WASHINGTON — Former congressman and long-shot presidential candidate Ron Paul announced his return to Washington politics with a new foreign policy think tank on Wednesday. The group will espouse Paul's signature brand of anti-interventionist foreign policy and will score Congressional votes based on how well members and legislation hew to the Paul vision.
Paul held a press conference at the Capitol Hill Club to announce the launch of the project, the Ron Paul Institute of Peace and Prosperity. Reporters were summoned to the event with a press release that began, in italics, "The neo-conservative era is dead." Accompanying him were Rep. Thomas Massie, a libertarian-leaning Kentucky congressman seen as Paul's ideological heir; and Dennis Kucinich, a longtime across-the-aisle ally of Paul's who is also freshly out of Congress. Absent was his son Senator Rand Paul, who has sought a more mainstream profile and is considering running for president.
The main goals of the institute, at first glance, are keeping tabs on foreign policy legislation scoring votes (on a scale its founders haven't worked out yet) and promoting a libertarian foreign policy worldview through articles and speeches.
"It will not be a traditional think tank in that form," said the institute's executive director, Daniel McAdams, in response to a question from a reporter representing AntiWar.com who asked whether the organization would resemble other D.C. think tanks. "The era of long, detailed policy papers is over. We want to be much more dynamic."
The bar is high. "If we have no more wars, we'll have been successful," McAdams said.
Paul and Massie said that the purpose of Paul-style foreign policy is to follow the biblical Golden Rule.
"What is life all about?" Paul asked rhetorically. "What is wrong with the Golden Rule in foreign policy? We don't have to have a complicated philosophy other than that we shouldn't initiate wars."
The first projects include "a manifesto of sorts to explain why we're doing this" and "the Peace and Prosperity summer school," which Paul and his allies hope to launch in the next few months.
The group will pay close attention to "any bill that involves some sort of sanctions," McAdams said, as well as bills that involve other kinds of foreign intervention or aid.
"Essentially, it'll be according to our vision," McAdams said.
Paul seems hesitant to pick a specific focus. The Institute is interested in drones and closing Guantanamo Bay, and on the website, there are articles about Syria and North Korea. (On the subject of North Korea, Paul said the U.S. should be doing "a lot less, a lot sooner," and mentioned that he was in high school during the Korean War.)
Kucinich, who recently became a Fox News contributor, took the podium to explain the history of his and Paul's friendship, which started when Paul "sought me out and we talked about a sovereignty issue." The two represent an early and more strident example of the kind of civil libertarianism currently in vogue in Washington, exemplified by younger politicians like Rand Paul and Justin Amash.
"There's a place where Americans of all political persuasions meet," Kucinich said of civil liberties. "We've got to reject these comic book–type appraisals of international situations."
The ideology of the whole affair smacked of what Ron Paul's son Rand has been trying to distance himself from gradually in the run-up to a speculated 2016 presidential run. Paul played down his son's rapprochement with the neo-conservatives, saying that Rand hadn't changed so much at all.
"I don't know if that's the case," Paul told BuzzFeed. "We've never been identical. We've raised five kids, and he was probably as willing to challenge me as a teenager as anybody, on anything and everything! We're very close."
Paul said the new think tank didn't mean he would be coming up to Washington more regularly for fundraising and appearances, and he won't be directly involved with choosing which legislation to back or oppose. Since leaving Congress, he's entered the speaking market, commanding about $50,000 per speech.
"No, I like Texas," Paul said. "I like traveling, I like the college campuses."