TIME curiosities

Partying Politics: LIFE Goes to a Republican Women’s Bacchanal

Recalling the night when the Young Women's Republican Club of Milford, Conn., discovered the pleasures of tobacco, poker … and strip tease

“On the evening of May 20,” begins an article in the June 16, 1941, issue of LIFE magazine, “members of the Young Women’s Republican Club of Milford, Conn., explored the pleasures of tobacco, poker, the strip tease and such other masculine enjoyments as had frequently cost them the evening companionship of husbands, sons and brothers.”

Thus the storied weekly and photographer Nina Leen chronicled the shenanigans that erupted when a group of GOP women got together for an old-fashioned “smoker” (noun: an informal social gathering for men only) on one long, memorable night in southern New England.

[See more from LIFE]

TIME 2016 Election

Republican Governors Blast President Obama’s Immigration Plans

Rick Perry
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a conservative rally in Smithfield, N.C. on Oct. 24, 2014. Gerry Broome—AP

Without any announced candidacies, Republican governors appear to be jockeying for position in 2016

BOCA RATON, Fla.

As President Barack Obama prepares to announce executive action on immigration reform in a Thursday evening primetime address to the nation, he is already facing criticism from many of his would-be replacements.

At the annual retreat of the Republican Governors Association, a cohort of governors eyeing bids at the White House blasted Obama’s planned announcement even as they were silent on any counter-proposals to address the President’s concerns. The immigration debate, operatives in both parties say, is likely to be front-and-center in 2016.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence called Obama’s forthcoming announcement a “profound mistake.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called it “the height of arrogance for this president to go around the Congress.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said someone should sue to stop it. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that his state would.

But the governors were by-and-large loath to offer their own vision for how to address the nation’s immigration issues. In 2013, after the party’s 2012 defeat, the Republican National Committee identified immigration reform as a must-pass issue for the GOP. But the GOP successfully bet on an older, whiter electorate in 2014 to justify the delay internally. House Republicans have refused to take up a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in 2013, a move that Obama has said prompted his unilateral action.

The only apparent consensus among the governors was that Obama was going down the wrong path and should first deal with securing the border. “You will not get Americans to support an immigration reform bill until—not together, but until—the border is secure,” Perry said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he would wait to see what Obama announced before weighing in. “We will have to wait and see what he says and what he does and what the legal implications are,” he said.

The governors encouraged congressional Republicans to avoid a government funding show-down this December over Obama’s immigration actions, saying a shutdown would be counterproductive. Christie said he has “confidence” in Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell can keep the government open. “All this kind of hysteria about shutdown to me is just people wanting to make news,” Christie added. “I wouldn’t push a shutdown, I think you go to court,” Walker said.

Pence called on Republicans to use the budget process to push back against Obama’s action. “The president has an opportunity now to work with the Congress after it convenes in January and to find a piece-by-piece approach in dealing with the issue of immigration reform,” he said. “The power of the Congress is the power of the purse.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday the action would affect “millions,” while advocates familiar with the action say roughly five million will be affected.

Asked about specific immigration reform proposals, Christie repeatedly declined to weigh in. “If I run [for president], we’ll see,” he said. “If I were to run for president, I would then articulate the basis for my candidacy.”

Only Kasich explicitly stated he was open to a pathway to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally. “I’m open to it, I will tell you that,” he said.

“There already is a path to citizenship in this country and I would suggest it shouldn’t be changed,” Perry said, breaking with Kasich.

TIME 2014 Election

The Inside Story of How Republicans Gaffe-Proofed Their Candidates

U.S. Sen.-elect Joni Ernst speaks to supporters during an election night rally on Nov. 4, 2014, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Ernst defeated U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin.
U.S. Sen.-elect Joni Ernst speaks to supporters during an election night rally on Nov. 4, 2014, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Ernst defeated U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin. Charlie Neibergall—AP

Eager to avoid another Todd Akin, a national Republican group trained Senate candidates on how to avoid campaign-ending gaffes

On Oct. 1, 2013, 16 potential Senate Republican candidates were met at baggage claim in Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport by trackers—those annoying, hyperactive, politics-obsessed, camera-wielding twentysomethings whose job is to make a candidate lose his or hers. After a series of fundraising events and policy briefings, the candidates met at the offices of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and recounted their stories with tales of their personal, belligerent Democrat.

