Ron Paul and Ronald Reagan (Fact Checker biography)
“America must decide who to trust: Al Gore’s Texas cheerleader, or the one who stood with Reagan.”
— An ad from the Ron Paul Presidential Campaign Committee
We pulled this comment from an ad that accuses Rick Perry of trying to “undo the Reagan Revolution” when he backed Al Gore for president in 1988. Photos show Ron Paul looking chummy with the Gipper as a deep-voiced narrator describes the Texas congressman as a bold Reagan supporter. The gist: Paul has impeccable Reaganite credentials; Perry does not.
We examined Paul’s relationship with Reagan during the late 1980s to find out whether he was really so supportive of the Republican icon. Our colleagues at FactCheck.org covered this topic before, but we figure it’s worth another look as we continue our series on biographical claims of the 2012 Republican candidates.
Paul has little room to criticize politicians for changing their party affiliations. He campaigned for president as a Libertarian in 1988, after running for office seven times as a Republican and serving as a GOP member of the U.S. House for more than six years at that point.
So why didn’t he vie for the Republican nomination? Because he’d renounced the party — along with Reagan’s presidential policies — a few years earlier, resigning from the GOP and forgoing a bid for reelection to Congress.
Paul supported Reagan once in 1976, when the former California governor ran against Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination. But he appears to have fallen out of love with the party’s hero during year one of his administration.
“It didn’t take me more than a month after 1981 to realize there would be no changes,” he told the Christian Science Monitor in 1987, referring to Reagan.
In 1987, Paul broke ranks with the GOP, writing to the Republican National Committee: “I have gradually and steadily grown weary of the Republican Party’s efforts to reduce the size of the federal government.” He added: “Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party have given us skyrocketing deficits, and astoundingly doubled national debt.”
Paul mentioned Reagan 14 more times as he accused the party of violating the conservative principles of free enterprise, limited government and balanced budgets. He knocked the former president for supporting anti-communist guerrillas, for increasing deficit spending, for expanding the federal payroll and for giving the Internal Revenue Service more power. He even reached back in time to criticize Reagan for his sparse use of the line-item veto as governor of California — which makes us wonder why he endorsed him in 1976.
The Perry campaign posted a copy of the letter to the RNC as it appeared in the Libertarian Party News.
Paul continued disparaging Reagan throughout the 1988 nominating process, telling the L.A. Times at one point that he wanted to “totally disassociate” himself with the two-term president.
We asked the Paul campaign what changed between then and now.
“Dr. Paul loved President Reagan’s campaign platform and sincerely hoped he would govern that way,” said spokesman Gary Howard. “Dr. Paul remained personal friends with Reagan, flying on Air Force One with him several times, but was saddened with the weakening of the Reagan Revolution and the co-opting of Reagan’s great message by the Establishment.”
Howard said he doesn’t think Paul endorsed any candidates during the years when Reagan won the White House, so it doesn’t appear the congressman “stood with” the Republican favorite beyond 1976.
The Paul campaign has a history of manipulating the facts when it comes to Reagan-related issues. The group produced an ad in July claiming the former president had reluctantly raised the debt ceiling because of pressure from Democrats. In reality, his reluctance had nothing to do with the debt ceiling, but instead with a set of automatic defense cuts that would take effect if he and Congress couldn’t reach a deficit-reduction deal.
Reagan said at the time that he had “no objection whatsoever” to raising the debt ceiling, according to FactCheck.org.
THE PINOCCHIO TEST
Paul “stood with” Reagan, but his support didn’t last for long. He endorsed the charismatic Republican in 1976 and later ostracized him while chasing his own presidential dreams — at the same time Perry backed Gore, nonetheless.
The Texas congressman may be more Reagan than the Gipper himself, but he can’t “totally disassociate” himself from the conservative icon only to invoke his name once he needs more support from the Republican base. He earns two Pinocchios for trying to have it both ways.
Check out our candidate Pinocchio Tracker