Congressmen Ron Paul has never shied away from his responsibilities to his country. His opponents paint him as soft on national defense. He’s not. Paul wants a strong national defense, but not a national offense. He summed up his position well in his speech after the New Hampshire primary:
So often they say that if we tell people we think we should spend less in the military, they say, “Oh, that means you want to cut defense.” No, if you cut the military-industrial complex, you cut war profiteering, but you don’t take one penny out of national defense! Besides, we’re flat-out broke. Fortunately, we did not have to fight the Soviets. The Soviets brought themselves down for economic reasons. Do you know they were so foolish and thought themselves so bold that they could pursue their world empire, that they invaded Afghanistan?
In an exchange with Newt Gingrich during the ABC News debate on January 7, Paul criticized the former Speaker for his hypocrisy in avoiding military service during the Vietnam War while supporting sending troops to far-off lands today.
MCELVEEN: Talk about the understanding of the military. And let’s go to you, Speaker Gingrich. Recently, Dr. Paul referred to you as a chicken hawk because you didn’t serve. Given what you just heard Governor Perry say about understanding the military and Dr. Paul’s comments, how do you respond?
GINGRICH: Well, Dr. Paul makes a lot of comments. It’s part of his style.
My father served 27 years in the Army in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. I grew up in a military family, moving around the world. Since 1979, I have spent 32 years working, starting with the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. I was the longest-serving teacher in the senior military for 23 years. I served on the Defense Policy Board. But let me say something about veterans, because as an Army brat whose family was deeply engaged, I feel for veterans. We had a great meeting today in Wolfeboro with veterans. And I made a commitment in New Hampshire that we would reopen the hospital in Manchester, we would develop a new clinic in the north country using telecommunications, and we would provide a system where veterans could go to their local doctor or their local hospital.
The idea that a veteran in the north country in midwinter has to go all the way to Boston is absolutely, totally, fundamentally wrong. And I would say, as an Army brat who watched his mother, his sisters, and his father for 27 years, I have a pretty good sense of what military families and veterans’ families need.
SAWYER: Congressman Paul, would you say that again? Would you—would you use that phrase again?
PAUL: Yeah. I—I think people who don’t serve when they could and they get three or four or even five deferments aren’t—they—they have no right to send our kids off to war, and—and not be even against the wars that we have. I’m trying to stop the wars, but at least, you know, I went when they called me up.
But, you know, the—the veterans’ problem is a big one. We have hundreds of thousands coming back from these wars that were undeclared, they were unnecessary, they haven’t been won, they’re unwinnable, and we have hundreds of thousands looking for care. And we have an epidemic of suicide coming back. And so many have—I mean, if you add up all the contractors and all the wars going on, Afghanistan and in Iraq, we’ve lost 8,500 Americans, and severe injuries, over 40,000. And these are undeclared war.
So, Rick keeps say[ing] we—you don’t want this libertarian stuff, but what I’m talking about, I don’t bring up the word. You do. But I talk about the Constitution. Constitution has rules. And I don’t like it when we send our kids off to fight these wars, and when those individuals didn’t go themselves, and then come up and when they’re asked, they say, oh, I don’t think I could—one person could have made a difference.
I have a pet peeve that annoys me … a great deal, because when I see these young men coming back, my heart weeps for them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Speaker Gingrich?
GINGRICH: Well, Dr. Paul has a long history of saying things that are inaccurate and false. The fact is, I never asked for deferment. I was married with a child. It was never a question. My father was, in fact, serving in Vietnam in the Mekong Delta at the time he’s referring to.
I think I have a pretty good idea of what it’s like as a family to worry about your father getting killed. And I personally resent the kind of comments and aspersions he routinely makes without accurate information and then just slurs people with.
PAUL: I need one quick follow-up. When I was drafted, I was married and had two kids, and I went.
And he went.