“We said that’s interesting; We’d like to show you the video of you and how you reacted to the tracker because we put those trackers on you,” said Sen. Rob Portman, the NRSC Finance Vice Chairman. “The trackers were particularly aggressive … We had footage of them saying things to the tracker they shouldn’t have or being too frustrated with the tracker. I think in some cases even kind of block a tracker from some event.”

“It was just a good experience for a lot of them because most of them had never had the experience with having someone with a camera three inches from their face following them around,” added Portman.

MORE: See all the election results

The NRSC’s airport hounding was unprecedented, according to its chairman, Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran, and so was the size of its media training, which was made mandatory for the first time for candidates that wanted their financial support. “That was our leverage,” said Moran.

The training proved a prescient response to the 2014 cycle in which every move was videotaped: when New Hampshire hopeful Scott Brown canoed the Contoocook River with a county sheriff to promote the state’s tourism industry, third party opposition group American Bridge sent a tracker by kayak.

“[Virginia Republican candidate] Ed Gillespie has had three trackers on him for most of his campaign,” said NRSC Executive Director Rob Collins. “Three separate ones. So it’s just a course of learning how to deal with this new wrinkle in the campaign environment, which is reality TV presence of cameras in your life. You just kind of hunker down. I think the training worked. I don’t think you’ve seen a lot of Republicans saying things that they later regretted.”

That’s a huge victory for a Republican party that has had some high-profile difficulties with trackers and gaffes in the past. In 2006, Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) lost a very close race after referring to a Democratic tracker as a “macaca.” In 2012, Todd Akin, the Senate GOP candidate in Missouri, had a gaffe so big—“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”—that it destroyed his candidacy and imperiled Republicans’ chances to take the Senate. In this cycle, no candidate has had made a mistake as big as Akin, according to John Sides, a George Washington University Associate Professor and co-author of the book The Gamble, which punctured convention wisdom on the weight of various gaffes during the 2012 presidential election.

“If you go back to the Missouri polls, you’ll see the big swing after those remarks,” says Sides. “None of the purported gaffes this cycle—not [Iowa Democrat] Bruce Braley’s, not any Senate candidate’s—have had that large of an effect.”

Of course, there were some notable Republican gaffes this cycle. Iowa candidate Joni Ernst flirted in her primary with some United Nations conservative conspiracy theories and Obama impeachment, talk she dismissed during the general election. There were also two candidates seen as insufficiently local—Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts and Brown—who had some embarrassing flubs. Roberts and his campaign repeatedly fanned the fire sparked by a New York Times report that he doesn’t own a home in Kansas. (“Every time I get an opponent—I mean, every time I get a chance, I’m home,” he said in a July radio interview.) Brown, a former Massachusetts senator, had some difficulty placing a New Hampshire county during a debate (although the moderator who pressed him later apologized) and interchanged the two states back in December.

But it’s notable that Sides mentioned Braley, a Democrat, in considering the biggest gaffes this cycle. NRSC Political Director Ward Baker said the group began their three-day media sessions early—in March 2013—before candidates even announced they would enter their races. The NRSC researched the candidates’ backgrounds and asked them about everything from their property taxes to potential red flags found on their Facebook profile pages. (They reportedly spent $250,000 on researching Democrat and Republican candidates in 2013.) The NRSC showed candidates polling data on what’s important in their state and then put them on camera and played them their response to hone their messages.

“[We] ran them through the ringer,” said Baker. “I mean it was pretty tough.”

The NRSC also showed once a day a “blooper film” of other candidates’ inappropriate responses to trackers. “I believe in repetition,” said Baker. “Some of our candidates have been through media training and met with our debate team and media trainers 15 to 20 times.”

Referring to Braley’s slip-up this year, Baker noted with pride: “Well none of our candidates have said that they wouldn’t want Chuck Grassley to Chair [the] Judiciary [Committee] because he’s a farmer.”

TIME Republican Party

GOP Candidates May Benefit From Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Decision

Supreme Court Gay Marriage
Demonstrators in support of same sex marriage stand during the second annual "March for Marriage" in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington on June 19, 2014. Karen Bleier—AFP/Getty Images

Some strategists hope the legal decision helps push the issue of gay marriage off the political agenda

The Supreme Court’s decision Monday clearing the way for same-sex marriages in five states may benefit an unlikely group: Republican lawmakers who can’t wait to stop talking about gay marriage, an issue that is increasingly becoming a drag for the party.

