Thursday, December 22, 2011

Who Is Ron Paul?

Clearly, Republicans are desperate to win. And yet, it is rarely a good idea to let desperation drive your decision making.

Winning an election is not the same as governing. Instead of asking who is most likely to win, why not ask who is best prepared to govern?

By all reports many Iowa Republicans do not see it this way. They seem to be asking themselves who is the purest of them all.

Apparently, the Iowa airwaves are filled with ads denouncing candidates, especially Newt Gingrich, for one or another form of corruption.

Most of the announced candidates do not have this problem. They were never even close to exercising power.

It’s one thing to say that you introduced a bill or gave a speech or have maintained ideological purity. It’s quite another to be in charge.

When it comes to politics, purity belongs to the inexperienced and the ineffectual.

And then there is the matter of personal purity, of moral behavior. Some people consider this to be of monumental importance; others consider it to be of lesser significance.

Some Iowans have already conceded that their votes do not count. How else can you explain the new interest in Rick Santorum? In his last electoral foray Santorum lost his senate seat by around 20 percentage points. If you really want to win you ignore Rick Santorum.

His candidacy has no rhyme or reason beyond vanity. It is true that adultery is a sin, but vanity, or prideful arrogance, is arguably a greater sin.

The same applies to Michele Bachmann. A candidate who feels compelled to announce that she is a serious candidate is not a serious candidate.

Michele Bachmann is a thoroughly virtuous individual. Her work as a foster parent inspires everyone. Yet, as a member of Congress she has not shown any extraordinary leadership skills.

While she seems to bear no taint of corruption or compromise, she has never really been faced with temptation either.

Like Santorum, she too is possessed of great vanity. She will be best remembered for appearing to be Mitt Romney’s hired gun and attacking Newt Gingrich. After Iowa she will fade from the scene.

Rick Perry embodies clean-cut and wholesome. He has a great record to run on and ought rightly to have been a serious contender.

But he has also exercised real power, and that has opened him up to attacks about crony capitalism and Gardasil. Most often thes attacks came from Michele Bachmann.

Again, she may be as pure as the driven snow but she has been acting like an unpaid surrogate for the Romney campaign. Her self-righteousness nastiness does not speak well of her character either.

Of course, Rick Perry has a downhome style that might make him look pure, but that more often makes him look empty-headed.

Will Rogers played the downhome country boy to perfection, but Rogers was quick-witted and incisive. Rick Perry is neither. He comes off as a rube, too innocent and naïve to have grappled seriously with the issues.

Mitt Romney’s personal life is perfectly pure. Since he came to public service after he accumulated a vast personal fortune, he has never been faced with the indignity of having to parlay his service into a real job.

Strangely enough, Romney is selling his candidacy on the fact that he knows how to create jobs in the private sector. Yet, he is not running for a job in the private sector. He is running for a job as head of the executive branch of the federal government.

If inexperience equals purity, then Romney is pure in the sense of not having any real experience in the federal government.

And then there is Ron Paul. For many of his most fervent supporters Ron Paul is an ideological purist of the first order. Some of them seem to confuse him with Saint Paul.

A purebred libertarian Paul has been idolized for having stood on principle throughout his career.

Unfortunately, most of Paul’s principles are so pure that they are completely out of touch with reality. Paul has attracted a loyal band of followers because he wants to shrink the federal government. And Republicans are looking for a candidate who can do exactly that.

Yet, no one seems to recognize that the person most likely to shrink the federal government is the person who has the most experience working within it. You can’t just wave your magic wand and expect the government to shrink.

As Jonah Goldberg points out this morning, Ron Paul is making promises that he will surely not be able to keep.

He says that he will shrink the federal government, but he does not seem to recognize that, as president, he would not have the power to do what he says he will do.

Running on empty promises does not make you an honorable candidate. It is not a sign of virtue or purity.

Goldberg tries to explain why Paul’s ideological purity is a curse, not a blessing.

In his words: “During [his years in Congress Paul] he took to the floor and delivered passionate speeches in protest convincing  . . . nobody. He authored precious little legislation of any consequence.

“Paul’s supporters love to talk about how he was a lone voice of dissent. They never explain why he was alone in his dissent. Why couldn’t he convince even his ideologically sympathetic colleagues? Why is there no Ron Paul caucus?

“Now he insists that everyone in Washington will suddenly do what he wants once he’s in the White House. That’s almost painfully naïve. And it’s ironic that the only way the pure-constitutionalist libertarian in the race could do the things he’s promising is by using powers not in the Constitution.”

Since no one ever took Paul seriously, no one ever bothered to deal with him. His inability to make deals, to seek a middle ground on issues, has turned him into an intransigent zealot.

It looks like purity, but it’s not.

Beyond that, Paul’s putative purity is tainted by the racist rants that have appeared over the years in his newsletter. Yesterday he walked out of an interview on CNN because the reporter kept asking him about them.

Let’s be clear. If Ron Paul’s name is on the masthead as editor, then he is responsible for knowing what was written in his name. If he didn’t know what in his newsletter, he is blind. If he knew and didn’t care, he is worse.

Dorothy Rabinowitz  explains that Ron Paul’s explanation for his newsletter echoes Barack Obama’s explanation for his twenty year association with Jeremiah Wright.

Clearly, the dustup over Paul’s newsletter is hurting the Republican Party.

Also, Paul is an old fashioned isolationist. He belongs to the blame-America-first school of foreign policy.

Paul does not believe in the exercise of American power. He believes that the fault for 9/11 lies with America. He does not care if Iran gets a nuclear weapon because the Iranians are only trying to defend themselves against the America and Israel.

Again, Paul is far closer to Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright than he is to Republican thinking.

Like Michele Bachmann Ron Paul seems mostly to be doing Mitt Romney’s dirty work. He has launched a flurry of ads in Iowa attacking Newt Gingrich for corruption.

Someone whose newsletter has been printing unadulterated slime would do best not to attack anyone else’s purity.

If it’s all about winning, a Ron Paul candidacy, either as a Republican or a Libertarian, would spell victory for Obama. 

1 comment:

Nick said...

I knew there was something wrong with the Ronulans when I kept seeing "Ron Paul 2012" spray painted on public property all over Austin.