On Monday, a former aide to Ron Paul named Eric Dondero issued a statement in which he claimed that Ron Paul's isolationism is so extreme that "he strenuously does not believe the United States had any business getting involved in fighting Hitler in WWII. He expressed to me countless times, that 'saving the Jews,' was absolutely none of our business."
This afternoon, Paul declined to respond to his former aide's allegation. While Paul was walking from his car to an event at an insurance agency, I asked him:
"Congressman Paul, a former aide of yours said yesterday [sic] that you think the U.S. shouldn't have fought Hitler--shouldn't have invaded Europe during World War II--that that's the extent of your isolationism. Can you say whether or not that's true?"
Paul remained silent, so I asked him again. He did not respond, again. But he clearly heard both questions, as we were walking side-by-side, and no one else was speaking at the time.
Following his speech at the insurance agency, I walked up to him again to ask the same question, but he did not respond. "He's just shaking hands, writing signatures," a Paul aide told me.
Although the question is hypothetical, it's a fairly easy one for most Americans to answer. It would be a revealing indicator of just how far outside the mainstream Paul's isolationism may be if he does in fact think the U.S. should not have invaded Europe during World War II. It's a fringe idea, but it has gained some traction on the anti-war right--Pat Buchanan has even written a book on it.
Update (7:22 p.m.): Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton writes in an email that Ron Paul thinks the U.S. should have fought in World War II because Hitler declared war on the United States. But it isn't clear whether Paul thinks the U.S. had an interest fighting Hitler had he not first declared war.
Here's our email exchange (lightly edited for clarity):
TWS: I asked Rep. Paul a few times today about the claim that he thinks the U.S. shouldn't have invaded Europe in World War II. He did not reply. Maybe he just didn't want to talk to anyone from the media. But could you directly respond to that question?
BENTON: John - that is a silly question. Hitler declared war on us. If any nation declared war on us, President Paul would fight the war and win at all costs.
TWS: Does Ron Paul think that if Hitler didn't declare war on the United States, that the U.S. should not have invaded Europe? I ask because the broader point made by Dondero is that Paul thinks the U.S. had no interest in Europe in WWII.
BENTON: This gets abstract. Many conservatives have criticized World War Two as being largely the result if a bad after from World War I. Dr. Paul is sympathetic to that argument. But if Ron were President, before Japan bombed us and Germany declared war on us, he would have had open dialogue with the Congress, asking if the Congress, the voice of the People, wanted to declare war and come to Europe's aid. If Congress declared war, Dr. Paul as commander and chief would have fought it and won it by any means necessary.
TWS: 1. Is Dr. Paul opposed in principle to any war on strictly humanitarian grounds? i.e. Are there any circumstances in which he'd support fighting a war to stop a genocide? He talked to a voter about that today, and that seems to be his position. But just wondering if you could clarify. Gary Johnson has said he is open to possible humanitarian war.
2. Is it Dr. Paul's understanding that winning World War II required the U.S. invasion of Europe and death/capture of Hitler? Or would containment have worked?
BENTON: (1) Dr. Paul is not an absolutist. He thinks our military's job is defend this country. As President, he would be very cautious about so-called "humanitarian" war. Much like the arguments for the domestic welfare state, humanitarian arguments are often used to get American involved in engagements that are not in our best long-term interests. Dr. Paul is first and foremost, however, a Constitutionalist. If the American people decided, through the Congress, to declare a war, he as Commander in Chief would fight it and win it.
(2) Once we are at war, it is imperative win decisively. In that, it required smashing Hitler and destroying his fascist war making machine.