In recent months, retired congressman and Libertarian darling Ron Paul has made pronouncements on Ebola, secessionist movements and terrorism in Canada that appear designed to stoke controversy, even as his son Rand tries to stake out less fraught territory in preparation for a likely presidential campaign.
Ron Paul piped up Sunday following a series of attacks on members of the military in Canada that investigators believe are likely tied to jihadist ideology.
“Though horrific, it should not be a complete surprise that Canada found itself hit by blowback last week,” Paul wrote in a column. “That is the danger of intervention in other people’s wars thousands of miles away. Those at the other end of foreign bombs – and their surviving family members or anyone who sympathizes with them – have great incentive to seek revenge. This feeling should not be that difficult to understand.”
Paul’s recent spate of controversial public pronouncements—as a professional provocateur he rarely makes any other kind—are fast becoming a political liability for his son Rand, who is widely expected to mount a campaign for the White House in 2016.
As his soapbox of late, Paul is chiefly using Voices of Liberty, a Ron Paul-centric subscription news and commentary service launched in July, the newest of several overlapping organizations built around Ron Paul’s personal brand—The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, Ron Paul Curriculum and The Foundation for Rational Economics and Education. Voices of Liberty “amplifies the messages of freedom through insightful news coverage, engaging shows and your involvement!,” according to the group’s website. The flurry of activity around the new site has revived an old challenge for the Paul family.
Ron Paul Inc.’s most widely noted declaration of late was the suggestion that the insecticide DDT be used as an Ebola treatment (at present the only known Ebola treatments experimental and DDT is not among them). In fact, Ron Paul never said such a thing—it appears to have been a mistake inserted into a Voices of Liberty press release by a PR rep. In any event, it wouldn’t be the first time statements attributed to Ron Paul, possibly falsely, have become problematic for his son. Rand has already spent more time than he would like distancing himself from his dad’s notoriously shrill and racist newsletters from the 1990s, which the elder has contended were written not by him personally but by a staffer.
In a column Sunday, Paul made the dubious-at-best claim that “the people of Liberia and other countries would be better off if the U.S. government left them alone.” The sentiment is vintage Ron Paul, his austere libertarianism taken to its logical extreme, but hard to reconcile with a society and economy that have come to a screeching halt as Ebola drives people out of public spaces.
It’s not just Paul’s outlandish statements that could be problematic for Rand Paul.
On Ebola the senior Paul has been at odds with Rand, who has devoted considerable airtime to stoking fears over the disease, suggesting it is more contagious and the threat to American society more serious than the government has let on. In contrast, Ron Paul has suggested the exact opposite: that the government is exaggerating Ebola fears, perhaps for nefarious purposes.
In recent weeks the elder Paul has cheered the near-success of the Scottish secessionist movement—and in so doing apparently advocated for secession of states within the U.S.—and lambasted the Obama administration over the new Status of Forces agreement that will keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan well beyond the originally envisioned 2014 pullout date and possibly into 2024.
And it’s clear that in coming months, he’ll keep sounding off on other subjects.
Read next: Obama Rebukes State Ebola Quarantine Rules
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