President Paul?

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January
25, 2007

Dozens
of people have announced their candidacies for the White House in
2008, and if I had to bet at this point, I would put my money on
the old woman. Hillary may be awful, but at least she is predictable.
I suppose I can learn to resign myself to her.

What difference
does it really make? Our next president will have his or her hands
full cleaning up after George W. Bush. In a negative sense, he has
already set the agenda for his unfortunate successor. Just getting
this country back to normal would be a labor of Hercules. And Hercules
isn’t in the race.

Politics doesn’t
often produce good news, but I am slightly heartened to learn that
Congressman Ron Paul is contemplating a run for the presidency.
The Texas Republican has now taken the standard preliminary step
of forming an exploratory committee.

Paul, a pro-life
medical doctor, is a genuine political maverick. When the House
votes for something 434 to 1, you can safely bet that Paul is the
1. He really fights for the principles other Republicans only pretend
to stand for, and does so with carefully reasoned explanations of
his positions.

In essence,
Paul appeals to that subversive document, the U.S. Constitution,
long since abandoned by both major parties, not to mention the U.S.
Supreme Court. He tests every proposed law by asking whether it
exercises a power authorized by the Constitution. The answer is
seldom yes.

Many years
ago Paul told me, with his affably ironic smile, that he felt more
pressure from his fellow Republicans than from Democrats, because
the Democrats weren’t embarrassed when a Republican voted like
a real conservative, but the Republicans were. Showing up his own
party has been the story of Ron Paul’s career. No other Republican
has voted against President Bush as consistently as he has.

Paul isn’t
flamboyant or defiant about it; his style is quiet and reasonable,
not combative. Being a maverick isn’t a pose for him. It’s
a matter of conscience and logic.

As a result,
the GOP doesn’t care much for him and, if he runs, will try
to stifle him. The allegedly right-wing Newt Gingrich, when he was
riding high, once supported Paul’s opponent in the primary
race; Gingrich knew what he was doing. A genuine conservative’s
worst enemy is a fake one. And vice versa.

Paul ran for
president once before, in 1988, when he bolted the GOP to run on
the Libertarian Party ticket. Much as I admired him, I voted for
George H.W. Bush, afraid of ”wasting” my vote on Paul,
who had no real chance of winning. Silly me. I soon realized I had
really wasted my vote on Bush. It made no difference to Bush, after
all, since he was going to win no matter what I did; but it made
a difference to me. I still regret it. (And to this day, Bush has
never thanked me.)

Paul has no
chance of winning this time either, but he may make a real difference
just by being himself. He is what liberals used to call a conscience-raiser.
He makes people reflect. After six years of supporting George W.
Bush, conservatives should be in a reflective mood. American democracy
has come down to an unappetizing choice between the War Party and
the Abortion Party. Paul could offer an alternative to this bitter
dilemma.

The Constitution
must never be mistaken for Holy Writ, but at least it is based on
the idea that there should be what William F. Buckley has called
”rational limits to government.” At this point, even that
may well be a utopian hope.

But we have
subscribed to the principle that the Federal Government must confine
itself to powers actually enumerated therein. And after all, our
rulers are still sworn to uphold it, just as Bill Clinton is still
legally bound by his wedding vows.

Taken literally,
this would reduce the government to about 5 percent of its current
size. That would be a huge improvement. If nothing else, the Constitution
stands as a reminder of what normality used to be.

Well, I can
dream, can’t I? And today I’m dreaming of President Ron
Paul, with a Congress he deserves.

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Joseph
Sobran (1946–2010), conservative turned libertarian, was one
of the most significant American writers. See his
website
and his
intellectual journey
.

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