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Ron Paul and God

Ron Reagan did well with the evangelicals—will Ron Paul?

It’s the oldest trick in the book. Profess religiosity, get a ton of votes.

Has anyone become president in years without proving his religious bent? Jimmy Carter was the first “born again” president—and his profession of faith certainly helped him win in 1976, though it did not rally enough troops for him in 1980. He lost to Ronald Reagan, who made a big deal out of his own supposed (but dubious) religious devotion, which got him the backing of the then-powerful Moral Majority. And then, of course, there was the “born again” George W. Bush. Others, including Clinton and Obama, have done what they had to do in that regard.

Now we get to Ron Paul. A lot of people like him because he talks straight on a number of issues others won’t touch. But is he a man who shuns opportunity? Consider this: one of Paul’s senior advisers is faith outreach specialist Doug Wead.

Readers of my history of the Bush dynasty, Family of Secrets, know that I interviewed Wead extensively and devoted an entire chapter to him. Wead, a former Pentecostal minister, has been advising politicians for years on what they must do to appeal to self-identified Christian voters. He advised George H.W. Bush, but couldn’t get the Sunday churchgoer to remake himself in a way that would suffice for evangelicals. According to Wead, though, a very young George W. Bush saw the embrace of fervent religiosity as his professional salvation. As I wrote in Family of Secrets:

Inge Honneus, the woman Bush pursued when he was in the National Guard, recalled how W. felt free to discuss all manner of topics with her since she was so far out of his normal circle. “We talked about religion,” she said, and “he thought it was a joke. And when he started going and running for president, and trying to get the religious votes, I’m thinking, ‘What a hypocrite.’ I don’t know if he all of a sudden turned religious. But the core of him was not a very nice man.” Nice man or not, one thing is certain: with his entry into Bible study, Bush was reinventing himself.

It was a politically savvy idea, but, in truth, it was not his own. It appears that it was neither W.’s Midland friends nor the Reverend Billy Graham who helped him see the light. It was Doug Wead, marketing man. …

Family of Secrets goes on to document how Wead coached the Bushes on ways to connect with the huge fundamentalist voting bloc, and how, while this made the elder George Bush squirm, the younger namesake became an enthusiastic student. Wead told me about this response from the mid-eighties, around the time that George W. Bush supposedly suddenly saw the light:

I hadn’t met W. yet, but he knew me because he was getting all these memos, and he was basically saying, ‘Dad, this is right. This is what people in Midland think. My born-again friends say this. He’s right.’ “When I finally met W., [he said] ‘I’ve read all of your stuff—it’s great stuff.’ He said, ‘We’re going to get this thing going.’ ”

Now, it is Ron Paul’s turn. Frederick Clarkson, writing on the website Talk To Action, analyzes  Paul’s challenge in reconciling his dominant Libertarian support base with fundamentalist voters, who play a crucial role in early GOP electoral battlegrounds like Iowa.

…Ron Paul seeks to reinvent his public persona to better or at least differently reflect how his religious views relate to his politics. Indeed, he seems to be making it a central part of his effort to break out beyond his famous hard core of supporters that number under ten percent in most polls.

And Yahoo News notes:

Paul explained how his beliefs in limited government and even his opposition to the Federal Reserve had their foundations in scripture, combined with his study of the Constitution. Before he left to take the stage that night in November, Paul smiled and said to Wead, who told this story to Yahoo News, “You know, the libertarians are just baffled by me. They didn’t think it was possible for someone to come this direction. A person of faith.”

In stark contrast to how he campaigned four years ago, Paul has made a concerted push during this presidential campaign to emphasize how religion has shaped his policy ideas. Through public addresses, campaign advertisements and conversations with voters, Paul has engaged in an intentional effort to articulate the biblical roots of his philosophy. These efforts are most on display here in Iowa, where most Republican caucusgoers align themselves with socially conservative views, and where Paul is building what has become a robust organizational machine to connect with them. Paul has surged into second place in Iowa, according to several recent polls. The Real Clear Politics polling average for the state has Paul tied with Mitt Romney at 17 percent, behind Newt Gingrich’s 30 percent.

Of interest is this, from a Washington Post article in October:

…the libertarian-minded lawmaker is actually very religious. He’s not a member, but officials at First Baptist Church of Lake Jackson, Texas say Paul attends services whenever he’s in town. He left the Episcopalian church in which he was raised in part over its stance on abortion rights.

That’s an interesting stand for a Libertarian—leaving his church because it supported a woman’s right to choose.

Actually, Paul, whose supporters love the fact that he doesn’t pull his punches, was considerably more sly on this matter. Here’s an excerpt from a lengthy interview with Christianity Today:

All of our children were raised in the Episcopal Church. Some [places] were fairly conservative but my wife and I thought the Episcopal Church advocated a position that we didn’t endorse, so we left. And our children did not stay in the Episcopal Church either.

