Ron Paul has been treated like a political leper by Jewish Republicans, no doubt in large part because of his views toward Israel (though the president of the National Jewish Democratic Council argues that pro-Israel Republicans haven’t been tough enough toward Paul, noting the possibility he may win the GOP Iowa caucuses).
Paul, for his part, has tried to rebut charges that he is hostile to Israel. He has argued that his support for ending American aid to Israel — rooted in his broader opposition to all foreign aid — would actually be a good thing for the Jewish state, as it would guarantee its independence and freedom of action. He has even said that the U.S. should treat Israel “as our best friend.” (For that tidbit, go to the 3-minute mark in this video.)
But is Paul’s PR push an exercise in political cynicism?
Paul’s posturing as a friend of Israel doesn’t exactly accord with an account recently offered by a former congressional and campaign aide. Eric Dondero, who is Jewish, insists that his former boss is not a racist or an anti-Semite but does say that he is “most certainly Anti-Israel, and Anti-Israeli in general.”
…He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all. He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations. His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the America taxpayer. He sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs.
Incidentally, Dondero also says that Paul “strenuously does not believe the United States had any business getting involved in fighting Hitler in WWII.” (This, of course, is reminiscent of another none-too-Israel-friendly isolationist and onetime Republican presidential primary force-to-be-reckoned-with, Pat Buchanan.)
The notion that Paul’s stances are rooted in a principled opposition to America getting involved in other countries’ affairs or taking sides abroad coexists uneasily with the type of language that he has used to criticize Israeli actions. For instance, during Israeli’s Operation Cast Lead, Paul told Iran’s Press TV that Gaza is “like a concentration camp” and complained that Palestinians “making homemade bombs” are being treated “like they’re the aggressors.”
But if Paul is being disingenuous in trying to put a positive spin on his views toward Israel, it would not be his first foray into the realm of political cynicism.
In a column for CNN, former Bush speechwriter David Frum takes aim at one of Paul’s image as “an anti-politician, the lone voice of integrity in a sullied word.”
Frum argues that the often overtly racist and conspiratorial rhetoric in the newsletters that went out under Paul’s name for many years — and which Paul denies having written — was a ploy aimed at getting donations and building a political base.
On this point, Frum cites The Atlantic’s Michael Brendan Dougherty, who wrote:
As crazy as it sounds, Ron Paul’s newsletter writers may not have been sincerely racist at all. They actually thought appearing to be racist was a good political strategy in the 1990s. After that strategy yielded almost nothing — it was abandoned by Paul’s admirers.
Dondero offers one more point of evidence that would seem to bolster the case that Paul’s vaunted sincerity has its limits.
Dondero writes that Paul did an about-face on the 2001 congressional resolution authorizing military action against those responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks, first telling his staffers that he would vote against it and then ending up voting in favor. “He never explained why, but I strongly suspected that he realized it would have been political suicide” to vote against it, Dondero writes.
Dondero’s essay is chock full of other interesting anecdotes on Paul’s views about foreign policy (Dondero calls them "sheer lunacy"), his behavior toward gay supporters, his treatment of his aides and more. It’s worth reading in full.
Hat tip: Gestetner Updates, for bringing Dondero’s essay to my attention.
UPDATE: A spokesman for Paul, Jesse Benton, issued a statement to the CBS News blog Political Hotsheet in which he said: "Eric Dondero is a disgruntled former staffer who was fired for performance issues. He has zero credibility and should not be taken seriously."