The skinny, snowy-haired candidate stands at the lectern clutching its sides. He’s the eldest of the Republican contenders standing well scrubbed beside him. His craggy face occasionally cracks into an unsolicited smile as if he’s mulling a joke, or betraying eccentricity—or maybe the thought that he’s playing the party as a sucker.
This isn’t his first trip to the GOP’s big dance. In fact, Ron Paul is becoming a quadrennial, a modern day Harold Stassen who attends the melee during presidential election cycles hoping each time to get his message across to a broader audience.
This year he’s got the ears of a worried electorate, too many of whom are unemployed or know someone who is; people who are losing their homes, their lives in tatters; and others who lie awake at night worrying if they’ll be pink-slipped next or, trying to get their minds around just how much $15 trillion of debt really is and how it will impact their kids and grandkids. But, it can’t be fathomed.
When it’s finally his turn to be quizzed, the question is about his fiscal policy and Ron Paul gets animated. His economics aren’t Keynesian, supply side or of any orthodoxy familiar to this country. He believes instead in Austria’s heterodox economic theory, a concept well out of mainstream thinking here.
Among his fiscal priests is Friedrich Hayek, a Nobel laureate who won the prize for economics. Admired with him are von Bohm-Bawerk, von Mises and Carl Menger, men vaguely known if at all to most of the others on the debate stage.
Of all issues, Paul is obsessed most with the Federal Reserve, which he’d close and fold its assets into the Treasury right after the last words of his unlikely inaugural address.
He’s right in thinking there’s too much spending, too much debt, too much waste, but not about too much treasure and too many lives spent on “unnecessary,” undeclared wars. Afghanistan and Iraq were both believed to be necessary at the time they were unleashed, and Congress sanctioned them.
The expression of his views wins him wild applause, especially from supporters his organizers have rounded up and shepherded into the debate in large numbers. There they can out-cheer and out-clap the supporters of other candidates. Many are young. He’s attracted them less for his message than his promise to lift the laws on drugs.
The crowd’s accolades imply that he’s popular, a serious pretender to the Oval Office throne, but he knows that’s not in the cards. In fact he’s said as much a number of times. He has no expectation of winning the nomination. Why, then, is he running?
The reasons may manifest in his equivocal denials, and if true, the strategy is breathtakingly brilliant, and more dangerous than any in American electoral history. And therein lies the paradox.
When he fields a question about foreign policy, his face tightens, then contorts as he seems to struggle to get the words out. Digging for them under a mind filled with aged and smoked indignation, they come in fits and starts as he blurts out his stand on Iran and it’s nuclear ambitions.
He claims there’s no evidence that Iran is building a bomb, but he ignores the latest IAEA report, Mossad and CIA intelligence, all of which suggest otherwise.
“Why shouldn’t the Iranians be allowed to have a nuclear weapon?” he asks incredulously, then begins to sputter, disbelieving that anyone could possibly disagree with his warped logic. It would expose Israel to the unthinkable, that’s why. Apparently, he doesn’t care, and besides, he’d cut off international aid to them and all other nations to let them fend for themselves.
According to him, 9/11 is a slap, the first sign of payback for perceived American “imperialism” in a hostile Islamic world. Ire at the military presence we maintain in the Middle East is the cause, says he. It’s time to pull out of Afghanistan, which, were that to happen today, would betray and render meaningless the many lives lost in the quest to destroy al Qaeda and the Taliban. But he wants troops boarding planes headed for home, not only there, but worldwide.
“We need to mind our own business and stay out of all these needless wars,” he shouts in frustration. His followers erupt in cheers and manic applause. His words are evidence of a geopolitical naiveté and ignorance that stuns all but his cult followers, many of whom are too young to know better.
He waves his arms in frustration at not being able to articulate adequately what he wishes he could. There’s just not enough time to shoehorn it all into one minute. It’s clear that his foreign policy is xenophobic. To him, the United States must stay within its borders and once again become isolationist, just as it was before World War II.
The damage done to the global economy is of no particular interest to him. He simply fails to understand that our quest for national security has us necessarily scattered around the globe.
He cares not that bringing home all of our troops could trigger unbridled mischief by the Iranians (to whom we should “be nice,” he claims, clearly ignoring the treachery of its murderous theocracy), the Russians, Chinese and North Koreans to name but a few.
And he’s all about cutting costs and embracing the Constitution. That’s laudable, admirable and preferable, but the world has changed in ways the Founding Fathers lacked the prescience to address, and the Constitution defaults to Congress to define the rest.
Nonetheless, his is the foreign policy of a misanthrope, clues about which we find in newsletters decades old that bear his name, but today yield his denials or affected amnesia about their wretched, hateful content. As bad as they were, they don’t stick, and he skates without a plunge in the polls.
The other candidates shake their heads in amazement, some in anger. A few take him on by trying to explain the geopolitics of the Middle East and why we can’t just pull out of bases worldwide. It’s valuable time wasted.
Well away from the garish lights, deep in the shadows, he’s talked about plans for an independent bid if he doesn’t win the nomination, which he won’t and knows it. But when pressed by reporters about running as a lone wolf, he now repeats the same refrains, “I’m not interested in doing that. I don’t have any plans to do that. I don’t want to do that.”
But he refuses to “absolutely” rule it out, and repudiates, as well, any willingness to back any of his competitors when one wins the prize. And there’s the tipoff and easy to miss if you’re not looking. It’s unnervingly curious. No absolute promise to stay on the sidelines? No willingness to back any competitors? These comprise the foundation upon which independent bids are built.
As long as he has money he’ll continue to play the Republican Pied Piper, attracting more to his fold in the feigned bid for the nomination. He will wait until the convention gavels to a close before announcing his real plans. If he does, he’ll expect to take with him the base he’s built, convinced that he can end run the GOP nominee and Obama. But it’s an extremely perfidious and treasonous move for the party that naively gave him a fair shot.
The Republican primaries have given him a platform he could never dream of having had he jumped in, as did Ross Perot. He won’t make that mistake. Without the Republican soapbox, he knows his foreign policy would have him pegged as a lunatic, and rightly so.
But if he stays in, he’s building a base upon which he thinks he can depend when the torch is passed to Romney, Gingrich or Santorum. At that point, be not surprised if he announces he’s still in it to win it, but as an independent or Libertarian.
He says he wants Obama out, yet he’s hallucinated that he can win the electoral votes necessary to snag the brass ring. Such thinking is the stuff of unicorns and fairytales.
He knows he’ll vacuum votes from the Republican nominee, but he may be surprised when the Republican base he thought he had realizes they’ve been had and sticks with the GOP nominee instead. Beating Obama is too important to them. Hopefully it won’t be too late.
Some of the young and independents will stick with their political martyr. They don’t want Obama to win, but believe in the impossible, and the president will win regardless.
And what we’ve seen so far is nothing compared to what a re-elected Obama will do with his unfulfilled Alinsky agenda. He need not worry about what the nation thinks. He doesn’t have to run again, and if he can avoid impeachment, he’s free to do what he wants, if not through legislation, then executive orders.
That makes Ron Paul the biggest potential threat, not only to the Republicans, but to the country, for even if he were to win, his foreign policy is to the left of Obama’s, and with the military budget slashed to shreds by the president now, coupled with another outrageous request to raise the debt ceiling yet again, we fall deeper into jeopardy.
The oft-cited beacon of hope at the top of the hill will suddenly dim as Obama settles in to re-start his engines. If Ron Paul runs as an independent, we’ll have him to thank for what’s to come. He can’t possibly win, so I hope I’m wrong, but I for one don’t trust him.