The biggest question mark over Ron Paul has always been his affinity for unsavory wack jobs on the fringes of American politics, but these days he’s turning that question mark into an exclamation point. The Daily Beast reports that the ex-Texas Congressman is creating the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, a think tank concerned with what Paul considers important foreign policy and civil liberty issues. It appears that the institute’s board contains some truly bizarre characters: Putin shills, Serb genocide apologists, 9/11 truthers, and pro-Confederate loons. Here’s a summary of one of the members, John Laughland:
A prominent defender of the late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Laughland penned a book on his Hague war-crimes trial titled Travesty (the “travesty” in question not being the Bosnian Serb genocide of Muslims, which Laughland denies ever took place, but the “kangaroo court” that brought Milosevic to justice and which Laughland blamed for his 2006 death). Laughland has also defended Ukraine’s Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych (whose attempt to steal the 2004 election sparked that country’s peaceful Orange Revolution) and lamented the fate of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Europe’s last dictator, victim of “humiliating treatment” at the hands of a “propaganda campaign waged against” him “by the West.”
There are truthers with “doubts” about what happened on 9/11, and then there’s Walter Block, who blames America’s current troubles on “the monster Lincoln” and the defeat of the South in the Civil War. In their private lives and other avocations no doubt these gentlemen show many positive qualities; their ability to make constructive contributions to American political debates seems limited. It would be interesting to know what kind of wisdom Congressman Paul absorbs at their feet.
Having retired from Congress and never gotten far in Republican presidential politics, the elder Mr. Paul can safely hang out with all the Confederate apologists, truthers and Putin sympathizers he wants; he doesn’t have a lot of future to damage. But if Mr. Paul wanted to ruin his son’s run for the White House, he could hardly have put together a more effective advisory board.
Senator Rand Paul has wanted to reach out to the sensible middle without losing the tinfoil hatters; his father’s choice of board members makes that line much harder to walk. Senator Paul wants to be the future of the GOP, but to get there now he’s going to have to say in public that his father’s nutty friends have no place in his politics or his life. The son’s interests required that the father play nice, but Ron Paul has never been one to play by the rules.
The young Paul was conspicuously absent from the press conference announcing the institute’s launch, and has distanced himself from his father’s more controversial foreign policy views. He will have to do more; Ron Paul has come close to wrecking his son’s presidential hopes, and there is no telling just how much more trouble he and his friends will be making.
[Ron Paul image courtesy of Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com]