Advisors to multiple likely 2016 candidates told TIME after the news broke that they are hopeful that swift action by the Supreme Court will provide them cover. “We don’t have to agree with the decision, but as long as we’re not against it we should be okay,” said one aide to a 2016 contender who declined to be named to speak candidly on the sensitive topic. “The base, meanwhile, will focus its anger on the Court, and not on us.”

The initial comments of politicians also hinted at a desire to turn the page. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 contender locked in a tough re-election fight this fall, told the Associated Press that the fight to prevent same-sex marriage would end. “It’s over in Wisconsin,” he said.

“The federal courts have ruled that this decision by this court of appeals decision is the law of the land and we will be upholding it,” Walker added, echoing the statement of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who called the issue “settled” in his state over the summer, despite his personal opposition to such unions. Christie declined to address the decision when asked about it Monday.

At a forum in Washington, D.C., Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is also considering a run for the White House, said the issue was moving out of the political sphere. “The law is certainly in the Court’s court,” Jindal said. Neither man said the court ruling had dented their own opposition to same sex marriage, but their statements indicated they hope to set the issue aside as they eye bids for the White House.

Wary of this possibility, evangelical leaders vowed election year fights. “For candidates running in 2014 and those who run for president in 2016, there will be no avoiding this issue,” said the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Ralph Reed in a statement after the Supreme Court ruling. Yet many in the party are preparing to do just that.

“The GOP is a culturally conservative party and should remain so,” said Alex Castellanos, one of the dozens of GOP political operatives to sign on to an amicus curiae brief against the Defense of Marriage Act last year. “Increasingly, there is less room in the GOP for ‘big-government’ social conservatives, i.e., social conservatives who believe in using the power of the state to tell people whom they can love or marry. Instead, there is growing agreement, in an ever younger and increasingly libertarian Republican party, that the role of the state in prohibiting relationships should be minimized.”

In the decision Monday, the high court declined to hear challenges to appellate court rulings that five state same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, effectively approving the rulings and erecting a legal barrier to states seeking to prevent the practice from taking hold. The decision is the latest step in a whirlwind legal push in support of same-sex marriages that has the backing of the majority of the national electorate, but has polarized the GOP.

Fifty-five percent of all Americans believe that same-sex marriage should be legal, including 30% of self-identified Republicans and 31% of self-identified conservatives. But the issue is far more pronounced among younger voters, for whom it is more likely to be a threshold issue: 78% support same-sex marriage according to a Gallup poll conducted earlier this year.

Over the summer the Republican National Committee took control of the primary debate process with the expressed goal of reducing their focus on social issues, in hopes of keeping the eventual nominee from emerging from the primary process as unelectable to the national public.

Evangelical conservative leaders are likely to call upon Republican candidates to support a federal “marriage amendment” to prohibit same-sex coupling. Such an effort has the backing of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who is preparing to mount another campaign for the White House, and has been backed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. An aide to Jindal said Monday he remains supportive of efforts to pass a federal marriage amendment. But few, if any, of its proponents, believe it can be passed in practice, given Constitutional requirement that two-thirds of the House and Senate and three-fourths of the states’ legislatures.

Sen. Ted Cruz announced Monday he would introduce a Constitutional amendment preventing the Supreme Court from striking down marriage laws. “The Supreme Court’s decision to let rulings by lower court judges stand that redefine marriage is both tragic and indefensible,” he said in a statement, declaring the Court’s decision not to hear arguments on the gay marriage cases “judicial activism at its worst.”

Keith Appell, a Republican political consultant working with many social conservative groups, predicted that Republicans will turn the debate to focus on the judicial appointments likely to open up under the next president. “Filling those vacancies will shape the court for the next generation and it’ll be a huge issue in both the primaries and the general election,” he said. “Do we want activist judges who literally make the law up from the bench and impose it on the people, as is happening with these appellate rulings? Or do we want judges that fairly apply the law and leave the lawmaking to Congress, state and local legislatures?”

TIME 2014 Election

A Republican Wants You to Know That Republicans Are People, Too

Amusing new online ad campaign

A former member of Mitt Romney’s ad team wants you to know something: Republicans are people, too.