Related to specific issues?

I think it was the abortion issue. I imagine they had some other issues. But I think the abortion issue was the real big thing. And I think also some of the money was going to some of the international organizations that were more political—they weren’t missionaries. So it was an objection over the way some of the money was being spent.

In that interview, Paul managed to avoid stating explicitly why he, as opposed to family members, left the Episcopal Church. And the interviewer failed to do her job by nailing him down on it.

***

Religion is one of those areas that are considered beyond question in the political realm: a candidate’s claims about his faith are taken at face value. But make no mistake: there’s a great advantage to be gained in painting oneself as “holier than” one’s opponents.

Makes you wonder what happened to America that it is no longer possible to elect politicians like Lincoln, who is reported to have said:

When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. And that’s my religion.

 

 

GRAPHIC:  http://reason.com/assets/mc/ngillespie/2011_12/ron-paul-ronald-reagan.jpg


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  • Inkling

    In the Prince, Macchiavelli said appearing to be a religious man, a compassionate man, was the most important characteristice for a ruler to have.

  • Kusokurae

    Read the first chapter of Ron Paul’s book, Liberty Defined, for an explanation of his position on abortion. He departs from the views of many libertarians on this point, based on his own experience as an OB/GYN resident witnessing this procedure firsthand.

  • Jenna Snyder 4 Paul

    Hey Baker–

    Ever deliver a baby?

    Didn’t think so.  It’s fascinating to watch people like Baker concentrate on an issue like Abortion while over a trillion point 2 dollars have been pissed away in the ‘stan-boxes in the middle east.

    The good thing is, the more dirt that insignificant bloggers like baker try to throw at Paul, the more his polls rise.  Anyway, there are all of 2 comments here. An average column written by someone that even matters just a little gets 4 0r 5 hundred.

    Ron Paul 2012

    • Russ Baker

      Jenna, glad that you’re one of the (apparently few) who consider it a good use of your time to comment here in response to someone you deem “insignificant”! LOL. Happy holidays to a kind and thoughtful Paul supporter…

      • Anonymous

        Among a certain segment (of which Jenna Snyder is clearly a part), Ron Paul is a religion unto himself, and any perceived criticism aimed at Paul is met with open hostility.  

        The funny thing is that your article is not really criticizing anyone in particular (well, maybe W, but c’mon), but more the state of the political process.  Get it together, Jenna.  

        • Edward Rynearson

          He openly opposes the empire that captured America in 1913 and for that reason alone I will vote for him.  I’m just making a statement.  I don’t believe we have elections where votes are counted. 

    • Edward Rynearson

      Russ isn’t an insignificant blogger and this isn’t a money maker for him. 

      And … I will be voting for Dr. Paul.

    • Edward Rynearson

      Russ isn’t an insignificant blogger and this isn’t a money maker for him. 

      And … I will be voting for Dr. Paul.

  • BoLeeBee

    Yeah, you would think choice would be a core Libertarian pillar, another way organized religion can be poison. 

        Consider this idea: God doesn’t need any help from us puny mortals regarding government, politics, having his name on our money – if he truly is all that powerful. So have your services, pray your prayers, judge so ye may be judged (did I get that wrong).  But keep religion out of government – because it’s not everyone’s religion and it really gums-up the works.

  • Anonymous

    Regarding Ron Paul’s advisers, it’s surprising that the Paul campaign’s appointment of Israel-first neocon and foreign-interest lobbyist Bruce Fein as senior adviser on legal matters hasn’t aroused  more critical attention.  This appointment makes no sense,  given Paul’s stated policies and principles.  A blogger named Sibel Edmonds posted a detailed and provocative article about this curious development on August 30 under the heading, “The Greatest Plot Against the Ron Paul Camp to Date.”   Does Paul still represent a genuine foreign-policy alternative to the establishment GOP candidates? Or is his campaign another specimen of  “controlled opposition” manipulated by enemies without and subject to sabotage from enemies within? It brings to mind the cast of  Nixon White House characters who helped bring down his presidency.  Russ Baker’s Bush dynasty expose,  “Family of Secrets,” is a good source about the covert dimensions of the Watergate episode.

  • Bonnie Towles Wg74

    Virtually all politicians are hypocrties when it comes to religion. Bush, Jr. took it to new heights.  I’ve been waiting for just one politicians (obviously one who wanted to make a point, not win) would speak for me and others who agreed with the words attributed to Lincoln:Makes you wonder what happened to America that it is no longer possible to elect politicians like Lincoln, who is reported to have said:
    “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. And that’s my religion.”

