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Father of the Tea Party

"Father of the Tea Party" Continued...

Issue: "Face-off," Aug. 13, 2011

The Pauls are a family of politicians and physicians: Ron Paul and three of his children, including Rand, are physicians and two grandchildren attend medical school now. The senior Paul grew up a Lutheran, but his wife Carol is Episcopalian, and they baptized their five children in that church. He became a Baptist later in life, but his office declined to comment on whether he is a member of a particular church. On his desk sits a picture of his family, with Philippians 1:3 over it: "I thank my God every time I remember you."

His son Rand (short for Randal, not named for Ayn Rand) said they were raised to believe that "the individual and family can conquer most problems." The congressman elaborated. "The parable of the lost sheep-the 99, and the one-the one was the interest of the story," Paul said. "I think that [the Bible] really supports-it at least doesn't contradict my political beliefs at all. If you're responsible for your own salvation and I can't give it to you-nobody can give it to you, they can't legislate it-why shouldn't the rest of your responsibilities be yours?"

In the next second, though, Paul was talking about the power of the group: "Our country was really built-whether it was the schools or our hospitals-most of them were started by the churches." On his bookshelf in his office, he has several Bibles and How Now Shall We Live? by Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey, along with Merck's Manual of Medical Information, books on Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises, a book on just war theory called Neo-Conned!, and Marijuana, the Forbidden Medication.

Marijuana should be legal, according to Paul, along with heroin, prostitution, and unpasteurized milk: Paul always seems to push further than typical voters will accept. Paul has said the United States reaped 9/11 because of the country's involvement in the Middle East. He did not join the rest of Washington in hailing the assassination of Osama bin Laden: Although in 2001 he voted for assassination as a tactic for responding to 9/11, he didn't think this was the time to stir up resentment in Pakistan with a covert raid: "The Pakistani people now are furious with us for just marching in and embarrassing them." Paul says U.S. forces should have captured bin Laden instead of killing him. "I think maybe talking to him wouldn't have hurt anything," he said. "We talked to KSM [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks], we could have talked to [bin Laden] and gotten some information from him."

That was the last straw for one Ron Paul supporter from the 2008 campaign. Thomas Prettyman, a former Marine now living in Chattanooga, Tenn., said, "I've never agreed with all of Ron Paul's views (abolishing the Federal Reserve, zero intervention abroad), but I've always thought he was the best candidate regardless, because you knew what you were getting." Paul's opposition to the covert raid in Pakistan lost him Prettyman's support: "This guy would've told King David not to take the consecrated bread."

Paul's associations could alienate voters too. In 2008 Paul endorsed his friend, Chuck Baldwin, a pastor who ran as the Constitution Party's candidate, for president after Paul lost the Republican primary. Baldwin suggested in a column, "Praise for Lee and Jackson," which discusses the "War of Northern Aggression," that because of the ever-expanding federal government, "secession may, once again, be in order." He has also questioned whether the federal government was involved in 9/11. "I don't know what happened. I wasn't there," Baldwin told me. "But I do know that there are scores and scores of victims' families that are convinced they have not been told the complete truth as to what happened. There is enough circumstantial evidence, if you please, to warrant a thorough independent investigation."

I asked Paul about endorsing a candidate like Baldwin, who is calling for an investigation into 9/11. He laughed congenially: "Oh, just because someone has a different opinion than mine? I talk to a lot of people who have a disagreement or opinion on something. No, Chuck Baldwin I like very much, but we have some disagreements on the issues. He's very good on monetary policy and the entitlement system." During a 2008 presidential debate in South Carolina, the moderator asked Paul whether he would repudiate the 9/11 truthers: "I can't tell people what to do but I've abandoned those viewpoints and I don't believe that, so that's the only thing that's important," he said. At other times Paul has been more wiggly: When a woman approached him after a Las Vegas speech in 2009 and asked why he wouldn't "come out about the truth about 9/11," Paul responded that he had "too much to do" to get involved in the controversy.

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