An amusing new online ad campaign created by political strategist Vinny Minchillo fights back against GOP critics by showing Republicans doing what some Democrats might pride themselves on: driving Priuses, recycling, using Macs, putting together Ikea furniture and reading the New York Times in public. It also states the obvious: Yes, there are black, Hispanic and Asian people who are Republicans.

“Republicans have feelings,” says the ad’s narrator.

“The goal of the campaign is to let people know that the common misperceptions and stereotypes of Republicans are inaccurate and there is a vast range of everyday Republicans among us,” Minchillo said in a statement.

TIME Foreign Policy

Ted Cruz: Obama Must Seek Congressional Authorization For Iraq Strikes

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during The Family Leadership Summit on August 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during The Family Leadership Summit on August 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall—AP

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Saturday that President Barack Obama must seek congressional authorization for U.S. strikes on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) if they continue.

Speaking to reporters following a speech to Iowa conservatives, Cruz declared the rise of the islamist militant group “the latest manifestation of the failures of the Obama-Clinton foreign policies.”

While Obama has said the strikes are “limited” to protect American forces and personnel, as well as vulnerable Iraqi refugees, Cruz said Obama had yet to articulate a “clear military objective” for the strikes, calling on the president to focus on U.S. national security interests instead of trying to solve a “sectarian civil war that has been waging for over 1,500-years” between Sunnis and Shiites, calling political reconciliation in Iraq something that doesn’t “makes any sense.”

Cruz said he does not believe the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq or the War Power Act provide Obama the authority to continue airstrikes against ISIS. “I believe initiating new military hostilities in a sustained basis in Iraq obligates the president to go back to Congress and to make the case and to seek congressional authorization,” Cruz said. “I hope that if he intends to continue this that he does that.”

Most Republicans in Congress, including conservatives like Cruz, have been largely supportive of the administration’s bombing and humanitarian campaign to protect U.S. forces and assist tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees surrounded on Mount Sinjar, but Republicans have called on Obama to outline a broader plan for the region. “”I am glad that President Obama is finally beginning to take the threat of ISIS seriously,” Cruz said.

Cruz’s criticism topped off a day-long barrage from conservatives at the Iowa Family Leader Summit in Ames, where several 2016 presidential contenders sought to appeal to the early-state grassroots with critiques of Obama’s handling of the situation in Iraq. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal applauded Obama for launching the campaign against ISIS, but said Obama must outline a broader vision to rout ISIS forces from Iraq and Syria. “I think he owes it to the American people, he owes it to our troops in uniform to define what the strategic vision is, what the strategic plan is,” Jindal said. “I believe it is unacceptable to allow ISIS to occupy territory in Iraq, in Syria, to continue to grow in strength.”

“These are terrorists who disagree with our fundamental values and our beliefs,” Jindal said. “This is a group that will, if it has the capabilities, bring that fight to us.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, said Obama should not stop with bombing the group, but should finally arm Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and endorse the creation of an independent Kurdish state. ““If we had good sense, we would arm the Kurds as we said we would,” Huckabee said.

Obama has offered “A foreign policy that is absolutely—it’s not distinguishable from anything,” said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, adding, “we have to get Washington back.”

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum criticized Obama for removing all U.S. troops in Iraq in 2011, saying he should have used his “eloquence” to win over Iraqi leaders to support a status of forces agreement. “It’s stunning that they fall back on that it wasn’t their fault,” Santorum said. “That’s false.”

TIME 2016 Election

GOP Takes Control of 2016 Primary Debates

Reince Priebus
Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus addresses an audience at the National Association of Black Journalists convention, Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Boston. Steven Senne—AP

Attempt to avoid alienating swing voters

The Republican National Committee finalized plans Friday to seize control of GOP’s presidential primary debates, threatening sanctions against any candidate that participates in any unauthorized debates.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus announced a 13-member committee of Republican officials who will set rules for the GOP’s debates during the 2016 cycle, including selecting venues, debate partners, and even moderators. The committee will be led by Priebus ally Steve Duprey of New Hampshire, who was close to both Mitt Romney and John McCain. The committee is dominated by Priebus loyalists.

