I mentioned this in my column last week, but I am finding that the observation bears repeating. Hardly a month into 2013, the ideological tug-of-war taking place inside the ranks of the Republican party is both refreshing and portentous. It remains to be seen if the increasingly silenced moderate wing can wrest control of the platform and its awful messaging machine from the radicals who have come to dominate it. It’s a watershed moment for a political party that has fallen out of step with the general public on a whole host of critical issues.
Last week it was a somewhat academic David Brooks column that served as the launchpad for discussion about the GOP’s current and future ability to speak to voters that have been alienated by the right’s anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-middle class rhetoric. But this week, we examine the curious case of now-retired Congressman Ron Paul ruffling the feathers of his partymates and a constituency that the Republican Party has traditionally served very well: “war hawks.”
Jumping into the fray of the frenzied gun control debate against the backdrop of a high profile series of civilian casualties, Ron Paul (who now manages his own feed in retirement) took to Twitter this past weekend. In an effort to comment on the untimely death of Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL and author of the best-selling autobiography American Sniper who was shot at a Texas shooting range, Ron Paul made a subjective statement that is highly open to interpretation:
“Chris Kyle’s death seems to confirm that ‘he who lives by the sword dies by the sword.’ Treating PTSD at a firing range doesn’t make sense.”
While Paul’s flippant tweet is certainly insensitive to the victim’s grieving family at best, the former congressman does make a couple of spot-on observations. In a time when the Republican Party is contorting itself to link increased gun violence with a lack of resources for the mentally ill (with logic that eats itself as the GOP seeks to further reduce funding for the most vulnerable Americans) it does seem ironic that Kyle was killed while attempting to distract a fellow soldier suffering from PTSD. Isn’t that a bit like taking a recovering alcoholic to a distillery? There’s nothing funny at all about the incident but the way in which a certain section of the political spectrum treats access to guns as a cure-all for whatever ails you has been discredited once again.
And at the risk of reading too deeply into 140 characters, it appears to this columnist that Paul made a second, more obscure point about the long-term effects of the Iraq and Afghani conflicts on a small percentage of men and women who have carried the burdens of war. It is with this pacifist line of thinking that Paul really breaks ranks with party standard bearers. According to this element, continuous conflict is good for America, economically and ideologically. As such, Republican pundits wasted no time jumping on the former congressmen.
But as Peter Weber, a writer for The Week, noted:
“Who can be surprised that conservatives… have been falling all over themselves to condemn Ron Paul for [noting] that the violence wrought by over a decade of nonstop war in America leads to tragedy on the home front?… The most transparent were the conservatives who claimed to be former supporters of Paul who must now go support some more ‘patriotic’ politician: One who doesn’t actually question anything the military does…. This is what it comes down to for most conservatives, of course.”
The speedy vitriol heaped upon Ron Paul by his fellow Republicans is intended to punish him for walking astray of party dictates that it’s all about war and guns, baby. Mercifully the always autonomous Paul has less to lose by speaking his mind than ever – the benefits of old age and retirement. I hope he continues to act as a thorn in the side of GOP mouthpieces. The right may not realize it, but it needs these dissenting voices if it is to have any chance at survival.