  • Don Burgess

    After gaining much deserved credibility from his monumental and courageous investigative work of “FAMILY OF SECRETS” , Baker has fed us only “RED HERRINGS”…..Here, being another fine example…Why he chooses to focus on this NOTHINGNESS, is a mystery to me… The only thing that comes to mind is ….A “LIMITED HANG-OUT’…..For further study……deesillustration.com….THE QUIGLEY FORMULA  lecture by G. Edward Griffin 2008?….3 cheers for Jenna Snyder

    • Russ Baker

      Don, there’s really no obligation on your part to visit the site at all! Vote with your feet, and find something more to your liking. Cheers.

  • Pingback: God made me do it… « Politicians Are Poody Heads

  • Mr. Bronx

    Mr. Baker,
    One of your stranger articles, although the Wead connection is fascinating – I read FOS about 2 years ago, I’d forgotten about him.  An odd write-up on your part as the article seems in search of a point.  Is Paul’s religiosity ‘bad’?  A comment on Napolitano’s show has stuck with me – RP comes across somewhat clumsily, but the commenter I heard mentioned off the cuff that RP was a better politician than people give him credit for.  I think the reason why RP has such fervent support is that he is up front about his beliefs, unlike most plastic evengelical politicians, who are in it solely for the votes.  Paul has been consistent for many decades, and he’s a religious person – why not play it as a card in the deck?

    Lastly, let’s NOT elect politicians like Lincoln: suspends Habeus Corpus, jails editors who disagree with him, displays overt racism  during the Lincoln / Douglas debates, adopts abolitionism as a matter of convieniece when the Civil War is in danger of being lost….  Read his first inagural speech – eye opening material.

    See Tom DiLorenzo’s work in Lincoln.  I checked it out after I listened to the two podcast by Russ Baker on Rockwell’s site.  Quite informative.

  • https://sites.google.com/site/themattprather Matt Prather

    I believe Ron Paul attracts a lot of support from a lot of different people for the fact that he opposes a certain “establishment” in our federal government.

    His opposition to this establishment IS the reason he will not be allowed to come to the Presidency.

    It is also makes him a prominent public figure for people to rally behind, united by their opposition to that establishment, or at least to the direction it wants to take the country and the government with all other Presidential candidates.

    Russ Baker is just being fair in his dissection and critique of Ron Paul’s 

    Of course, this has aroused the native political feeling in many people below who feel that vetting a person’s professed beliefs and finding inconsistency therein is the equivalent of shilling for “the other side” (in this case, some part of the establishment).

    Mr. Baker, you have not a bad thing here. Myself, I would support a Ron Paul Presidency, and hope that it would ultimately set us on a better course. Voting for President does not mean you want his whole wish-list of new laws to come true, and even if you did want that, one should know that getting things changed is not an easy or quick process — I wouldn’t be afraid that legal abortions would disappear in the whole country thanks to a Ron Paul Presidency, nor would I declare the sky to be falling if they did disappear in some states.

    But Ron Paul simply will not be allowed to be President. There are people and institutions with a vested interest in keeping him out of that office, and they have the power to prevent it.

    We in in no “danger” of Ron Paul winning the Presidency and putting on us all on a path to Libertarian Hell. The Ron Paul crowd can enjoy a future of saying “I told you so” post-2012 instead of suffering the bitter disappointment that would come with Ron Paul not living up to the hopes and idealism of his current platform.

    * * *

    Thus I offer advice to all the people who feel antagonistic towards Russ Baker for writing an article that tends to denigrate the heroic Ron Paul:

    Ron Paul wouldn’t have been able to turn America into Libertarian Heaven or to restore the mythical golden days of the Founding Fathers — not in one or two terms, at least. Such a restoration will take generations of austerity and culture change — what Ron Paul himself glosses over as a “correction” (in Austrian economic school terms) .

    We need to become our own heroes on a much more decentralized basis than falling into the age-old trap of voting for a central-government Executive “President” and identifying ourselves with him — feeling offended when someone says something bad about him. Ron Paul is not a saintly figure with a solid plan to make things right again, even though he may look like it compared to the rest of the corporate-financial establishment candidates.

    I thank Ron Paul for being a symbolic hero — as the anti-establishment politician who had the most viability for 2012 — but the bigger lesson to learn is that no hero is without feet of clay, and it’s ultimately more on ourselves to free ourselves, than to vote for a far-off leader who will free us. And I think Ron Paul would agree with that, too.

    * * *

    see Ron Paul’s 2008 Third-Party Candidates Debate for a lesson in coming together in politics rather than fracturing apart as parties:
    http://ampedstatus.org/network/members/mattprather/activity/42966

  • TeachWorldToSing

    Paul left the Episcopalian Sodomite Church not because of a woman’s right to choose but because they approved of killing babies in the womb.