“Our debates will be good for our candidates and for voters—not a field day for the media,” Priebus told members of the RNC on Friday in Chicago, shortly before the party approved its final rules for the 2016 presidential nomination fight.

The committee’s formation is a response to the nearly 20 primary debates held during the 2012 cycle, including two New Hampshire debates within 16 hours in January 2012. The committee will meet for the first time Friday afternoon, but many items on its agenda are already in motion. The committee, party insiders said, will likely set eight or nine primary debates for the 2016 cycle, with no more than one in each early-voting state. The debates will be spaced evenly throughout the cycle.

Republicans are hoping to keep the debates from focusing on issues that could alienate the party’s eventual nominee from swing voters, especially some social issues. And GOP officials are still fuming over the second general election presidential debate in 2012, during which CNN anchor Candy Crowley challenged Romney’s critique of President Barack Obama’s response to the Benghazi attacks. The committee is empowered to negotiate with media outlets over the timing and selection of moderators for the debates, demands that are likely to be met with hostility by many outlets. Some Republicans have suggested that some debates could be moderated by partisans, in a bid to make the debates more friendly to their candidates.

Any candidate who participates in a debate that is unsanctioned by the RNC’s committee will be barred from appearing in any of the authorized debates, according to the party’s rules.

The RNC debate committee has yet to determine the qualification standards for candidates to earn a spot on the stage.

TIME 2016 Election

Steve King Shows 2016 Risk of Campaign Trail Ambushes For GOP

Rep. Steve King speaks during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's Friends of the Family Banquet in Des Moines, Iowa, Nov. 9, 2013.
Rep. Steve King speaks during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's Friends of the Family Banquet in Des Moines, Iowa, Nov. 9, 2013. Justin Hayworth—AP

Candidate ambushes staged by immigration groups could hurt Republicans' 2016 chances

The August recess has begun, and so have the August recess ambushes. Republicans have a reason to worry.

On Monday, in Okoboji, Iowa, two undocumented youths confronted Iowa Rep. Steve King in a publicity stunt that charts a clear path to political pain for Republicans as the 2016 campaign season approaches. It is a quirk of the American system that to get elected President, candidates must meet with lots of regular people, along with full-time advocates posing as regular people, along the path to the White House. More often than not, these interactions are captured on video for eternity.

This process gives enormous opportunity and advantage to well-organized advocacy groups. In the 2008 election, a handful of groups from global warming advocates to anti-poverty crusaders fanned out across the early caucus and primary states to repeatedly ask the presidential candidates the same questions, effectively elevating their issue. Today, no group is doing this same thing as effectively as immigration reform activists, as the King video makes clear:

Notice Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, the likely 2016 Presidential candidate, in the background at the beginning. His aide wisely advises him to leave his sandwich behind and clear out of the screen — and it’s a good thing he does. King, whose role in the political debate over immigration is basically the opposite of a firefighter’s role at a fire, does not disappoint. In a matter of minutes, he briefly but violently grabs the young woman’s hand in a misfired effort to quiet her, he notes condescendingly “you are very good at English,” he doubles down on his comment that drug smugglers at the southern border have calves “like cantaloupes,” he repeatedly calls Mexico a “lawless country,” and he accuses the two young people, both well-educated activists without legal documentation, of having no respect for the law.

Whatever position Republicans end up taking on immigration reform in the coming years, this is all political dynamite for the party. In the 2012 election, Republican Mitt Romney won only about 27% of the Latino vote, a number that will almost certainly have to increase if a Republican is to win in 2016. A majority of those voters have family roots in Mexico, a functioning country with significant law enforcement struggles, but one that King dismisses as “lawless.”

On the eve of the 2012 election, Latino Decisions did a poll of likely Latino voters, who made up about 10% of the electorate. The results showed clearly that Romney faced an overwhelming problem in selling those voters: Only 14% of the voters in the poll said Romney cared about the Latino community, compared with 66% who said Barack Obama cared. A significant percentage of this bias against Romney was born of mistakes he had made during the primary that had less to do with policy than attitude. As Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus later said, “Using the word ‘self-deportation’—I mean, it’s a horrific comment to make.”

A poll taken after the 2012 election found that a strong majority of Americans—57% in total, including 60% of independents and 35% of Republicans—supported President Obama’s effort to give job permits to some undocumented immigrants who had been brought to country illegally as minors. This is the policy House Republicans voted last week to defund, with Steve King leading the charge. That makes him an easy target for activists. Ambushes like this are stunts. But in the system we have, they work. And this is just the beginning.

