DES MOINES — While Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has gained much of his fame and following for his stance on limiting the size and scope of the government, he wraps his fiscal policy around a strong anti-war core on the stump in Iowa.
And his dovish position, a departure from Republican party orthodoxy, has brought scrutiny from his rivals and an unlikely following — war weary veterans.
In nearly every speech, Paul tells his audience that he has received more money from military men and women than all of his rivals combined, upwards of $112,000.
At a rally Wednesday for military veterans, where people wore “Wage Peace” buttons, and tucked American flags into their baseball caps, Paul, who served as a flight surgeon in the Air Force and the Air National Guard, got raucous applause and standing ovations as he spoke against the cost of the country’s expansive military engagements across the globe.
“There is no authority in the Constitution to become the policeman of the world,” Paul said to big applause. “And though there is clear evidence that we should have a strong national defense, and that is a vital function of the federal government, we also know that if we do not take care of financial affairs at home, the problems that we can get from problems overseas can magnify....we have to maintain a healthy economy ever bit as much as we have to have a strong national defense.”
Support from veterans has become a kind of validation for Paul, who advocates a massive pullback from military involvement, a change he says will not compromise national security. He has boiled down his position to the golden rule:don’t do anything to anybody else that we don’t want done to us.
“My suggestion is to look carefully at our foreign policy and question whether or not we should be in 130 countries and have 900 bases,” he said. “I say that’s way too many and it’s time to come home from most of these places.”
Paul, who is in a dead heat with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney ahead of the Iowa caucus vote, has drawn criticism from his rivals for his non-interventionist approach, particularly on Iran and Israel.
“Ron Paul would be a dangerous president. He would have us ignore all of the warning signs of another brutal dictator who wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. I won’t,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) “He would wait until one of our cities is wiped off of the map until he reacted. I won’t wait.”
Yet, some veterans have said that the time for saber rattling is over, given the economic situation.
“I’m a pro-military type of guy, but I’m not one to believe we have to go to every country and kick their butts,” said Gregory Welsher, a Vietnam veteran from Hampton who plans to vote for Paul Tuesday. “Why do we have our noses in so many people’s business? Why don’t we take care of our own?”