"I saw Ron Paul last week in the Republican
debates. He was good, but everybody else ignores what he says." This is
from an e-mail I received from an economist friend who is a liberal Democrat.
I responded, "Everybody except the viewers. He won the poll afterward,
getting 43 percent. MSNBC reported it and then dropped it down the memory hole.
I sent him a grand."
One thing you need to know about me is that I'm a skinflint. So for me to send
$1,000 to Ron Paul for President is a big deal. Why did I do it? Because Ron
Paul stood there with the other nine candidates at the Reagan Library "debate"
and calmly, yet forcefully, defended the Constitution (which
is the only thing the president swears to defend when he takes the oath);
criticized having gone to war with Iraq (and backed it up by pointing to his
"No" vote in 2002); called for a substantial tax cut (pointing out
that the only way to get such a cut is to roll back the federal government in
the lives of both Americans and foreigners); and ended with an impassioned plea
to get habeas corpus back. Not bad for a guy who got less than his one tenth
of the time allotted.
Yes, it's true, as my economist friend pointed out, that the pundits ignored
him. But the viewers didn't. As noted, Paul received a cool 43 percent of the
vote in MSNBC's
10-way race, putting him in first place. Similarly, on conservative Matt Drudge's
Web site, Ron Paul came in third, with 18
percent of the vote, just two percentage points behind the much-better-funded
Rudy Giuliani, although Drudge, like MSNBC, quickly hid the vote.
MSNBC and Drudge were not alone in shredding the data. As Thomas
Woods has pointed out, Dick
Morris and Eileen McGann ignored Paul altogether and awarded the prize to
John McCain. Woods quotes historian David Beito as pointing out that Arianna
Huffington, on CNN immediately after the "debate," actually claimed
that all 10 Republicans were pro-war. Was she listening? Here was the
first question Ron Paul was asked, along with his answer:
"Moderator: Congressman Paul, you voted against the war. Why are all
your fellow Republicans up here wrong?
"Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas): That's a very good question. And
you might ask the question, why are 70 percent of the American people now wanting
us out of there, and why did the Republicans do so poorly last year?
"So I would suggest that we should look at foreign policy. I'm suggesting
very strongly that we should have a foreign policy of nonintervention, the traditional
American foreign policy and the Republican foreign policy.
"Throughout the 20th century, the Republican Party benefited from a
noninterventionist foreign policy. Think of how Eisenhower came in to stop the
Korean War. Think of how Nixon was elected to stop the mess in Vietnam.
"How did we win the election in the year 2000? We talked about a humble
foreign policy: No nation-building; don't police the world. That's conservative,
it's Republican, it's pro-American – it follows the founding fathers. And, besides,
it follows the Constitution.
"I tried very hard to solve this problem before we went to war by saying,
'Declare war if you want to go to war. Go to war, fight it and win it, but don't
get into it for political reasons or to enforce UN resolutions or pretend the
Iraqis were a national threat to us.'"
Does that sound to you like a Republican favoring the war?
But it's possible, just possible, that the pundits don't matter much. They
probably mattered more before the Web became so ubiquitous. Although the Web
may not have reduced the pundits' power to zero, they are less powerful than
they were. More and more Americans are seeing that they can get valuable information
from people who actually engage their brain before speaking. Which is why it's
so important for Ron Paul to keep running and speaking and for the rest of us
to keep watching, voting, talking, writing, and blogging.
Sometimes, when you see a person say sensible things on TV, further research
shows him to be a fraud or at least disappointing. But I have followed Ron Paul's
track record over the years, and the more I've looked, the more impressed I've
been. It took a lot of guts for Ron Paul, coming from a congressional district
in Texas, to vote against authorizing George W. Bush to make war on Iraq. But
he did it. It took guts for him to have earlier voted against the USA PATRIOT
Act. But he did that, too.
Ron Paul and I were speakers at an event a few years ago in San Jose. I told
him I was impressed with his voting record and asked him if it was ever hard
to show up for work, knowing that his vote in favor of freedom would be outweighed
by more than 400 votes against, out of a total of 435. He smiled and said no.
Paul gave me a recent example. After the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show in which
Justin Timberlake pulled away Janet Jackson's blouse, revealing her breast,
the Republicans in Congress introduced a bill to raise the penalties for indecency
in broadcasting. Ron Paul saw the bill as a straightforward violation of the
First Amendment and was one of a handful of congressmen to vote against it.
Paul said that he knew he would need to vote no, but that he would have to do
more explaining than usual to his constituents. I found his answer strikingly
reassuring. I've been around a fair number of politicians and their supporters
and when I hear them say they "need to" vote a certain way, it's typically
because they think they should vote the other way but fear that if they vote
as they think they should they'll be voted out of office or face too much flak.
How refreshing that Congressman Paul made the Constitution, not reelection,
the source of his stated need. I can hardly wait to see him in the May
And while I'm at it, let me say some positive words about former senator Mike
Gravel, the most antiwar candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
One of the commentators after the Republican debate commented that there had
been no comic relief in that debate, unlike in the Democrat debate. Clearly
she had Gravel in mind. Gravel was humorous at times, but he was also willing
to ask hard questions of his rivals, as in the
following exchange with Sen. Barack Obama:
"Obama: There is no contradiction between us taking seriously the need,
as you do, to want to strengthen our alliances around the world – but I think
it is important for us to also recognize that if we have nuclear proliferators
around the world that potentially can place a nuclear weapon into the hands
of terrorists, that is a profound security threat for America and one that we
have to take seriously.
"Williams: Way, way over on time.
"Senator Gravel, 30 seconds, please.
"Gravel: No, with respect to Iran, we've sanctioned them for 26 years.
We scared the bejesus out of them when the president says, 'They're evil.'
"Well, you know something? These things don't work. They don't work.
We need to recognize them.
"And you know something? Who is the greatest violator of the nonproliferation
treaty? The United States of America. We signed a pledge that we would begin
to disarm, and we're not doing it. We're expanding our nukes.
"Who the hell are we going to nuke? Tell me, Barack. Barack, who do
you want to nuke?
"Obama: I'm not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike, I promise.
"Gravel: Good. Good. We're safe then, for a while."
In short, Gravel called Obama on his
willingness to use nuclear weapons on Iran, something none of the official
questioners was willing to do. Moreover, Obama, given a chance, was unwilling
to promise not to nuke Iran.
That Mike Gravel. What a comic.
Copyright © 2007 by David R. Henderson. Requests for permission to
reprint should be directed to the author or Antiwar.com.