TIME controversy

Emails: Former IRS Official Lois Lerner Called Republicans ‘Crazies’ and ‘—holes’

Former IRS Director Lois Lerner Testifies To A House Oversight Committee On IRS Targeting Scandal
Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner exercises her Fifth Amendment right not to speak about the IRS targeting investigation before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on March 5, 2014 in Washington. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp released new emails from former IRS official Lois Lerner as part of investigation examining potential criminal wrongdoing

Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service official at the center of a scandal involving that agency’s targeting of conservative groups, called Republicans “crazies” and “assholes,” according to emails released Wednesday.

Lerner’s messages were released by House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp as part of an investigation looking into possible criminal wrongdoing at the IRS. The emails released by Camp’s committee were redacted to use the language “—holes,” but a Camp spokesperson confirmed the original emails read “assholes.” Lerner resigned from her post overseeing tax-exempt groups last September.

In work emails exchanged November 2012 with an unidentified person, Lerner knocks the “whacko wing” of the Republican Party and conservative radio shows. Camp said in a statement that he hopes the released emails urge the Justice Department to “aggressively pursue this case” and appoint a special counsel. In May 2013, Lerner acknowledged that the IRS chose groups with “tea party” in their name for additional review in determining their tax-exempt status as social welfare groups.

A spokesman for Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, did not respond to a request for comment.

 

TIME Republican Party

Ron Paul Says U.S. May Share Responsibility for Malaysia Airlines Plane Crash

Ron Paul
Former U.S. Rep. and presidential candidate Ron Paul waves to supporters before speaking at a campaign rally for U.S. Senate candidate Chris McDaniel, Saturday, June 14, 2014, at Gander Mountain in Hattiesburg, Miss. Kelly Price—AP/The Hattiesburg American

He raises the possibility that the U.S. may be using the crash to start a war against Putin.

Former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul claimed Sunday that the U.S. and European Union may share responsibility for the downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine last week.

“While western media outlets rush to repeat government propaganda on the event, there are a few things they will not report,” Paul, a former Republican congressman from Texas, wrote on his website. “They will not report that the crisis in Ukraine started late last year, when the EU and U.S. overthrew the elected Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Without U.S.-sponsored ‘regime change,’ it is unlikely that hundreds would have been killed in the unrest that followed. Nor would the Malaysian Airlines crash have happened.”

Paul is the father of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who is ahead in polls of likely candidates running for the GOP nomination for president in 2016. The younger Paul has come under attack in recent weeks from Republicans such as former Vice President Dick Cheney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a potential rival, for being too isolationist on his foreign policy.

Ron Paul, who ran for president in 2008 and 2012, and his son Rand both hail from the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, which advocates less intervention abroad, though Rand Paul has in recent months tried to distance his himself from his father. Rand Paul’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his father’s editorial.

In the post Sunday, Ron Paul goes on to write that Ukraine separatists would have everything to lose if they shot down the plane, and nothing to gain, suggesting Ukrainian culpability. “They will not report that the Ukrainian government has much to gain by pinning the attack on Russia, and that the Ukrainian prime minister has already expressed his pleasure that Russia is being blamed for the attack,” Paul said. “They will not report that the missile that apparently shot down the plane was from a sophisticated surface-to-air missile system that requires a good deal of training that the separatists do not have.”

President Obama suggested Friday that blame for the crash lay with Russian-backed separatists, and Ukraine has released audio-recordings allegedly documenting conversations about the missile strike among separatists. “Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine,” he said.

Ron Paul compared the incident to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people last summer. “Assad was also gaining the upper hand in his struggle with U.S.-backed rebels and the U.S. claimed that the attack came from Syrian government positions,” Paul said. “Then, US claims led us to the brink of another war in the Middle East.”

At the end of the post, Ron Paul says it is entirely possible that Russia is responsible for the crash, just as the Obama administration has suggested. “Of course it is entirely possible that the Obama administration and the US media has it right this time, and Russia or the separatists in eastern Ukraine either purposely or inadvertently shot down this aircraft,” he writes. “The real point is, it’s very difficult to get accurate information so everybody engages in propaganda.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser