Ron Paul, the outspoken libertarian who doesn’t always toe the socially conservative line, on Saturday tried to sell his philosophy to an audience of religious activists – and seemed to be succeeding, at least on the applause meter.
Kicking off day two of the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., the longtime Texas congressman and three-time presidential candidate drew boisterous ovations with his standard critique of military intervention.
This time, Paul gave it a twist geared toward the family values-centric audience: “One of the greatest threats to the family is war; it undermines the family,” he said, before going on to give his usual arguments about the damage wars do to the nation’s economy and diplomatic relations.
Paul’s relations with religious conservatives are prickly because of his dogmatic opposition to government intervention: He opposes gay marriage, for instance, but doesn’t think the federal government should have a role in defining marriage. And he opposes federal government regulation of drugs and prostitution. “You have the right to do things that are very controversial,” he said at a debate in South Carolina in May.
To bolster his anti-abortion credentials, Paul referred to having delivered “thousands of babies” in his practice as an obstetrician. “You cannot defend liberty if you don’t understand life and where it comes from,” Paul said in one of several lines that brought the audience to its feet.
The biggest applause of the morning came when Paul noted that debt “is not a Biblical principle,” and asked, “Why is it that we don’t fight for the right to keep the fruits of our labor?”
Despite his reputation for pulling off unexpected straw poll victories, Paul placed second-to-last in the mock election at last year’s Values Voters Summit. For this year’s vote, to be announced Saturday afternoon, he may have come better prepared: During his speech, a sizeable group of Paul supporters cheered and chanted his name.