Newt Gingrich calling Ron Paul “no better than Obama” was a top Drudge Report headline yesterday. Right below it read another headline, “I need another $1.2 trillion,” featuring a smiling Obama and a story about the president’s plan to increase the debt limit.
When Ron Paul introduced a budget plan in October calling for $1 trillion in cuts in one year, even conservatives who were not Paul supporters cheered. Said Gingrich of the plan: “It’s a non-starter.” When Rep. Paul Ryan introduced an entitlement reform plan this year, conservatives supported it as a bold first step. Gingrich called it “right-wing social engineering.”
Gingrich insists that he is a conservative. Gingrich says Paul is “divorced from reality.”
There is a candidate in this race who is divorced from reality. But it isn’t Ron Paul.
America faces an unprecedented debt problem. It’s without question America’s biggest problem. Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen has called our debt the greatest threat to national security. It’s no secret that our current president is unwilling to face this problem.
But we also have Republican presidential front-runners who are equally unwilling to face it. GOP voters have already figured out that neither Gingrich nor Mitt Romney have conservative records worth crowing about. In fact, when it comes to actually limiting government, both men are pretty pathetic. It’s one thing to now say “nobody’s perfect.” It’s quite another to say that on virtually every issue of importance to conservatives in the last decade — amnesty, TARP, climate change — these men have mostly been on the liberal side. Watching Gingrich now argue with Romney over who’s more conservative is like watching the two guys from Milli Vanilli argue over who’s a better singer. And not surprisingly, for a significant portion of Republicans — Mitt and Newt’s lip-synch conservatism increasingly falls on deaf ears.
Comparatively, Ron Paul is the Pavarotti of limited government, whose tune continues to excite the base and roil the establishment. While Paul wants to cut $1 trillion tomorrow, Gingrich and Romney are stuck bickering over who is more responsible for giving Obama the blueprint for government healthcare — as both men have supported the individual healthcare mandate as “conservative.” It was reported this week that as late as 2006, Gingrich was still praising Romneycare in Massachusetts as the ideal healthcare model for the nation.
Paul would be “worse than Obama”?
To be fair, Gingrich’s contention that Paul is worse than Obama focuses largely on foreign policy — and it is on foreign policy where Gingrich is most like Obama and Paul is not. Writes Salon’s Glenn Greenwald: “As slim as the pickings are for Republican candidates on the domestic policy front, at least there are some actual differences in that realm … It is in the realm of foreign policy, terrorism and civil liberties where Republicans encounter an insurmountable roadblock.” Greenwald explains the similarities between Obama and contemporary conventional Republican foreign policy:
A staple of Republican politics has long been to accuse Democratic presidents of coddling America’s enemies (both real and imagined) … But how can a Republican candidate invoke this time-tested caricature when Obama has embraced the vast bulk of George Bush’s terrorism policies … extinguished the lives not only of accused terrorists but of huge numbers of innocent civilians with cluster bombs and drones in Muslim countries; engineered a covert war against Iran; tried to extend the Iraq war; ignored Congress and the constitution to prosecute an unauthorised war in Libya; adopted the defining Bush/Cheney policy of indefinite detention without trial for accused terrorists; and even claimed and exercised the power to assassinate US citizens far from any battlefield and without due process?
How do you demonise Obama as a terrorist-loving secret Muslim intent on empowering US enemies when he has adopted, even extended, what was right-wing orthodoxy for the past decade? The core problem for Republican challengers is that they cannot be respectable Republicans because Obama has that position occupied.
Indeed. How Obama is handling these issues isn’t very different from how Bush did or how Gingrich says he would. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has even suggested that Obama owes Bush an apology for carrying on the exact same security-related policies as the last administration.
Greenwald leans left, but neoconservative columnist John Podhoretz noticed in 2010 the same similarities between Obama’s foreign policy speeches and the Bush/Gingrich hawk brand:
Last night, President Obama did something amazing. He delivered — dare I say it? — a rather neoconservative speech, in the sense that neoconservatism has argued for aggressive American involvement in the world both for the world’s sake and for the sake of extending American freedoms in order to enhance and preserve American security.
Perhaps Obama did not even realize it … [but] he was echoing ideas developed in neoconservative journals over decades of argument about how the United States can best project its power for its own sake and for the sake of the betterment of the world.
Saying Paul would be “worse than Obama” on foreign policy is only true if you think the Republican presidential nominee should be no different from Obama. When Paul argues that our foreign policy should reflect only America’s interests, he is called an “isolationist” by Gingrich and other establishment Republicans. In a sense this is true — Paul’s views are completely isolated from the bipartisan establishment foreign policy consensus of Gingrich and Obama, who generally agree that we should “preserve American security” by “projecting power for its own sake and for the betterment of the world.”
“I think Ron Paul’s views are totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American,” said Gingrich this week, yet a majority of Americans now say the U.S. does too much around the world. A majority of Americans also say they would like to see less government. It is not Paul who is outside the mainstream.
The similarities between Gingrich and Obama, on both domestic and foreign policy, are many — and the similarities between Paul and Obama, non-existent. Paul exhibits the Goldwateresque antipathy toward government that has long been the hallmark of American conservatism. Gingrich possesses the same managerial, activist-government temperament as Obama (and Romney) that too many Republicans have shockingly mistaken for conservatism. Paul’s strict constitutionalism reminds conservatives of what they used to be. Gingrich flourishes only to the extent that Republicans can’t remember.
Paul has been reluctant to say whether he’ll support the Republican nominee because he sees no value in supporting another Republican version of Obama. We don’t need another George W. Bush. Gingrich would be just that. So would Romney. There is nothing in either man’s career to suggest otherwise. The only thing worse than losing to the Democrats would be for Republicans to start emulating them again, something Gingrich is well versed in. A Gingrich presidency would not be a victory for the tea party. It would be the end of the tea party.
Gingrich says choosing between Obama and Paul in a general election would be a “very hard choice.” He’s right. Obama vs. Paul is an actual choice. It only becomes hard if the chooser isn’t conservative. Obama vs. Gingrich, however, is no choice at all.
Jack Hunter writes at the “Paulitical Ticker,” where he is the official Ron Paul 2012 campaign blogger.