponent of any legislation authorizing the use of military power and views as unconstitutional federal entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, not to mention a lot of other things the federal government does. Ron Paul’s campaign did not respond to requests to interview the candidate.
While Paul’s views on domestic and international issues are a source of concern for most in the Jewish community, critics point to his writings from the 1980s and ’90s as no less of a problem. A newsletter called The Ron Paul Political Report included recurring extreme racist comments and anti-Israel rhetoric, as well as endorsement of conspiracy theories that Israel was behind the 1993 terror attack on New York’s World Trade Center. Paul’s campaign attempted to distance the candidate from his namesake publication, saying he did not write or authorize the articles in it.
Eric Dondero, a former aide to Paul, wrote on December 26 on RightWingNews website that Paul had said many times he “wishes the state of Israel did not exist at all.” Dondero said that while he did not think Ron Paul held anti-Semitic views, he is definitely “anti-Israel.”