Getting Serious About Ron Paul
Recently by Steven Greenhut: Conservatives Side With Pepper-Spraying Thugs
I cant forgive myself for voting for Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor during the 2003 recall. I selected a winnable loser rather than Tom McClintock, a principled conservative who knew what policies to pursue to right Californias sinking fiscal ship. If everyone who voted for Schwarzenegger under the belief that McClintock couldnt win had voted for McClintock, whos now a congressman, perhaps he would have won the governorship.
The Schwarzenegger vs. McClintock race springs to mind as Ron Paul, the quirky Texas congressman with unwavering libertarian principles, pursues the GOP nomination for the presidency. Paul is not a dynamic personality, but he has a firm grasp of the issues. Currently, he is near the top of polls for the Iowa caucuses, and his national support has remained strong.
We know that none of the other Republicans will seriously slash the size of government, even if they have Republican majorities in Congress. None of them will bring the troops home, regardless of how costly those wars have become or how contrary they are to the traditional Republican belief of nonintervention in foreign affairs.
Despite encouraging rhetoric from some candidates (i.e., Rick Perrys description of Social Security as a Ponzi scheme), the serious candidates will not try to swap U.S. entitlements with private alternatives.
None of them will address the Federal Reserve, which, according to Paul, makes it easy for the feds to print the money needed to finance their free-spending ways. At best, a winning mainstream Republican will tinker around the edges of reform, perhaps limiting government just enough to let the economy heat up again.
Even if Paul pulls off the upset of the century, he may not have the skills or congressional support to succeed. He can be obtuse, such as the time when he was asked about his favorite Ronald Reagan legacy and gave a boring answer about the money supply. But despite his many flaws, he at least he understands that the nations problems center on its gargantuan government.
Too bad everyone knows he cant win.
Comedian Jon Stewart once featured a devastating segment (YouTube below) on the media coverage of the primary race. Paul had high poll numbers but the talking heads wouldnt mention his name. They talked about the hapless Jon Huntsman, who was barely registering on the polls, but didnt mention Paul. After one blogger took him to task for writing about the presidential candidates without mentioning Paul, Jonah Goldberg, editor of National Review Online, responded: The reason I didnt mention him is precisely the reason [he] suspects: I dont take Ron Paul seriously as a presidential contender because (in my opinion) he isnt one. He is the Rights version of Ralph Nader.
Conservative writer Warner Todd Huston wrote recently that Paul is not a serious candidate because he has not built a serious statewide organization, which might be a legitimate argument except that Huston hurled unfounded accusations at Paul, charging his minions with anti-Semitism and surrender in the face of Islamofascism. His diatribe against the mild-mannered physician/candidate touches on why most conservatives wont take him seriously Pauls foreign-policy views.
To the hawks who dominate the modern GOP (and the Democratic Party, too, lest you wonder why the presidents foreign policy differs little from his predecessors), Pauls focus on reducing military commitments and concentrating on defense rather than on nation-building is the equivalent of appeasement in the face of Nazism, which is the analogy Huston used.
Youd think it a waste of time to hammer a candidate with no chance of winning. But those conservatives committed to military expansion abroad and who have little concern about the war on terrors effect on civil liberties at home dont want to take chances. The lefties dislike him too, as Bob Schieffers rude interview on Face the Nation last weekend showed.
Nevertheless, Paul might just win Iowa. I was active in the caucuses there years ago. Its a socially conservative state. But the libertarian Paul is making inroads. In these dire economic times, more voters are noticing that government growth, debt spending and the economy are paramount.
Paul might not have a good campaign ground game going, but Herman Cain doesnt have much of a ground game, either. That didnt stop Cain from getting weeks of serious national media coverage. His campaign was derailed by sexual harassment allegations, and by his painfully embarrassing answer to an newspaper editorial boards puffball question about President Obamas Libya policy. Cain knew nothing about the topic as he aimlessly searched his empty mental Rolodex for answers. Cains collapse came after Perrys infamous oops moment during a GOP debate when he was asked which three federal departments he would eliminate, but he couldnt think of a third one.
Anyone But Mitt
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the flavor of the month, as GOP primary voters search for anyone but Mitt Romney, whose slick personality and fairly liberal policies turn off grass-roots activists.
But Gingrich has malleable principles himself, and he is dogged by personal scandals.
Its hard to be impressed by any of the other Republican candidates, who range from the hopelessly establishmentarian (Rick Santorum and Huntsman) to the fringy (Michele Bachmann, who has been dubbed the winner of the Whos Crazier Than Sarah Palin contest by comedian Conan OBrien, because of some of her rhetoric).
When you look at the Republican lineup or at the out-of-his-depth former community activist who went from state senator to Oval Office in four years, its hard to make the case that Paul is somehow not serious. In reality, Paul cant win because the political establishment knows how serious he is about his limited-government views.
Even in the most optimistic scenario, Paul is a long shot. But the countrys problems are so deep that perhaps its time to take a chance on someone with the right answers, regardless of the odds. Unless, of course, youre still celebrating the way that Gov. Schwarzenegger saved California from disaster.
Jon Stewart segment on Ron Paul:
Ron Paul interviewed by Bob Schieffer:
Steven Greenhut (send him mail) is editor-in-chief of CalWatchdog.com, author of Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives And Bankrupting The Nation!, and a columnist for The Orange County Register.